Applications Terms: Wait Lists And Other Words

As in other specialized fields, college admission has its own lingo. When you read college application instructions, you may find some of it puzzling. Let’s look at some college application terminology.

Whether you’re a high school junior plotting your candidate colleges, a senior about to plunge into the college process, or a parent, there are some basic aspects of the college application process you should know about. Such as:

Early Decision — An option that allows you to apply early (usually in November) to your clear, first-choice college.  You pledge to attend if accepted.  If you’re a competitive candidate, you stand a statistically better chance to be admitted under Early Decision.

Early Action — Similar to Early Decision in timing (November due date for applications) but nonbinding.  If accepted, you do not have to enroll and you may take until May 1 to decide.  Early Action is fading in its popularity due to the move by colleges to seek an enrollment commitment from their applicants.  Acceptance percentage is higher than that of regular-decision pool.

Personal Statement — Also known as the application essay.  Most competitive schools require at least one major statement, many times two or more, along with multiple so-called short-response answers.  These schools admit half (or well less) of all who apply.  Admission committees use personal statements to learn more about their applicants and they are great opportunities to shine, if you’re a good writer.  They can create anxiety in less-than-confident students, however.

Common and Electronic Applications — Simplified approaches to college applications.  Most colleges and universities accept them.  All you do is fill out one common form and send copies to your other candidate institutions that accept it.  It’s easier, but it lacks the detail and uniqueness of the institution-specific forms.  Electronic applications appear as an online option.  Students can apply over the World-Wide Web.

These are just a few aspects of college applications.  If you need further information while working on yours, ask your college counselor or ask the admission department of the college that wrote the application.