Applying for College: College Glossary

Acceptance Rate

The percentage of students accepted by a college.

Binding Admission

Requires students to withdraw all other applications and attend the college if admitted. This agreement is seen in Early Decision applications, and in binding QuestBridge colleges for the National College Match.

Common/Universal Application

Standardized college application forms accepted by many colleges.

Core subjects

Academic courses consisting of Math, Science, English, Social Studies, and a Foreign Language.


If a student is “deferred” when applying early to a college, he/she is neither accepted nor rejected. Deferred students are pushed into the Regular Decision applicant pool and evaluated at a later date. They will be either admitted or denied admissions in the spring, with all Regular Decision applicants. Similarly, students not matched through the College Match are deferred, not rejected, from the colleges they ranked.

Deferred Admission

The option for students to defer (or “delay”) their offer of admission for up to two years. Students must work with the admissions office to see if this is a possibility.

Early Action (EA)

A non-binding admissions process that allows students to apply to a college early in November. Typically, the admissions decision is given in December, and the student is offered admission, denied admission, or deferred. Single-Choice Early Action is a variant of Early Action (see definition below).

Early Decision (ED)

A binding admissions process that allows students to apply to a college early. Students are only allowed to apply to one college ED, and are obligated to attend that college if accepted.

First Generation

Students whose parents have not graduated from a 4-year college in the U.S.

Fly-in Program

College visit programs that allows students to visit a college on the basis of admission or selection to a pre-college program.

Likely School

A college where, based on the average GPA and test scores of accepted students, the likelihood of being admitted is very high.

Personal Statement

An essay, also known as the college application essay/biographical essay, that gives admissions officers insight into the student’s character, personality, motivation, and background.


Pre-SAT/ACT tests that are typically taken in 10th or 11th grade and help students prepare for the SAT/ACT.

Reach School

A college where admission might be more difficult, based on the average GPA, test scores of accepted students, and the college’s overall admission requirements.

Regular Decision

The normal college application process by which students apply by published dates.

Retention Rate

The percentage of students who return to a college for their sophomore year. This is indicator of student satisfaction.

Rolling Admission

Instead of waiting to judge all applications concurrently, colleges with rolling admission will review applications, and determine acceptance status, as applications are sent in.


Standardized college entrance tests that many 4-year colleges require for admission.

SAT Subject Tests

Hour-long, content-based tests that cover 20 various subjects. Subject tests may be required for admission to certain colleges.

School Profile

Provides summary information about the high school's student body, curricular offerings, and grading system.

Secondary School Report

A report prepared by the student’s counselor that provides information about the student’s achievement within the context of the school. Includes room for optional recommendation letter.

Single Choice Early Action (SCEA)

A non-binding early application option, also known as Restrictive Early Action. Students can only apply to one of these programs as their early application.

Student-Faculty Ratio

The ratio of the number of students at a college compared to the number of faculty that is often seen as an indicator of class size and professor accessibility.

Target School 

A college where, based on the average GPA and test scores of accepted students, admission is likely.

Wait List

A list of students a college may eventually decide to admit if space becomes available.


The percentage of accepted students who matriculate (enroll) at that college. Competitive colleges have high yield rates.