The terms included in this glossary are commonly used in the college application process. **In a few instances we have refined terms for the purposes of The TalentED Project, which are marked below by two asterisks.
The percent of students attending an institution, who completed their bachelor’s degree program within four years, which is the scheduled amount of time for a typical bachelor’s degree program.
The percent of students attending an institution who completed their bachelor’s degree program within six years. The 6-year graduation rate is considered the standard graduation rate indicator in the industry. For The TalentED Project, colleges are profiled if they graduate 40% or more of their students within six years.
A support service in which the student is counseled about which classes to select and the order in which they should be completed to earn a certain degree program or major program. Different colleges have different models for academic advising. Some have faculty members perform this function, while others use academic advisors whose sole role is to counsel students about course selection.
A standardized test that students take during high school that assesses their readiness for college-level coursework. Students usually take either the ACT or the SAT. The ACT is scored out of 36 total possible points and is comprised of four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. There is also an optional writing section which some colleges may require students to complete.
The TalentED Project uses a 3-year admission rate in order to minimize yearly fluctuations in admission rate that institutions may experience. Colleges and universities are eligible to participate in The TalentED Project if they have a 3-year admission rate of 80 percent or higher. Institutions which meet or exceed the national average 6-year graduation rate can have up to an 85 percent 3-year admission rate in order to be eligible for The TalentED Project.
Most colleges charge an application fee, which must be paid before the college will review the student’s application. For students with demonstrated financial need, many colleges will waive the application fee. In order to have an application fee waived, students should contact the admissions office of the college(s) to which they plan to apply. In some cases, students may be asked to provide documentation of their financial need to receive a fee waiver.
A higher education institution that focuses on majors and courses of study in arts-related fields, such as fine arts, graphic design, or fashion design.
A two-year degree program usually awarded by community colleges although also awarded by some four-year colleges.
The average amount of money a student takes out in loans or borrows for college which must be repaid plus interest, per year. This amount can include both federal student loans and student loans from private lenders. This average can be used to estimate the amount of loan a student may need to take out to finance her college education, but should not be considered the exact amount she will pay. The student will learn how much student loans she is being offered once she applies for admission and financial aid.
A four-year degree, usually comprising 120 credit hours, which is considered the typical college degree. A bachelor’s degree will include study in general education classes, which cover a variety of subjects in math, science, writing, and social sciences, as well as specific courses within a student’s major, or chosen course of study.
The type of larger environment in which the college is located. For The TalentED Project, campus setting was determined by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) based on U.S. Census information. The NCES uses 16 categories for campus setting, which The TalentED Project has reduced to four for ease of use. The campus setting categories, from largest to smallest, are: city, suburb, town, and rural.
A measure of how one student in a given high school compares to other students in his high school's graduating class. Colleges use class rank information to learn more about how a student performed academically in high school relative to his peers. Some high schools no longer calculate class rank, while others only assign students to a certain class rank category, such as the top 10% of a class.
A course of study that is part of a bachelor’s degree program. Students typically indicate which major they would like to study when applying to college, although most students change their major during their first year of college. The major a student selects determines some of the classes he will take as well as what degree subject he will earn. Some colleges allow students to select more than one major.
A course of study a student can complete in addition to her college major, but which does not require as many courses to complete as a second major. A minor can be a way for students to add diversity or additional elements to their major course of study.
An amount, determined by a federal formula, that is intended to capture all costs associated with one year of college. Cost of Attendance includes tuition, fees, housing, food, transportation, travel, books, supplies, and other miscellaneous costs associated with attending college. It should be noted that Cost of Attendance is an estimate. Individual students may have costs that differ from the Cost of Attendance. Cost of Attendance is used to determine how much financial aid a student should receive based on her financial need.
An online form, which collects detailed information about family finances beyond the information collected on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and which is only required by some colleges. The CSS Profile is offered by the College Board, which charges students a fee in order to process the CSS Profile. However, because it is illegal to charge someone to apply for federal student aid, if a college requires the CSS Profile and the student cannot afford the fee to complete it, the student should contact the college’s Admissions Office in order to learn how they should proceed.
A temporary form of legal protection against removal from the United States that is available to undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children. Individuals must meet a set of criteria established by the Department of Homeland Security in order to be eligible for DACA, and must apply to be awarded DACA status. Once DACA status is awarded, the individual is temporarily protected from deportation and can apply for certain documents, such as a driver’s license and work authorization. Some states have provisions to consider students granted DACA status as in-state applicants, meaning they would pay in-state tuition rates. However, students who have been granted DACA status do not qualify for federal financial aid programs such as Pell Grants.
