College Vocabulary Terms

A.A. degree: This stands for “associate of arts” degree, which can be earned at most 2-year colleges.

A.A.S. degree: This refers to an “associate of applied science” degree, which can be earned at some 2-year colleges. These are usually programs of study that are more technical in nature, but also involve courses in general eds.

ACT: American College Testing: This is a college admissions test that measures a student’s achievement in English skills, mathematics, Reading and Science Reasoning. Most 4-year colleges in the South and Midwest require scores from this test for admission. It is usually taken in the spring of the Junior year and can be taken more than once.

Aid Package: A combination of aid (possibly including a scholarship, grant, loan, and work-study) determined by a college's financial aid office.

B.A. or B.S. degree: B.A. stands for “bachelor of arts,” and B.S. stands for “bachelor of science” degree. Both are 4-year college degrees. It depends on what major you are in as to what degree you earn.

Deferred Admissions: An accepted student is permitted to postpone enrolling in the college for one year in order to pursue alternate plans.

Early Action: Under this plan the student may wait to learn the outcome of other regular applications before making a final decision. This is called a non-binding acceptance. One of the advantages of this option is you know you already have a college home as you continue through the application process.

Early Decision: Under this plan the student usually applies much earlier than regular admission deadlines, which usually vary from as early as November 1 to as late as January 15. A traditional Early Decision plan would allow the student to usually be notified in mid-December. This is called a binding acceptance. Under this plan you are expected to attend this college and withdraw all other applications. You will also only be allowed to review one financial offer. If the financial offer is insufficient for your needs, the college may release you from the binding contract.

E.F.C: Expected Family Contribution: An amount given on your FAFSA results, determined by a formula that is specified by law, that indicates how much of a family’s financial resources should be available to help pay for college.

FAFSA: (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): This is a form to fill out and send in, in January after taxes are figured out for both parents and student for the previous year. The information on this form is used to figure out how much, if any, financial aid you are entitled to for your education.

Federal Direct Loans: Loans made by the federal government paid directly to qualifying students and parents through participating colleges.

Federal Pell Grant: Financial assistance awarded by the federal government on the basis of need and designed to provide the "floor" of an aid package for postsecondary education. The grant may be used towards tuition, room and board, books, or other educational costs, and requires no repayment.

Federal Perkins Loan Program: Loans funded by the federal government and awarded by the institution. The loans feature low interest rates and are repayable over an extended period of time.

Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan Program: Provides low-interest federal loans to eligible students through banks, lending institutions, and participating Direct Loan schools. It is based on need. The interest is paid by the federal government for qualifying students while they are enrolled at least half-time. Repayment begins after a student leaves school.

Financial Aid: Refers to money available from various sources to help pay for college.

Financial Aid Package: The total amount of financial aid a student receives. Federal and non-Federal aid such as grants, loans, or work-study are combined in a “package” to help meet the student’s need.

Financial Need: Equal to the cost of education at your chosen college minus the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution). Your EFC for Minnesota State University-Mankato is $4,500. It costs $7,500 for tuition, fees, room and board. Your financial Need is $7,500 minus $4,500, or $3,000.

GED​: General Education Development Certificate: Certificate granted to students who pass a high school equivalency test. Students must meet certain criteria in order to take the test.

Grant: A sum of money given for college expenses that does not need to be repaid.

Loan: A type of financial aid available to students and parents that must be repaid, usually with interest, but in many cases the re-payment does not begin until after the education is complete.

Official Transcript: This is a list of courses and grades earned that a student has taken from 9th through 12th grades. It includes the cumulative grade point average and class rank. Colleges require transcripts with applications for admission.

Open Admissions: Means slightly different things at different schools, but generally means that a college will admit most or all students who apply to the school. This can mean anyone with a H.S. diploma, GED, or is over 18.

PLAN ACT: The “PLAN ACT” is taken by all sophomores at Burnsville High School (usually in December). This test is used as practice for the ACT, it also offers career planning assistance by way of an “Interest Inventory.” The school covers the PLAN ACT cost for all students.

PIN: This term is used as part of the "FAFSA." A "PIN" (Personal Identification Number) allows both students and parents to sign the FAFSA electronically. Your PIN does not expire. To apply for a pin, go to:

Post-secondary: This term means “after high school” and refers to all programs for high school graduates, including two and four year colleges, vocational and technical schools.

PROFILE: During the Financial Aid process, some Colleges and Universities also use what is known as the “CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE,” a service of the College Board. Schools such as Carleton, Macalester, Gustavus Adolphus, St. Olaf, and Augsburg use the information collected on PROFILE to help them award nonfederal student aid funds. Completing PROFILE Online requires you to have a secure browser and either a valid credit card or checking account. To apply online go to:

Private Colleges/Universities: Schools are not publicly funded with taxpayer dollars. Costs are usually much higher than public colleges and universities.

PSAT/NMSQT stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It's a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT Reasoning Test™. It also gives you a chance to enter National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) scholarship programs.

Public Colleges/Universities: These schools are partially funded by taxpayer money, which keeps the cost down for students.

Reciprocity: This is an agreement between Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Wisconsin public colleges and universities to accept in-state tuition for students from those states.

Regular Admissions: Most applications fall in this category. Applications are typically due in late fall or winter. Admission under this plan is not binding. This plan is best used for students who apply to several schools or who want to review several financial aid offers before making a final decision.

Rolling Admissions: Most of the large state schools operate on a Rolling Admission basis. The school makes an admissions decision within a relatively short time (3 to 5 weeks) after receiving the application and then notifies the student. In some cases an application may actually be held longer (rolled over) and considered again at a later date if the school decides it wants to compare the applicant to the strength of the late applicant pool. It is best to apply well before the final deadline for schools with rolling admissions because it is possible that places have already been filled and no further applications are being accepted.

ROTC: This stands for Reserved Officers Training Corps program, a scholarship program wherein the military covers the cost of tuition, fees, textbooks and a monthly allowance. Scholarship recipients participate in summer military training (depending on the branch of service) while in college and fulfill a service commitment after college.

SAR: This is another term that is a part of the "FAFSA." Your "SAR" (Student Aid Report) is generated after completing the FAFSA and will be sent to the student. This federal output contains financial and other information reported on the FAFSA.

SAT: (Scholastic Aptitude Test) This college entrance test measures a student’s aptitude in math reasoning, verbal reasoning and writing. Most colleges on the East and West coasts require SAT test results for college admission.

Scholarship: A sum of money given to a student for the purpose of paying for at least part of college. Scholarships can be awarded to students based on the student’s academic achievements, athletic achievements, volunteer experiences or on many other factors.

Selective College: Colleges that are more restrictive in their acceptance of students. This usually means they are difficult to get into. GPA, class rank and ACT or SAT scores must be high.

Student Fees: These are charges that cover costs associated with the student’s course load, such as costs of some athletic activities, clubs, special events, computer lab, etc.

Tuition: This is the amount of money that colleges charge for classroom and other instruction and use of facilities, such as libraries. Tuition can range from a few hundred dollars per year to more than $45,000. It all depends on the school and the state.

Work-Study: Many colleges offer these programs. They allow students to work part-time during the school year either on or off-campus as part of their financial aid package. The money earned is used to pay for tuition or other college expenses.