The purpose of this section is to present the different terms used by institutions during the admission process in each higher education system around the world.
College: An institution at which students study toward two- or four-year undergraduate degrees after completion of secondary school. In the U.S., the terms: college and university are interchangeable.
University: An institution that may be the same as a college, but usually offers graduate degrees in addition to undergraduate degrees.
Associate Degree (A.A., A.S.): A two-year degree that generally prepares the student for further study, but may be sufficient training for certain careers.
Foundation Courses: Students complete a one-year foundation course to help them progress to higher education in the United Kingdom.
Vocational Programs: or vocational education and training (VET) prepares trainees for jobs that are based on manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic, and totally related to a specific trade, occupation, or vocation. It is sometimes referred to as technical education as the trainee directly develops expertise in a particular group of techniques or technology.
Bachelor’s Degree (B.A., B.S., B.F.A.): A three or four-year degree in a specified subject.
Undergraduate Degrees: Two-year (Associate’s) or four-year (Bachelor’s) degrees.
Master’s Degree (M.A., M.S., M.F.A.): One or two years of study in a specific subject after completion of a Bachelor’s Degree.
Doctoral Degree (Ph.D., M.D.): Three or four years of highly specialized study after completion of a Bachelor’s and/or Master’s Degree.
Tests and Testing
The College Board: The preparatory and monitoring agency for many tests and services connected with the college admission process. College Board is also used as a search engine for university research. www.collegeboard.com.
SAT: Usually taken during Grade 11 and again in the Grade 12, it is a required test for admission to most universities. It is a multiple-choice exam designed to test a student’s aptitude for scholastic work and is scored from 200-800 on critical reading and math; with a separate score for the optional writing portion.
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): An English Language proficiency test, which conveys a student’s ability to understand courses given in English.
IELTS (International English Language Testing System): British Council sponsored test of English Language proficiency.
ACT: A multiple-choice test scored on a scale of 0 (low) to 36, the ACT tests students’ ability in four areas of study (English, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Natural Sciences) as well as an optional writing section. This test is offered in April, but students can take it in other locations on other dates if necessary.
Bio-Medical Admissions Test (BMAT): Entrance exam for Medical and Veterinary schools (UK).
English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT): Entrance exam for English courses at the University of Oxford.
The National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT): Entrance exam for law schools (UK).
Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA): Entrance exam, formerly known as the PPE Admissions Test For entry to the Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and the Economics and Management Courses (UK).
UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT): Entrance exam for medical and dental schools (UK).
Admissions Terms and Processes
Accreditation: Regional, State, or National agencies certify that the institution has met certain standards.
Application: Form questionnaire, in various versions (UCAS, Common Application, etc.), required for entry to most all universities.
Candidate's Reply Date: A college may require an applicant to notify the college by this date as to the intentions of the applicant to enroll in that college.
Class Rank: A system that ranks students independently from the school's grade system. Some schools do not offer a class rank.
Clearing: A system used towards the end of the academic cycle for students who have not secured a place, it enables a student to apply for course vacancies. Please see UCAS website for exact details.
C.W.S. - College Work Study: Provides jobs for students with financial need who must earn part of their educational expenses. Foreign students should check U.S. and Canadian visa regulations before assuming that this is available to them. Visa rules may allow foreign students to take advantage of work options both on and off campus. This is commonly known as ‘Work Study’.
Common Application: This is a single application form that is accepted by a number of different universities in lieu of their own application form. Once filled out, it may be photocopied and sent to any number of the participating institutions. The information sheet attached to the form lists the participating schools, the deadline for each school, and each school’s supplementary requirements.
Cooperative Education Program (Co-Op): A program where a student alternates between periods of full-time study and full-time employment.
Conditional offer: An offer made by a university or college, whereby you must fulfill certain criteria before you can be accepted on the relevant course.
Confirmation: When conditional offers that you have accepted become unconditional or are declined. Confirmation is dependent on your qualification/exam results.
Credit Hours: (US universities) a unit of measurement usually awarded on the basis of one credit per hour of class per week. A course worth 3 credits will generally meet 3 hours a week, hence the term, 3 credit hours.
