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Articles / Applying to College / What do college admissions terms mean?

Feb. 11, 2002

What do college admissions terms mean?

Question: Could you discuss some college admission concepts, explaining what they mean?

The language of college admissions can be confusing. Here's an explanation of some of the more common terms:


Early Admission. As the name implies, this program allows gifted high school juniors to skip their senior year and enroll at a college or university. This is conditional, however, on the junior having successfully satisfied all of his or her high school's graduation requirements as well as the desired college's entrance requirements. It's a good plan for motivated students to speed up the cycle of higher education. It's not for everyone, though.

Early Decision. The applicant pledges to enroll if accepted early (assuming the financial aid package meets the family's needs). Deadlines are in early November for applications and notification of decision is pre-Christmas. Students with strong credentials may find Early Decision to their advantage because colleges are looking to enroll the best student candidates as early as possible.

Need Blind. This is when a college or university makes its admission decision totally independently of the student's family's ability to pay. Due to the relentlessly rising cost of providing financial aid, the number of schools offering need-blind admission is, unfortunately, dwindling.

Yield. A college's yield is the percentage derived by dividing the total number of enrollees by the total number of students offered admission. For example, if a college sends out 2,000 offers of admission and 500 enroll, their yield is 25 percent.

If you're still confused, check out some of the many good books on college admission in your library or go to the Internet web site of some of your favorite colleges. You'll find answers there.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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