For some students -- and their parents -- the mere thought of preparing
for college is terrifying. Among other challenges, there is an alphabet soup
of acronyms and new terminology. From ACT to PhD, and concentrations to waitlists,
there are many new names and concepts to master.
Consider that higher
education has a culture of its own and, like any culture, it comes with its
own language. Here are some acronyms and phrases you're likely to encounter
when preparing for college:
AA Degree: Associate of Arts degree.
(See Associate's Degree, below)
AAS Degree: Associate of Applied
Science degree. (See Associate's Degree, below)
AS Degree: Associate
of Science degree. (See Associate's Degree, below)
is the college entrance exam required by more four-year colleges than any
other exam. It measures high school students' educational development and
ability to do college-level work. The multiple test section includes English,
math, reading and science. There is also an optional writing test. It is usually
taken during the junior year of high school, but many students opt to re-take
the test as seniors. Highest possible score: 36.
Placement. A qualifying high school student can take college-level courses
in a high school environment. To qualify, the student must do well on AP exams.
Degree: Associate's degrees are typically two-year degrees, often from
community or junior colleges.
BA Degree: Bachelor of Arts degree.
(See Bachelor's Degree, below)
BComm Degree: Bachelor of Commerce
degree. (See Bachelor's Degree, below)
BEng Degree: Bachelor
of Engineering degree. (See Bachelor's Degree, below)
Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. (See Bachelor's Degree, below)
Degree (also B.Sc.): Bachelor of Science degree. (See Bachelor's Degree,
BSGS Degree: Bachelor of Science in General Studies degree.
(See Bachelor's Degree, below.)
Baccalaureate Degree: Alternate
term for bachelor's degree (see below).
Bachelor's Degree: Bachelor's
degrees are typically four-year degrees, but can be earned in as few as three
years. Some students may take five or six years to complete their bachelor's
degree. These degrees are sometimes referred to as baccalaureate or undergraduate
Community College: Sometimes called junior college
or two-year college. Students can take classes, and then transfer to a four-year
school, or they can earn certificates, diplomas or associate's degrees.
A concentration is the area of study a student is focusing on. This term is
sometimes used in place of "major;" however, a major can include various concentrations.
For example, an English major may concentrate in literature or writing.
A co-op program combines classroom learning with paid, hands-on work experience.
Often, students alternate between attending classes and working at a real
job in their field of study.
Credit (also, Credit Hour): Credits
are units of value given to classes. Some classes may be worth two or three
credits, while others are worth four credits. Credits vary by class and by
school. Passing the class will earn the student however many credits that
class is worth. Specific numbers of credits in certain areas of study are
required for graduation.
Curriculum: Courses and classes offered
by a school comprise the curriculum.
Deferred Admission Option:
Deferred admission allows students to take extra time between being accepted
and beginning classes. Students choosing this option typically wait one school
term or one calendar year before starting classes.
Education: This is the government agency in charge of administering several
student financial aid programs.
Early Admission: Early admission
allows students to enroll in college before completing high school, generally
after their junior year.
Early Action Plan: An early action
plan allows students to find out if they have been accepted before other students.
A student accepted under an early action plan is not obligated to attend that
school -- they can accept the offer under the procedures for regular admissions.
Decision Plan: Under an early decision plan, a student can apply for admission
and receive the school's decision earlier than students applying for regular
admission. If a student applies under early decision, they must agree to accept
an offer of admission and withdraw any applications to other schools once
they've been accepted.
E-LOR: Electronic Letter of Recommendation.
Some colleges and universities allow letters of recommendation to be sent
via e-mail or fax. (See LOR, below)
Financial Aid: Aid comprises
various forms of college funds, including scholarships, grants and loans.
Many schools also offer work-study programs to offset tuition costs. (See
our Financial Aid Glossary for more information.)
Educational Development exam. Composed of five tests, the GED equivalency
exam can be taken by people who, for whatever reason, were unable to graduate
high school. Virtually all community colleges and four-year schools accept
GPA: Grade Point Average. The GPA is calculated
based on the grades obtained in individual classes, usually on a four-point
scale. A equals four points, B equals three points, C equals two points, D
equals one point, and F equals zero points. High school GPA is indicated on
the student's school transcript, and is part of the evaluation for college
admission. Postsecondary GPA is used to evaluate students transferring from
one college to another.
