Admissions Lingo

Hello future Bears.  My name is Abbie Paris, and I am an admissions counselor at Mercer University. I remember being in your shoes not too long ago. It was so fun and exciting, but there was a lot to learn and remember, too.

At Mercer, we want to make sure you have all the information you need to make the best college choice for yourself and your family. To get started, I realize there are a lot of admissions terms that you may not be familiar with yet, so I thought I’d share a helpful list of common terms and what they mean.

Admissions Terms to Know

ACT

College readiness exam consisting of English, Math, Reading, and Science sections; scored on a 36-point scale

Admission

Acceptance to a college or university

Application for Admission

The form and supporting materials you submit to be considered for admission to a college or university. Mercer accepts either the Mercer Application or The Common Application.

Binding

A term used in conjunction with the Early Decision application process which means if a student is accepted to the college or university, he or she is committing to attend that college or university and close or withdraw applications at all other institutions. Mercer does not have a binding admission option.

Class Rank

A student’s academic standing among peers in their graduating class

Credit Hour

Unit used to measure college classes, typically based on the number of hours spent in the classroom per week Example: Psychology 101 is worth three college credits and you have class for one hour per day, three times per week.

College Credit

The total amount of credit hours that is used to evaluate a student’s eligibility to graduate

The Common Application

Students can use the Common Application to apply to multiple colleges and universities; not every institution uses this type of application

Cost of Attendance

Total cost to attend an institution before any financial aid and scholarships have been applied; includes direct and indirect costs, such as tuition & fees, housing, and meal plan. The Department of Education requires all colleges and universities to provide this figure annually.

Defer

Term often referring to where a student defers their acceptance to a later time.

The meaning of the term varies among institutions, so check with the colleges and universities you are applying to for their definition.

Dual Enrollment Credit

Credit students receive for any college courses taken before high school/secondary school graduation, where they are enrolled both in high school/secondary school and college at the same time

Early Action

A non-binding admission practice where students can apply early to an institution to be considered for admission ahead of other students. Mercer’s Early Action deadline also qualifies students for early scholarship consideration.

Early Decision

A binding admission practice where students who know exactly what college or university they want to attend can apply early to an institution to be considered for admission ahead of other students

EFC

Expected Family Contribution, or the amount of money determined by the FAFSA that a family should be able to contribute to a student’s education; determines how need-based aid is awarded. The formula for Expected Family Contribution is determined by federal law. Visit studentaid.gov to learn how EFC is calculated.

FAFSA

Free Application for Federal Student Aid; an application for financial aid that uses tax/income information to determine any scholarships, grants, work-study, or loans students are eligible to receive through state programs or the federal government

Financial Aid

The combination of scholarships, grants, loans, and federal work-study that can be used to pay for a student’s college education

GPA

Grade Point Average; the average of all a student’s official grades, typically calculated by adding their numerical grades and dividing that by the number of classes taken

Graduate Program

Advanced program of study available after a student completes a bachelor’s degree

Grant

Financial aid given, which most of the time does not have to be paid back

Higher Education

An optional academic avenue for individuals who have earned a high school/secondary school diploma or GED; also known as post-secondary education

Letter of Recommendation

A letter from someone who is not a relative and who can describe a student’s accomplishments, skills, and personality in a recommendation to a college or university

Loan

A sum of money borrowed that is required to be paid back, often with interest

Major

Primary area of study; typically comprises between one third and one half of courses students take

Minor

Secondary area of study; typically optional. The number of credit hours for a minor varies depending on the institution.

Need-Based Aid

Financial aid that is dependent upon financial need as determined by the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) calculated based on information provided in the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

Non-binding

A term used in conjunction with the Early Action application process which means if a student is accepted to the college or university, the student is not required to commit to that college or university and may still apply to other college and universities

Pre-Professional Track

Track of study that includes a combination of relevant coursework and specialized advising designed to prepare students for a professional program after completion of their bachelor’s degree; different from a major

Example: Political Science is a major, while Pre-Law is a track.

Prerequisite

Course that’s required in order to move into the next phase of study; often required for graduate programs or for an advanced level of study at the undergraduate level

Example: Biology 101 is required before you will be able to take Biology 201 because it is a prerequisite course.

Prospective Student

A potential applicant to a college or university who has usually shown demonstrated interest in that college or university

Rolling Admission

A process whereby decisions for acceptance are made and released on a constant basis throughout the year

SAT

College readiness exam consisting of Reading, Math, and Writing sections; scored on a 1600-point scale. Most schools, including Mercer, do not require or factor in the writing portion of the exam.

Scholarship

Financial aid given, often based on academic credentials, talent, need, or other award-specific criteria. Most scholarships are gift aid and do not have to be paid back.

Subsidized Loan

Loans that do not accrue interest while a student is enrolled in college

Superscore

Process where a college or university takes the highest scores in each section of a student’s ACT or SAT, even if the scores are from different testing dates, and puts them together to create and count a student’s best overall score

Test Optional

Policy that allows students to apply to a college or university without submitting test scores; Test Optional policies differ among institutions

Transcript

An official academic document displaying all courses a student has taken in high school/secondary school or college along with their grades; additional information on a transcript may include class rank, GPA, and dual enrollment credits

Unweighted GPA

A calculated GPA in which academic rigor is not factored in to “weight” the GPA

Unsubsidized Loan

Loans that begin to accrue interest the moment a student receives loan funds

Weighted GPA

A calculated GPA that involves adding “weight” to final course grades based on the course’s academic rigor

Examples might include AP courses, IB courses, or dual enrollment courses

Now, keep in mind that you still might run into things you don’t know! Even as an adult, I still do everyday. Let people know when you need help or are confused. Don’t be ashamed to ask questions, even if they you think they might sound silly, and know that you are never alone in this process! We are always here to help and cheer you on.

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