The ACT Assessment is a curriculum-based college admissions test. This means that the multiple choice questions on the ACT are a measure of what you've learned in your high school classes rather than aptitude or IQ. The ACT tests the following four subject areas: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science Reasoning. ACT results are accepted by most U.S. colleges.

Advanced Placement courses

High school courses that lead up to an examination that can, depending on a student's score, result in college credit. AP courses are generally looked upon favorably by college admissions officers as evidence of a challenging high school program.


Though the term "college" is commonly used to describe many types of post-secondary education, it is also used to describe a particular kind or subset of educational institution. "College" can be used to distinguish solely undergraduate institutions from those which also maintain graduate programs. Within a given school, its "colleges" may be its areas of study, like the "College of Arts and Sciences" or the "College of Architecture."

College Board

The College Board is a not-for-profit organization that administers many standardized tests including the PSAT, SAT, SAT II, and AP tests. You will register with the College Board when you take any of these tests. Additionally, the College Board offers official test prep materials, a scholarship search, a personal inventory tool, and educational loans.

community college

Also known as "junior" or "two-year" college. These schools provide college courses for recent high school graduates and adults in their communities. Community colleges generally have fewer admissions requirements than four-year instiutions and courses typically cost less than comparable courses at four-year schools. Most community colleges award two-year associates degrees, though some are now awarding bachelors. Many students use community college as a springboard to a four-year college or university.

Direct Loans

Direct Loans are low-interest education loans made by the federal government to students and parents. These loans may be either subsidized or unsubsidized and several repayment plans are available.


The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the total amount of their collective assets and income that a student and his/her family are expected to contribute towards the cost of college. The federal government determines the amount of the EFC based on the information you supply on the FAFSA and the total cost of attendance for the college of your choice. (The total cost includes tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and other personal expenses.) You will fill out the FAFSA each year and will thus get a unique EFC for each year of college.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to apply for federal student financial aid, including grants, loans, and work-study. In addition, it is used by most states and schools to award non-federal student financial aid. The form is a snapshot of your family's financial situation including income, debt, assets, etc., for both the parents and the student. You will have to fill out the FAFSA every year that you are in college.


Fellowships and scholarships are available to students in most disciplines, and they are sponsored by colleges and a broad range of organizations and institutions. Fellowships offered by organizations are often allocated in monthly stipends and can usually be used at any university. Fellowships are more common at the graduate level, but some undergraduate scholarships do exist. Additionally, there may be grant and fellowship money available for specific research projects or study abroad. Contact your major department, financial aid office, or career center for more information.

financial aid

The term "financial aid" is used to describe the combination of loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study that will help you pay for college.

grant aid

The most sought after type of financial aid, grant aid does not have to be paid back. You may receive grant aid on the basis of either need or merit, and it may come from your school or the federal government. Federal grants include the need-based Pell and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity (FSEOG) grants.

Hope credit

A nonrefundable federal income tax credit equal to all of the first $1,000 "out-of-pocket" payments for qualified tuition and related expenses and 50% of the second $1,000, for a maximum $1,500 per student, per year. The Hope credit applies to the first two years of post-secondary education. You may not claim both the Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit (see below) for the same student.

lab sciences

High school science courses which supplement textbook study with hands-on experimentation. Examples include biology, chemistry, and physics. Other courses, such as economics, may be considered scientific disciplines, but do not qualify as lab sciences. Consult your guidance counselor or your prospective college's admissions office for further details.

Lifetime Learning Credit

The Lifetime Learning Credit may be claimed for the qualified tuition and related expenses of the students in the taxpayer's family who are enrolled in eligible educational institutions. Through 2002, the amount that may be claimed as a credit is equal to 20 percent of the taxpayer's first $5,000 of out-of-pocket qualified tuition and related expenses for all the students in the family for a maximum of $1,000. Individuals with modified adjusted gross incomes of $50,000 or more and joint filers with modified adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 or more are not eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit.

merit-based aid

In general terms, merit-based aid is any form of financial aid not based on demonstrated financial need. Merit-based aid, which can take the form of grants, scholarships, or loans on favorable terms, is generally granted by each school and/or its alumni associations and wealthy benefactors. You may qualify for it by meeting a certain academic requirment, such as grade point average, test scores, or career goal. Alternatively, you may qualify through an essay competition or the like. Your financial aid package may include both need- and merit-based aid.

