College Terms

Glossary of College Terms


ACT – American College Testing

Many universities and scholarship foundations accept ACT scores when deciding admissions and awarding college scholarships.  The tests cover English, Mathematics, Reading and Scientific Reasoning.  The test score is on the scale of one to 36, with 36 being a perfect score.  ACT scores (or SAT scores) are important criteria at college admissions offices and scholarship committees.  For students planning to take the ACT, we recommend Cracking the ACT, 2012 Edition (College Test Preparation)

SAT – The Scholastic Aptitude Test

The SAT I is a commonly accepted aptitude test to gain admission to a university or prove academic abilities to earn a scholarship.  Due to the names SAT I and SAT II being used, people ask, “What’s the difference between the SAT I and the SAT II?   The old SAT is now known as the SAT I.    The SAT II is what used to be known as the achievement tests.  Only about 60 universities require the SAT II (in addition to the SAT I).  Since most universities do not require the SAT II, it is good idea to consult the universities for which you are interested in applying to find out whether you need to take the SAT II.  For students planning to take the SAT, we recommend Cracking the SAT, 2012 Edition (College Test Preparation). The 2011 edition is also the same material, with exception for the front cover. For colleges requiring the SAT II as well as the SAT, remember that the test scores of the SAT II are just as important, so you should prepare in advance to increase your test scores. For students taking the SAT II, we recommend the following to help prepare: Math Workout for the SAT II (College Test Preparation).  The idea of the ACT and SAT is to predict performance at college.


AP – Advanced Placement

These exams correspond to Advanced Placement high school courses where high school students can take exams at the end of the school year to show their university-level knowledge in order to earn college credit.  High schools offer AP courses and students during the course are preparing to take AP exams for which they can earn college credit.  Passing AP exams can shave thousands of dollars off college tuition and lead to a faster graduation from college. Students who are home-schooled can also take AP exams by arranging to attend an AP testing session at a participating school.  In cases your school does not offer AP courses, it is also possible to take the AP exams at a participating school.  This needs to be arranged before March 1st by contacting AP Services at (609) 771-7300 or toll free at (888) 225-5427 or via e-mail at Email:  The list of AP tests includes the following: Art History, Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Chinese, Computer Science, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, English Language, English Literature, Environmental Science, European History, French, German, Comparative Government and Politics, U.S. Government and Politics, Human Geography, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Music Theory, Physics, Psychology, Spanish Language, Spanish Literature, Statistics, Studio Art, U.S. History, and World History. If you’ll be taking an AP exam and are looking for an extra boost from outside the classroom to help you get a passing score, then consider the “Five steps to a 5” series of books.  Generally a score of “3” or better on a maximum scale of “5” is considered passing and can earn a student college credit. However, it is up to the individual institution to decide which scores are eligible to receive college credit. An example one the “Five steps to a 5” series to help students prepare for the AP exams is the following: 5 Steps to a 5 AP Biology, 2012 Edition (5 Steps to a 5 on the Advanced Placement Examinations Series)

CLEP – College Level Examination Program

This is a group of standardized tests that can be used to help high school students earn college credit for basic college-level coursework by demonstrating their knowledge of the subject matter.  In addition adults who have learned material on the job, through the military, or through independent study can take CLEP exams.  While the average college course costs $600, the CLEP exam costs $77 and lasts 90 minutes.  Not all colleges and universities accept the CLEP exam for college credits, so it is important to check with your college and university to confirm whether the CLEP is accepted.  Also, students should not take it for granted that they will pass the CLEP without preparation.  It is always best to study in advance and review the material before taking a CLEP exam.  There are 33 subjects covered by the CLEP exam.  Popular subjects include: American Literature, English Literature, French, German, Spanish, American Government, U.S. History, Psychology, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Western Civilization, Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Algebra, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Precalculus, Financial Accounting, Business Law, Management, and Marketing.   Passing the a CLEP exam means being able to skip college courses to access for more advanced courses as well. The following is a good introduction to help students prepare to take multiple exams. CLEP Official Study Guide 2012 For more in depth preparation, the College Board Store sells study guides online for $10 each. Members of the military and their families may be able to take CLEP exams with no charge. See CLEP for military for more details.

Types of College Degrees

Associate’s Degree –  A two-year degree.

Bachelor’s Degree – A four-year degree.

Master’s Degree – A degree earned after completing a bachelor’s degree.  Some programs are designed to take a year, others are designed to take two years.

Doctorate Degree – A degree earned after a master’s degree.  This is the highest level of degree one can obtain.

GPA – Grade Point Average

Most schools use a 4.0 system.  4.0 is the highest possible score.  Some use a 5.0 system.  Scholarships often require a certain GPA for eligibility.  For example, some require a 2.5 GPA.  It is common to find college scholarships that require a 3.0 GPA.  The most prestigious scholarships require a 3.5 GPA or even higher.  These GPA requirements are using a 4.0 scale.  If you come from a high school using a 5.0 scale, it is important to have your GPA converted.

College grant

This is often a government monetary award based on financial need, to pay money directly to a university where the student with demonstrated financial need will be attending classes.  Some college grants come from institutions and foundations as well.  College grants do not need to be repaid.  College grants often do not require a minimum GPA and are more likely to be need-based rather than merit-based.


A fellowship is similar to a scholarship in that it offers a monetary award.  It is generally for graduate students or for researchers who are completing specialized training after completing a graduate degree.  Fellowships generally include stipends to help pay for living expenses.  Another definition of fellowship would refer to doctoral students who are also working at their university as instructors and receive compensation similar to scholarships.


This is an award to help students pay for college tuition.  Some scholarships will also help with fees, books, and living expenses.  A scholarship may be awarded by a college or university, by a private or public foundation, or by an individual.  In some cases scholarship recipients receive a check, in other cases the scholarship goes directly to the university to be used again tuition and fees.  When the value of scholarships exceeds the cost of tuition, fees, books, educational supplies and equipment, it is considered taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service.

Work-Study Program

Some financial aid packages include part-time work as a way of helping students pay for college.  Check with your financial aid officers if you are interested in participating in a work-study program.

TOEFL – The Test of English as a Foreign Language

Non-native speakers of English are generally required to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to be accepted to study at a university or college in the United States.