College-Going Vocabulary

ACT: a standardized admissions exam that tests students in English, math, reading, and science with an optional writing section. Administered several times a year and traditionally taken for the first time in the spring of a student’s junior year.

Admissions Counselor: a college or university employee responsible for making decisions about which student applicants will be admitted to their school.

Associate Degree: a degree awarded after approximately two years of full-time study. It is usually equivalent to the first two years of a Bachelor’s Degree program. Associate Degrees are awarded by community or junior colleges.

Bachelor’s Degree: an undergraduate degree that takes approximately four years of full-time study to complete. Required for some professions and for licensure in certain fields, as well as for admission to advanced degree programs, including law and medicine.

Career: an occupation or career path that usually requires special training.

Certification: a document that shows an individual has met specific requirements that qualify them to perform a task or job.

Community College: a two-year postsecondary institution that offers academic programs suited to its particular community. Offers Associate Degree programs and courses for transfer to a four-year college or university, as well as non-academic courses for personal growth and enrichment.

Degree: a certificate that signifies that a student has met the requirements to complete a program of study.

Doctoral Degree: the most advanced postsecondary degree; requires three to seven years of study and research beyond a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree. Often referred to as “terminal” degrees; if a person has a Doctoral Degree, he or she is considered an expert in their field.

Extracurricular Activities: any club, team, event, or organized activity that a student participates in after school, outside of their academic coursework.

FAFSA: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is an online form that determines eligibility for college financial assistance. Students who do not complete the FAFSA are ineligible for any federal or state aid, including grants, loans, or work-study.

Financial Aid: financial assistance for students and families interested in applying for college.

Four-Year College/University: a postsecondary institution where students can take coursework in a specific major toward a Bachelor’s and/or Master’s Degree.

Grade Point Average (GPA): a number that represents the average of all the final course grades a student receives in high school.

Grant: a financial aid award that does not have to be paid back; often need-based.

License: formal permission by the government or other authorized entity to do something. A test is usually required.

Loan: financial aid, administered by the federal government or private company, such as a bank, that must be repaid with interest.

Major: the focus of a student’s academic studies; usually in a particular academic subject or professional field.

Master’s Degree: a degree awarded to students who continue their postsecondary education one to three years beyond a Bachelor’s Degree. Master’s Degrees are more specialized and usually require completion of some research. Students in these programs typically focus on a specific topic in detail.

PLAN: a standardized “pre-ACT” exam that tests students’ abilities in math, science reasoning, English, and reading. Score reports also provide information about course selection and career development.

PSAT: the Preliminary SAT is a standardized exam that tests students’ abilities in math, critical reading, and writing. When taken in the fall of a student’s junior year, it serves as a qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholar Scholarship Program. A good predictor of how students will score on the SAT Reasoning Test.

Regents Diploma: to graduate from high school in New York State, a student must take a pass certain classes and exams, based on core requirements. There are two levels of diploma for graduating in New York State: Regents Diploma and Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation. Students enrolled in an approved school district or BOCES career and technical education (CTE) program who successfully complete all requirements earn a technical endorsement to their high school diploma.

Salary: the amount of money a person earns for doing their job.

SAT: a standardized college admissions exam that tests students’ abilities in math, critical reading, and writing; administered several times each year. Traditionally taken for the first time in the spring of a student’s junior year.

Scholarship: a financial aid award that does not have to be paid back. Scholarships may be awarded on academic merit or based on a special talent, such as musical ability, sports, or other skill or knowledge.

Standardized Test: exams on which everyone taking it answers similar questions on the same content. By making them standardized, the test maker ensures that everyone who takes the test is being measured against the same standard.

Transcript: the official permanent record of a student’s academic career; contains a listing of the courses taken during high school, course grades, and standardized test scores.

Vocational School: a school that teaches specific skills for a particular job, trade, or profession. They are not focused on general education.

Work-Study: a need-based federal student aid program that is administered by the college. Eligible students are provided jobs on campus or in the local community for wages that help cover some of the costs of college.