top of page

Glossary of Terms

Terms and acronyms abound in the world of college admissions. Here is a guide to help you decipher it all:

ACT: Abbreviation for the American College Test.  This is an assessment in English, mathematics, social studies reading comprehension, and science reasoning.  Accepted by most colleges in lieu of the SAT.


Associate’s Degree: An Associate of Arts (AA) degree is traditionally earned in two years at a community college.


Bachelor’s Degree: BA – Bachelor of Arts, BS – Bachelor of Science.  A diploma earned after successful completion (traditionally in four years) of required courses at a college or university.


Calendar: The system used by an institution to divide its year into instruction periods (sometimes referred to as the "Academic Calendar").  The most common are semester, quarter, and 4-1-4.


  • A semester system is a division of the school year into two parts, usually 18 weeks in length. Schools may have an additional 8-week summer session.

  • A quarter system is a division of the school year into three quarters, usually 11 weeks in length.  Students take three or four courses per quarter rather than the traditional five-in-a-semester system.

  • A 4-1-4 system consists of two terms of about 16 weeks each, separated by a one-month intersession used for intensive study in one area, research, or internships.


Cal Grant GPA Verification: Students at La Jolla High are fortunate - the registrar completes the GPA verification for all LJHS students so they do not need to file the form independently.

Candidate Notification Date: The date by which colleges notify students of admission decisions. Varies depending on the manner in which a student applied - i.e. early action, early decision, regular decision, rolling. Every school will inform students by early April.


Candidate Reply Date: The date by which students must reply to the colleges that admitted them.  The universal date is May 1st.


CEEB Code: Abbreviation for the College Entrance Examination Board, which creates and supervises the administration of the SAT and the Subject Tests.  The CEEB code for LJHS is 051335.  You will need this number every time you register for an SAT, or ACT, or apply to college.


College: The term commonly used to describe any institution of higher education.  This is usually an institution that grants a Bachelor degree.  A college may also be one part of a university.  For example, undergraduates apply to Harvard College, not Harvard University.  Columbia College is the undergraduate division of Columbia University.


Common Application: A form devised and accepted by member colleges (over 900) that makes things easier for the student, who is then able to fill out one application for many colleges, rather than repeat basic information over and over again on multiple applications.  See for additional information and a list of colleges that accept the Common Application.

Common Application Supplement:  Additional, required sections on the Common App that are specific to certain colleges/universities and which must be completed by applicants to the specific colleges/universities that require them.

CSS/ FINANCIAL AID PROFILE: A financial aid form used by some private colleges and universities in addition to the FAFSA (see section on Financial Aid in this handbook).

Demonstrated Interest - the act of a student showing a college that they are interested in attending. Demonstrated interest is not important at some schools, but can be very important at others. Demonstrating interest can be achieved by signing up for emails on a school's website (then opening them), visiting the college in person (if feasible), attending virtual outreach events, meeting a representative at a college fair, attending an informational presentation by a college representative visiting your high school, or engaging an admissions rep over email.


Early Action: An admission plan whereby the student submits an application by November 1st and receives a decision by mid-December. If accepted, the student is not required to enroll, but is expected to notify the college about his/her decision by May 1st.


Early Assessment Program: The Early Assessment Program (EAP) is an academic preparation program to help high school students meet college readiness standards in English-language arts and mathematics before admission to a California State University (CSU) campus.  EAP results may be used to validate the Entry Level Math (ELM) and/or English Placement Test (EPT).  The optional EAP college readiness exams are administered during the spring semester of the 11th grade as part of the required California Standards Test (CST). If students score high enough on this test, they may skip the required CSU English and/or mathematics placement tests.


Early Decision: An admission plan whereby a student can apply to a first-choice college by November 1st and receive a decision by mid-December.  Upon making the decision to apply early decision, the student agrees to enroll if accepted.  Also, the student is expected to make no other application if accepted and withdraw all other applications already submitted.


Educational Opportunity Program:  The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) is designed to improve access and retention of historically low-income and educationally disadvantaged students.  The program provides admission and academic assistance to EOP-eligible undergraduate students.  In many cases, the program offers financial assistance to eligible students.  Support services include academic advising, tutoring, developmental workshops, study skills courses, and a Summer Bridge Program, which is a comprehensive transitional program designed to assist incoming freshmen in preparing for the rigors of university work.


ETS: An abbreviation for the Educational Testing Service, an organization utilized by the College Board to write and administer its tests (SAT and Subject Tests).


FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid - the form required by most colleges in order to offer students help in paying for college (see more in the Financial Aid section).


General Education Requirements: Also called G.E., breadth, distribution, or core curriculum requirements, they are courses required by all candidates for the bachelor's degree at a college.


Graduate School: Usually part of a university, graduate school is an institution for students who have already earned a bachelor's degree.


Greeks or Greek Life: At a college campus, the collective term for members of sororities and fraternities.  


Ivy League: The term used to designate highly selective eastern colleges.  Strictly speaking, however, it is an athletic league comprised of the following colleges:  Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale.


Legacy: An applicant who is the son or a daughter of an alumnus or alumna (or sometimes a more distant relative).  Private colleges sometimes give special consideration to such candidates.


Liberal Arts: The studies in a college (such as language, history, mathematics, literature, and abstract science) intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities, such as reason and judgment, as opposed to professional or vocational skills.


Major: The field of concentration or specialization for a college undergraduate. Usually, students are asked to declare a major by the end of their sophomore year.  A student normally spends one-quarter to one-third of their total undergraduate work in their major field.


Minor: A secondary area of academic concentration, but requiring fewer courses than a major, which may or may not be required by an institution.


NMSQT: The National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is combined with the PSAT, taken in October of the Junior year.  Scoring well on this test is the first requirement for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship competition.


PSAT: The Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test is a scholastic assessment test administered to high school juniors.  Scoring well on this test is the prerequisite for qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship.  Scores are reported on a scale from 20-80 for verbal, quantitative aptitude, and writing skills.  Sophomores take this test for practice only.


Rolling Admissions:  A decision notification program whereby colleges inform applicants of admission decisions throughout the year on a “rolling” basis rather than by a specified date.  Students who apply to a college with a rolling admission program usually learn the admission decision within 4-6 weeks after the application is submitted.


SAR:  Student Aid Report. This report is mailed to you after you complete the FAFSA application.  It gives a student their family’s EFC (Expected Family Contribution) as it relates to their college expenses.


SAT: Formerly called the SAT Reasoning Test of SAT I, this is a multiple choice test made up of Verbal, Math, and Writing sections designed to measure skills that are related to college success. Students receive three SAT scores, Verbal, Math and writing, each reported on a scale of 200 to 800.


Scholarship:    Money or aid awarded that does not have to be repaid.  Some scholarships are based on need, but most are awarded for exceptional talent or achievement in academics, athletics, or for special characteristics.  In addition to awards offered by the colleges, many scholarships are awarded by corporations, ethnic organizations, and religious groups.  Each scholarship opportunity has different eligibility criteria.


Selectivity:  A term used by admission offices to describe the ratio of admitted applicants to the total number of applicants at a given institution.


Seven Sisters: Refers to Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley Colleges.  Today all are women’s colleges except Vassar and Radcliffe.


Transcript: The complete official listing of a student’s academic record (courses, grades, credits).  In the college admission process, this document is traditionally given the most weight.


Undergraduate: A college student who is a candidate for a Bachelor’s Degree or a program of study leading to a Bachelor’s Degree.


University: A public or private institution that has both undergraduate and graduate programs.


Yield: The number of students admitted to a college who ultimately attend that college.  The yield is usually extremely high at selective colleges.

bottom of page