College comes with its own unique language. We’ve compiled this glossary of some of the common terms you will hear during your college search and application process. Read through it so that you know more before you encounter a troublesome term or refer back to it when you read something you’re not sure about. Our glossary is here to help.


Academic Advisor An individual assigned or selected to help a student plan his or her course of study in college. Academic advisors help students understand their options, direct them to appropriate resources, and provide information about policies, procedures, and requirements. Usually, an academic advisor is a faculty or staff member in the department of the student’s major area of study. From working with their academic advisors, students will develop a plan of study, know how and where to access accurate information about college policies and requirements, and they will be encouraged to make decisions supporting their goals. At Georgia State, every freshman is required to meet with an academic advisor prior to completing their first year of attendance.
Academic Year This is the time period in which students are expected to complete their academic work each year, as defined by their school. For example, a school’s academic year may be made up of a fall and spring semester, during which a full-time undergraduate student is expected to complete their coursework – usually consisting of at least 24 semester hours or credit hours over approximately 30 weeks of instructional time. Academic years vary from school to school. At Georgia State, classes are offered during a fall, spring, and summer semester.
Accredited Official recognition that a college or university meets the standards of a regional or national association. Employers, other schools, and governments often only recognize degrees from accredited schools.
Advanced Placement program (AP) A program offered by the College Board, a U.S.-based nonprofit educational organization, that allows students to take college-level courses while in high school. Student can then taken standardized AP exams. Those students with qualifying AP scores may be able to earn credit for introductory-level courses at their college or university.
American College Test (ACT) A standardized college entrance exam featuring four main sections: English, math, reading, and science. There is an optional essay section. Most students take the ACT during their junior or senior year of high school, and most colleges and universities accept scores from either the ACT or SAT.
Application Fee Waiver A form that allows you to apply for a college or university without paying the mandatory application fee.
Associate Degree An undergraduate academic degree granted after completion of two years of study. Community colleges and career colleges generally award associate degrees.
Audit To take a class to gain knowledge about a subject, but without receiving credit toward a degree.



Bachelor’s Degree An undergraduate academic degree awarded for a course of study generally lasting four years. Colleges and universities generally award bachelor’s degrees. A bachelor’s degree is required before starting graduate studies.



Coed This term is often used to describe a school that admits both sexes and a dormitory that houses both genders.
College A postsecondary institution that typically provides only an undergraduate education, but in some cases, also graduate degrees. “College” is often used interchangeably with “university” and “school.” Separately, “college” can refer to an academic division of a university, such as the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgia State University.
College Application This is the application individuals use to apply for admission to a college or university. The Common Application is a popular form of college application that is used by many colleges and universities. The Common Application is completed online and allows individuals to fill out one standardized application that is then used to apply to as many schools as the student selects, given that those schools accept The Common Application. Georgia State uses The Common Application.
College Application Essay An essay written by applicants that many colleges require as part of their application process. Some colleges offer applicants specific questions to answer, while others ask applicants to write about themselves. Colleges may refer to this as a “personal statement.” Georgia State offers two methods of reviewing applications, one of which does not require the submission of an essay or personal statement. This method of review is the Merit Review. Georgia State’s Holistic Review asks students to submit an essay.
Common Core Curriculum A set of curriculum standards created by the federal government that ensure all high school students achieve a similar level and quality of learning on common subjects
Community College A public, two-year postsecondary institution also known as a “junior college” that offers the associate degree. Community colleges typically provide a transfer program, allowing students to transfer to a four-year school to complete their bachelor’s degree. Georgia State has such an agreement with the campuses making up Georgia Perimeter College.
Core Requirements Mandatory courses students are required to complete to earn a degree.
Cost of Attendance (COA) The total amount it will cost a student to attend a school – usually stated as a yearly figure. COA includes tuition and fees, room and board, and estimated allowances for books, supplies, fees, personal costs, and transportation.
Course Load The number of courses or credits a students takes during a specific term or semester.
Credits Units a school uses to indicate a student has completed and passed courses required for a degree. Each school defines the total number and types of credits necessary for degree completion, with every course being assigned a value in terms of credits, credit hours, or units.
Curriculum A program of study made up of a set of courses offered by a school.



