While preparing for college, you’ll come across new terms and acronyms galore. Use this glossary to better your understanding of college vocabulary.

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A 529 is one type of college savings account. my529 is Utah’s official and only tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan. One of the nation’s top 529 plans, my529 can help you save for future qualified higher education expenses. Opening an account is free and no minimum balance is required. Learn more at my529.org.

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The purpose of the ACCUPLACER tests is to provide you with useful information about your academic skills in math, English, and reading. The results of the assessment, together with your academic background, goals, and interests, are used by academic advisers to determine your course selection. You cannot “pass” or “fail” the placement tests, but it is very important that you do your very best on them so that you will have an accurate measure of your academic skills.
ACT (American College Testing Program)
A four-part examination designed to measure a student’s scholastic development. The test covers English, math, social studies, and natural sciences. Many colleges require students to take this test and submit their test scores when they apply for admission. Some colleges accept this test or the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). It is recommended that students take the ACT or SAT during their junior year in high school, and then again as a senior.
ACT Aspire (formerly called pre-ACT, ACT Plan, or ACT Explore)
An online testing system for students in grades 3-8, as well as early high school, which includes English, math, reading, science, and writing contents for all grades. The assessment is used to highlight progress towards ACT College Readiness Standards and Benchmarks, and is aligned to what students are learning in school.
Admission & Scholarship Index
Admissions and scholarship decisions can be based on an index of GPA and ACT scores at some of our institutions of higher education. The score may also be used for placement. For more information, visit the institution of your choice to determine if this is applicable.
Adult Student/Learner
A student outside the traditional age of 18-22 who is starting college for the first time, or a student who is returning to college after an absence of more than three years, or a student who is 18-22 but who is married or has dependents.
Advanced Placement Program (AP)
A service of the College Board that provides high schools with course descriptions in college subjects and Advanced Placement examinations in those subjects. High schools teach the courses and give the examinations to interested students. Those who pass the exams are eligible for advanced placement, college credit, or both. Learn more about AP courses.
Applied Technology College (ATC)
A college that prepares technically-skilled workers in specific occupations that generally do not require an associate or more advanced degree. ATC students can earn certificates that prepare them directly for employment in a few months to a little more than a year. Most ATC programs admit all who apply. High school students enroll tuition-free and receive high school credit while qualifying for technical skills. Learn more about the Utah System of Applied Technology.
Associate of Applied Science Degree (A.A.S.)/students/utah-colleges-and-universities/
Two-year programs that provide broader knowledge in fields ranging from Biomanufacturing and Computer Information Systems to Dental Hygiene and Digital Media. The in-depth knowledge and skills acquired in an A.A.S. degree prepare students for employment in a career track with advancement opportunities.
Associate Degree (A.A., A.S.)
Two-year programs that provide the academic foundation for transfer to a four-year bachelor’s degree program. Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Associate of Science (A.S.) programs cover the curriculum taught in the first two years for a four-year program of study.


Bachelor’s Degree/Baccaulaureate (B.A., B.S.)
Four-year programs that provide in-depth, specialized knowledge in a major or field of study. Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees prepare students either for employment in fields from Accounting to Theatre or for further studies.


Career Assessment Inventory (CAI)
An assessment test given to students to direct them toward occupations that may be of interest. In the Assessment Link component of UtahFutures.org, a list of occupations of interest can be generated from the student’s CAI scores. Learn more.
Generally one-year programs that lead directly to entry level employment in a specific occupation such as aviation pilot, diesel mechanic, or respiratory therapist. Learn more.
Community College
A two-year college that serves the residents of a local or regional area. Most of these colleges admit all or most of the students who apply. Some programs, such as nursing, may be more selective. Students receive an associate degree after two years of successful full-time study. Additionally, many technical programs of study are taught at these colleges. Most students who enter general education programs (equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree program) transfer to a four-year college or university. Learn more about Utah’s community colleges
Concurrent Enrollment (CE)
The concurrent enrollment program makes college courses available to eligible high school students during their junior and senior years. Students earn both high school credit and regular college credit, which is recorded on a college transcript. Learn more about CE courses.
Credit Hour
A unit used to measure the amount of schoolwork a student has enrolled for or completed. In a credit hour system, each course is assigned a specific number of credit hours. This number is usually based on the number of classroom meetings per week. Thus, a course that meets for one hour, three times a week, is a three credit hour course.


