Study Guide and Glossary
The study guides on this website contain much of the same information as you will find in the CAKE quiz, but in a way that makes specific things you may be looking for easier to find. This particular study guide is focused on the ‘Application Process’ – terms and deadlines associated with the process of applying to college.
ACT – The ACT and SAT (see below) are the most common college entrance examinations in the United States, and are similar in many ways. The ACT was originally an acronym for American College Testing, but is now referred to as just the ACT. While they are similar in many ways (they both have optional essays, for example), the ACT is unique in that it has a section of the test dedicated to Science.
Admission Rate – The percentage of students admitted to a college of all those who applied is known as the admission rate. While you may find this information on a college’s website, you can also use the College Navigator to find this information.
Admission Requirements – The admission requirements for colleges can feel like a moving target – while the requirements for the Application are easy to figure out (see below), determining whether or not your GPA and test scores will be ‘acceptable’ to them is more challenging. Further, colleges may have different admission requirements for competitive majors and programs – so while you might be ‘acceptable’ to one program at the college, you might not be in another program at the same college. Tools like Naviance (if your high school has a subscription) and the College Navigator can be helpful.
AP (Advanced Placement) – Advanced Placement (AP) is a program by the College Board (same company as SAT) designed to allow high school students to qualify for college credit by passing the AP test at the end of AP-designated courses with a high enough score. Most colleges will accept AP test scores that are higher than 2, but there is great variability across colleges, and sometimes even within specific subjects at the college. Colleges are not required to give credit to students for AP classes. Use the AP Credit Policy Search tool to see which scores are acceptable at specific colleges.
Application – While there is variability among colleges about what is specifically required to apply, most colleges require an application form, high school transcript, school profile, an essay, recommendation letters, test scores, and the application fee. Of course, if a school is ‘test optional’, then submitting your SAT/ACT scores is optional.
Deferral – When a college ‘defers’ on making an admission decision, it means that the college has not yet made a decision and will do so at a later time. Sometimes deferment happens when students apply Early Action or Early Decision and the college decides to wait until the regular application deadline to make a decision. Other times deferment happens when the college would like more information before making a final decision (e.g., more grades from senior year).
Demonstrated Interest – Demonstrated interest is a factor in the admission decision-making process at some colleges. Private colleges are more likely consider demonstrated interest as a factor in the admissions process than public colleges. Prospective students can demonstrate interest by interacting with the college in a variety of ways, including visiting the campus and contacting admission office personnel by phone or email.
Deposits – Submitting a deposit communicates to the college acceptance of their offer of admission by the student. Since a student can only attend one college at a time, it is considered unethical to submit a deposit to more than one college.
Early Action – Applying to college as an Early Action applicant is a non-binding agreement, and students can apply to several colleges Early Action to benefit from getting admissions decisions from the colleges sooner than regular application deadlines.
Early Decision – Applying to a college as an Early Decision applicant is a binding agreement indicating that the student will attend the college if accepted. Students may only apply to one college as an Early Decision applicant, and if accepted, must withdraw their applications at any other colleges. If the financial aid package offered by the college is not enough to make attending the college economically feasible for the student and their family, the student can be released from the Early Decision agreement.
High School Profile – A high school profile, created by high schools, provides meaningful context for admissions counselors to a student’s transcript by describing the types of courses offered in the school and how your GPA was calculated.
Interviews, Alumni – Some colleges offer interviews with alumni as an option or a requirement as part of their admissions process. Participating in the alumni interview, even when optional, is generally recommended.
Interviews, Optional – Participating in an optional interview at a college of interest is generally recommended, as the interview provides an opportunity for the student to get to know the college better, and the college to get to know the student better. It also is a way to demonstrate interest (see above) in the college.
National College Decision Day – National College Decision Day is the day students need to confirm their admission to a college, which includes deciding where to attend and submit a deposit, and falls on May 1st each year.
Open Admission – Also known as open enrollment, open admission is an admission policy that requires applicants to only have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate to gain admission to the college.
PSAT – The Preliminary SAT (PSAT), also known as the PSAT/NMSQT, is not a required test for use in college admission – taking it is optional. People who score high when they take the PSAT in their junior year may qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.
Recommendation Letters – Recommendation letters for college applications most often come from those who know the applicant’s academic work –high school teachers and counselors. Recommendation letters from parents and other family members are discouraged by most college admission offices.
SAT – The SAT and ACT (see above) are the most common college entrance examinations in the United States, and are similar in many ways. The SAT was originally an acronym for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, but is now referred to as just the SAT. While they are similar in many ways (they both have optional essays, for example), the ACT is unique in that it has a section of the test dedicated to Science, while the SAT does not have a section dedicated to Science.
Summer Before College – Once a student is accepted to a college, there is still more to do over the summer to be sure they are ready to start classes in the fall, such as orientation, submitting related health records, and financial forms.
Superscore – Colleges that ‘superscore’ the ACT or SAT will use the highest scores attained by the student across all test administrations the student participated in, which may benefit those students who have taken the test more than once.
Test-Optional – Colleges with a test-optional admissions policy admit at least some of their applicants without considering SAT or ACT scores. Some test-optional colleges may still require SAT or ACT scores for international and out-of-state students, students applying to competitive majors, and to be considered for scholarships from the college.
Timing of College Entrance Exams (ACT/SAT) – The absolute latest date a student can take the ACT or SAT to meet regular admission deadlines (which are typically in December and January) is Fall of the Senior year of high school. It is generally recommended that students take the ACT or SAT in the Spring of the Junior year of High School so that there is time to take the test again in the Fall to improve scores if desired.
Transcript – According to annual surveys by the National Association for College Admission Counseling of admissions directors, high school transcripts contain the information most important to most admissions counselors – grades in college prep courses, grades in all courses, and strength of high school curriculum are all more important than test scores, essays, and recommendation letters.
Wait-list – Being wait-listed at a college is not an outright rejection, but not an acceptance either. When students are placed on a wait-list, the college is waiting to hear from other students on whether or not they have decided to attend the college. If enough of the college’s admitted students do not accept their offer for admission, then students on the wait-list are offered admission.