Default Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to in the loan’s promissory note. For most federal student loans, students will default if they have not made a payment in more than 270 days. Students may experience serious legal consequences if they default.
Deferment A postponement of payment on a loan that is allowed under certain conditions and during which interest does not accrue on Direct Subsidized Loans, Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans, and Federal Perkins Loans. All other federal loans that are deferred will continue to accrue interest. Any unpaid interest that accrued during the deferment period may be added to the principal balance of the loan.
Delinquent A loan is delinquent when loan payments are not received by the due dates. A loan remains delinquent until the borrower makes up the missed payments through payment, deferment, or forbearance. If the borrower is unable to make payments, he or she should contact his or her loan servicer to discuss options to keep the loan in good standing.
Dependent Student A student who does not meet any of the criteria for an independent student. An independent student is one of the following: at least 24 years old, married, a graduate or professional student, a veteran, a member of the armed forces, an orphan, a ward of the court, someone with legal dependents other than a spouse, an emancipated minor, or someone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Double Major A program of study allowing a student to complete the course requirements for two majors at the same time.
Drop To withdraw from a course. A college of university typically has a period of time at the beginning of a term during which students can add or drop courses.



Early Action Early action is an admissions timeline that requires you to apply early in order to receive a decision earlier than the majority of students at a given college or university who apply at the regular deadline.
Early Decision Early decision is a binding contract that legally requires you to attend a school that you applied for during an early application timeframe. Once a school makes an early decision, you cannot change your mind and must attend.
Electives Courses students can choose to take for credit toward a degree, but are not required.
English as a Second Language (ESL) A course or program of study used to teach English to non-native English speakers. Georgia State has an ESL program.
Enrollment Status Reported by the school the student attends to federal loan providers. This status indicates whether the student is full-time, three-quarter time, half-time, less than half-time, withdrawn, or graduated. Enrollment status affects when the student’s loans go into repayment.
Entrance Counseling A mandatory information session which takes place before a student receives their first federal student loan that explains their responsibilities and rights as a student borrower.
Exam Fee Waiver A form that allows you to take a major standardized test without paying the mandatory testing fees.
Exit Counseling A mandatory information session which takes place when a student graduates or attends school less than half-time that explains their loan repayment responsibilities and when repayment begins.
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) This is the number used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal student financial aid. This number results from the financial information students provide in their FAFSA and represents the amount the student and/or their family are determined to be able to afford to contribute to the student’s education costs.


Federal Pell Grant A federal grant for undergraduate students with financial need. Grants are financial aid – often based on a student’s demonstrated financial need – that do not need to be repaid.
Federal School Code An identifier the U.S. Department of Education assigns to each college or career school that participates in the federal student aid programs. In order to send FAFSA information to a school, students must list the school’s federal school code on their FAFSA application. A list of federal school codes may be found here.
Federal Student Loan A load funded by the federal government to help pay for students’ education. A federal student load is borrowed money students must repay with interest. There are several types of federal student loans, including subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
Federal Work-Study A federal student aid program providing part-time employment to students while they are enrolled in school to help pay for their education expenses. Federal work-study is available to full-time or part-time undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with financial need. Students will earn at least the current federal minimum wage, although earnings may be higher based on the type of work performed and the student’s skill level.
Financial Aid Money given or leaned to students and/or their parents to help pay for college. Financial aid can come from federal and state governments, colleges, and private organizations.
Financial Aid Package The total amount of financial aid (federal and nonfederal) a student is offered by a college or career school. The school’s financial aid staff combines various forms of aid into a “package” to help meet a student’s education costs.
Financial Needs Financial need is the difference between the cost of attendance (COA) at a school and a student’s expected family contribution (EFC). While the cost of attendance varies from school to school, a student’s expected family contribution does not changed based on the school he or she attends.
Forbearance A period during which a student’s monthly loan payments – which usually begin after a six-month grace period following graduation from college – are temporarily suspended or reduced. A student’s lender may grant a forbearance if the student is willing but unable to make loan payments due to certain types of financial hardships. During forbearance, principle payments are postponed but interest continues to accrue. Unpaid interest that accrues during the forbearance will be added to the principle balance of the student’s loan, thereby increasing the total amount the student owes.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) The FAFSA is provided and processed by Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation, providing more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to qualifying students attending college or career school. If you’re interested in loans, work study, grants, and scholarships, you need to submit the FAFSA to determine your eligibility.



Grace Period A period of time after borrowers graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment where they are not required to make payments on certain federal student loans. Some federal student loans will accrue interest during the grace period, and if the interest is unpaid, it will be added to the principle balance of the loan.
Grade Point Average (GPA) A number showing overall academic performance. GPA is computed by assigning a point value to each grade a student earns. GPAs are used to determine a student’s academic standing and are often used to determine eligibility for ongoing scholarships and grants.



