Common College Admissions and Financing Abbreviations You Should Know

acronyms college admissions financial aid

Common College Admissions and Financing Abbreviations You Should Know

Published December 4, 2018 | Last Updated June 18th, 2024 at 02:37 pm

acronyms college admissions financial aid

The college admissions process can be confusing enough in its own right, but the conglomeration of acronyms and FAQs that parents and students are expected to master can further complicate the process and addle the brain.

To lighten your load, we have compiled a collection of the most often-used admissions and financial terms and acronyms. In addition, we’ve provided the answers to some general questions.

College Admissions and Financial Aid Abbreviations

AA – Associate of Arts Degree

ACT – American College Testing – Standardized test used for college admissions in the US.

AGI – Adjusted Gross Income – Gross income minus adjustments to income. Gross income includes your wages, dividends, capital gains, business income, retirement distributions as well as other income. Adjustments to Income include such items as educator expenses, student loan interest, alimony payments or contributions to a retirement account.

AS – Associate of Science Degree

BA – Bachelor of Arts Degree

BS – Bachelor of Science Degree

CDS – Common Data Set —A set of standards and definitions for higher education data that are collected under the collaborative arrangements made between higher education institutions and publishers, namely The College Board, Peterson’s, and U.S. News & World Report and used in higher education research.

CLEP – College Level Examination Program – Exams that test mastery of college-level material acquired in a variety of ways – through general academic instructions, significant independent study or extracurricular work.

COA – Cost of Attendance – A figure provided by colleges and/or college financial offices that estimates the total costs of attending that particular school for a period of one year. Included in the estimate are all reasonable expenses such as tuition, room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses, and transportation.

CSS – College Scholarship Service – A financial aid application that almost 400 colleges use to award grants and scholarships.

[Your CSS Profile Questions Answered]

DD – Darling daughter

DE – Dual Enrollment

[What Is Dual Enrollment?]

DI – Demonstrated Interest – How your student shows a college they are genuinely interested in attending that school. Some colleges consider demonstrated interest when deciding who to admit.

[Ways to Show a College Demonstrated Interest]

DRN – Data Release Number -A four-digit number that appears in the upper right-hand corner on the first page of your Student Aid Report (SAR). You will need this number if you choose to allow your college or career school to change certain information on your FAFSA form.

DS – Darling son

EA – Early Action – Non-binding admission option

[What You Need to Know About Applying For Early Decision vs Early Action]

ED – Early Decision -Binding admission option

EDII– Early Decision 2 -Binding admission option that is essentially the same as Early Decision, but with later deadlines.

FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid – A form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.

[FAFSA FAQs: Answers To Your FAFSA Questions]

FERPA – Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

[What is FERPA and Should I Waive My Right to View Recommendation Letters?]

FSA ID – Federal Student Aid ID

[What is the FSA ID and How Do I Create One?]

GMAT – Graduate Management Admission Test

GRE – Graduate Record Exam

HELOC – Home Equity Line of Credit

[Home Equity Line of Credit: What You Need to Know]

[All the Ways Your Home Can Pay For College]

IB – International Baccalaureate – A two-year educational diploma program taught in schools in over 140 countries, primarily aimed at 16 to 18-year-olds. It provides an internationally accepted qualification for entry into higher education and is recognized by many universities worldwide.

IMHO – In My Honest Opinion

IPEDS – Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System – The federal government’s higher education data collection program conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

LAC – Liberal Arts College

LOR – Letters of Recommendation

MA – Master of Arts Degree

MCAT – Medical College Admission Test

MS – Master of Science Degree

MSEP – Midwest Student Exchange Program – A multi-state tuition reciprocity program

[What is the Midwest Student Exchange?]

NMF – National Merit Finalist 

NPC – Net Price Calculator – Online calculator that allows colleges to give prospects a personalized estimate of what their one-year net price to attend their school will be.

[What is a Net Price Calculator?]

[The ‘New” Paying For College Paradigm]

OOS – Out of State

OP – Original post(er)

PSAT – The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) – A standardized test administered by the College Board and co-sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) in the United States.

[How to Prep For the PSAT]

RA– Resident Assistant – Trained peer leader who supervises those living in a residence hall or group housing facility.

RD – Regular Decision

[Understanding the Different Types of College Admission Deadlines]

REA – Restrictive Early Action – Admissions decision. Students are only allowed to apply Restrictive Early Action to one college, but they may not cannot simultaneously apply Early Decision. However, students who apply Restrictive Early Action can still apply Early Action to other schools.

SAI (previously EFC) – Student Aid Index – An index number generated by financial aid forms that colleges use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school. This is a figure that represents what a family is expected to be able to afford to pay for one year of a child’s college costs. The SAI is usually the minimum that a family is expected to pay for college.

[Understanding the Student Aid Index: How FAFSA Will Now Use SAI for Your Financial Aid]

SAR – Student Aid Report – A paper or electronic document that gives you some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid as well as listing your answers to the FAFSA questions.

[Reviewing Your FAFSA Student Aid Report]

SAT – Scholastic Aptitude Test – A set of standardized college admissions tests developed by the College Board, the principal one measuring mathematical and verbal reasoning, and others measuring knowledge in specific subject areas.

[SAT Prep Tips From An Expert]

SLAC – Small Liberal Arts College

SREB – Southern Regional Educational Board – Academic Common Market

[What is the Academic Common Market?]

SSR – Secondary School Report

TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

WUE – Western Undergraduate Exchange – Regional tuition-reciprocity agreement that enables students from WICHE ( Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) states to enroll in more than 150 participating two- and four-year public institutions.

[What is the Western Undergraduate Exchange?]

College Admissions and Financial Aid FAQs

What is the Common App?

[10 Tips For Dealing With Common App Glitches]

What are 529 Plans?

[The Ins and Outs of 529 College Savings Plans]

[Why a 529 Plan is the Best Way to Prepare Your Family For College Expenses]

What is a Parent PLUS Loan?

[How Do Parent PLUS and Private Student Loans Compare?]

What is a Pell Grant?

Federal Pell Grants are the largest source of federally funded grants. They are awarded solely based on your financial need (academic grades and extra-curricular activities aren’t a factor). The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2023-24 academic year was $7,395.

[What is Financial Aid and Where Does it Come From?]

What is Merit Aid?

The general term for grants, scholarships, and discounts that a college awards to an admitted student without regard to financial need. Merit aid may be based on service, academic or athletic achievements, special talents such as music, where the student lives or other demographic characteristics.

[Everything You Need to Know About Merit Aid]

What is Rolling Admission?

Decision about who gets accepted that is on a first-come-first-served basis.

There is no restriction on the number of schools a student can apply to under the Rolling Admission option.

What types of questions should be asked on a college tour?

[Questions to Ask on a College Visit]

[Insightful Questions to Ask an Admissions Officer]

What is Dual Registration?

Dual registration involves high school students enrolling in college courses for credit at the same time that they are completing their high school work. They receive credit for the courses at both the high school and college level. It is sometimes called dual credit, concurrent enrollment, dual enrollment or joint enrollment.

What is the Federal Work-Study Program?

This is a program that is open to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who demonstrate financial need when submitting their FAFSA. Students may be enrolled part-time or full-time, and eligibility is determined by information provided on the FAFSA and the specific college where the student will be enrolled.

[What is Work-Study and How Does it Work?]

This is a list of colloquial names for colleges and universities.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

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Other Articles You Might Like:

10 Ways a Parent Can Help Their Student Prepare for College

How to Motivate Juniors to Start the College Process

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