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College/University Terms & Definitions

AA or AS DEGREE (ASSOCIATE OF ARTS or SCIENCE): A two year community college degree.


First-generation college student is defined as a student whose parent(s)/legal guardian(s) have not completed a bachelor's degree. This means that you are the first in your family to attend a four-year college/university to attain a bachelor's degree. Being first-generation is a very proud accomplishment.


ACCREDITATION:  The recognition by an outside agency that a school maintains highs standards, which enable students to qualify for admission to other accredited institutions.


ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS: A set of rules established by each college for a student to be accepted.


AP (ADVANCED PLACEMENT):  AP couses are tests which offer students an opportunity to gain college credit or to be excused from some introductory courses. The AP tests are administered through the CEEB in the spring and rated on a scale of 1-5. The colleges decide whether or not to grant college credit or advanced placement.

ADVANCED STANDING:  Admission status when a student has completed more than 12 college credits.


A-G REQUIREMENTS:   Refers to a list of subjects required for meeting the minimum eligiblity for admission to the University of California the California State University systems. subject requirements may be met by taking A-G classes in junior high as well as high school.

  1. US History/Government                                   2 years
  2. English P/HP/AP or Comp and Lit                 4 years
  3. Advanced Math                                                  3 years (4 years recommended)
  4. Laboratory Science                                            2 years (3 years recommended)
  5. Foreign Language                                             2 years (3 years recommended)
  6. Visual or Performing Arts                                 1 year
  7. Electives *                                                             1 year of an academic course in any of the area above or Economics P, Journalism 3-4 or Engineering P or Physcial/Earsh Science P


BA OR BS DEGREE (BACHELOR OF ARTS or SCIENCE):  A four-year college degree.


CAL GRANTS:  Financial aid provided by the state of California which is available to students having a financial need as they continue their education at a college or vocational school.  Generally, students with a family of four whose income is less than $53,000 may qualify.

CHSPE (CALIFORNIA HIGH SCHOOL PROFICIENCY EXAM):  A state exam to qualify for a high school equivalency certificate.  Students who pass the CHSPE and leave school are NOT eligible to participate in the graduation ceremony.  Applications to register for the exam are available at your high school and must be mailed approximately one month before the test date.  Applicants must be 16 years of age and must remain in school until results are received.


CLASS RANK:  A student’s standing based on his or her GPA as compared with that of other members of the class.  In a class of 199, the best student would be #1, the poorest #199.


COLLEGE CATALOG:  A book published by a college describing the requirements for admission, degrees, services and course descriptions.  Your high school has most college catalogs and the addresses of all other colleges.  All college catalogs can be viewed on the college’s website and the addresses are available in the Career Center. Very few catalogs are now available accept at the college it self.


COMMON APPLICATION:  A generic application that can be copied and used to apply to many different private and out of state colleges. Colleges that accept the Common Application are listed on the application itself.


COMMUTER SCHOOL:  A school where most of the students do not live on campus and may live at home and drive to school daily.


CREDIT or “SEMESTER HOURS” or “UNIT HOURS” or “QUARTER HOURS” or “UNIT”:  A way of referring to the number of credits which are earned in a course.  Approximately 64 total credits are needed for an AA degree and a total of 124 credits for a BA degree for schools on a semester calendar.  If a class meets three hours a week, it is usually a 3 credit class.  A full time student at college usually attends 5 classes and earns 15 credits.


CSF (CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP FEDERATION):  Statewide honor society designed primarily for the academically oriented college bound student.  Eligibility for membership depends on previous semester’s grades.  Students who qualify for 4 semesters become Sealbearers at graduation.  Membership is neither automatic, mandatory nor retroactive.  Join the first three weeks of a semester, if eligible.  See CSF advisor for eligibility requirements.


CSU (CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY):  The 23 public undergraduate state campuses such as Sonoma State, CSU Long Beach and CAL Poly San Luis Obispo.



