The admissions process is an all at once pertinent, challenging, and mysterious process. In this, the process has its own jargon and terminology. Terms like “early action,” “safety,” and “hook” will be thrown into casual conversation by parents, guidance counselors, and admissions counselors alike.
Getting familiar with these terms is a great way for a student to start up their college search, because students are guaranteed to encounter them. In short, it will allow you to navigate the college admissions process more intelligently and with less stress.
If you would like to refer to our entire glossary of admissions terms, you can check them out in the Admissions360 resource section.
Deferred: When you apply under any early admissions policy you can be deferred. Deferral is neither accepted nor rejected–the admissions committee will simply reevaluate your application with all of the regular decision applications. At most schools, this is actually the most common outcome of applying early. Getting deferred does not hurt your chances of admission. In fact, at some schools your regular decision will be looked upon more favorably, because an early application indicates a high level of interest in a school.
Developmental Admission- If you have to ask what it is, you probably can’t afford it. This is a nice term for an applicant whose parents have donated large sums of money (typical six figures or more) to the school to which the student is applying.
Early Action (EA): Early action (EA) is an admissions policy that allows applicants to apply before the regular admissions cycle (typically in the fall). Early action, opposed to early decision, is a non-binding agreement and students are free to apply elsewhere (including other schools with EA policies).
Early Decision (ED): Early decision (ED) is an admissions policy that allows applicants to apply before the regular admissions cycle (typically in the fall). Early decision is typically a binding agreement. In this, you make an obligation to attend a university if you are accepted Early decision. The benefit of this is you are competing against a smaller applicant pool, so many applicants find this advantageous. (Note: Some institutions allow you to apply ED, but also allow you to apply Early action (non-binding) to other institutions. With this. you would have to withdraw your EA applications if accepted ED. This really depends on the school and it is suggested you contact the admissions department for further details.)
Early Decision II (EDII): Early decision II (EDII) is the same policy as early decision, except that the deadlines are later (typically in December/January). The benefits of this policy is that it gives applicants more time to decide if they want to commit to only applying to one school, because it is binding.
First-Generation– A student is considered to be a first-generation student if neither of the student’s parents attended college, although this definition varies by school.
Hook- A hook is something that is unique to each college applicant, but is something that an admissions officer will immediately see. A hook can range from world-class athletic ability to winning a national science award to the fact that your parents got a building named after your family on campus. In short, a hook will help get you in the door.
Legacy– A student is considered to be a legacy if either of their parents (and sometimes grandparents) attended the school to which the student is applying.
Match: A match is a school where your profile (in terms of SATs, GPA, class rank, extracurriculars) matches up with the average student at a school.
Reach: A reach is a school in which your profile (in terms of SATs, GPA, class rank, extracurriculars) is lower than that of the average student at a school.
Regular Decision (RD): Regular decision is vanilla college admissions. It allows you to apply to a variety of schools, weigh financial aid packages, and ultimately, make an educated final decision. The downside is that you will not get any extra consideration from applying RD and you won’t know where you are attending until the spring.
Safety: A safety is a school where you are roughly in the top 25 percent of applicants applying. Most students pick at least one safety to apply to to, as the name implies, be safe. Sometimes, the safety school can be the most difficult school to pick.
Single Choice Early Action (SCEA): Single choice early action is an admissions policy that allows applicants to apply early to a college. However, under this early admissions policy, students are not allowed to apply anywhere else until they receive their SCEA decision (generally in December).
Underrepresented Minority (URM)– Underrepresented minorities (URM) are desirable to schools due to both affirmative action and a desire to increase campus diversity. For the most part, URM’s include African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students. Note that being a minority is not an advantage in and of itself for all groups (for example, there is some evidence that Asian students are discriminated against in college admissions).
Waitlisted: When an applicant applies to college during regular decision admissions they can be waitlisted. Waitlisted applicants are qualified applicants who cannot be immediately offered a spot within the incoming class. Upon receiving this decision, applicants typically notify the respective school if they would like to remain on the waiting list. Specific procedures depend on each school, so it is best to contact the admissions department if you are in this position.
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