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Glossary of Terms


Accreditation– Recognition of a college or university by any of the regional or national accrediting bodies, indicating that the institution as a whole has been judged to  be meeting its objectives.

The ACT– A group of tests administered by ACT and required or recommended by most colleges as part of the admission process.  The tests measure educational development in English/writing, mathematics, reading, and science and are given at specified test centers throughout the year.  ACT scores range from 1-36.  Taking the ACT Plus Writing provides students with two additional scores.  They receive a Writing Test subscore and a combined English/Writing score.

Advanced Placement– Granting of credit and/ or assignment to an advanced course on the basis of evidence that the student has mastered the equivalent of an introductory course.

Aid package– A combination of aid (possibly including a scholarship, grant, loan, and work) determined by a college financial aid office.

Candidate Reply Date–  A policy among subscribing institutions that permits students to wait until May 1 to choose, without penalty, among offers of admission and financial aid.

College calendar– The system by which a college divides its year into periods of time for instruction and awarding credit.  Common systems of instruction time include: the traditional semester (two per year); the early semester (two per year with the first ending before Christmas); the quarter (three terms approximately 12 weeks each); the trimester (three semesters per year, the third semester replacing summer school); and 4-1-4 (two equal terms of about 16 weeks each, with a 4 week interim term).

Credit by examination-  A program through which many colleges grant course credit based on results of the Advanced Placement Tests (AP), the CEEB College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), Regents College Examinations (RCE), DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST), or another examination developed by colleges.

Credit hour– A unit of academic credit that often represents one hour of class time per week for a period of study (semester, quarter).

Deferred admission– The practice of some colleges of allowing an accepted student to postpone enrollment for one year.

Early Action– The application process in which students apply to an institution of preference and receive a decision well in advance of the institution’s regular response date.  Students who are admitted under Early Action are not obligated to accept the institution’s offer of admission or to submit a deposit until the regular reply date (not prior to May 1).

Early admission– Admitting students of superior ability into college courses and programs before they have completed the standard high school program.

Early Decision– The application process in which students make a commitment to a first-choice institution where, if admitted, they definitely will enroll.  Should a student who applies for financial aid not be offered an award that makes attendance possible, the student may decline the offer of admission and be released from the Early Decision commitment.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)– An amount you and your family are expected to contribute toward your education and living expenses.  It is used in determining your eligibility for federal student aid.

EXPLORE– An eighth and ninth grade assessment program through ACT designed to stimulate career exploration and help students develop plans for their high school years and beyond.

Federal Academic Competitiveness Grant– Grant available to recent high school graduates who receive a Pell Grant, enroll full-time, are US citizens, have completed certain programs of rigorous high school coursework, and meet other criteria.

Federal Direct Loan Program– Loans made by the federal government directly to qualifying students and parents through participating colleges.

Federal Pell Grant– Financial assistance awarded by the federal government on the basis of need and designed to provide the “floor” of an aid package for postsecondary education.  The grant may be used toward tuition, room and board, books, or other educational costs, and requires no repayment.

Federal PLUS (Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students) Program– Provides low-interest federal loans to credit-approved parents of eligible undergraduate students.  Repayment begins 60 days after loan funds are disbursed.  Loans are available from participating banks, lending institutions, and participating Direct Lending schools.

Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan Program– Provides low-interest federal loans to eligible students through banks and lending institutions.  It is based on need, and the interest is paid by the federal government for qualifying students while they are enrolled at least half-time.  Repayment begins after the student leaves school.

Federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant– Grant available to qualified students who intend to teach full-time in a high-need field in a school that serves low-income students.  The grant converts to a loan and must be repaid if the teaching requirement is not met.

Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loan Program- Provides low-interest federal loans that are not based on need, and the student must pay the interest while in school.  Repayment begins after the student leaves school.

Federal Work-Study– A government-supported financial aid program coordinated through financial aid offices whereby an eligible student (based on need) may work part-time while attending class, generally in career-related jobs.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)– The application required for students to be considered for federal student financial aid.  Call 800-433-3243 to obtain a paper FAFSA form or electronic filing information.  The FAFSA is processed free of charge, and it is used by most state agencies and colleges.

Grade point average (GPA)– An indicator of the student’s overall scholastic performance.  The GPA is computed by multiplying the number of grade points earned in each course (generally, A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0) times the number of course hours/credit hours, then dividing the sum by the total number of course hours/credit hours carried.

Grants– Awards based on financial need that do not require repayment.  Grants are available through the federal government, state agencies, and educational institutions.

Honors program- Any program offering an opportunity for superior students to enrich their educational experience through independent, advanced, or accelerated study.

Major– The subject of study in which the student chooses to specialize; a series of related courses, taken primarily in the junior and senior year.

Open admission– The policy of some colleges of admitting virtually all high school graduates, regardless of academic qualifications such as high school grades and admission test scores.

Regular Decision– The application process in which a student submits an application to an institution by a specified date and receives a decision within a reasonable and clearly stated period of time, but not later than April 15.

Rolling Admission– The application process in which an institution reviews applications as they are completed and renders admission decisions to students throughout the admission cycle.

SAT– A test of verbal, written, and mathematical abilities given by the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB) throughout the year and required or recommended by many colleges as part of the admission process.

Scholarships– Non-repayable awards to students based on merit or merit plus need.

Student Aid Report (SAR)– The information you will receive approximately 2-4 weeks after your FAFSA has been processed.  It will report the information from your application and, if there are no questions or problems with your application, your SAR will report your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Transcript– The official record of high school or college courses and grades, generally required as part of the college application.

Wait List– An admission decision option utilized by institutions to protect against shortfalls in enrollment. Wait lists are sometimes made necessary because of the uncertainty of the admission process, as students submit applications for admission to multiple institutions and may receive several offers of admission.  By placing a student on the waitlist, an institution does not initially offer or deny admission, but extends the possibility of admission in the future, before its admission cycle is concluded.

WorkKeys– A national system designed to improve workplace skills and to help individuals equate learning with earning.  WorkKeys measures workplace skills, relates those skills to specific jobs, and helps individuals acquire the levels of skills needed for the jobs they want.

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