Deadlines: These are dates that must be met, after which applications may not be considered.
Deferred: An admissions decision given to early applicants. Students who apply early are often deferred to the regular deadline pool for further consideration.
Deferred Entry/Admission: Some colleges allow a student to defer entrance for up to one academic year in order to pursue other interests but not to enter another college or university program. Each college or university makes its own rules on this but those who have deferred entrance programs usually grant permission for a student to travel, work, do volunteer service, or special study opportunities not usually offered by the college (overseas language or cultural studies, for example).
Early Decision: (Binding Commitment) This is a plan under which a student applies to his first-choice university in early November, usually by signing a contract to enter that university if offered admission. Early decision applicants are judged on the basis of their Grade 11 test scores and grades. Decisions are given early in December. A student not accepted under an Early Decision plan will not automatically be deferred into the regular admissions review.
Early Action: (Non-Binding Commitment) This is a plan used primarily in highly selective colleges. Early action follows the same application/notification timetable as early decision but gives the accepted candidates until May 1 to accept or decline the offer of admission. Under Early Action programs, a student may be accepted, deferred into the regular review, or denied admission.
Entry Profiles: comprehensive information about individual courses and institutions, including statistics and entry requirements. Entry Profiles are found on Course Search on the UCAS website: www.ucas.com
Family Contribution: The amount that you and your family should reasonably be able to contribute to the cost of your college education. This is determined by such factors as your parents' income, assets, and debts; your earnings and savings; and the number of children in your family currently in college.
FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid: This is the College Scholarship Service form that requires information about an applicant's family income, assets, expenses and liabilities. This form is required of all USA Citizens wishing to qualify for federal grants and loans.
Financial Aid CSS/Profile: An aid application form required by all universities in order to gain access to grants from the institution’s own funds.
Financial need: The difference between the cost of education at a college and the student's expected family contribution.
Firm offer: the offer that you have accepted as your first choice.
Grade point average (GPA): A system of evaluating overall student achievement. Avenues does not calculate GPA
Graduate and Professional Schools: Refers to schools offering Master's and Doctorate degrees, and to such schools as law, medicine, etc.
Grant: A financial award, also known as scholarship, which does not have to be repaid.
Individualized Major: A program that allows students to design their field of specialization based on individual interests.
International Baccalaureate (IB): The IB is a program of studies taken in the last two years of high school, which covers a broad liberal arts spectrum.
Internship: An employment opportunity, usually in an area related to academic or career interests, which students may pursue either on or off campus. Some internships are paid positions, but most are opportunities for students to gain valuable experience as unpaid volunteers.
Institution: a university or college offering higher education courses.
Institutional Aid Forms: The U.S. College’s own financial aid application form that must be submitted in addition to the F.A.F.S.A. or the CSS Profile.
Insurance offer: the offer that you have accepted as your second choice, in case you do not meet the requirements for your firm offer.
January Admission: Some universities allow students to begin their course of studies in the middle of the academic year (January) as well as in the fall (August - September).
Liberal Arts: Academic work ranging from Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, to Math and Natural Sciences, as opposed to technical or professional subjects such as Engineering or Architecture.
Major: A student's area of specialization. Generally, major course requirements take up the bulk of a student's undergraduate program and are combined with other general education requirements.
Minor: A student's subordinate specialization.
Need Blind: Colleges with need-blind admissions make admissions decisions by focusing on each student's academic and extra-curricular record without taking into consideration the family’s finances. Whether or not that student will need financial aid does not play into the acceptance decision. In these cases, admissions and financial aid decisions are made independently of each other and do not cross paths. That said, there is one caveat, some “Need Blind” schools may use financial need as a way of evaluating applicants on the waiting list, as well as transfers and international students.
Need Aware: At schools with need-aware policies, schools do consider a family's financial situation when determining the admissibility of students. This means admissions for students who are asking for financial aid will, in most cases, be more competitive than for those who are not. This can be the reason that some students with stronger backgrounds (but who need financial aid) are denied, while relatively weaker students (but who do not need financial aid) are admitted.