Doctorate Degree (PhD)
Provides further training in a more specialized area, in occupations similar to master’s or professional degrees. Learn more.
Direct Subsidized Loan
A need-based loan, available to undergraduate students. The federal government pays the interest on subsidized loans during the borrower’s in-school, grace, and deferment periods.
Direct Unsubsidized Loan
A loan available to undergraduate and graduate students. There is no financial need requirement. Interest on the loan begins accruing right when you receive it.
Dual Enrollment
The practice of colleges allowing high school seniors to enroll part-time in college courses while completing their senior year.


Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
The amount a student and his or her family are expected to pay toward the cost of attendance. It is calculated from the financial information provided by the student and his or her family, including the student’s spouse, if applicable.


FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a free financial aid application form used to determine eligibility for federal financial aid. Applications are accepted after January 1 and applying early is strongly encouraged. Students should apply during their senior year and every year they are in college.Visit FAFSA.gov.
FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal privacy law that gives parents certain protections with regard to their children’s education records, such as report cards, transcripts, disciplinary records, contact and family information, and class schedules. Parents have the right to review their child’s education records and to request changes under limited circumstances. To protect their child’s privacy, the law generally requires schools to ask for written consent before disclosing their child’s personally identifiable information to individuals other than the parents. When their child turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, all rights afforded parents under FERPA transfer to the student (“eligible student”). However, FERPA provides ways in which a school may—but is not required to—share information from an eligible student’s education records with parents, without the student’s consent.
Financial Aid
Money awarded to students to help them pay for education. Aid is given as loans, grants, scholarships, or work-study. Some forms of financial aid are required to be repaid after graduation.Learn about types of financial aid.
Financial Need
The difference between the cost of attendance and the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC)


A form of financial aid that does not have to be repaid or earned by working. Grants are usually based on financial need; however, academic merit may also be considered. Learn more.


Higher Education (also called “postsecondary education”)
A term that refers to colleges, universities, and any education beyond high school that leads to a certificate or a college degree.


International Baccalaureate (IB)
A program offered in some schools that provides academically challenging courses. IB diploma students take courses in six subjects and complete a “core” that includes community service and an extended essay. High schools teach the courses, but the broad curriculum is provided by International Baccalaureate and students around the world take the same final exams. Courses can last one or two years, and a passing grade on the final exams or the attainment of an IB diploma can make a student eligible for college credit, advanced placement in college classes, or other benefits. Learn more about the IB diploma.


A loan is money you borrow and must pay back with interest, so be sure you understand your options and responsibilities. Learn more.


Master’s or Professional Degree
Programs offered at a postgraduate level, usually after earning a bachelor’s degree or relevant work experience. Master’s degrees prepare students for occupations that include education, engineering, or business. Learn more.
Merit-based Aid
Financial aid that is dependent on academic, artistic, or athletic merit. This type of aid does not require demonstration of financial need. Learn more


Need-based Aid
Financial aid that is dependent on demonstration of financial need. Most sources of financial aid that are provided by the government are need-based. Learn more.
New Century Scholarship
The New Century Scholarship encourages students to accelerate their education by earning an Associate degree in high school from an institution within the Utah System of Higher Education. The scholarship may be used at a four-year public college or university within the Utah System of Higher Education, as well as at Brigham Young University-Provo and Westminster College. Learn more about the New Century Scholarship.


Open Admissions
The college admissions policy of admitting virtually all applicants with high school diplomas or their equivalent. Conventional academic qualifications, such as high school subjects taken, high school grades, and admissions test scores are not used to limit enrollment.


