Glossary of Admission and Financial Aid Terms


Candidate’s Reply Date – A national policy among members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling that permits a student to wait until May 1 to choose among offers of admission and financial aid.

Common Application – A general application form accepted by approximately 350 selective colleges and universities.  These institutions agree to give the same preference to students whether they apply using the Common Application or the institution’s own application.  Students who use the common application complete the form once and send photocopies or submit the online form to the colleges they choose.

Early Action – An application process in which a student can apply to an institution and receive a decision in advance of the normal response dates in the spring.  The student is not committed to enroll at the institution under Early Action.

Early Admission – Admitting students into college courses before they have completed the standard high school graduation requirements.

Early Decision – An application process in which the student is committed to enroll at the institution if accepted.  Only a student who can make a deliberate and well-reasoned first choice decision should apply using an Early Decision program.

Work Study Program – A financial aid program supported by the federal government and coordinated through the financial aid office, whereby an eligible student (based on need) may work part-time on campus while enrolled at the institution.

Financial Aid Package – A combination of aid (may include merit-based scholarship, grants, loans, and /or work study) awarded by an institution’s financial aid office and based on the FAFSA and CSS Profile submitted by the student and her family.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – An application form administered by the U.S. Department of Education and used to determine a family’s eligibility for federal student aid programs and, in some cases, institutional, state and other private aid sources. 

Grants – Free money given to students because of demonstrated need by the government, agencies or the college to which they have been accepted.

PROFILE (CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE) – A financial aid application administered by the College Board and required by some colleges and universities to determine a student’s eligibility for additional aid.

Rolling Admission – An admission procedure by which the college considers each application as soon as all required materials have been received.  The applicant’s credentials are compared to the set requirements for admission to that college.  The college then notifies each applicant of acceptance or rejection as soon as possible.  The college does not wait until all applicants have applied in order to compare applicants to one other.

Scholarships – Gift money awarded to students based on merit or other specific talents such as fine arts, athletics, community service or leadership.

Wait List – A tem used by institutions to describe a process by which they may initially delay offering or denying admission, allowing the possibility of admission in the future.