by Liz Jackson
The college admissions process is full of terms and acronyms! From the FAFSA to the FERPA, to all the different deadline and decision programs, it’s not uncommon for families to feel overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar jargon. Here is an explanation of some of the commonly-used terms and some helpful and not-so-helpful places to get information about the college application process and all its quirks.
Early Decision: Early Decision, or “ED” for short, is a binding agreement between an applicant and a college, where the applicant indicates that their ED college is their first choice and that, if admitted, they will attend that school. Typically, Early Decision deadlines are in November, and at most colleges, applicants who apply Early Decision are admitted at higher rates than regular decision applicants. You may find this blog post from earlier this fall to be an interesting overview of the potential benefits of applying ED: https://galined.com/blog/benefits-of-early-decision/. Just be sure not to confuse ED with EA–Early Action. Unlike ED, Early Action applications are not binding. While applying early action to some colleges does afford applicants a small advantage, in most cases, the only difference between early action and regular decision is an earlier deadline and decision notification!
Demonstrated Interest: About a year and a half ago, we published this blog on how to demonstrate interest in colleges during a pandemic: https://galined.com/blog/how-to-demonstrate-interest-in-the-age-of-covid/. Of course, now many of the visit restrictions that were present on college campuses the last two years have been lifted. But you may still be wondering: what IS demonstrated interest anyway? Simply put, demonstrated interest is how an applicant researches colleges in ways that show the college that the student is genuinely interested in the school and seriously considering attending. Demonstrated Interest is something that some (though not all) colleges track and consider when they are evaluating applicants, giving preference to those who have demonstrated a lot of interest in their school. The reason for this is that colleges’ own institutional research indicates that applicants who show a lot of interest—visiting campus, engaging with admissions officers via email, requesting interviews, etc.–are more likely to enroll at their colleges, which helps improve their yield (the percentage of admitted students who choose to attend) and therefore their rankings and reputations.
Superscore: You probably know that colleges have dramatically different approaches to standardized testing—some colleges are back to requiring standardized testing, others are test-blind, and many are test-optional. Most colleges (though not all) will “supersore” students’ ACT or SAT tests if students choose to submit them. Superscoring is the process of taking the highest score on each section of of a standardized test to create a new, higher composite score. This means that students are advantaged by taking the tests more than once!
Finally, you’ve probably noticed, if you have ever googled a college admission-related term, that there are a LOT of resources on the internet where you can find answers to questions. But, as with most things online, there is a wide variety of helpfulness. Many colleges post their own admission blogs, and admission webpages at colleges often have really helpful FAQ sections, answering questions specific to their own admission processes, but also general questions about topics like how to approach essay writing, or how to apply for financial aid. I recommend that families make use of these resources, but be wary of any crowd-sourced webpages, where anyone can comment on matters regarding college admissions. While there are certainly some pieces of helpful, factual information, it can be really challenging to distinguish the accurate from the inaccurate. And, of course, we hope you’ll come back to our newsletter, our website, and our great counselors here at Galin!