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Common College Planning Terms

Following are some key terms used in college admissions.

Associate's degree – A degree earned after completing the equivalent of the first two years of a education at a four-year institution. Degrees include Associate of Arts, Associate of Sciences and Associate of Applied Sciences for completing a vocational or technical program.

Bachelor's degree – A degree earned after completing a prescribed course of undergraduate study at a college or university. The two most common degrees are a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.).

Common and Universal applications – These standardized application forms allow students to apply to several schools using the same form, lessening time spent providing the same information several times. The Common Application is accepted by nearly 200 independent colleges while about 1,000 schools use the Universal Application. Be sure to check with the schools on your list for whether or not they accept either form.

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

Deposit – Most colleges and universities require a deposit to hold your place in the freshman class. Typically it is required by May 1. Double-depositing, submitting nonrefundable deposits to more than one school, is frowned upon because doing so has wide-ranging effects for other students and for universities.

Early admission – A program provided by some colleges and universities in which applications are available to students earlier than usual, and admissions results are provided earlier as well. Typically, early admission applications are available in mid-October through late November with a response from the school by mid-December. Some early admission programs are open only to exceptional students or are for students who have exhausted all of their educational options early.

Open admissions – The policy of some colleges of admitting virtually all high school graduates, regardless of their high school grades and admission test scores.

Rolling admissions – A practice, mostly by state-controlled universities, where applications are accepted at any time of the year.

Selective admissions – The policy of admitting only well-qualified applicants, based on high school grades, admission test scores, and additional personal information often provided through essays, resumes, interviews, and letters of recommendation.

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

Wait list – A list of students who have not yet been admitted to a college, but who may be admitted. By placing a student on a wait list, a college does not offer or deny admission; it extends the possibility in the future, before the admission cycle is completed.