AB 540 is Assembly Bill 540, signed into law on October 12, 2001, by California Governor Gray Davis. It is adopted in California Education Code § 68130.5 and is a California state law that allows qualifying undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at state colleges. In order to qualify for AB 540 status, a student must (1) have attended a high school in California for three or more years; (2) have graduated from a California high school or attained the equivalent thereof (e.g. GED); (3) have filed an affidavit with the public state college or university stating s/he will file an application to legalize his/her immigration status as soon as s/he is eligible.


ACT stands for the American College Testing and tests students in English, mathematics, reading, and science. There is also an optional 30-minute essay portion. Students may take this examination in lieu of the SAT. Colleges use the ACT as an assessment tool for admission consideration. See also “PLAN Test” below.

Advanced Placement (or “AP”)

These are high school classes designated as college preparatory and are weighted for GPA and class ranking purposes. These are also examinations administered by the College Board for various subject matters (such as English, biology, etc.).


The graduate of a school, college, or university. The term “alumni” is plural, and the singular term is “alumnus.” College interviews are typically conducted by Alumni from the college. Many Alumni associations offer college scholarships.

Baccalaureate Degree

Often referred to as “Bachelor’s Degree.” This is an academic degree conferred by the college or university. The degree is granted upon completion of a specified undergraduate program – typically four years.

Big Four

These are four critical components designed by Quetzal Mama, that should be part of the student’s academic strategy: (1) Graduation Requirements, (2) College Preparation Requirements (A-G in California); (3) Discipline-Specific Preparation; and (4) Private/Selective University Preparation.

Campus Visit

This is a visit to the college or university, for purposes of evaluating the campus and meeting with key staff (admissions, financial aid, specialized programs, etc.). Typically, students will conduct campus visits during the summer of their junior year in high school. However, often this is not practical (for financial reasons), and therefore, many students wait until they have received admission to their top choices before scheduling a physical visit.

College Board

This board is a non-profit organization that administers several programs for students, including Advanced Placement® college-level courses and exams, the PSAT, SAT, and the SAT Subject tests.

College Essay

See Personal Statement.

College Fair

This is an event facilitated by various organizations in attempt to provide students with access to several colleges and universities. At the college fair, there are typically booths with attending representatives that are able to address questions concerning their respective college.

College Search

Research conducted by students and their parents in order to identify college(s) that match the student’s academic and other interests (location, curriculum, facilities, etc.). This search should also take into consideration the concepts of “match,” “safety,” and “reach” schools.

College Representative Visit

This is a formal visit to a high school, by a representative of a particular college or university, for purposes of providing information (and often recruitment) to high school students.

Common Application

The Common Application is an online application used by nearly all private and competitive universities (including Ivy League schools). As the name implies, the student will complete one “common” application online that will be sent to all of the universities to which s/he applies. The only variance is that some universities may also require supplemental essays. This single, online application allows students to submit to any of the participating 500 plus member colleges and universities. The application is used for first-year as well as transfer students. The Common Application has eight (8) sections for the applicant to complete. In addition, there is also an essay portion and sections for the counselor and teacher recommenders. Since it is an online form, the student can begin, save, and return later to complete. Find the application at

Community College

See Two-Year College

Cultural Authenticity

A student who has developed a cultural identity based on authentic life experiences within a cultural group and identifies positively with this group. See Chapter 14, “Extracurricular Activities.”

Cyber Profile

The profile provides a clever way to market your child intentionally by using social media tools and/or a blog or website that highlights your student’s academic achievements or extracurricular activities.

Deferred Admission

This is when an applicant has applied to a college, but the college has neither accepted nor rejected the candidate. A deferred candidate will remain in a special pool until the time the college has made an affirmative decision. Deferred candidates will receive admission notification at different times, depending on the college and/or the applicant pool.

Early Action

This option allows students to submit college applications earlier than the traditional January 1 deadline. Many selective universities offer an Early Action option, and typically the application is due by November 1 at midnight. These provide few restrictions and many advantages, including a statistical edge. This option is not to be confused with Early Decision. Applicants applying Early Action may apply to other colleges under the Regular Decision process but may not apply to any other college under either Early Action, Early Decision, or Restrictive Early Action (sometimes referred to as “Single Choice Early Action”). This means a student may apply to Stanford Restrictive Early Action, receive admission notification in early December (versus March 30 or later), and maintain applicant status at any other college where an application has been made. The student does not need to accept Stanford’s offer of admission and can wait until May 1 to accept a preferred offer of admission.

Early Decision

This option is different from Early Action in that it is a binding and has financial implications. You can find the respective college’s policy on Early Decision on their admissions webpage. Early Decision requires the student to accept the admission offer upon early notification, thereby declining any other admission offers from one or multiple universities. This has a detrimental financial impact on Latino students because it does not allow them to consider or negotiate other financial aid awards.

Extracurricular Activities

These are any activities above and beyond the required curriculum. Activities can be completed in middle or high school, throughout the school year, or in the summer. Extracurricular activities can include sports, music, on-campus clubs, leadership programs, fine arts, governance (student council, Associated Student Body), volunteer or community service, and discipline-specific activities (internships, research, or competitions).


Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is required for all students who wish to be considered for any form of financial aid by the college (tuition), or scholarship organization. The FAFSA is required each year the student attends college. For more information, go to www.

Fee Waiver

Exención de Pago. The waiver, provided by the school guidance counselor, the college/university, or the College Board eliminates payment of a fee. For example, a student may request a fee waiver for the ACT, PSAT, SAT, Subject Tests, or AP exams. Or, the student may request a fee waiver for the college application.

