College Dictionary: Acronyms You’ll Come Across

All these acronyms can get confusing, so here's our college dictionary

Flickr user janet galore

Acronyms are a huge part of our every day lives. For example, we use them to abbreviate phrases. We use them to send quick texts and emails. We even use them to classify certain things! However, some acronyms are hard to figure out. For example, you know what FYI is. But what about EFC? Don’t worry. This is where our college dictionary comes in!

To start, let’s break down the acronyms you’ll see. Whether it’s during your college search or application, we have you covered. Let’s get into our college dictionary!

Note: Keep in mind, this list does not have student loan acronyms. However, student loan acronyms are in another college dictionary article!

College Application Acronyms

  • ACT

American College Testing. This is one of the two college standard exams. Keep in mind, most schools will want either your ACT or SAT scores.

  • SAT

Scholastic Aptitude Test. This is one of the two college standard exams. Remember, most colleges will want either your SAT or ACT scores.

  • AP

Advanced placement. These high school classes are harder. There is also the AP Test. Students can choose to take the test and even get college credit.

  • GED

General educational development certificate. The GED is equal to a high school diploma.

  • GPA

Grade point average. Typically, a GPA is on a 4.0 scale.

  • SSN

Social security number. Many forms ask for your social security number.


Test of English as a Foreign Language. This is a standardized test for non-U.S. students. Additionally, it’s for students whose first language is not English. Students usually plan on either going to college or studying abroad in the U.S.

  • CRDA

Candidates Reply Date Agreement. Something most colleges follow. Students have until May 1st to accept or decline any college offers.

  • EA

Early Action. Students can submit an application sooner. In turn, you get a decision back sooner. Keep in mind, early action is non-binding. That means if you’re accepted, you don’t have to enroll.

  • ED

Early Decision. Students can submit an application to their first choice college sooner. In turn, you will get a decision earlier. However, early decision is binding. That means if you’re accepted, you have to enroll.

College Financial Planning Acronyms


Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA lets students apply for federal and state aid. Many private scholarships also need students to fill out the FAFSA.

  • EFC

Estimated/Expected family contribution. How much a family can potentially pay out of their own pocket for a student’s education.

  • EFA

Estimated financial assistance (or Estimated financial aid). Potentially how much financial aid a school says a specific student can get.

  • AGI

Adjusted gross income. This is information found on federal tax returns. It’s used to see your financial need.

  • SAP

Satisfactory academic progress. The academic requirements that you need to get and maintain. Remember, you need to meet the requirements to keep getting certain financial aid.

  • COA

Cost of attendance. How much it may cost for a student to attend a college/university. This also includes all education-related costs.

  • FAO

Financial aid office, or, Financial aid officer.

  • FAT

Financial aid transcript.

  • SAR

Student aid report. A report sent to the student to show their calculated EFC.

  • FFS

Family financial statement. A need analysis application form.

  • FWS

Federal work study. A part-time job that grants financial aid.

  • SFA

Student financial aid/assistance.

Hopefully our college dictionary cleared some things up for you! Of course, these aren’t all the acronyms out there. Remember, we also have another post for student loan acronyms!

Use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover individualized college matches, personalized college cost estimates, your acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools around the country!


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