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Admissions Lingo

At Mercer, we want to make sure you have all the information you need to make the best college choice for yourself and your family. To get started, we realize there are a lot of admissions terms that you may not be familiar with yet, so we thought we’d share a helpful list of common terms and what they mean.


College readiness exam consisting of English, Math, Reading, and Science sections; scored on a 36-point scale


Acceptance to a college or university

Application for Admission

The form and supporting materials you submit to be considered for admission to a college or university. Mercer accepts either the Mercer Application or The Common Application .

Class Rank

A student’s academic standing among peers in their graduating class

Credit Hour

Unit used to measure college classes, typically based on the number of hours spent in the classroom per week

Example: Psychology 101 is worth three college credits and you have class for one hour per day, three times per week.

College Credit

The total amount of credit hours that is used to evaluate a student’s eligibility to graduate

The Common Application

Students can use the Common Application to apply to multiple colleges and universities; not every institution uses this type of application.

Cost of Attendance

Total cost to attend an institution before any financial aid and scholarships have been applied; includes direct and indirect costs, such as tuition and fees, housing, and meal plan. The Department of Education requires all colleges and universities to provide this figure annually.


Term often referring to where a student defers their acceptance to a later time.

The meaning of the term varies among institutions, so check with the colleges and universities you are applying to for their definition.

Dual Enrollment Credit

Credit students receive for any college courses taken before high school/secondary school graduation, where they are enrolled both in high school/secondary school and college at the same time

Early Action

An admission practice where students can apply early to an institution to be considered for admission ahead of other students. Mercer’s Early Action I deadline also qualifies students for consideration for the University’s most prestigious scholarships, ranging up to full tuition and beyond. Mercer’s Early Action II deadline qualifies students for priority consideration for scholarships, ranging up to full tuition.

Early Decision

A admission practice where students who know exactly what college or university they want to attend can apply early to an institution to be considered for admission ahead of other students. Mercer does not practice Early Decision.


Student Aid Index, or the amount of money determined by the FAFSA that a family should be able to contribute to a student’s education; determines how need-based aid is awarded. The formula for the Student Aid Index is determined by federal law. Visit to learn how SAI is calculated.


Free Application for Federal Student Aid; an application for financial aid that uses tax/income information to determine any scholarships, grants, work-study, or loans students are eligible to receive through state programs or the federal government

Financial Aid

The combination of scholarships, grants, loans, and federal work-study that can be used to pay for a student’s college education


Grade Point Average; the average of all a student’s official grades, typically calculated by adding their numerical grades and dividing that by the number of classes taken

Graduate Program

Advanced program of study available after a student completes a bachelor’s degree


Financial aid given, which most of the time does not have to be paid back

Higher Education

An optional academic avenue for individuals who have earned a high school/secondary school diploma or GED; also known as post-secondary education

Letter of Recommendation

A letter from someone who is not a relative and who can describe a student’s accomplishments, skills, and personality in a recommendation to a college or university


A sum of money borrowed that is required to be paid back, often with interest


Primary area of study; typically comprises between one third and one half of courses students take


Secondary area of study; typically optional. The number of credit hours for a minor varies depending on the institution.

Need-Based Aid

Financial aid that is dependent upon financial need as determined by the SAI (Student Aid Index) calculated based on information provided in the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

Pre-Professional Track

Track of study that includes a combination of relevant coursework and specialized advising designed to prepare students for a professional program after completion of their bachelor’s degree; different from a major

Example: Political Science is a major, while Pre-Law is a track.


Course that’s required in order to move into the next phase of study; often required for graduate programs or for an advanced level of study at the undergraduate level

Example: Biology 101 is required before you will be able to take Biology 201 because it is a prerequisite course.

Prospective Student

A potential applicant to a college or university who has usually shown demonstrated interest in that college or university

Rolling Admission

A process whereby decisions for acceptance are made and released on a constant basis throughout the year


College readiness exam consisting of Reading, Math, and Writing sections; scored on a 1600-point scale. Most schools, including Mercer, do not require or factor in the writing portion of the exam.


Financial aid given, often based on academic credentials, talent, need, or other award specific criteria. Most scholarships are gift aid and do not have to be paid back.

Subsidized Loan

Loans that do not accrue interest while a student is enrolled in college


Process where a college or university takes the highest scores in each section of a student’s ACT or SAT, even if the scores are from different testing dates, and puts them together to create and count a student’s best overall score

Test Optional

Policy that allows students to apply to a college or university without submitting test scores; Test Optional policies differ among institutions


An official academic document displaying all courses a student has taken in high school/secondary school or college along with their grades; additional information on a transcript may include class rank, GPA, and dual enrollment credits

Unweighted GPA

A calculated GPA in which academic rigor is not factored in to “weight” the GPA

Unsubsidized Loan

Loans that begin to accrue interest the moment a student receives loan funds

Weighted GPA

A calculated GPA that involves adding “weight” to final course grades based on the course’s academic rigor

Examples might include AP courses, IB courses, or dual enrollment courses

Now, keep in mind that you still might run into things you don’t know! Let people know when you need help or are confused. Don’t be ashamed to ask questions, even if they you think they might sound silly, and know that you are never alone in this process! We are always here to help and cheer you on.