College Admissions Terminology

One of the frequent complaints I receive from parents and students who are new to college admissions is that the process seems mysterious. Part of the reason for this is the words and acronyms commonly thrown around in the admissions process community that most students and families have never heard before. In an effort to reduce some of the mystery (and stress), here are some of the commonly used admissions-related words with a definition that is hopefully a bit easier to understand!


Super Score: The combination of your highest scores on each of the SAT or ACT sections. Most colleges now use your super score on the SAT or ACT when considering your application package. Make sure to read the test policies at each college carefully. Some schools only review the super scores, other schools will use your super scores but want to see your entire test history, and others will not super score, instead reviewing all your tests to make admissions decisions.


Naviance: An online platform that connects students and parents with their high school administrators to make the transferring of college admissions-related documents (transcripts, recommendations, etc) more efficient and assist students in their efforts to identify colleges that might be a good fit.

SCOIR: Similar to Naviance, but a new platform that is becoming increasingly popular with high schools across the country.

Common App: An online platform used by more than 400 colleges across the country as the portal to submit your application. The Common App allows you to apply to more schools more easily because it saves your biographic, academic, and extracurricular information and allows you to quickly and easily apply it to all of the colleges where you plan to apply. You should establish your free Common App account in the spring of junior year.

Coalition App: The same concept as the Common App, the Coalition App is used by fewer schools and is somewhat less user friendly. You should establish your free Coalition App account in the spring of your junior year, especially if you plan to apply to colleges that only accept the Coalition App (for example, University of Maryland and Virginia Tech).


Early Application (EA): This is an early deadline (typically between November 1 and December 15) that shows colleges you are organized and highly interested in their respective school, but is non-binging (meaning that if you are accepted under an EA application, you aren't required to attend the colleges). You can submit as many EA applications as you want.

Early Decision (ED): This is an early deadline (typically between November 1 and December 15) that shows colleges you are organized and highly interested in their respective school, and is binding (meaning that if you are accepted under an ED application, you are required to attend the college). You can only submit one ED application and you should only do it if your heart is completely set on a specific school.

Regular Decision (RD): This is the general deadline that normally falls somewhere between January and March. While there's noting wrong with waiting to apply to colleges under their RD deadline, students are increasingly opting to applying under EA deadlines as the chances for admission are slightly higher.

Rolling Admissions (RA): RA basically means that the college will review applications as they come in. So if the RA deadline is in March, the college will review your application as soon as they receive it, assuming it comes before the March deadline.

High School Grades

GPA: Unweighted GPA is measured on a scale of 0 to 4.0. It doesn’t take the difficulty of a student’s coursework into account. An unweighted GPA represents an A as a 4.0 whether it was earned in an honors class, AP class, or lower-level class.

WGPA: Weighted GPA is often used by high schools to better represent students’ academic accomplishments. Weighted GPA takes into account course difficulty rather than providing the same letter grade to GPA conversion for every student. Usually, weighted GPA is measured on a scale of 0 to 5.0, although some scales go higher. An A in an AP class may translate into a 5.0 weighted GPA, while an A in a regular-level class will give you a 4.0 weighted GPA.

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