Preparing for College

Admissions Lingo

As in other specialized fields, the college admissions process has its own lingo.  When you read college application instructions, you may find some of it puzzling.  Let's look at some college application terminology.

Most of this year's seniors have already submitted their college applications.  This year's juniors are beginning to think about where they will apply this coming Fall.  No matter which group you're in, there are some basic aspects of the college application process you should know about.  Such as:


Early Decision--an option that allows you to apply early (usually in November) to your clear, first-choice college.  You pledge to attend if accepted.  If you're a competitive candidate, you stand a better chance to be admitted under Early Decision.

Early Action--similar to Early Decision in timing (November due date for applications) but nonbinding.  If accepted, you do not have to enroll and you may take until May 1 to decide.  Primarily an option offered by some Ivy League schools, Early Action is fading in its popularity due to the move by colleges to seek an enrollment commitment from their applicants.  Acceptance percentage is higher than that of regular-decision pool.

Personal Statement--also known as the application essay.  Competitive schools usually require them.  These schools don't admit everyone who applies.  Admission committees use them to learn more about their applicants.  Personal statements are great opportunities to shine, if you're a good writer.  They can create anxiety in less-than-confident students, however.

Common and Electronic Applications--simplified approaches to college applications.  Certain colleges and universities accept them.  All you do is fill out one Common Application form and send copies to your other candidate institutions who accept it.  It's easier, but can lack the detail and

uniqueness of the institution-specific forms.  Electronic applications appear as an online option.  Students can apply over the World-Wide Web.

These are just a few aspects of college applications.  If you need further information while working on yours, ask your college counselor or ask the admission department of the college that wrote the application.

Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.