A type of admissions offered by many colleges that allows students to submit an application for admission earlier than the regular admission deadline. Unlike Early Decision Admissions, Early Action is not binding, so the student does not have to commit to attend an institution to which he has been admitted under Early Action. Both Early Decision and Early Action are a way for a student to demonstrate his very strong preference to attend that college above others he is considering.
A type of admissions offered by many colleges that allows students to submit an application for admission earlier than the regular admission deadline. Unlike Early Action Admissions, Early Decision is binding, so the student can only apply Early Decision to one college. If she is accepted to that college, she must accept the offer of admission and attend the college. Both Early Decision and Early Action are a way for a student to demonstrate her very strong preference to attend that college above others she is considering.
A payment some colleges use to secure a student’s spot at that college once he has officially decided to attend. Not every college requires an enrollment deposit, and the amount of the deposit varies by institution. Enrollment deposits can be challenging for lower-income students to accommodate, because they are due before students' financial aid packages are in place. Some colleges will waive the enrollment deposit or set up a payment plan for students with financial need. If a student needs to establish a payment plan or ask to waive the enrollment deposit, he should contact the Admissions Office.
Financial aid is a term that encompasses all forms of financial assistance for college, including grants, scholarships, and loans.
For The TalentED Project, a student is considered a first-generation college-goer if neither of the student’s parents have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher in the United States.
Special programs offered by many colleges that are for students in their first year of college. These programs, which vary widely in structure, are designed to help students successfully transition to college and connect with the campus and their classmates. If a student would like more information about first-year transition programs at a particular college, the student should contact the college’s admissions office or view the college’s profile on The TalentED Project.
Some colleges offer special visit programs for high school students with financial need who are considering attending the college. These programs, which students must apply to attend, include the college paying for the prospective student’s transportation, housing, and food costs during the visit. If a college offers a fly-in visit program, information will be available on the college’s admissions website or on the college’s TalentED profile. If a student is interested in visiting a particular college through a fly-in visit but no information is available on the college’s website, the student can contact the Admissions Office to inquire about the availability of this program.
A free online form operated by the federal government which collects information about student income, family size, and family income for the purposes of awarding federal and other financial aid. The FAFSA is available for students to complete during their senior year of high school, and must be completed each year the student is in college. The FAFSA is a free form and students should never have to pay to complete it. Students who are undocumented or who have been awarded DACA status cannot complete the FAFSA.
A measure of a student’s academic performance in high school courses, GPA is calculated by assigning a point value to different grades the student could earn, then averaging the points the student actually earned during high school together. GPA is cumulative, which means that it includes the student’s entire high school experience. Some high schools give certain classes, such as honors or Advanced Placement (AP) classes, extra points, which is called a “weighted” GPA.
A form of financial aid that does not have to be repaid. A grant is awarded on the basis of financial need and can come from the federal government, the state the student resides in, the college or university, or a private source. The federal Pell Grant is an example of a grant.
A federal designation available to colleges that have a student population which is 25 percent or more Hispanic.
A federal designation for a college that was founded before 1964 with the intention of educating African Americans. HBCUs can be public or private institutions. Most HBCUs still have student populations that are majority African-American, although they admit students of any race or ethnicity.
A tuition category, only found at public colleges, that charges residents of the state in which the college is located a lower rate of tuition than that charged to a student who is a resident of another state or country. Each state may have a different way of determining in-state residency. Additionally, some colleges may offer discounted rates of tuition for residents of neighboring out-of-state counties.
A type of college that seeks to emphasize undergraduate education and to provide students with courses covering a wide range of topics. There can be a common misconception that liberal arts colleges only provide majors in the arts or social sciences - however, they offer a range of majors, including math and the sciences. Liberal arts colleges often offer students small learning communities and opportunities to engage with faculty members.
The TalentED Project does not have a defined set of criteria for determining if a student can be considered lower-income. College advisors should use their knowledge of the student and/or the student’s family to determine if he is lower-income. Some common indicators include:
A.) family household income of $48,000 per year or less (i.e. the bottom two income categories according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, IPEDS)
B.) student eligibility for the free and reduced price lunch program
C.) student or family eligibility for assistance programs such as low-income housing, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, sometimes referred to as food stamps), etc.
The term used to define the point at which a student enrolls in college.
Net price is a figure that is used to estimate how much college will cost and is calculated by subtracting grants and scholarships from the cost of attendance. Every college is required by federal law to include a net price calculator on their website which students can use to calculate an estimated net price based on their families’ financial information. Net price is usually a more accurate predictor of how much college will cost a student than tuition information or the cost of attendance because most students are awarded grants and scholarships that reduce their college costs from the published price.
TalentED college profiles include information from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) on Average Net Price for a variety of income levels. These figures can be used to give the indication of a net price, but should not be considered the exact net price. It is not possible to know a given student’s exact net price until she has applied for admission/financial aid and has been awarded a financial aid package by the colleges or universities to which she has been admitted.
