Getting Started: Understanding Common Terms

  • During your college search, you may begin to feel like you are learning a new language! To help you understand the language of college admissions, many common terms you may encounter as you research colleges are defined in this section.

    Academic Competitiveness - This is a very personal issue that only you can decide. How competitive a situation do you feel comfortable in? Some students want to be in the most competitive situation possible and the prospect of receiving "C's" is not a problem. However, some students want a more moderate level of competitiveness.

    Academic Program - This is an analysis of the challenge or rigor of a particular student's program based on what the student has taken and what is available at Oriskany.

    ACT - The American College Test is a college entrance examination accepted by most 4 year colleges that also require the SAT. It is a curriculum-based test in math, science, English and reading. The ACT has an optional 30-minute writing test.

    Admission Testing - The SAT Reasoning Test, ACT and occasionally the SAT Subject Tests, are used to verify or support the academic rating of the student. At some schools, this is not an area of concern.

    Application/Essay - The college application in general, and the essay in particular, are looked at carefully to reveal information about the candidate, both in terms of interests and the ability to clearly communicate. Be timely, interesting and to the point.

    Common Application - This is an application used by 650+ colleges/universities. It allows a student to complete one application for many schools. Students may need to complete supplemental information required by each school.

    Cost - Please read the note on Private/Public colleges, as these are closely related. The role of financial aid is also closely related to cost, and may change the cost significantly. Cost should generally not be a reason to rule out a college initially. The initial cost figures may seem way beyond what you, as a family, feel is within your budget, but financial aid may make the cost more affordable.

    CSS/Financial Aid Profile - This is a financial aid form that is similar to the FAFSA, but also gathers information on property and other assets. This is used primarily by private colleges to help determine eligibility for institutional assistance (need based scholarships). There is a fee for this service, based upon the number of schools to which the information is forwarded.

    Cumulative Grade Point Average - The average(s) reported on the high school transcript. The unweighted average is the actual average from all high school courses except physical education and band.

    Early Action - This is an admissions program which simply gives the student a decision earlier. It is much like Early Decision, except that there is no commitment to attend on the part of the student.

    Early Admission - This is a program which allows juniors to be admitted directly to college at the end of their junior year. The senior year is lost, and the student begins his/her freshman year of college immediately. The considerations are primarily maturity and academic preparation. Colleges are generally quite interested in the reasons why a student is leaving high school early.

    Early Decision - This is an accelerated admissions process which some colleges use to allow students with a definite interest in attending their institution get a head start on the process. Most Early Decision programs have a commitment component, which means the student and family make a firm promise that the student will attend that institution if accepted. Typically, E.D. programs require that all application materials are received by mid November (some are later) and the college will respond with a decision by the end of December. If a student is not accepted under this plan, they may be deferred to regular admission, although in many cases a student is rejected and not reconsidered in the regular pool of applications.

    FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is a form for families of financial aid applicants to supply information about their income for use in estimating how much money a family is able to pay toward a student's college costs. It determines eligibility for federal aid programs. Virtually every college to which you are applying for financial aid requires it. You must complete the FASFA online.

    Fee Waivers - Admission test fees and application fees can be waived for students whose family financial situation qualifies them for reduced/free lunch. Fee waivers may also be granted for students/families who find themselves in temporary financial difficulties. Students should consult with their counselor to see if fee waivers are appropriate for their situation.

    Final Transcript - Colleges require the high school to send a copy of your transcript at the completion of your senior year. They want to verify you graduated and want to see continued interest in academic achievement. Recent communication from colleges indicates they look very carefully at your end of the year transcript for evidence of continued academic performance.

    Financial Need/Aid - The difference between the cost of the college and the resources available to the family is the financial need of the family. Financial aid is the package of various methods (grants, scholarships, loans, work-study) put together by the college to help the family cover their financial need.

    Interview - There are two types of interviews: evaluative and informational. Evaluative interviews are much less common now, but are sometimes required/recommended at some of the most competitive schools. They may be conducted by an alumnus off campus. Informational interviews are optional, but good sources of specific information on the style and personality of the campus that you may not be able to find in any of the literature.