EARLY ACTION:  Under this plan, highly qualified candidates who apply early may receive offers of admission by mid-December.  Unlike the Early Decision plan, the Early Action Plan does not require the applicant to accept the offer, if given admittance, until the traditional May 1 candidates reply date.


EARLY ADMISSION:  This plan allows students to begin college work after their junior year of high school.  This program is limited to exceptional students.


EARLY DECISION:  Describe the application process in which a commitment is made by the student to the institution, that, if admitted, the student will enroll. Only a student who can make a deliberate and well-reasoned first choice decision should apply under an Early Decision.


ELECTIVE:  A course needed for graduation credit, but not one of the specific course requirements.


EOP (Educational Opportunity Program):  A program designed to assist low income and/or educationally disadvantaged students with admission, financial aid and academic support services at college.


FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid):  The form used to file for financial aid from the state and federal student grants, work-study and loans.  File in January or February of the senior year and then each year you continue with school. Critical to fill out in order to be considered for additional institutional monies and some other scholarships.


FEE:  A sum of money which must be paid for a variety of things in college, such as admission, registration, graduation, health services, etc.


FEE WAIVER:  A form available to students who generally have a family income between $22,350 - $34,090 per year and or are eligible for the Free or Reduced lunch program.  The Fee Waiver Form is submitted instead of money when applying for college testing or admission. See your counselor for college application and college entrance exam waivers.


FINANICAL AID:  Money from a variety of sources (grant, loan, scholarships, work study) which helps pay for college costs.  The “package” of funds is determined by family financial need, the cost of attending a specific school, and the availability of funds.


FINANCIAL NEED:  The difference between the cost of attending a school and what the family or the applicant can reasonably be expected to contribute.


FULL TIME STUDENT:  A college student who generally takes a minimum of 12 units per semester.


GED (General Educational Development Examination):  A series of tests that adults take to qualify for a high school equivalency certificate or diploma.  Some colleges will accept satisfactory GED test results in place of a high school diploma.  Students may not take the GED until they are 18.


GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIRMENTS:  Courses selected from several divisions required for a college degree.  Generally, these are completed the first two years of college. Generally, the second two years involve course work in major and minor areas.


GPA (Grade Point Average):  A student’s grade point average is computed on a 4 point scale.  An “A” counts as 4; a “B” counts as 3; a “C” counts as 2; a “D” is 1 and an “F” is 0.  Each student has several GPAs; one for the semester, one cumulative GPA which includes previous semesters; and a college admission GPA that includes grades from the sophomore and junior years.  The GPA for car insurance discounts includes the last semester’s grades.  The GPA for the CSU system includes all courses except PE in grades 10-12.  For the UC system the GPA includes just those grades earned after 9th grade in the “a-g” pattern of courses.  Honors and AP courses earn 1 extra point.


GRANTS:  Payments made to students by various organizations, schools, including Cal Grants from the state of California.  Grants do not have to be paid back.


IMPACTED PROGRAM/MAJOR:  A college degree program such as computer science, which may be temporarily closed to new students due to heavy enrollment or may require supplementary screening of students records for additional prerequisites such as work experience related to the major.


INTRAMURAL SPORTS:  Sports offered within the school and available to all who want to participate.


LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE: A college that will expose students to a wide range of academic areas and does not require a student to specialize when entering as a freshman.


LOWER DIVISION:  Refers to courses usually completed in the first two years of college.


MA  DEGREE (Masters of Arts):  A college degree usually requiring one or two years work beyond the Bachelors degree.

MAJOR:  The main area of study in college, usually requiring about one to two years in a planned series of courses during the 4 years of college.


MINOR:  Approximately 18 credits in an area outside the major department.


NEED BLIND ADMISSIONS:  Admissions process that does not consider whether an applicant has applied for financial aid.


PELL GRANT:  Financial aid from the federal government available to students with financial need to be used in many types of colleges and vocational schools.  Apply in January/February of the senior year.