Common Terminology Used in the University Application Process
Reach, possible and likely schools: It is important to understand these terms in order to successfully organize the best list of universities with your son/daughter. This maximizes your child’s opportunities to attend a university that will best suit them.
A possible or target school is one where your academic credentials fall well within (or even exceed) the school's range for the average freshman. There are no guarantees, but it is not unreasonable to be accepted to several of your match schools.
A reach school is one where your academic credentials fall below the school's range for the average freshman. Reach schools are long–shots, but they should still be possible. If you have a 2.0 GPA, Harvard is not a reach school–it is a dream.
A likely school is one where your academic credentials fall above the school's range for the average freshman. You can be reasonably certain that you will be admitted to your safety schools.
We encourage students to apply to a few schools from each category (many applicants apply to around three reach schools, three possible schools and two likely schools). Separating them will help you manage your expectations throughout the admissions process. And it will ensure that you set ambitious goals and give yourself some back–up options. Don’t include a school on your list that you are not willing to attend.
Open Admission: Some universities do not practice selective admission and offer admission to all students who apply.
Personal ID: a UCAS 10-digit individual number assigned to you when you register to use Apply. It is printed on every letter UCAS sends and is displayed in the format 123-456-7890. You will be asked to provide this number if you contact UCAS’s Customer Service Unit.
Proprietary School: A private trade, technical, business or nursing school that offers programs usually shorter in duration and more job-oriented that those given by 2- or 4-year colleges.
Public, Private, Church-Related, State-Related: American term that refer to the "control" of the institution. "Public" means government owned, usually by the state or county. Tuitions are usually different for residents and non-residents. "Private" means not government owned. "Church-Related means that the institution may have a close relationship with the denomination specified, but often such a religious affiliation is more relevant to the institution's background than to its current program. “State Related” refers to a private institution that has different in-state and out-of-state tuition rates.
Quarter: A unit measuring the academic year. Under this system, there are four quarters, or terms, each year.
Rolling Admissions: Applications are considered as soon as all required materials (application form, fees, transcript, recommendations, test scores) are received by the college. Students are notified as soon as the decisions are made.
Room and board: Fees that cover room and meal expenses.
Semester: A portion of the academic year. Under the semester system, there are two terms during each academic year.
Track: a system where you can track the progress of your application online, reply to any offers received, and make certain amendments, for example, change of address or email.
Transcript: A copy of your academic record showing subjects taken, grades earned over the course of an academic career.
Tuition: The fees that cover academic expenses.
Tuition Deposit: Also called the admission deposit or commitment fee. A university usually asks a student who has been accepted to verify his intention to enroll by submitting a deposit or fee that is usually applied to the student’s tuition charges for the upcoming academic year. Universities view dual or multiple deposits by students as violations of trust and may revoke a previous offer of admission from any student found to have sent tuition deposits to more than one school. This is due May 1, and will have serious consequences if not met.
Two-Year, Four-Year, and Graduate: Two-Year usually refers to a junior or community college with first and second year programs designed to provide credit for transfer to a 4 year college or to culminate in an Associate Degree. A few 2-year colleges offer only third and fourth year programs leading to a Bachelor's Degree. "Fourth-Year" refers to institutions that grant Bachelor's degrees. Four Year Grad refers to institutions that offer advanced degrees (Master's and/or Doctorate) in addition to Bachelor's degrees.
Undergraduate: A bachelor's or associate degree candidate. Once students have earned a bachelor's degree, they are eligible for entry to graduate programs at the master's and doctoral levels.
Unconditional offer: an offer given to you by a university or college if you have satisfied the criteria and can attend the course.
Unistats: a website for students who want to research and compare subjects and universities before deciding where to apply. You can also look at student satisfaction ratings and explore the figures about getting a graduate job after completing a course.
Unsuccessful: you have not been accepted by the university or college concerned.
Withdrawal: either you or a university/college cancels a choice before a decision has been made. A reason will be included if the withdrawal was issued by an institution.
Wait List: This is a type of conditional acceptance. If the university does not fill its freshman (First year) quota from the list of students offered admission, they will turn to their wait list in an attempt to fill vacancies. If ‘wait listed’, you may not be advised of acceptance until after the May 1 response date.