    Major - A subject or discipline in which a college student specializes. In order to fulfill the requirements of his/her major, a student must take a certain number of courses through a specific academic department. In some cases, a senior thesis and/or practical work in the field may be required for the completion of the major.

    Matriculation - Enrolling in a college or university as a candidate for a degree.

    Merit-Based Scholarship
    - These are monies awarded based on the student's achievement in some area and do not have to be repaid. For example, a student who has a particularly high GPA and strong SAT scores might be eligible for a full or partial tuition scholarship at some colleges. Other examples can be talent-based scholarships, such as Athletic Grants in Aid. Ivy League schools do not award these types of scholarships.

    Minor - An area of specialization similar to the major, but requiring far fewer courses to complete. A minor gives a student a chance to study in depth, a particular field of interest in addition to the major. A minimum of six courses is usually required to fulfill the requirements of a minor.

    Mid-Year Report - Most four year colleges require that the high school give them an update on how you are doing academically during your senior year. In early February, once first semester grades have been completed, your cumulative GPA is recalculated and included on a mid-year report with semester averages for each course in which you were enrolled during the first semester.

    Private/Public - This status primarily impacts the financing of a college or university. Public schools defray much of the tuition cost to the student through tax monies received from either the state or local governments. Public colleges which are out of state, charge additional fees for out of state students, which brings the cost closer to a private school. Private schools vary widely in cost, as does the financial aid monies available. The role that financial aid plays in the process may reduce the out-of-pocket costs of a private school to the point where the cost to the family is the same as that of a public school.

    Profile - This is a compilation of information and statistics regarding Oriskany Jr./Sr. High School, the student body and the curriculum available. This is sent with every transcript, and generally helps the college admissions officials understand the competitive situation in which our students function.

    PSAT - The Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is given each year in October. This is a basic test for some merit scholarships and is the source of some college mailings. This test is also practice for the SAT. Registration begins in September in the Counseling Office. A sample practice test is provided to students.

    Recommendations - Generally are sought from people who have been involved with the student. Usually a counselor evaluation and 1 or 2 teacher recommendations are required by a 4-year college as part of an application for admission.

    Regular Admissions - This is the usual timetable for filing college applications. Deadlines vary between late fall and spring (January 1st is usually the earliest). Decisions usually arrive by mid April at the latest.

    Restrictive Early Action (REA) - This is an admissions program which gives the student a decision earlier. It is much like Early Decision, except there is no commitment to attend on the part of the student. Each school has its own restrictive rules. Please check the college's website for details.

    Rolling Admissions - A procedure some colleges follow of notifying students of their admission decision shortly after they have received and processed all the required credentials. This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

    SAT Reasoning Test - Scholastic Assessment Test. This exam is intended to measure skills in math, reading, writing (optional) and language. It is used as an entrance exam for many 4 year colleges. Students are encouraged to take the exam in their junior year and again in the fall of their senior year. Students may pick up a registration form in the Counseling Office or register online.

    SAT Subject Tests - These are one hour subject tests designed to assess student preparedness in a specific subject. Some competitive colleges (primarily small, liberal arts colleges) require these tests. Students generally take these tests at the completion of the related course. Students may pick up a registration form in the Counseling Office or register online.

    Secondary School Report - This is a required part of many college applications. Students do not need to bring counselors any forms. Similar to a teacher's letter of recommendation, this form seeks information on the student's GPA, strength of academic program and personal characteristics.

    TAP - Tuition Assistance Program. This is a program of financial assistance for New York State residents attending New York State colleges/universities. When a student includes a New York State school on the FAFSA, they will automatically be directed to the TAP application (online).

    Transcript - A listing of the courses, final grades, Regents exams, credits and standardized college entrance exam scores that a student has earned during the high school years (9-12), plus any high school credits earned prior to Grade 9. The transcript is the official document of school performance and it also contains the grade point average. An "official transcript" carries the signature of the counselor and the school's seal, and must be mailed from the school.