National Merit Scholarship

A distinction awarded upon the basis of a high school junior's score on the NMSQT/PSAT (National Merit Scholar Qualifying Test/Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test). Those scoring at or above certain level are eligible to apply for a limited number of National Merit Scholarships.

need-based aid

If the Cost of Attendance (COA) for your college exceeds your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), you will be eligible for need-based aid to cover the difference. You may be awarded a financial aid package that consists of a combination of grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study. The total amount of your package will be determined by a combination of demonstrated financial need, federal award maximums, and your school's available funds.

online applications

Online applications are a specific type of electronic application. When you use an online app, you'll submit your personal and academic information to the school over a secure Internet site – no envelopes to address, no stamps to attach. You will, however, probably be required to supplement your online app with hard copies of your transcript, letters or recommendation, etc.

Pell grants

Given by the Federal Government, these grants are awarded to those students demonstrating exceptional financial need. Pell grants do not need to be paid back.

Perkins Loans

Awarded by the student's school, these low-interest loans (%5) are given to students (both undergraduate and graduate) that demonstrate exceptional financial need. Repayment of this loan begins 9 months after the student graduates, leave school or drop to less than half-time student status.


The Preliminary Standard Aptitude Test (PSAT) is administered by the College Board. You may take the PSAT in order to familiarize yourself with the test and kinds of questions you'll encounter on the SAT. The PSAT is also used as the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholar competiton. This test is usually taken during the junior year of high school, but a practice PSAT may be given during the sophomore year. Like the SAT, the PSAT use multiple choice questions to test verbal and mathematical reasoning ability.


Registering on time is an important part of doing your best on admissions tests. Generally, registration involves filling out a form with your personal information, indicating your testing site preferences, and submitting a fee. Register as early as possible and you'll have a good chance of getting your first-choice test site. Consult the College Board or ACT Web site or your guidance counselor at least two months before your desired test date to begin the process.


The Standard Aptitude Test (SAT), administered by the College Board, is the most widely-used college admissions test. The SAT uses multiple choice questions to assess verbal and mathematical reasoning ability. The SAT is taken by college-bound high school students during their junior and/or senior years.


The SAT IIs assess knowledge in various high school subject areas. Most colleges require the Writing test, some version of the Math test, and a foreign language test. Even colleges that don't require the SAT IIs will usually review the scores as additional info about a student's abilities. Students tackle these tests in the spring of junior year and the fall of senior year. If the test is linked to a specific subject like Chemistry, it's best to take the test as soon as possible upon the completion of the course.


A type of financial aid which does not require repayment or employment and is usually awarded to students who demonstrate or show potential for achievement–usually academic–at that institution.

Student Aid Report (SAR)

The official notification sent to the student four to six weeks after filing the FAFSA. This report explains your FEC in relation to your school's expected cost of attendance. Students may be required to submit this document to the financial aid office at the college they decide to attend.

subsidized / unsubsidized loans

Subsidized loans are based upon financial need. With these loans, the interest is paid by the federal government until the repayment period begins and during authorized periods of deferment afterwards. Unsubsidized loans are not need-based, so all students are eligible to recieve them. Interest payments begin immediately on unsubsidized loans, although you can waive the payments and the interest will be capitalized.


Your high school academic record. Your guidance counselor or school registrar compiles this listing of all your courses, grades, and standardized test scores. Your college will likely ask for official copies of your transcript. They should be signed across the seal by the appropriate school official and shouldn't be opened.


Despite your best efforts, you may find that your chosen school isn't the perfect fit. Or, you may start out at community college and decide that it's time to attend a four-year univeristy. In either case, you may need to transfer to a different school. Transferring can be a tricky process, especially when it comes time to figure out how many of your previously earned credits will count at your new school. To make your transition as simple as possible, request application materials from prospective schools as early as possible and figure out how your credits will be accounted for BEFORE you apply. Once you're in, take advantage of transfer student resources designed to help you get comfortable in your new setting.


Though we use the term "college" to describe all post-secondary schools, you may be applying to universities as well as colleges. There can be some important differences: Universities generally support both undergraduate and graduate programs and tend to be larger than colleges. You may find more research opportunities at a university, but you might get more attention from professors at a college.

weighted GPA

Some high schools add 0.5 grade points to grades earned in AP or IB courses to reflect their unusual level of difficulty. If you have taken such courses, your GPA may be considered weighted. Some colleges convert weighted GPAs to standard GPAs for the purposes of comparison.


An institutionally or federally-funded employment program that provides student with part-time jobs–generally 10 to 15 hours per week–for students who are in need of earnings to help meet a part of their educational cost.

[Portions of this information provided by College Access]



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