College Prep Glossary

Academic GPA
The grade point average calculated after removing non-academic courses such as physical education, driver’s ed, vocational courses, and other non-college prep courses. Check with the individual colleges requesting the academic GPA as to what they consider non-college prep.

ACT® Test
A college entrance exam administered by ACT, Inc., covering English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science, with an optional Writing section required by many colleges. Scores range from 1 to 36 on each section and as a composite of all the sections.

Advanced Placement (AP)* Course
An academically challenging course taken during high school which is designed to be equivalent to a college course in the subject. More than 30 different AP courses, across multiple subject areas, are offered to prepare students for Advanced Placement exams administered each May. Colleges and universities may award credit or advanced standing in a subject or course based on the student’s performance on the AP exam. Schools (including home schools) are not allowed to use the AP designation for courses on the transcript without first submitting the course syllabus to the College Board (AP Central) for an audit process, which assures that all AP courses meet similar standards.

Carnegie Unit
A unit equivalent to a conventional one-hour class taken four or five times per week throughout the school year, representing from 120 to 180 hours of instruction. In school systems using the Carnegie unit, a one-year course earns one Carnegie unit and a one semester course earns one-half of a Carnegie unit.

Common Application
A standardized college application now used by more than 400 institutions, allowing a student to complete the application once and send it to multiple colleges. Teacher evaluations, application essays, transcripts, and parent or counselor statements are also submitted electronically through the Common Application site. Homeschooled students should be aware of the Home School Supplement to the Common Application, and the fact that the parent or another person serving in the “guidance counselor” role will be asked to complete the Secondary School Report section of the Common Application. Many colleges also have supplements to the Common Application which must be submitted as part of the application.

Credit
A measurement indicating the amount of time or work a student has put into a course. Some school systems consider a one-year course to be one credit or unit (see Carnegie unit); other systems consider a one-year course to be ten credits (and thus one semester would be five credits).

CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE*
A financial aid application which some (not all) colleges and universities require in addition to the FAFSA to determine financial aid eligibility, and which is submitted online through the College Board website. Most institutions using this application are private, but a few public institutions also require it, and it is often used for determining the amount of non-federal financial aid to award the student.

Course Description
A brief (or longer, if required) summary of the content of a course, which includes the course title, a few sentences about the course content, any prerequisites, and sometimes the textbook title. Course descriptions are prepared for two main reasons: the homeschool parent needs them in order to prepare the course, and colleges often request them at application time. Always keep your course descriptions in an easily accessible form throughout the high school years and edit them at application time to suit the length and format requested by the colleges.

EFC (Estimated Family Contribution)
The amount of money a family can be expected to contribute to college expenses for a given year. This calculation arises from information the family submits on the FAFSA, and this figure is used by colleges to make decisions on amount of financial aid to offer the family.

Extracurricular Activities
Activities outside of the typical academic subjects, such as clubs, sports, drama, music activities, volunteer work, paid work, or church and community activities. Extracurricular activities are an important facet of the student’s college application as they demonstrate additional dimensions to the student’s life and provide a way to show leadership, initiative, and passion.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
An application required annually for all students who wish to qualify for federal, state, or college-based aid, generally submitted as soon as possible after January 1 in the year the student will begin college. The FAFSA requests information on parent and student finances and, after submission, provides the family with an EFC figure (Estimated Family Contribution). From this figure, the total financial need can be calculated by subtracting the EFC from the total expenses of each college being considered. Most financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so applying as early as possible is advantageous.

GED (General Educational Development Tests)
A high school equivalency exam consisting of tests in five subject areas which, when passed, confer the equivalent of a high school diploma. Some homeschoolers take this test to “validate” their coursework and receive a nationally recognized diploma equivalent, but for most purposes it is not needed, and it often carries the stigma of a high school dropout. HSLDA has repeatedly communicated to colleges that parent-issued diplomas satisfy all federal requirements for financial aid, and thus the GED is not necessary.

GPA (Grade Point Average)
A figure calculated by giving each letter grade a point value (A=4 points), multiplying each grade by the number of credits the course was worth, totaling all of these values, and dividing by the number of credits earned. A perfect GPA is 4.0, though a weighted GPA may be calculated by awarding A’s in honors and Advanced Placement courses with 5 points rather than 4 points.

Honors Course
A college prep course which has been enhanced beyond the requirements of a typical college prep course by adding additional rigor and increased expectations. Extra rigor may be in the form of a more challenging textbook, difficult math problems, a higher level of literature reading, additional or more challenging essays and term papers, etc.

IB (International Baccalaureate) Program
An internationally recognized, academically challenging program which, like the Advanced Placement program, offers high-level courses recognized by colleges for their rigor. Students take written exams at the conclusion of the program to demonstrate their mastery of the material. Not all areas offer IB courses, and homeschoolers typically have limited or no access to them.

Official Transcript
A transcript of the student’s high school grades and credits, sent directly from the school in a sealed, unopened envelope, often stamped as “official.” Homeschooled students will generally not have this capability unless they work with an independent study program that prepares official transcripts for them. If the college knows that the student is homeschooled, it may not be concerned with the transcript being “official.” However, transcripts from community colleges or any outside programs should always be sent as official transcripts.

