1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

Alphabet soup: An admissions glossary for senior parents


EA, ED, FAFSA, FERPA….With dozens of acronyms, abbreviations, and definitions needed to make a successful transition from high school, today’s admissions process can be very overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this handy guide to help make your transition a little easier.

Types of Institutions

  • Public Institution: A college or university that receive public funding, primarily from a local, state, or national government that oversees and regulates the school’s operations is considered a public institution.
  • Private Institution: This is a college or university funded by private sources without any control by a government agency.
  • Liberal Arts College: “Liberal” meaning “wide-ranging” or “broad-based”, this education focuses mainly on developing general intellectual capacities (such as reasoning, critical thinking, and judgment) that can be applied to any profession as opposed to education for a singular professional or vocational skill; is not associated with the political affiliation.

The Application Process

  • ACT: A two-hour and 55 minute exam that measures a student’s knowledge and achievement in four subject areas: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science Reasoning, to determine the student’s readiness for college-level instruction. There is also an optional writing test that assesses students’ skills in writing an essay. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36 for each of the four areas. The Four subject area scores are averaged to create a Composite Score.
  • The Common Application: A standard application form accepted by all colleges that are members of the Common Application association. You can fill out this application once and submit it to any one — or several — of the nearly 700 colleges that accept it.
  • College Essay: An essay that a college requires students to write and submit as part of their application. Some colleges offer applicants specific questions to answer, while others simply ask applicants to write about themselves. Colleges may refer to this as a “personal statement.”
  • Deposit: A fee payable within a specified date of acceptance for admission verifying their intention to enroll. The fee may or may not be refundable. Early Action: An application whereby you apply early, receive early notification, but you do not need to accept the admission offer prior to May 1.
  • Early Action (EA): An option to submit your application before the regular deadline. When you apply Early Action, you receive admission decisions from colleges earlier than usual. Early Action plans are not binding, which means that you do not have to enroll in a college if you are accepted via Early Action. Some colleges have an second early option called Early Action II, which has a later application deadline than their regular EA deadline.
  • Early Decision (ED): An option to submit an application to your first-choice college before the regular deadline. When you apply early decision, you receive an admission decision earlier than usual. Early Decision deadlines are binding. You agree to enroll in the college immediately if admitted and offered a financial aid package that meets your needs. Some colleges have an Early Decision option called Early Decision II, which has a later application deadline than their regular ED plan.
  • Enrollment deposit: A payment that confirms a student’s intention of enrolling in a university and saves their seat in the entering class. Payment amounts range from one institution to another. (Transy’s, for example, is $250.)
  • PLAN Test: This test is usually taken in the sophomore year to prepare the student for the ACT.
  • Prospective student: A student who shows interest in potentially enrolling in a given university.
  • National Candidate Reply Date: An agreement most colleges follow that gives applicants until May 1 to accept or decline offers of admission. This agreement gives students time to get responses from most of the colleges they have applied to before making a decision.
  • Rolling Admission: An admission policy where institutions consider each application as soon as the application is complete, rather than setting an application deadline and reviewing applications in batches.
  • SAT (or SAT Reasoning Test): This is a 3-hour college entrance exam that  measures verbal and mathematical skills as well as grammar/conventions and the ability to write a brief essay. Students may earn a total of up to 2,400 points on the three hour exam (up to 800 points in each of the content areas: verbal, math, and writing)
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): An exam required for students whose primary language is not English to access their English proficiency.
  • Wait list: A term used by colleges to describe a process in which schools may initially delay offering or denying admission to a student applicant.


  • Admissions Counselor: A professional staff member in the admissions or enrollment office who provides information and advice for prospective students, parents, counselors and others.
  • Advanced Placement (AP): A test given to high school students, usually at the end of their junior or senior year, after they have completed certain AP or Honors courses. Many colleges give advanced standing and/or credit for these tests if a student earns a score of 3, 4, or 5.
  • Advisor (or Academic Advisor): A faculty member who assists a student in selecting courses and providing advice to advance the student toward earning a degree in their selected plan of study.
  • Major: A student’s concentrated field of study. Every major includes a required set of courses. Colleges typically ask students to pick their major at the end of their sophomore year.
  • Pre-professional tracks: Courses which prepare students for later specialized or technical training. For example, “pre-med” is not a major, but a pre-professional track, which  includes courses in chemistry and biology.
  • Prerequisite: The beginning course in a series. It must be taken and passed before enrolling in the next class.

Financial Aid

  • Cost of Attendance: This is the total cost of going to college, including tuition, room and board, books, transportation, fees and personal expenses; Because the federal government will only provide loans up to the “cost of attendance,” colleges and universities often intentionally over-estimate so you have the ability to take advantage of the maximum amount of loan money necessary to live.
  • FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid
    • EFC: Expected Family Contribution. The amount that your family is expected to contribute toward your education. The EFC is based on the information you submit on the FAFSA.
    • Work-study:  A program to eligible students (based on need determined by the FAFSA) which allows you to work while enrolled in school to earn money that will be directly applied toward helping pay your educational expenses. Specific jobs, both on- and off-campus can qualify for work-study positions.
  • FERPA: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. A federal law designed to protect the privacy of education records, to establish the right of students to inspect and review their education records, and to provide guidelines for the correction or inaccurate data. If your student is over age 18, institutions cannot provide parents with personal information due to FERPA. Students will have to fill out a FERPA waiver to give individuals access to personal information.
  • Financial Aid Award Package: A combination of financial aid (possibly including a scholarship, grant, loan or work study) determined by a college financial aid office. Most institutions provide a financial aid package after the student has been admitted. Those who provide packages prior to or at the time of admission are considered estimated financial aid packages. Estimated packages are subject to change and are not official.
  • Financial aid counselor: A counselor from the Office of Financial Aid who assists prospective students and their families through the financial aid process.
  • Scholarships: A scholarship is a sum of money given to a student for the purposes of paying at least part of the cost of college. Scholarship can be awarded to students based on academic achievements or many other factors. Scholarships do not need to be repaid.
  • Grant: An award of money which does not have to be repaid. Grants are often based on financial need. For example, the amount of a PELL grant is determined by a student’s EFC (Expected Family Contribution).
    • Federal Pell Grant: This grant is a form of financial aid provided by the Federal
      government to students whose FAFSA indicates a high-level of financial need. It is not have to be repaid.
    • Federal Perkins Loans: These loans are similar to Stafford loans in that no interest accrues while enrolled in college. The interest rate is lower, and the repayment grace period is longer than that of a Stafford subsidized loan. The need-based standards are more stringent for the Perkins loan and funds are awarded based on the FAFSA Student Aid Report.
    • PLUS Loan: The Federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) allows parents, regardless of  income,  to borrow up to the total cost of education minus the amount of any other financial aid awarded by the institution or the government
    • Stafford Loan: This is a federal student loan for college students used to supplement personal an family resources, scholarships, grants, and work study. A Stafford Loan may be subsidized or subsidized, depending on whether it is need-based.
    • Subsidized Loans: These loans are need-based loans with interest paid by the government and payment deferred as long as the student is enrolled in a post-secondary program of studies.
  • Room & Board: The cost of a room in a dorm (room) and a college meal plan (board).

Have additional questions? Contact us at admissions@transy.edu or by phone at (859) 233-8242.