Honors Programs Many universities offer motivated and talented undergraduate students an opportunity to enroll in honors programs. In general, these programs provide their students with a challenging curriculum, smaller class sizes, more leadership opportunities in and out of the classroom, and may require adherence to certain academic standards such as maintaining a high grade point average (GPA). Georgia State offers an honors program through its Honors College. Our Honors College typically limits class sizes to no more than 25 students and encourages discussion-based learning environments. Admission to the Honors College is limited to approximately the top 5-7% of each incoming freshmen class. Prospective students are encouraged to apply to Georgia State by the Early Action deadline to ensure they receive the best consideration for a spot in our Honors College. Average test scores for students accepted into the Honors College include a 1320 SAT (math and verbal only) and/or a 29-30 ACT composite score.



In-state Student A student who is attending a college or career school inside of his or her state of legal residence. Public colleges and universities usually charge less tuition for in-state students.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) A standardized exam administered by the British Council and Cambridge English, which measures English-language proficiency in reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Many U.S. colleges and universities require non-native English speakers to document evidence of English Language proficiency and submit their scores as part of the admissions process. Another option might be the TOEFL Exam.
Internship An experience allowing students to work in a professional environment to gain training and skills. Interships may be paid or unpaid and can be of varying lengths during or after the academic year.







Letter of Recommendation A letter written by a student’s teacher, counselor, coach, or mentor that assesses his or her qualifications and skills. Colleges generally require recommendation letters as part of the application process. Georgia State has two methods of application review, one of which does not require a letter of recommendation. This method is called the Merit Review.



Meal Plan Colleges and universities typically offer meal plans of varying duration and frequency that are available for purchase by students. Georgia State offers meal plans through PantherDining. These dining hall plans range from “all you care to eat plans” to unlimited five-day or seven-day plans, and must be purchased for a full academic year. There are also meal plan options available for commuter students.



Need-Blind Admission A policy of making admission decisions without considering the financial circumstances of applicants.



Orientation A college or university’s official process of welcoming new, accepted students to campus and providing them with information and policies before classes begin.



Priority Date or Deadline The date by which a student’s application – whether it’s for college admission, student housing, or financial aid – must be received to be given the strongest consideration.





Registrar The college official who registers students. The registrar may also be responsible for keeping permanent records and maintaining students’ files.
Registration The process in which students choose and enroll in courses to be taken during the academic year or in summer sessions.



SAT A standardized college admission test. The SAT was redesigned in spring 2016 and will affect students graduating from high school in 2017 and beyond. It features three main sections: reading, writing and language, and math. There is also an optional essay component. Click here to learn more about the redesigned SAT.
SAT Subject Tests Hour-long, content-based college admission tests allowing students to showcase achievement in specific subject areas: English, history, math, science, and languages. Some colleges use Subject Tests to place students into appropriate courses as well as in admission decisions. Based on a student’s performance on these tests, they could potentially fulfill basic requirements or earn credit for introductory-level college courses.
Scholarship Money awarded to students based on academic or other achievements to help pay for education expenses. Scholarships generally do not have to be repaid.
Standardized Test A test designed to assess individuals against a common standard. Examples of standardized tests include the SAT, SAT subject test, ACT, GRE, GRE subject test, LSAT, and MCAT.
Subsidized Federal Student Loan A loan based on financial need for which the federal government pays the interest that accrues while the borrower is in an in-school, grace, or deferment status.



Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) A standardized exam administered by the nonprofit Educational Testing Service (ETS), which measures English-language proficiency in reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Many U.S. colleges and universities require non-native English speakers to document evidence of English Language proficiency and submit their scores as part of the admissions process. Another option might be the IELTS Exam.
Transcript This is a student’s official record of his or her coursework at a school or college. A high school transcript is usually required for college admission and for some financial aid packages.
Transfer Student A student who enrolls in a college after having attended another college.



Undergraduate Student A college student working towards an associate or a bachelor’s degree.
Unsubsidized Federal Student Loan A loan for which the borrower is fully responsible for paying the interest regardless of the loan status. Interest on unsubsidized loans accrues from the date of disbursement and continues throughout the life of the loan.



Verification of Enrollment Verification of enrollment is the process by which a student’s status at a college or university is verified. This is often necessary when students are applying for loans, scholarships, or other purposes. Georgia State students may request verification of their enrollment at the university through the Office of the Registrar.



Waiting List The list of applicants who may be admitted to a college if space becomes available. Colleges wait to hear if all the students they accepted decide to attend. If students don’t enroll and there are empty spots, a college may fill them with students who are on the waiting list.
Weighted Grade Point Average (GPA) A grade point average that’s calculated using a system that assigns a higher point value to grades in more difficult classes. For example, some high schools assign the value of 5.0 (instead of the standard 4.0) for an A earned in an AP or IB class.