FAFSA Deadline Update: The FAFSA deadline for TN Promise and the TN Student Assistance Award has been extended to March 1, 2022.

2+2 programs

A postsecondary pathway in which students begin at a community college where they complete general educational requirements over two or three years and then transfer to a university (for the remaining one or two years) to complete a bachelor’s degree.



Standardized college entrance exams. Many colleges and universities ask for ACT or SAT scores as part of the application process. ACT stands for American College Testing. SAT stands for Scholastic Assessment Test.



Notification from the college to which you applied that you are accepted. Students must respond by the given deadline to inform the college if they will accept the offer. Students accepted to multiple schools will want to compare their financial aid packages to help them decide which school to attend.



A college staff member or professor who helps a student plan and complete a course of study at a college or university.



A form that must be filled out to be considered for entry into a university, community college, or technical school; to be considered for a scholarship or grant; and, in many cases, to be considered for a job.


Associate Degree

A degree granted after successful completion of a course of study requiring approximately 60 credits, typically by a community or junior college. Full-time community college students taking 15 credits per semester can generally finish an associate degree in two years (also known as AA, AS, or AAS degree, short for Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science.)



A test to determine qualification for enlistment in the U.S. Armed Forces. It stands for Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.


Award Letter

Notice from a school of the amount and type of financial aid that the school is willing and able to provide a student.


Bachelor’s Degree

A degree earned for a course of study that normally requires 120 to 130 credits, involving specific classes related to the student’s major. Full-time students ideally complete a bachelor’s degree in four years, although changing majors, transferring institutions, taking fewer than 15 credit hours per semester, and/or taking courses that don’t count toward one’s declared major can make it take longer (also known as BA or BS, short for Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science.)



An official document attesting to a particular fact or accomplishment. In the postsecondary realm, students complete a series of specified courses, and sometimes an internship, and typically pass a test to obtain certificates in specific trades or areas of expertise required to work in those fields. Examples include welding, medical technology, auto mechanics, massage therapy, and court stenography.


Community College

A public postsecondary institution (Motlow State, for example) that offers courses to residents in the surrounding area. Students may attend community colleges to obtain associate degrees or technical certificates, or may take courses there toward a bachelor’s degree before transferring to a four-year university (2+2 pathway). Students can also take courses to enhance their skills in an area, or just for fun.


Cost of Attendance (COA)

The total cost of going to college, including tuition, fees, room and board, books, transportation, and personal expenses.



A period in which payment is not required. In the postsecondary realm, students can obtain deferment on paying their enrollment deposit as well as on paying interest and/or principal on student loans. Deferments do not last forever;eventually these payments must be made.


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program

A kind of administrative relief from deportation. This policy allows young children (under the age of 16) who came to the United States without documentation, and have been educated by U.S. school systems, the opportunity to remain in the U.S. by following specific guidelines.


Early Action

When a student applies for admission to a college by an early deadline (before the regular admission deadline) and receives notice of acceptance, denial, or deferment, with no obligation to the university to enroll.


Early Decision

When a student applies for admission to a college by an early deadline (before the regular admission deadline), with the understanding that if accepted, the student must enroll in that school. Students should apply for early decision only to their first choice school.


Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The portion of a family’s financial resources that should be available to pay for college, based on a federal formula using the information on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).



The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is an online form submitted annually by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine eligibility for student financial aid. Students who are eligible to file the FAFSA should complete it every year.


Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID

A user name and password used by current and prospective students and their parents to log into U.S. Department of Education Websites including the FAFSA Website. The ID is used to sign documents electronically (it has the same legal status as a written signature.)


Fee Waiver

Permission to not pay a fee, based on meeting some requirement or condition. In the postsecondary realm, waivers of college application fees and ACT or SAT fees are often available for students based on financial need.


Financial Aid Package

The amount and types of federal, state, and college aid that a college/university offers to a student it has accepted for admission, to offset the cost of attendance at their school. This is also referred to as an Award Letter. Depending on the package, sometimes it can be cheaper for a student to attend an expensive school because more aid is offered to offset the cost. This is why it is important to apply to the schools you want to attend, even if you don’t think you can afford it. There are different types of aid available including loans, work-study, scholarships, and grants.


Four-Year University

A postsecondary college/university that offers undergraduate (bachelors) degrees. Many four-year institutions also offer graduate (master’s) degrees.


Full-Time Student

A student who enrolls in at least a minimum number (determined by your college or university) of credit hours or courses.


Grade Point Average (GPA)

The average of all of the course grades you have received in high school, or in college, on a four-point scale.


Ivy League

A group of long-established colleges and universities in the eastern U.S. having high academic and social prestige. It includes Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania.


Letters of Recommendation

Letters of endorsement (often from high school teachers/staff) written on a student’s behalf during the college and/or job application process.



A concentration of study focused on a discipline, which requires completion of specific courses.



A college or university student’s declared secondary academic discipline during their undergraduate studies.



A meeting/event many colleges offer (hour-long or days-long) where incoming students and parents/guardians receive information about registering for classes, meet their advisor, and learn about school resources and policies.


Pell Grant

Money from the U.S. government to support a student’s education that does not have to be paid back. Pell Grants are awarded to U.S. citizens and legal residents based on financial need and timeliness of completing the FAFSA.


Placement Test

Colleges and universities may require students to take tests to determine the appropriate level of college math and/or English needed.


Postsecondary Education

The broadest term to describe any education beyond high school, including community college, university, technical school, etc.


Residence Hall

A building primarily providing living/sleeping quarters for large numbers of students. Also known as a dorm or dormitory and often referred to as “on-campus housing.”



A student who lives in and meets the residency requirements for the state where a public university is located. Tuition at public universities often is more expensive for non-residents.



A brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and previous work experience, typically sent with a job application.



Programs to train college students to become officers in the U.S. Armed Forces. ROTC stands for Reserve Officer Training Corps.


Room & Board

The cost of a room in a residence hall and a dining hall meal plan at a college or university.



Money to support a student’s education that does not have to be paid back. Scholarships are awarded based on academic, athletic, artistic, or other types of achievements, affiliations, or competitions.


Student Aid Report (SAR)

The SAR summarizes the information included on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The SAR provides the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is used to determine whether a student is eligible for a federal Pell Grant and other federal aid.


Student Loan

Money a student borrows to help pay for college, which must be paid back. Subsidized loans are offered to students who qualify financially as determined by the FAFSA. The federal government pays the interest while the student is in college. There are also unsubsidized loans where interest begins accruing as soon as the loan is accepted.


Summer Bridge Programs

Programs offered by many universities and some community colleges, which occur in the summer between high school graduation and fall transition to college. They offer students accelerated, focused learning opportunities that can help better prepare them to succeed in college.


Technical School

A general term used for a college that provides mostly employment-preparation skills for trained labor, such as welding and culinary arts. These programs generally take no more than two years to complete. Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) are examples of this kind of school.



An official academic record from a specific school which lists when you attended, the courses you have completed, grades, and sometimes test scores. Universities, colleges, and technical schools usually require high school transcripts be submitted as part of the application process.



The amount of money charged for instruction/classes at postsecondary institutions (see also cost of attendance.)



A term used to describe a student who has not yet selected a major at a college or university. Colleges typically ask students to pick their major by the end of their sophomore year.



A federal program that provides the opportunity for college students to work part-time jobs (often on the campus of the school they attend) to earn money to pay educational expenses. Students receive compensation in the form of a paycheck, much like a traditional job. Students must submit the FAFSA to be considered for work-study positions.

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