College Admissions Terminology A-Z

We’re in the midst of college admissions season, and we want to make sure that you’re in the know when it comes to all the terminology you’re hearing about. Learn some essential college admissions terms below:

EARLY ACTION (EA)*
This option allows the strongest students to apply to college early with, typically, no strings attached.

  • Deadline is generally between 10/15 & 12/15
  • Decisions usually mailed out on or before 1/1
  • Accepted candidates do not have to make a commitment to attend until May 1st
  • Typically a fairly competitive applicant pool
  • Deferred students have their applications moved to the Regular Decision pool for a second review (so students do not have to resubmit their applications)

*Special EA Note – Most schools allow students to apply EA to multiple schools; however, some schools prohibit applicants from applying to other colleges early (either EA or ED). This is typically called a “Single Choice Early Action” plan or “Restrictive Early Action.” Always read the fine print of every school on your list, so you aren’t caught off guard by this option.

EARLY DECISION (ED)
This option is for students who are decisive, have a first choice school, and are a target applicant at their chosen institution.

  • Deadline is usually 11/1
  • Decisions typically mailed out on 12/15
  • ED is a binding agreement; if accepted you are required to attend and withdraw all applications from other schools
  • ED can offer a competitive advantage for qualified students
  • Some schools offer a second round of ED (ED II) with a deadline typically around 1/1 with decisions mailed out the following month
  • The decision options for ED are admit, deny, and deferral
  • If a student is deferred from ED, they are no longer bound to attend their ED school if accepted by Regular Decision

LIKELY SCHOOL
A likely school is one in which there is a high probability you will be admitted based on your scores, GPA, transcript, and the university acceptance rate. Generally we say that if your score falls in the upper end of the test score range, you are likely to get into the school. However, there is never a guarantee!

REACH SCHOOL
A reach school is one that you are not as comfortably matched for based on your scores, GPA, transcript, and the university acceptance rate. Generally we say that if your score falls in the lower 25% of the test score range (or below) it is a reach. The nature of a reach school is that you’re taking a chance- so it’s always a gamble!

REGULAR DECISION
This is the standard application deadline.

  • Deadline typically falls between 1/1 & 3/1
  • Gives students time to re-take standardized tests, strengthen academic profile, & perfect application materials
  • Decision letters are usually sent between mid to late March & April 1st
  • Accepted candidates have until May 1st to accept, defer, or decline their offer

ROLLING ADMISSION
This option is simple: once you complete your application materials and hit “submit,” the school will review your application.

  • Students typically receive a decision within 4 to 6 weeks from their submit date
  • Schools tend to fill their classes early, so it is advantageous to submit applications early
  • Typically schools accept or deny from their applicant pool; if there is a marginal student who submitted early, they may ask for additional materials and keep them in the running

SCORE CHOICE
When a school allows you to submit only your single best SAT or ACT score (as opposed to all scores for every ACT and/or SAT you’ve ever taken). This is something that only certainschools allow, so be sure to check the websites for all of your prospective colleges.

SUPER SCORE
A super score is when a school combines your highest scores from each section of an ACT or SAT exam into a new composite score. This is very common for the SAT and less so for the ACT. You should always check in with a university about its super scoring policy.

TARGET SCHOOL
A target school is one that you are a match for based on your scores, GPA, transcript, and the university acceptance rate. Generally we say that if your score falls in the middle of the test score range, you are a target for the school. However, (unfortunately) there is never a guarantee!

TEST BLIND
A test blind school doesn’t want to see your test scores. They won’t even look at them if you submit them. This means admissions counselors are going to be looking at all of your other application materials and evaluating you based on them, so make sure all components shine!

TEST FLEXIBLE
A test flexible school is one that gives you a number of options for submitting scores. They typically say you can submit your SAT, ACT, or other tests specified by the university. Also,sometimes they allow you to submit a graded essay instead of a standardized exam. Again, this gives you a chance to choose how you present yourself, so you want to make sure whatever you are submitting is the best of the best!

TEST OPTIONAL
A test optional school is one where you do not have to submit test scores to be considered for admission. When you are submitting for a test optional school you want to make sure that your GPA, transcript, and activities demonstrate your aptitude more than the test score. Schools that are test optional will not look down on you for opting not to submit scores; but everything else you submit will carry more weight, so again make sure all application components are in tip-top shape!

This blog post was written by A-List Office Manager & College Advisor, Callan Suozzi-Rearic.