Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Language of Admissions


My daughter, who is a sophomore International Affairs major at UGA, probably thinks she can hold her own in a hospital operating room. Why? Because being a Grey's Anatomy fangirl has taught her all the medical lingo she would ever need in this life. Fourteen seasons and 317 episodes of the life of Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, Miranda Bailey, McDreamy, McSteamy, and all the other doctors of Seattle Grace/Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital have taught her well. Words like V-Fib, central line, metastasis, Pre and Post-Op, and phrases such as "I need a ten-blade and 100 cc's of epi stat" can just roll off her tongue. Me, I am terrified of blood, and almost all medical terms just go right over my head, even with a wife who is a nurse.

In the same way, a number of occupations and offices have their own language. If you have ever been to the Varsity (a wonderfully greasy hamburger place in Atlanta and Athens), you know they have their own lingo for food, from a Naked Dog to Chili Steak all the way (see the Varsity Lingo page for the full details). Whether you are an accountant, in construction, work in finance or are a lawyer, every field seems to have their own language. College admissions is no different, and it can sometimes get confusing. Here is a helpful guide to some of the key words and phrases in the world of admissions.


  • Binding: While there are many "Early" terms (early decision, early action, early notification, early admission, and EA II), the key term is for all of these is whether the offer is binding, meaning that X college is considered an applicants top choice, and if admitted, they will attend (thus a binding offer). A number of colleges such as UGA have a non-binding Early Action option (see Early Action below).
  • Blind/Neutral : For many colleges, there will be information that the university as a whole will need to ask for some specific reason (gender for housing, family finances for financial aid) which are not used in the admission process. If a school is need blind, for instance, this means that the admissions office does not use (or even see, thus the word blind) the financial data of an applicant when making an admission decision (such as UGA). Other times, there are questions on the admission application that need to be asked for purposes other than admission (alumni information for the alumni office, gender and ethnicity for federal reporting), but are treated as a neutral non factor in the admission process. At UGA, these three factors-alumni, gender and ethnicity, have to be asked (along with a few others), but we do not use them in our admission review process.
  • Common/Coalition Application: There are two applications which are used by a number of colleges and allow for a student to enter in a majority of their personal information (biographic data, co-curricular info, etc.) for all colleges to use and then complete a smaller amount of institution specific questions needed by each college. UGA uses both the Coalition application and our own application.
  • Dawg: Also known as a bulldog, it is the most fierce and wonderful mascot in the known world. This is not an admission term, but one that you should know nonetheless.
  • Defer/Deferral: A deferral decision is generally associated with an Early decision of some kind, and the college is not able to make a decision due to wanting more information about the applicant and the overall pool of applicants and more time to review the files. This is neither a denial or an offer of admission (or a wait list offer), but simply a need by the college for more time and information before making a decision on the student. The student will then be placed within the other applicants waiting for a decision, and they will be treated the same as these other applicants.
  • Double Deposit: This is when a student sends in a deposit to two colleges (without a wait list offer being involved) to hold a place in the freshman class instead of just one. This is really looked down upon by colleges, and I compare it to a person being engaged to two people at one time. At times, this could cause a student to have an offer of admission be rescinded, as a student should only deposit at one institution.
  • Early Action (EA): This decision plan is a non-binding review of a student's application during the early part of the admission process, and it takes place in the fall of the student's senior year. At UGA, the focus is on the overall academic standing of both the applicant and the Early Action applicant pool, and the deadline is earlier than for Regular Decision applicants (at UGA the EA deadline is 10/15). The decisions can be either Admit, Deny, or Defer, and a denial decision is final. 
  • FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a federal government form that students and parents complete in January/February of their senior year to apply for need based federal assistance. This form helps to determine the student's eligibility for federal aid, including grants, loans and student work-study aid.
  • Holistic Review: This is when an admissions office will do a detailed review of everything within an applicant's file, and look at things such as academics, academic trends, essays, activities, leadership, recommendations (if required), supplemental materials, the rigor of a student's coursework, etc. The readers of the file will try to get a sense of the overall applicant, and how the different areas of the file interconnect. This process has nothing to do with crystals, wheat germ, or any other uses of the word "holistic".
  • Interest/Demonstrated Interest: Some colleges (UGA is not included) take into account the amount of interest a prospective student has shown towards the college when making an admissions decision. If a student attends X college's program at their high school, visits the college either on special prospective student days or for a tour and information session, or keeps in contact with the admissions counselor for their area, it can show that a student is seriously interested in X college. On the flip side, there are some students who are unable to visit X college, have limited resources, or finds out about X college late in the senior year, and cannot show as much "interest". Again, some colleges use this in their process, while others (like UGA) do not.
  • Melt: After admitted freshman send in a deposit to a college, they at times will change their mind about attending said college. Most admissions offices know that if they receive X deposits, about 3-5% of these students will ultimately not enroll, as they could have issues with finances, be admitted of a wait list at another college, have academic issues, decide to delay college, double deposit (see above), etc. At times, this is also called "summer melt", as this occurs generally between May 1 and mid-August. Most colleges, such as UGA, will build this into their projections for their freshman classes.
  • Prospect/Prospective Applicant: When a student contacts a college to request more information, sends an SAT/ACT score to admissions, or indicates gives a college their contact information at a college fair, they go into the college's recruitment system as a prospective applicant so that the college can begin communicating with them. In addition, if you take the PSAT/PLAN or the SAT/ACT, you can ask to be a part of the student search process, and this will allow colleges to access your information from the testing agency to start communicating with you about the college search process.
  • Rigor/Rigor of Curriculum: Colleges look at what options a student has with their course options in high school, and what courses they actually then take over their four years. In an admission review, the context of a student's academic course load, and it will be come a part of both the academic and overall review of an application. Colleges look at what Honors, Advanced, Accelerated, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Dual Enrollment, and other types of courses in a review of a student's rigor.
  • School Report/Counselor Recommendation: A majority of colleges that have competitive admission processes will ask for a letter of recommendation and/or a form from a student's high school counselor. This gives the college some detailed information about the school, the individual student, and the counselor's insights into what the student has done academically and personally.
  • Superscoring SAT/ACT's: A number of colleges (including UGA) will use the strongest subscores of standardized test (either the SAT or ACT) to make the strongest overall score within that specific test type. So if your first SAT exam had results of SAT EBRW 600 and SAT M 700 and your second SAT exam had results of SAT EBRW 700 and SAT M 650, your overall superscore would be EBRW 700 + M 700 = 1400. The same goes for the subscores of the ACT making a superscored ACT Composite. UGA does not combine SAT and ACT scores though (we do not add an SAT EBRW of 700 to an ACT M of 34, etc.)
  • Wait List: Many colleges (such as UGA) have a limited number of freshman that they can enroll each year, and thus must try to come as close to possible in predicting how many admitted students will actually choose to enroll at their college. If the admissions office's prediction is low, they will go to a group of students they have not admitted or denied, called the wait list, where if there is enough room in the freshman class, they will then consider for admission. Wait List students are told to move forward with a plan B college, as colleges will not know if they can go to a wait list until mid-May at the earliest, and wait list students are given the option if they would like to stay on the list or not. 
  • Yield: Colleges know that not all students they admit will choose to enroll, and the percentage of students who do decide to enroll is called the Yield percentage. There is a wide range of yield percentages at colleges, with UGA averaging slightly over 50% over the past several years.


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