An individual who recently immigrated to the United States.
A program designed to acclimate students to a college once they have been accepted and enroll in the college. Orientation programs vary widely in length and structure. At some colleges, orientation is mandatory, while at other colleges, it is optional. Some colleges may charge a fee for students to participate in orientation programming or for housing/lodging during orientation. If a student would like more information about orientation programs at colleges they are considering attending, he should contact the Admissions Office or refer to the college’s profile on The TalentED Project.
A tuition category, only found at public colleges, that charges students who are not residents of the state in which the college is located a higher rate of tuition than that charged to a student who is a resident of the state. Each state may have a different way of determining out-of-state residency.
A federal program that awards students money for college based on their financial need. Student eligibility for the Pell Grant is determined by the information the student submits on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The Pell Grant does not need to be repaid.
A college or university that is operated by a board of trustees, and not by a state government agency. Private colleges and universities may have a particular mission or religious affiliation and vary widely in size, type, and affordability.
A public college or university is operated by a government agency in its respective state. Public colleges are operated with the purpose of educating the residents of that state. Public colleges offer reduced tuition rates, often called in-state tuition, to residents of the state in which the college is located.
Some private colleges and universities are religiously-affiliated, meaning they are operated by or for the purpose of educating students belonging to a certain religious denomination. The implications of religious affiliation on daily student life vary widely; some colleges may require one religious course while others may require participation in religious services or student policies that limit certain behaviors. In most cases, religiously-affiliated colleges and universities will accept students for admission even if they do not belong to the college’s religious denomination.
The percentage of full-time students who are attending college for the first time who enrolled in their first year of college and remained enrolled in the college after the first 30 days of the first term of their second year of college.
A college or university with a rolling admissions system does not have a determined deadline after which they will no longer consider applications for admission. Rather, the college will consider applications for admission at any time. Even if a college has a rolling admissions policy, the college may still have a deadline by which the student must submit his application for admission in order to be eligible for scholarships.
A standardized test that students take during high school that assesses readiness for college-level coursework. Students usually take either the ACT or the SAT. The SAT is comprised of three sections: Math, Critical Reading, and Writing. Each section is eligible for a score of 800 points, with a total possible score of 2400 points.
A form of financial assistance for college, which does not have to be repaid. Scholarships are awarded based on student merit and can be awarded for academic achievement, as well as achievement in other areas like the arts or a particular sport. Scholarships can be awarded by the state a student resides in, a college or university, or a private source such as a foundation or corporation.
Selectivity is determined by what percentage of applicants a college admits. For The TalentED Project, colleges are considered selective if they admit 80 percent or fewer applicants over three years.
A college that is operated with the purpose of educating only students of a particular gender.
The National Center for Education Statistics divides colleges into size categories as follows:
Very Small: Less than 1,000 undergraduates
Small: 1,000-4,999 undergraduates
Mid-Size: 5,000-9,999 undergraduates
Large: 10,000-19,999 undergraduates
Very Large: More than 20,000 undergraduates
STEM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
A form of financial assistance for college that must be repaid with interest. Student loans can come from the federal government, a college or university, or a private lender. If a student is eligible for federal loans or loans from a college or university, that information will be reflected in the financial aid award the student receives from the college(s) to which she has been admitted.
Summer programs that are available to a small number of admitted students that help build the academic skills needed to succeed in college. Typically, summer bridge programs are intensive and require participants to live on campus during the program, although this is not always the case. Not every college offers summer bridge programming. If a student is interested in learning more about whether or not a particular college or university offers summer bridge programming, she should contact that college’s admissions office or refer to the college’s profile on The TalentED Project.
A small subset of colleges offers students the ability to apply for admission without submitting ACT or SAT scores as part of their admissions application. Typically, a student who chooses to apply test-optional will have to complete an additional admissions application component instead of submitting test scores, such as an interview or an additional essay. Colleges with test-optional admissions policies will state it in their application materials, or within TalentED, it will be a part of their enhanced profile.
A college that is operated by an American Indian tribe with the purpose of educating tribal members. Tribal colleges will admit students who do not belong to the operating tribe.
A college student who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree or associate degree.
Some racial and ethnic groups are not represented on college campuses in numbers equal to these groups’ share of the United States’ population. These racial and ethnic groups include African-American, Latino/Hispanic, Native American, Southeast Asian, and New American.
A student who does not have immigration documentation, such as U.S. citizenship, permanent resident status, or visa status, which allows the student to legally reside in the United States. In most states undocumented students are not considered state residents and therefore are not eligible for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. Undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants. Some colleges and universities will allow undocumented students to receive institutional financial aid.
A university is an institution, which has multiple colleges, such as a college of letters and science and a college of business.