Personal Statement
A college application essay, written by the student applicant in response to a prompt question on the application. Most essays are about 400 to 700 words in length, though some colleges also ask for shorter statements in addition to the main essay. Students should spend quality time preparing these essays, as they are an important supplement to the transcript, test scores, and lists of extracurricular activities and are the major way the student can communicate his or her unique experiences and perspectives.

Recommendations (References)
Forms or letters sent as part of the college application by a teacher or other person who knows the applicant well and can comment on characteristics such as academic promise, character, motivation, intellectual curiosity, and achievement. Most colleges ask for one or two recommendations; some allow one more.

Portfolio
A more “non-traditional” presentation of the student’s high school accomplishments which may be submitted instead of or in addition to a formal transcript of grades and credits. A portfolio is often used by a student for whom a traditional transcript may not adequately describe the high school experience, and may include samples of work, lists of books read, photos of outstanding projects or activities, essays, artwork, or any items unique to the student applicant. Options for submission of portfolios may include paper or electronic (e.g. a website). Note that not every college will be open to receiving a portfolio; always check to find out the preferred or allowable format for sending student records.

SAR (Student Aid Report)
A report sent to the applicant’s family that summarizes the information supplied on the FAFSA financial aid application and includes the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution).

SAT* (SAT Reasoning Test)
A college entrance exam administered by the College Board, containing three sections: Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. Scores range from 200 to 800 per section, with the maximum total score being 2400.

SAT Subject Tests
Single-subject tests, one hour long, administered by the College Board and used by some colleges to gather additional information about the student’s knowledge in specific subjects. These tests were formerly called SAT II’s.

Transcript
An organized listing, semester by semester, of a student’s high school courses. In addition to including course names, grades, credits toward graduation, and GPA (grade point average), the transcript may also include unofficial reporting of college entrance exam scores.

Unweighted GPA
Grade point average calculated with the assumption that all courses the student took will receive equal weight, with no extra points added for honors or Advanced Placement courses. Some colleges specifically ask for an unweighted GPA.

Weighted GPA
Grade point average calculated after adding extra points (“weight”) for honors or Advanced Placement courses. Typically this means that an A in these courses receives 5 points rather than 4 and a B receives 4 rather than 3, so the overall GPA can exceed 4.0.

*SAT, AP, Advanced Placement, and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

ACT® is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc.

Academic GPA
The grade point average calculated after removing non-academic courses such as physical education,
driver’s ed, vocational courses, and other non-college prep courses. Check with the individual colleges
requesting the academic GPA as to what they consider non-college prep. 

ACT® Test
A college entrance exam administered by ACT, Inc., covering English, Mathematics, Reading, and
Science, with an optional Writing section required by many colleges. Scores range from 1 to 36 on
each section and as a composite of all the sections.

Advanced Placement (AP)* Course
An academically challenging course taken during high school which is designed to be equivalent to
a college course in the subject. More than 30 different AP courses, across multiple subject areas,
are offered to prepare students for Advanced Placement exams administered each May. Colleges
and universities may award credit or advanced standing in a subject or course based on the student’s
performance on the AP exam. Schools (including home schools) are not allowed to use the AP
designation for courses on the transcript without first submitting the course syllabus to the College
Board (AP Central) for an audit process, which assures that all AP courses meet similar standards.

Carnegie Unit
A unit equivalent to a conventional one-hour class taken four or five times per week throughout the
school year, representing from 120 to 180 hours of instruction. In school systems using the Carnegie
unit, a one-year course earns one Carnegie unit and a one semester course earns one-half of a Carnegie
unit.

Common Application
A standardized college application now used by more than 450 institutions, allowing a student to
complete the application once and send it to multiple colleges. Teacher evaluations, application
essays, transcripts, and parent or counselor statements are also submitted electronically through the
Common Application site. Homeschooled students should be aware of the Home School Supplement
to the Common Application, and the fact that the parent or another person serving in the “guidance
counselor” role will be asked to complete the Secondary School Report section of the Common
Application. Many colleges also have supplements to the Common Application which must be
submitted as part of the application.

Credit
A measurement indicating the amount of time or work a student has put into a course. Some school
systems consider a one-year course to be one credit or unit (see Carnegie unit); other systems consider
a one-year course to be ten credits (and thus one semester would be five credits).

CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE*
A financial aid application which some (not all) colleges and universities require in addition to the
FAFSA to determine financial aid eligibility, and which is submitted online through the College Board
website. Most institutions using this application are private, but a few public institutions also require it,
and it is often used for determining the amount of non-federal financial aid to award the student.

Course Description

A brief (or longer, if required) summary of the content of a course, which includes the course title, a
few sentences about the course content, any prerequisites, and sometimes the textbook title. Course
descriptions are prepared for two main reasons: the homeschool parent needs them in order to prepare
the course, and colleges often request them at application time. Always keep your course descriptions
in an easily accessible form throughout the high school years and edit them at application time to suit
the length and format requested by the colleges.