Pell Grant
Money awarded directly to students by the federal government. Only undergraduate students may receive federal Pell Grants. To apply for a Federal Pell Grant and other federal financial aid, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at FAFSA.gov.
PLA (Prior Learning Assessment)
A method colleges may use to determine if someone has received college-level learning outside of college. Usually a PLA is administered through individual colleges and universities.
Something that is required as a prior condition before something else. For example, if you have to take a beginner class before you sign up for an advanced class in the same subject, then it’s a prerequisite.
The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a program cosponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). It’s a standardized test that provides first-hand practice for the SAT. It also gives you a chance to enter NMSC scholarship programs and gain access to college and career planning tools.


Regents’ Scholarship
The Regents’ Scholarship encourages Utah high school students to prepare for college academically and financially by taking a core course of study and saving for college. The scholarship may be used at any public college or university in the Utah System of Higher Education, as well as at Brigham Young University-Provo, LDS Business College, and Westminster College. Learn more about the Regents’ Scholarship.
Rolling Admissions
An admissions procedure by which the college evaluates applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants are screened as soon as they submit all application materials. The college may consider applications on a weekly or monthly schedule. Applicants receive a notice of the decision a short time after application.


SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test)
The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test that lets you show colleges what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge. It tests your knowledge of reading, writing and math — subjects that are taught every day in high school classrooms. Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year of high school, and almost all colleges and universities use the SAT to make admission decisions.
A form of financial aid that does not have to be repaid or earned through employment. Scholarship usually refers to an award based on academic merit; however, scholarships are also awarded for performing community service. Financial need may also be required. The UtahFutures.org Scholarship Search includes descripti/students/financial-aid/ons of many hundreds of financial assistance sources. Learn more about scholarships.
An academic calendar period of about 18 weeks that makes up half of the usual academic year for schools that use this calendar system.
SEOP (Student Education Occupation Plan)/College and Career Plan
Individual student planning consists of school counselors coordinating ongoing systemic activities designed to help individual students establish personal goals and develop future plans. School counselors coordinate activities that help all students plan, monitor and manage their own learning as well as meet competencies in the areas of academic/learning development, life career development, multicultural/global citizen development and personal/social development.
State Student Identification Number (SSID)
Federal and state laws along with data collection requirements have driven the creation of a unique SSID for each student in Utah. The SSID improves Utah public education by providing accountability, analysis, reporting, and tracking of every student that enters the Utah public school system. This number is unique to you and is often different from your school lunch number. It can be found on your high school transcript or may be obtained from your guidance counselor.


An official copy of a student’s educational record.
The charge for attending a college or university class.


An institution of higher learning that offers both undergraduate (associate and bachelor’s) and graduate (master’s and doctoral) programs. Universities vary considerably in programs offered and in size. Compared to colleges, universities are usually larger, offer more courses and majors, and have more research facilities. Universities may be divided into a number of “colleges,” such as the College of Education or the College of Business. Each college has several departments, and each department may offer more than one major. Learn about Utah’s universities.
Utah College Application Week (UCAW)
A dedicated two-week period in November where all seniors at participating high schools will complete and submit at least one viable college application during the school day. UCAW is supported by the American Council on Education’s American College Application Campaign. Learn more about UCAW.
A one-stop shop for people to explore and organize training, education and career information. Learn more at UtahFutures.org.
Utah Scholars Initiative
A program created to help students take the right classes in high school so that they graduate ready for college. Students who attend Utah Scholars partner schools and take the right classes and keep up their grades are eligible to receive a Utah Scholars certificate and medallion at graduation. Students can sign up from 8th grade through 12th grade and will start receiving monthly college messages, which include a new scholarship each month. Learn more at utahscholars.org.


A federally funded part-time employment program for undergraduate and graduate students. Eligibility is based on financial need. The earnings help students meet a portion of their educational expenses. The federal government subsidizes a portion of the student’s salary which makes it cheaper for employers to hire students who have demonstrated financial need. Learn more.