PREREQUISITES:  Courses, test scores, and/or grade level that must be completed before taking a specific course.


PRIVATE COLLEGE:  A colleges that is not supported by state taxes.


PROFILE:  AA or AS DEGREE (ASSOCIATE OF ARTS or SCIENCE):  A two year community college degree.


PROFILE:  The form required by some private universities to provide further information beyond the FAFSA.


PSAT/MNSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test):  A shortened version of the SAT offered in October to high school juniors.  The scores are helpful in college admission planning and/or qualifying for National Merit Scholarships.


PUBLIC COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY:  Schools that are supported by the state or community taxes.


QUALIFIED ACCEPTANCE:  Occasionally an institution postpones action on an applicant and will suggest that the applicant pursue a particular course in its summer session.  Upon satisfactory completion of this course, the college agrees to accept the student for its regular degree programs at the beginning of the first or second semester.


REDIRECTION:  Because of lack of space at your first choice college, your application is sent at your request from your first choice college to an alternative choice in the UC or CSU system.


RESIDENTIAL COLLEGE:  Schools where most of the students live on the campus in dormitories.


ROLLING ADMISSIONS:  This means that a college gives an admission decision as soon as possible after the application is completed and does not specify a notification deadline.  Usually it is wise to apply early to such colleges, since applications are normally not accepted after the admissions quota has been reached.


ROTC:  Many colleges have units of the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps that offer two and four year programs of military training culminating in an officer’s commission.  In some colleges, credits for the courses can be applied toward a degree.  ROTC scholarships are available which pay for full college costs. Generally, once you graduate,  you are obligated to the military for an equivalent number of years as you were supported by the government.


SAT I or SAT REASONING TEST:  A college admission exam measuring verbal, math and writing reasoning skills.


SAT II (Subject Tests):   A college admission exam used by some four-year colleges for placement.  They are one hour exams offered in fourteen different subjects. It is suggested that you take an SAT II as close to the end of the related class as possible. You can take more than 3 tests and use just the 2 highest. If you plan to be an engineering, computer science or math major, you should take the Math II test. UC campuses require 2 tests from two different areas such as a language and a science or a science and a history.


SCHOLARSHIPS:   Gifts of money awarded for achievement, skills, talent, community service, ethnicity and/or financial need.  Most scholarships are awarded to high school seniors in the spring semester and usually range from $25 to several thousand dollars. Some are based on merit, others on financial need, ethnicity, community service, a particular association. Students do not necessarily need to have an “A” grade point average to apply.  Many scholarships go to students with a “B” average.


STUDY ABROAD:  Opportunities for a student to study for a period of time in a foreign country, either on a campus that American schools have in a foreign country or on the campus of a foreign university.


TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language):  An English exam for foreign students used for admission purposes and for placement in college English classes.


TRANSCIPT:  A copy of your official records of grades and courses from time of entrance to the end of the latest semester.


TRANSFER COURSES:  College course giving credit which may be transferred to another college.


TRANSFER STUDENTS:  College students who transfer from one college to another, usually at the end of the sophomore year. To transfer from a junior college to either the UC or CSU Systems requires the completion of four full time semesters, taking approved courses. Transferring to a private school from a junior colleges is more flexible and does not always require the completion of four semesters. Changing colleges during the junior or senior year, when the student is completing major requirement, is not recommended.


TUITION:  A fee that is paid for instruction in a school, college or university.


UNDERGRADUATE:  College student who has not yet received a bachelor’s degree.


UPPER DIVISION COURSE:  Courses designated for the junior and senior years of college.


WAITING LIST:  In addition to accepting and rejecting applicants, many colleges place students on a waiting list for admission.  As accepted students decide to attend other colleges, the school will offer their places to students on the waiting list.


WORK STUDY:   A federally funded program that makes part-time jobs available to students with financial need.