THE ABCs OF COLLEGE
On this journey, you may encounter words and phrases that leave you stumped. This glossary is a handy reference tool that covers everything from academic advising to university, helping you become familiar with lingo you may come across as you navigate the college process.
When students meet with advisors to discuss course requirements for their desired degree or program and design their schedule and program of study.
A standardized admission test that covers four subjects: English, Math, Reading, and Science and an optional Writing section. It is scored out of 36 total possible points. Another common standardized test is the SAT.
An employee of a college who meets with potential students and family members to answer questions and assist during the application and admissions processes and makes decisions regarding applicants' admission.
A meeting with a graduate as a part of the application process. Make sure to practice beforehand and anticipate any and all types of questions.
Fee most colleges charge to process and review the application. These vary by school.
Some schools will remove or “waive” the application fee for students with financial need. Contact your school counselor or the admissions office to see about getting a waiver.
A two-year degree program offered through community colleges and select four-year colleges. The coursework for this degree typically aligns with coursework offered during the first two years of a four-year bachelor’s degree.
A four-year degree that include classes in a variety of subjects, such as math, science, writing, social sciences, as well as courses within a student’s major or program of study.
This includes your personal information (date of birth, address, etc.), intended major or program, and employment status. Check out this sample application for the type of information you may need to provide.
Colleges use this stat to understand how a student performed academically in high school compared to peers. MNPS does not provide class rank information to colleges.
Frequently used in technical certificates programs, this measures the time students spend in lecture or in faculty-supervised laboratory, shop training, or internship. Most technical certificates require at least 600 clock hours. A student is considered part-time at 12 hours/week and full-time at 24 hours/week.
A major is a focus of education and determines the classes a student will take and the degree a student will receive. Some colleges allow students to select more than one major.
A minor allows students to focus on a particular subject or field but does not require as many credit hours as a major. A minor can be a way for students to add diversity or additional subjects to a course of study. Students can complete minors in addition to their college major.
A community college is a public 2-year college that offers technical certificates and associate degrees. Local examples include Nashville State Community College and Volunteer State (Vol State) Community College.
This includes tuition, fees, housing, food, transportation, travel, books, supplies, and other miscellaneous costs associated with attending college. It represents the full cost to attend college for one year.
Time spent in-class for the completion of a degree. An associate degree requires 60 total credit hours and a bachelor’s degree requires 120 total credit hours.
A financial aid application that some colleges require in addition to the FAFSA or other financial aid applications.
A non-binding admission deadline that is earlier than the regular admission deadline. The student does not have to commit to attend the institution if they are admitted but applying early action can signal to the college that is your top choice.
A binding admission deadline that is earlier than the regular decision deadline. If the student is accepted to that college, they must accept the offer of admission and attend the college. Students can only apply early decision to one college so applying this way can signal to that college that it is your top choice.
A fee required after a student has been accepted to secure a spot in the incoming class. Talk to your admissions representative -- some schools will waive the deposit or make a payment plan for students with financial need.
These are activities that happen outside of the classroom. They can include jobs, clubs, community service groups and sports. They can also include caring for siblings or other family members. Colleges will use this information to learn more about who you are and what you can bring to their community. It is important to note your length of involvement and any leadership roles on any application or resume.
Encompasses all forms of financial assistance for school, including grants, scholarships, and loans.
A student whose parent(s) have not completed a degree.
The college may pay for the prospective student’s transportation, housing, and food costs to visit the college. Students typically apply for fly-in visits in the summer before or right at the beginning of their senior year in high school.
A type of private college created to generate revenue for the owner of the school. Local examples of for-profit colleges include the University of Phoenix, Lincoln Tech, Argosy University, and Daymar College.
A free online tool that helps determine how much financial aid you will receive. Many colleges require the FAFSA in order to award financial aid. Tennessee scholarships like TN Promise require students complete the FAFSA in order to be eligible.
A type of financial aid that does not need to be repaid and is typically awarded on the basis of financial need. These can come from the federal government, the state the student resides in, a college or university, or a private source.
This is a cumulative document that includes your GPA and grades. You will likely send your transcript twice – first when you apply to college and again after you graduate from high school. This will be sent from your high school counselor or school records office.
A college where at least a quarter of the school population is Hispanic. A local example includes Southern Adventist University.
Institutions of higher education were founded as an impetus to educate African Americans when it was unlawful and publicly shunned. Most HBCUs emerged after the Civil War. While most HBCUs still have populations that are majority African American, students of any race or ethnicity are encouraged to apply. HBCUs have produced some of the world’s well-respected leaders such as Oprah Winfrey, Mary Wright Edelman and Martin Luther King Jr. Local examples include Fisk University, Tennessee State University and American Baptist College.
