The college application process comes with its own set of words and abbreviations – just in case the whole experience isn’t stressful enough for you. Acronyms roll off the tongues of college counselors and other parents and often leave us dumbfounded and too embarrassed to ask for an explanation.

Check out the GREC guide to college lingo below – we promise it will make you look and sound like an admissions insider.

Common App/CA
Remember when we had to handwrite every application to every school? Not so anymore. Today almost 700 colleges and universities across the US accept an electronic version of a common college application. With the click of a few buttons, your student can submit his or her information, test scores and the common app essay to multiple schools.

Think there is only one deadline to worry about? Think again.

Early Action Admissions. Students can now apply earlier to schools and find out earlier if he or she is accepted. If accepted, the student has the option of committing to that school or waiting until May to make a decision. It is fine to apply to multiple schools as an Early Action applicant and the acceptance is non-binding.

Restricted Early Action. Certain schools only allow students to apply EA to their school and no others. The decision is still non-binding and can be decided in May. It is just that no other school can have an EA application from the student.

Single Choice EA
Allows a student to apply to other PUBLIC universities EA but only to one PRIVATE college EA.

Early Decision Admissions – Deadline 1. This one is for the kid who is 1000% sure a school is right for them and wants to know earlier if he or she is going to go to that school. Only one application may be submitted as ED1 and the decision is binding. This means that if a student is accepted he or she is committed to that decision. All other applications must be pulled from any other school and the decision cannot be dependent on financial aid rewards.

Early Decision Admissions – Deadline 2. This operates the same as ED1, but with a later deadline and date of notification and still binding.

Regular Decision. You know, what we did. The deadline for admissions is usually December-February of the senior year.

Rolling Admissions
No deadlines. Apply when you are ready and receive a decision typically within a month.

Waitlist. The most dreaded acronym in the college process. It’s a solid maybe. Hang tight, the schools are waiting for commitments and declines before offering the next round of spots. Waitlists vary by schools – some are known to pull a lot from the list and others have had years where zero students are given a spot. These decisions come late – think May/June of senior year, sometimes after the dorms have been assigned. Just to bear in mind.


Not the same as Waitlisted. Most often received by Early Action or Early Decision applicants, deferred means your application has basically been converted to a regular application, to be reviewed again during the normal admission season with all the other applicants. For students who applied regular decision, deferred usually means the admissions office is waiting for more information, like grades, to make their decision.


A Dating Analogy for the Tinder Generation

Ok, so let’s think about this in terms of a dating relationship. The student is the newly single, hot-to-trot co-ed looking for long lasting love. The schools are the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes all vying for attention – some on Tinder. There are a lot of solid choices out there. No rush – just regular decisions. Others really capture the eye – if the co-ed could land one of those, she would not hesitate to swipe right. Think of them as EA (early action). Sometimes the sparks fly – love at first sight. Chemistry, romance, the whole nine yards. No one else will ever measure up – ED (early decision) all the way. The worst part in all dating scenarios, of course, is that the love interest can always say no…..the dreaded left swipe. A bit of a blow to the ego but, with enough options vying for attention, a perfect match can always be found.