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Common College Admissions Terms All Students Should Know

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Malik Farr in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


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Knowing commonly used terms in the college admissions space will be helpful when the time comes to apply. In this article, we will go through a variety of topics and explain the terms that are associated with them.


Accelerated Degree Programs


If you’ve never heard of an accelerated degree program, this is a program that condenses the amount of time it takes to graduate. You might be able to shave a few years off depending on the school and the programs they have established. This type of program is something you apply for once you’re already a full-time student enrolled at that university. 


While there might be schools that offer this option with your college application, you typically apply for it your freshman year. If this is something you are interested in, make sure to talk with your college counselor early into your first year. They will guide you along the process and how it would work with your intended major. 


Common Financial Aid Terms


Cost of Attendance


Each school defines the cost of attendance a little bit differently. Some schools will include the tuition costs and room and board if it is required for you. Other schools might not include the cost of your room and board but will include your essential living costs, such as transportation and the cost of books. A lot of schools include all of the expenses listed above, so it is important to look at your financial aid package and see how your school breaks down the cost of attendance. 


Estimated Family Contribution


The term estimated family contribution is a financial aid term that estimates the amount your family is expected to contribute to your college education. This is calculated based on the information you submit in your FAFSA. If you see anything about your family contribution, the financial aid counselor might be able to provide more insights and fill in some of those knowledge gaps. For the most part, working with the office of financial aid is going to be your best bet to understanding this number.


College Admissions Terms


Direct Entry Admissions


Direct entry admissions are becoming more and more popular each year. This type of admission allows students to know what their program or major is coming in as a freshman at the time of their application. However, not every school provides this type of admission. 


If a program or major is especially competitive, not every institution will be able to guarantee your acceptance into that program at the time of admission. Make sure to communicate your interest in a program or major in your application and if you have any more questions about this process, talk to your college counselor. They will have the information to help you navigate this process.


Early Action & Early Decision


You might have heard a lot of students talking about early action and early decision. Both programs are incentive programs for students to apply early and get their decisions earlier. The main difference between these terms is whether or not the decision to attend is binding. 


While the deadline for these programs often occurs at the same time, applying early decision is binding. A binding decision means that if the college were to admit you to their school, you are committing to attend. Before making this decision, it is important to look at your family’s finances and whether or not you can afford to attend that school. 


Pooled Admissions


Pooled Admissions is a term for saying a college will receive applications up until a certain date and won’t start sending out admission decisions until a certain date. You might have heard your counselor talking about pooled decisions, so it will be beneficial to know what this term means. With pooled admissions, you can apply anytime before a given date and every application will be decided on at a certain date. 


First-Generation Student


The term first-generation student refers to someone who is the first person in their family to graduate and earn a four-year degree. Sometimes, even if you have family members that later on in life are able to get their degree, students will still classify themselves as first generation because they didn’t have someone with inside access to college knowledge while they were growing up. 


If either of these cases demonstrates your family dynamic and you define yourself as a first-generation student make sure to indicate this in your college application. Remember, colleges have your family information and will automatically sort through who is a first-generation student. Make sure not to indicate this unless you are absolutely sure your family’s education makes you a first-generation student. 


Often, first-generation students are eligible for merit-based scholarships depending on the institution they’re applying for. These are any scholarships given based on your academics and extracurricular activities. Colleges often see the effort first-generation students have put into gaining their chance at a college education and will award them accordingly. This is all dependent on the institution you are applying to, so try doing some research on whether or not that college offers first-generation scholarships


Test Optional vs. Test Blind


Test Optional


Test optional is not an option at every school you will be applying to. Some schools might also have a penalty for not submitting test scores even if they state that test scores are optional. For example, a school might restrict specific majors or scholarships. Some schools might require you to submit your test scores even after you’ve been accepted for recording purposes.


Of course, if the school you’re applying to requires test scores, you must submit them. When a school puts test scores as a requirement, you don’t have the option not to submit them. They won’t consider your application without them. 


Test Blind 


Test blind means you can submit test scores if you want, but they will not be factored into the admissions decision at all. It is important to understand the specific restrictions each school offers, but if the college’s application states they are test blind, whether you submit them or not will not have an impact on your acceptance.