Glossary of College Terms

Academic Major: Usually refers to a traditional discipline of English, mathematics, foreign language, science or history. Highly selective colleges look for the traditional academic courses across the curriculum on the high school transcript. It is strongly recommended that University School students take six academic courses per semester (for those applying to highly selective universities).

ACT: The abbreviation of American College Test. This is an aptitude test that covers English, mathematics, social studies, reading and science reasoning (and an optional writing section) and is accepted by all colleges in lieu of the SAT Reasoning Test. The scores are reported on a scaled from 1 to 36.

Associate’s degree: A two-year degree earned at a community college (A.A.)

Bachelor’s degree: (B.A. – Bachelor of Arts (also written as A.B.)or B.S. – Bachelor of Science): A diploma earned after successful completion (usually spanning four years) of required courses at a university or college.

Calendar: The system by which an institution divides its year into shorter periods for instruction. The most common calendars are semester, quarter and 4-1-4.

4-1-4: Consists of two terms of 16 weeks separated by a one-month term used for intensive short courses. Independent study, off-campus work, or other educational experiences.

Quarter: A quarter is an academic calendar period of 11 weeks. Students normally attend three quarters each year and take three or four courses per quarter rather than the traditional five taken under the semester system.

Semester: A semester is a division of the school year into two parts, usually 18 weeks in length. Schools may have an additional eight week summer session.

Candidate Reply Date: The date by which the student must reply to the colleges’ offers of admission. Nationally, May 1 is the date to which most colleges adhere.

CEEB: Abbreviation for College Entrance Examination Board, which creates and supervises the administration of the SAT and achievement tests. University School’s is: 100347
Class Rank: How a student’s academic performance, as determined by the grade point average, compares to other members of his/her graduating class. University School does not rank.

Common Application: A form devised and accepted by over 500 colleges to make things easier for students to apply to college.  If you are applying to more than one participating college, you may use the same application form for all.  These forms are available online at

Core curriculum:  A specified number of courses or credits in the humanities, social sciences, life sciences, and/or physical sciences, required of all students, regardless of major, to ensure a basic set of learning experiences.  This may also be referred to as distribution or distribution requirements.

Deferred admit: The practice of permitting admitted students to postpone enrollment, usually for a period of one year. In order to request this, you must apply and be admitted first.

Dual degrees: A program of study in which a student receives two degrees at the same time from the same institution.

Early Action:  An admissions plan whereby a student typically can submit an application by November and receive a decision by mid-December. The student is not required to enroll if accepted. Some colleges specify whether a student may apply to more than one college Early Action. If they are not allowed to do so, this is referred to as Single Choice Early Action or Restrictive Early Action.

Early Decision: A program whereby a student can apply to a first-choice college early in the fall of the senior year and receive a decision by mid-December.  Upon making an Early Decision application, the student agrees to enroll if accepted and to withdraw other applications immediately if admitted.  Students deferred under Early Decision are reconsidered with the regular-decision applicants.

ETS: Educational Testing Service. This is the organization based in Princeton, New Jersey, that the College Board utilizes to write and administer its tests. 

FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Gap Year:  A period of generally one year between high school and college in which a student explores some alternative form of education.  Gap years require permission from the university to which the student wishes to matriculate. 

Honors program: Any special program for very able students offering the opportunity for educational enrichment, independent study, acceleration, or some combination of these.

Internship: Any short term, supervised work experience usually related to a student’s major field, for which the student earns academic credit.  The work can be full-or part-time, on-or off-campus, paid or unpaid.

Legacy: A college applicant who is a son or daughter (or sometimes a more distant relative) of an alumna/us.

Major: The field of specialization or concentration for a college undergraduate. The student normally does from a quarter to a third of the total undergraduate work in his/her major field. Most often the student is asked to declare a major by the end of the sophomore year.

Minor:  A secondary area of academic concentration, which may or may not be required by an institution. 

NMSQT: National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (also known as the PSAT)

Waitlist Notification: During regular decision, colleges give three decisions – accept, deny, and waitlist. If a college is unable to fill the first year class, they will consider students on the waitlist for the entering freshman class.  If a student is waitlisted by a college, they must accept or decline a place on the waitlist.