EFC (Estimated Family Contribution)
The amount of money a family can be expected to contribute to college expenses for a given year.
This calculation arises from information the family submits on the FAFSA, and this figure is used by
colleges to make decisions on amount of financial aid to offer the family.

Extracurricular Activities
Activities outside of the typical academic subjects, such as clubs, sports, drama, music activities,
volunteer work, paid work, or church and community activities. Extracurricular activities are an
important facet of the student’s college application as they demonstrate additional dimensions to the
student’s life and provide a way to show leadership, initiative, and passion.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
An application required annually for all students who wish to qualify for federal, state, or college-based
aid, generally submitted as soon as possible after January 1 in the year the student will begin college.
The FAFSA requests information on parent and student finances and, after submission, provides the
family with an EFC figure (Estimated Family Contribution). From this figure, the total financial need
can be calculated by subtracting the EFC from the total expenses of each college being considered.
Most financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so applying as early as possible is
advantageous.

GED (General Educational Development Tests)
A high school equivalency exam consisting of tests in five subject areas which, when passed, confer the
equivalent of a high school diploma. Some homeschoolers take this test to “validate” their coursework
and receive a nationally recognized diploma equivalent, but for most purposes it is not needed, and it
often carries the stigma of a high school dropout. HSLDA has repeatedly communicated to colleges
that parent-issued diplomas satisfy all federal requirements for financial aid, and thus the GED is not
necessary.

GPA (Grade Point Average)
A figure calculated by giving each letter grade a point value (A=4 points), multiplying each grade by
the number of credits the course was worth, totaling all of these values, and dividing by the number of
credits earned. A perfect GPA is 4.0, though a weighted GPA may be calculated by awarding A’s in
honors and Advanced Placement courses with 5 points rather than 4 points.

Honors Course
A college prep course which has been enhanced beyond the requirements of a typical college prep
course by adding additional rigor and increased expectations. Extra rigor may be in the form of a more
challenging textbook, difficult math problems, a higher level of literature reading, additional or more
challenging essays and term papers, etc.

IB (International Baccalaureate) Program
An internationally recognized, academically challenging program which, like the Advanced Placement

program, offers high-level courses recognized by colleges for their rigor. Students take written exams
at the conclusion of the program to demonstrate their mastery of the material. Not all areas offer IB
courses, and homeschoolers typically have limited or no access to them.

Official Transcript
A transcript of the student’s high school grades and credits, sent directly from the school in a sealed,
unopened envelope, often stamped as “official.” Homeschooled students will generally not have
this capability unless they work with an independent study program that prepares official transcripts
for them. If the college knows that the student is homeschooled, it is often not concerned with the
transcript being “official.” However, transcripts from community colleges or any outside programs
should always be sent as official transcripts.

Personal Statement
A college application essay, written by the student applicant in response to a prompt question on the
application. Most essays are about 400 to 700 words in length, though some colleges also ask for
shorter statements in addition to the main essay. Students should spend quality time preparing these
essays, as they are an important supplement to the transcript, test scores, and lists of extracurricular
activities and are the major way the student can communicate his or her unique experiences and
perspectives.

Recommendations (References)
Forms or letters sent as part of the college application by a teacher or other person who knows the
applicant well and can comment on characteristics such as academic promise, character, motivation,
intellectual curiosity, and achievement. Most colleges ask for one or two recommendations; some allow
one more.

Portfolio
A more “non-traditional” presentation of the student’s high school accomplishments which may be
submitted instead of or in addition to a formal transcript of grades and credits. A portfolio is often used
by a student for whom a traditional transcript may not adequately describe the high school experience,
and may include samples of work, lists of books read, photos of outstanding projects or activities,
essays, artwork, or any items unique to the student applicant. Options for submission of portfolios may
include paper or electronic (e.g. a website). Note that not every college will be open to receiving a
portfolio; always check to find out the preferred or allowable format for sending student records.

SAR (Student Aid Report)
A report sent to the applicant’s family that summarizes the information supplied on the FAFSA
financial aid application and includes the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution).

SAT* (SAT Reasoning Test)
A college entrance exam administered by the College Board, containing three sections: Critical
Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. Scores range from 200 to 800 per section, with the maximum total
score being 2400.

SAT Subject Tests
Single-subject tests, one hour long, administered by the College Board and used by some colleges
to gather additional information about the student’s knowledge in specific subjects. These tests were
formerly called SAT II’s.

Transcript
An organized listing, semester by semester, of a student’s high school courses. In addition to including
course names, grades, credits toward graduation, and GPA (grade point average), the transcript may
also include unofficial reporting of college entrance exam scores.

Unweighted GPA
Grade point average calculated with the assumption that all courses the student took will receive
equal weight, with no extra points added for honors or Advanced Placement courses. Some colleges
specifically ask for an unweighted GPA.

Weighted GPA
Grade point average calculated after adding extra points (“weight”) for honors or Advanced Placement
courses. Typically this means that an A in these courses receives 5 points rather than 4 and a B receives
4 rather than 3, so the overall GPA can exceed 4.0.

*SAT, AP, Advanced Placement, and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE are registered trademarks of the College Board,
which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.
ACT® is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc.