College Search Vocabulary  

Essential Terms to Know


Associate Degree

A degree granted by a college or university after the satisfactory completion of a two-year fulltime program of study or its part-time equivalent.

Bachelor’s Degree

A degree received after satisfactory completion of a four or five year, full time program of study; BA (Bachelor of Arts) and BS (Bachelor of Science) are the most common.

Class Rank

The student’s position relative to other fellow students in a graduating class. Class rank is used by colleges to determine how well a student has performed academically relative to his/her peers.

College Work Study

A financial aid program through a college in which a student is offered the opportunity to work up to 15 hours a week in a school-related job. This is available to students who exhibit financial need.

Course Load

The number of courses taken within a semester (typically between 12-18 for full-time students).

Deferred Admission

Allows the college to postpone making a decision about a candidate until additional data is collected. It is neither an acceptance or rejection.

Early Action

A term describing a student applying to a college or university “early” in his/her senior year (usually by early to mid November) and receives an admission decision within 5-6 weeks. If accepted, the student is not bound to attend and has until May 1st to notify the institution of his/her decision.

Early Decision

A term describing a student applying to a college or university similar to early action. The difference is if the student is accepted, the student is bound to attend and must withdraw all applications to other colleges. A student may apply only to one college via early decision.

Financial Aid

A low interest loan package awarded on the basis of financial need. Loans must be paid back with interest; Grants are given to students on a financial needs basis and do not have to be paid back.


A financial gift for a student to use toward college costs that does not have to be repaid.

Regular Decision

A term describing the application process between January and May which colleges review most of its applications prior to notifying its candidates.

Rolling Admission

A process in which colleges are constantly reading and making decisions on applications until all seats within a specified college program and/or department is at capacity.

Technical School

A school or institution which offers an occupational education program that results in immediate employment or placement in a variety of fields, such as engineering or physical sciences, computer technologies. One-year certificate programs are available in certain crafts and clerical skills.


The official high school record of courses and grades that is sent to colleges/universities as part of the student’s application

Wait List

A student is not offered admissions, but is placed on a waiting list should an opening occur. If an opening becomes available, the student is admitted. After a certain time, if an opening is not available, the student receives a rejection.