Navigating the college admission process can be difficult enough, and it sure doesn’t help that there are so many terms that are specific to the process. But don’t worry! In this blog, we will break down commonly used admissions lingo to help you better understand the process as you dive in.
Liberal Arts: A college where the academic focus is on developing the intellect of its students and providing a well-rounded education, rather than training for a particular vocational, technical, or professional pursuit. This includes both the arts and sciences.
HBCU: Stands for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. These are post-secondary institutions established prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the purposes of educating African American students.
Private: This is a college or university funded by private sources without any control by a government entity.
Public: A college or university that receives public funding, primarily from a local, state, or national government that oversees and regulates the school’s operations.
Applicant Type: Most institutions have two applicant types, First-Year or Transfer.
First-Year: A first-year student is someone who has never enrolled in a college or university after graduating from high school. Definitions can vary by institution.
Transfer: A transfer student is someone who has earned credits for study at one school or institution and wants to attend a different institution. This applies only to students who have taken these courses after graduating from high school.
International: An international student is anyone without dual or primary U.S. citizenship.
Homeschool: A homeschool student is anyone who is not enrolled at a traditional high school. This can vary drastically by institution.
Admission Counselor: Employed by a College or University in college admission offices. This person assists students in the college search and decision-making process. Your admission counselor can be a great resource for any and all questions you or your family may have throughout the application process.
Interview: Typically a formal one-on-one meeting with a college representative (alumni, admission counselor, faculty, etc.). These are optional or required, depending on the school.
College Fair: An in-person or virtual event where admission counselors from different colleges, universities, and other organizations are available to answer questions and connect with prospective applicants.
High School Visit: When an admission counselor visits your high school in-person or virtually to provide information on the school they represent. This is a great way to get more information about the schools you are interested in as well as get to know the person who will read your application.
College Credit: College credit in high school can come in the form of dual enrollment, AP, A-Level, or IB exam scores at Sewanee. Each institution will honor these credits differently.
First-Generation: College applicants whose parents did not attend a four-year college or university are generally considered first-generation applicants. Many colleges will provide various resources to support first-generation students.
Legacy: A college applicant with a relative (often a parent or grandparent) who graduated from the college to which they are applying.
Major: A student’s primary area of study. Can also be referred to as a program of study.
Minor: A student’s secondary area of study. Fewer credits are required to complete a minor than a major.
Selectivity: This refers to the number of students admitted to a college or university in comparison to how many students have applied.
Applicant Status Page: This also may be referred to as an “application portal” or “checklist.” Colleges give students access to check the status of their application as documents are being submitted and checked off. This portal may also provide their admission decision, enrollment forms, etc.
Application Fee: Some institutions require you to pay a fee to submit your application. Sewanee does not have an application fee.
Fee Waivers: A waiver that allows students to apply to their college for free. Students can request a waiver from the institution they are applying to or their school college counselor.
Common Application: The Common Application is an online application accepted by more than 800 colleges and universities. Applicants can complete one application and choose which schools they would like to submit it to. Sewanee only accepts the Common Application.
Coalition Application: Similar to the Common Application, the Coalition Application is accepted by more than 140 colleges and universities. The application platform also offers a set of free online college planning tools that help students learn about and prepare for college.
Testing: Many institutions require the SAT or ACT for admission. Since COVID-19, many institutions have waived this requirement. Sewanee has been test-optional since 2009.
Test-Optional: An institution that is test-optional does not require the SAT or ACT for admission. Ask the school you are applying to as testing may be required for some applicants or for scholarships.
Demonstrated Interest: There are various ways for a student to show their interest in attending a specific institution prior to the official application process. Measures of demonstrated interest vary from college to college but can include taking a campus tour, contacting the admission office or your admission counselor, registering for an overnight program on campus, virtual events, high school visits, and more. Check out our blog on demonstrating your interest at Sewanee.
Extracurriculars: Anything an applicant does in high school that is not a high school course. Applicants can define their extracurricular activities in broad terms—many applicants make the mistake of thinking of them solely as school-sponsored groups such as yearbook, band or football. Most community and family activities are also "extracurricular." For example, volunteering at a shelter, serving as a youth representative in your region, assisting at a camp, or helping to run a family business.
Rounds & Deadlines
Early Decision (ED): Students commit to a first-choice college and, if admitted, agree to enroll at that institution and withdraw their other college applications. Colleges may offer ED I or II with different deadlines.
Early Action (EA): Students apply by an earlier deadline to receive a decision in advance of the college’s Regular Decision notification date.
Regular Decision (RD): A decision offered during the regular admission cycle. Students submit their applications by a specified deadline and are notified of a decision within a clearly stated period of time.
Restrictive Early Action (REA): Students apply to an institution of preference and receive a decision early. They may be restricted from applying ED, EA, or REA to other institutions.
Rolling Admission: Students apply at any time after a college begins accepting applications until a final closing date, which may be as late as the start of the term for which they are applying. Students are notified of a decision as their applications are completed and are reviewed.
Conditional Admission: Some institutions will offer a student admission if they meet required conditions. For instance, you may need to make sure your GPA is the same or higher after graduation as it was when you applied. A lower GPA after high school graduation could jeopardize your chances of keeping your conditional admission.
Defer: Being deferred is not always a bad thing! If you are deferred in the admission cycle, that does not mean you have been denied admission, many schools want more information. For instance, maybe you have not shown any demonstrated interest in the institution, or maybe they want to see your current grades, etc.
Waitlist: Waitlists give students who were not initially admitted another opportunity to be considered for admission, and they help colleges manage their enrollments. By placing a student on the waitlist, a college does not initially offer or deny admission but extends to the candidate the possibility of admission no later than Aug. 1 should space become available.
Gap Semester/Year: A student may be allowed to postpone their enrollment to an institution by a semester or a year. Students may take the opportunity to work, relax, or travel. A gap semester or year may require a student to reapply for need-based aid or scholarships. Many schools require a gap year application and approval.
Financial Aid & Scholarship
Need-Blind vs. Need-Aware: A school that is need-blind will fully consider every applicant for admission with no regard to the student’s financial need. A school or program that is need-aware will consider your financial need when reviewing your application for admission due to the limited resources they can provide to their students. A school that is need-aware may also meet the full demonstrated financial need.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): A federal form required for all U.S. citizens who wish to apply for need-based financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study.
CSS Profile: A variety of private institutions require the CSS Profile. This document is only required if the student wishes to apply for need-based financial aid from the institution. It is open to U.S. and non-U.S. citizens.
Estimated Family Contribution (EFC): The EFC is the amount of money you and your family could be expected to pay for one year of college cost. This amount is determined by a federal formula and data gathered from the FAFSA. It can differ from the actual amount you will be required to pay.
Award Letter: The award letter provides the type and amount of financial aid the school is willing to provide the student if they accept admission and registers as a full-time student. Full time is typically defined as registering for at least 12 credit hours at your institution.
Academic Scholarships: Scholarships awarded based on academic achievement as reflected on your school transcript. Scholarships range by institution with some institutions not awarding any academic scholarships.
Athletic Scholarship: These scholarships are based on athletic ability and your prospective college’s departmental needs. NCAA Division I and II college athletic scholarships are competitive and based on the needs of that particular team/coach. Division III institutions cannot offer athletic scholarships.
Grants: Like loans and most scholarships, grants are awarded based on a family's demonstrated financial need in the financial aid process. A grant may be provided by federal or state governments, an institution, a foundation, or other nonprofit funding sources and does not have to be repaid. This includes Pell Grants, institutional grants, merit-based grants, and need-based grants.
Work-Study: Many colleges offer work-study stipends. They allow students to work part time during the academic year as part of their financial aid package, if awarded. The jobs are on campus and the money is paid directly to the student. U.S. and non-U.S. citizens can both be eligible depending on the institution and only if the student applies for need-based financial aid.
I hope you have found this to be a useful tool to help navigate many of the unknown terms in the world of college admission. This is a pretty robust list, so please feel free to bookmark this post and use it as a guide throughout your college search journey. And as always, your Sewanee admission counselor is available to assist every step of the way!