This is a document that lists vaccines and immunizations you have received. Some colleges may require additional immunizations. Check with your school to make sure you have the necessary vaccines.
A rate offered to students who attend a public college within the state they currently reside. Some schools may also offer discounted rates for residents of neighboring out-of-state counties. In Tennessee, students who are undocumented are not eligible for in-state tuition.
A school that seeks to emphasize undergraduate education and to provide students with courses covering a wide range of topics, majors and subjects. Local examples include Rhodes College and The University of the South (Sewanee).
The point at which a student enrolls in college.
A type of criteria upon which scholarships can be awarded including extracurricular activities, family heritage, community service, achievement, etc.
The cost of attendance minus grants and scholarships. Every college website will include a net price calculator you can use to estimate your net price at the colleges you are considering.
An informational program designed to familiarize students to college once they have enrolled. Orientation programs vary by school in length, structure and agenda. Some colleges require orientation while at others it is optional. It is common to register for classes at orientation.
A rate offered to students who attend a public college outside of their home state. This rate is often higher than in-state tuition. In Tennessee, undocumented students are charged an out of state tuition rate, regardless of whether they are a resident of the state.
These are short, sometimes optional, essays that may have you discuss a certain topic or answer a prompted question. This is a great opportunity to provide additional information that may not be captured in your application. Here are a few things you may be asked to write about:
- Personal or academic accomplishments
- Personal hardship
- Academic difficulty
Make sure you ask for feedback from others and plan for many drafts and revisions to get it just right. Check out these examples of exceptional personal statements.
A collection of your past work. If you are applying to an arts-related school or major, this may be required as a part of your application.
A school that is independently funded and offers one tuition rate, regardless of whether the student is a resident of the state. Private schools can vary in size and affordability. Local examples include Lipscomb University, Trevecca Nazarene University, and Vanderbilt University.
A school that is operated and funded by a government agency and offers varying tuition rates based on residency. Local examples include Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), Nashville State Community College, and Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) – Nashville.
Colleges where your admittance is uncertain. This could be because your test scores and GPA are lower than the average incoming student or the college can only admit a small portion of applicants. Make sure to have a few of these on your college list.
Find a teacher, guidance counselor or other influential people in your life that can attest to your character and work ethic. Sometimes, colleges require multiple letters, so make sure to give your writers a heads-up about deadlines and send reminders.
An admission deadline for the general applicant pool. Deadlines can range from early November to Spring.
A private college affiliated with a certain religion. In most cases, religiously-affiliated colleges and universities accept students even if they do not belong to the college’s religious denomination.
This document may include your GPA, class rank, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, job experience, and other skills or hobbies. Similar to a personal statement, make sure you plan to go through many drafts and ask others to critique your resume. Check out these resume examples.
This type of admissions does not have a deadline and can admit students at any time. Keep in mind that all scholarships need to be completed before you submit your application.
Colleges where you will most likely be admitted. You could be admitted because your school may have universal admissions or your grades and test scores are above average. Make sure to have a few of these on your college list.
A standardized admission test with three sections: Math, Critical Reading, and Writing. It is scored out of 1600 total possible points. Another common standardized test is the ACT.
Aid that does not need to be repaid and is awarded based on a variety of factors. 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.
Financial assistance that must be repaid with interest. Student loans can come from the federal government, a college or university, or a private lender.
Accelerated, summer programs where admitted students may take summer courses or live on campus.
Public schools that offer technical certificates and programs in in-demand fields, like mechatronics and computer information technology. A local example is TCAT-Nashville.
Students can omit their standardized test scores on the SAT and ACT from their admissions applications. Additional admissions application components, like an interview or essay, that can be submitted instead of SAT/ACT test scores. This type of admissions can be a good option for students who are not strong test-takers.
Can include SAT, ACT, AP and IB scores. Depending on the schools, these may be sent on your transcript or directly from the test provider. There may be a fee associated with sending test scores.
To switch from one college to another. Courses earned at your previous school are not guaranteed to transfer over to your new school -- always check with admissions.
A school that is managed by an American Indian tribe in order to educate tribal members. You do not need to belong to a tribe to be admitted. Examples include Haskell Indian Nations University (Kansas) and College of the Muscogee Nation (Oklahoma).
A college student who is earning a bachelor’s or associate degree.
This type of school can have multiple “colleges”, such as a college of communications, college of science or a college of business.