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Office of Undergraduate Admissions

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College terms 101: Fifteen words to know before you apply

Julia Hodge, assistant director for market research, assessment and training

Thinking about going to college is exciting! You get to choose where to live, what to study and who to be. But it can also be a bit overwhelming, especially if you're struggling to understand the words used by admissions reps and college counselors. I'm here to walk you through the basic college vocabulary to make you feel comfortable and ready to take on those college applications! Below are 15 words we commonly use in admissions.

1. Dual Enrollment

Coursework high school students complete that may be credited toward a college degree.

2. Transcript

Official record of high school and/or college courses and grades. 


Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form used to apply for financial aid (grants, loans, work-study) to help pay for college. It opens Oct. 1 at

4. Grant

Typically, an award based on financial need that does not require repayment.

5. Loan

Financial aid awarded with the expectation of future payment. 

6. Work-Study

A program allowing students to work part-time as part of their financial aid package. You must submit a FAFSA to be eligible for work-study. 

7. Scholarship

Typically, an award based on academic merit that does not require repayment.

8. Credit Hour

A unit of measurement given to a student for completing a college course. College classes are typically worth three credit hours. 

9. Tuition

The amount paid for each credit hour for enrollment. Tuition normally covers 12-16 credit hours of undergraduate coursework per semester. 

10. Room & Board

The combined housing and dining plan costs for enrolled students.

11. COA

Cost of attendance. The total cost of going to college, including tuition, room & board, books, transportation, fees and personal expenses. You can use our cost calculator to estimate your cost of attendance. 

12. Early Action

A non-binding option for students to apply early and receive their decision early, without any commitment required until May 1. 

13. Early Decision

A binding decision program that offers early admission to applicants who agree to withdraw all applications to other colleges if admitted. UofSC does not offer ED.

14. Rolling Admission

A decision program that notifies applicants of their decision continuously throughout the year, instead of during a set week or weeks. UofSC does not have rolling admission for freshmen. 

15. Waitlist

Students who have not yet been admitted but still show strong promise to perhaps be admitted before the start of classes.

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