HBCU: Historically Black Colleges and
Independent Study: In this approach, a student
designs his or her own course of study, with assistance from an advisor or
Internship: An internship provides supervised
work experience in an area relevant to a student's career goals. Internships
can be paid or unpaid.
Legacy: A legacy is when a student applies
to, or attends, a school that a parent graduated from. Some schools give preferential
admission (see Preferential Admission, below) to applicants whose parents
or grandparents attended the same institution.
LOR: Letter of
Recommendation. Nearly all colleges and universities require that potential
students include one or more LORs with their applications. Good sources for
LORs include guidance counselors, teachers, coaches, military officers, public
officials, top executives of major corporations, and officials from charitable
organizations that the student has volunteered with.
School Admission Test: The LSAT is required for admission to most law schools.
Master's degree. This degree follows a bachelor's degree. It generally takes
two years to complete a master's degree, but some people are able to complete
it in one year, while others take longer than two years.
A major is the field of study a student focuses on for a degree. Some students
choose a major before starting college, while others wait until the end of
their second year.
MCAT: Medical College Admission Test. The
MCAT is required for admission to most medical schools.
A minor is a program of study requiring fewer courses than a major.
Merit Scholarship Program: Students who do well on the PSAT/NMSQT (see
PSAT/NMSQT, below) may qualify for scholarships. A few students receive full
NCAA: National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The NCAA regulates and governs college and university athletics programs.
It verifies that student athletes maintain their GPA to be eligible to play
on an NCAA team.
NMSQT: National Merit Scholarship Qualifying
Test. It is used to determine the recipients of merit scholarships. It is
also a practice test for freshmen, sophomores and juniors for the SAT I, like
the PSAT. Only juniors may qualify for NMSQT.
Non-residents are students who do not live in the state where the school they
are applying to, or attending, is located. It also includes students who haven't
lived in the state long enough to be considered residents.
A school with an open admissions policy admits almost all high school graduates
without taking grades or test scores into account. They also admit most students
who have earned their GED (see GED, above).
PhD: A PhD is a graduate
degree, often following a master's degree. Sometimes referred to as a "terminal
degree" when it's the highest degree possible in a given field. PhDs typically
take three years to complete.
PSAT: Preliminary Scholastic Assessment
Test. The PSAT is usually taken in 10th or 11th grade, and is part of a student's
preparation for the SAT. It is also a requirement for the National Merit Scholarship
PSAT/NMSQT: The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship
Qualifying Test. Students hoping to receive a National Merit Scholarship must
take and pass this standardized test.
Preferential admission gives preference to students from certain groups, such
as state residents, members of supporting churches, or students whose parents
went to the same school.
Prerequisite: A prerequisite is a course
that must be successfully completed before registering in another class. For
instance, first-year math might be a prerequisite for second-year math.
Residents are students who reside in the same state as the college or university
that they are applying to or attending.
ROTC: Reserve Officers
Training Corps. This is a program in which the military pays a student's tuition
or other expenses. The student takes part in summer training while in college
and commits to military service after college.
Assessment Test. The SAT measures mathematical, critical reading and writing
skills. Students take this test during their junior or senior year. Many colleges
require SAT scores as part of their application process.
A syllabus is the program and requirements for a certain class.
Test of English as a Foreign Language. Many schools require students whose
main language is not English to take this three-part test. The test covers
all aspects of English-language ability, including spoken English and grammar.
A transcript is a record of the classes a student has taken, along with the
student's grades in those classes. Students may need to include a copy of
their high school transcripts with college applications. Copies of college
transcripts may be needed when transferring to different colleges or universities.
Transfer Program: Here, students complete the first two years of a four-year
degree program at a two-year college, and then transfer to a four-year college
for the last two years of the degree program.
A vocational school offers programs that prepare students for specific careers,
trades or vocations.
Waitlist: After students have been offered
admission to a college, the remaining qualified applicants go on a waitlist
to take the place of accepted students who decide not to attend.
Programs: These programs provide students with part-time jobs during the
school year as part of their financial aid package. The jobs are often located
at the school.