First Generation College Student

This term refers to a student whose parents have not received a four-year college degree in the U.S.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

This federal law allows you to request and to obtain certain documents from a pre-school, public or private elementary school, or secondary school.


This state-funded program in public K-12 schools is for intellectually “gifted” students.


Grade Point Average. GPA is calculated each semester by the number of grade points earned for credits attempted, on a scale from 0 to 4 (e.g. A grade = 4.0). Selective colleges and universities will carefully review your student’s GPA and class rank. The student’s Cumulative Grade Point Average is a calculation of the average of the student’s cumulative grades throughout their academic tenure.

Geographic Diversity

Geographic diversity, as a strategic tool, refers to two things. First, it refers to students selecting college campuses within a significant distance from the student’s current residence. For example, if the student resides in California but applies to colleges in the mid west or east. This term also refers to the way colleges seek to diversity their incoming classes with students from across the U.S.

Graduate School

A program of study, beyond a 4-year undergraduate degree, that leads to a Master’s Degree, Doctorate, or both.


The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized exam used to measure aptitude for analytical writing, mathematics and vocabulary. This examination is often an admission criteria for many graduate schools.


This term refers to courses taken during middle and high school that are more rigorous. An Honors course typically has prerequisites and/or permission may be required by a counselor or instructor. The term “honors” may also refer to distinction given at graduation for a student who obtains a certain GPA or other academic accomplishment.


This term refers to one or several unique characteristics that may set a student apart from the rest of the applicant pool. It is that little distinction, or “hook” that makes a student’s college application stand out. Some examples of “hooks” include ethnic heritage, socioeconomic status, first-generation college student, demonstrated leadership, geographic diversity (see this term above), national distinction (AP Scholar, National Hispanic Scholar, Intel or Siemens finalist or winner, etc.), special talents (First Chair Cellist, State-Level Chess Champion, etc.), or a Legacy (see term for definition).


International Baccalaureate is a challenging two-year high school program that may lead to an IB Diploma. See Chapter 16, “College Terms and Definitions – AP and IB Examinations.”

Impacted Programs

These programs are highly selective programs of study or “majors” at a college or university that allow only a small percentage of students to enroll. Selectivity may be due to the popularity of the program, or limitations due to other factors (limited budget, faculty, or resources). Some impacted programs require upper class standing in order to apply to the program.

In-State (Resident) Student

: In-State tuition and fees are typically subsidized, and therefore less expensive, versus out-of-state tuition and fees. Qualification criteria varies by state, so view the admissions website to determine the college’s In-State Residency requirement.

Ivy League

This is a term that refers to the “crème de la crème” of academia, associated with academic excellence and an extremely difficult admission selection process. The eight Ivy League schools include Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.


This term refers to the status of an applicant. Legacy status may improve the applicant’s chance of admission. To qualify for legacy status, the student’s immediate family member(s) must have attended (or currently attend) the college.

Letter of Recommendation

This is a letter required by college admissions (as part of the application) and/or scholarship committees. It addresses several student characteristics. On the Common Application, the letters of recommendation and evaluation must be from two teachers and one secondary school counselor. A strong letter of recommendation should include the following four (4) components: Rank in Class, Comparison Amongst Classmates, Personal Disposition, and Special Circumstances.

Likely Letter

The Likely Letter is an extremely rare letter from Ivy League schools and a few extremely selective private universities. It is like winning the lottery. Likely Letters are letters sent to the very strongest candidates in their applicant pool. The purpose of the Likely Letter is to provide the exceptional student with an early notification of admittance, hoping this gesture will psychologically predispose this student to matriculate at their campus (versus the other campuses that will undoubtedly be recruiting them as well). The letter will say that although the university is barred from providing such an early official acceptance letter (due to Ivy League legal regulations), the likely letter serves as an unofficial wink from Admissions that your child has indeed been accepted.

Match School

A Match School is a college that “matches” the student’s overall academic profile, with respect to the academic profile of admitted students at this school. The matching factors should include GPA, class rank, SAT or ACT test scores, and academic distinction.

National Hispanic Scholar

This national distinction is designated by the College Board each year. Approximately 5,000 Latino high school students earn this distinction annually. Qualifying criteria is based on each state and changes annually.

Out-of-State (Non-Resident) Student

Colleges and universities typically have higher admission standards for Non-Resident students and/or International students. In addition, some campuses have higher admission standards for particular majors. Tuition and other expenses are significantly higher for Non-Resident applicants/students. View the admissions page of the university you are considering to determine the campus’ eligibility criteria for in-state and out-of-state residency status. See also AB540 above.

Personal Statement

This is also referred to as the “College Essay.” The Personal Statement is a required component in the student’s application to a college or university. This term may also be used to describe a statement required for some scholarship applications.


This is the pre-test for the ACT. It is a curriculum-based test, typically taken in the 10th grade, and is similar to the ACT test. It is a good predictor for a future ACT score.


A prompt is a question or statement, generally contained in a college application or scholarship application, and requires the student to respond in written (essay) form.


Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is an exam taken in the tenth and eleventh grades and commonly referred to as PSAT. It helps students prepare for the SAT and measures three areas: critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills and writing skills.

Quetzal Mama

The term identifies a proud Latina mom who will do anything to ensure her children fulfill their chosen path. She provides her children with every opportunity for success and removes all barriers. A Quetzal Mama knows her children have unique gifts and talents and will make a profound contribution to society.

Quetzal Mama Principles

These 10 principles are essential for the success of Latino students and identify a philosophical approach to nurturing and to raising our future Latino leaders.

Rank (Class Rank)

Rank or “Class Rank” is a method used by the high school Registrar to calculate where the student is “ranked” compared to the rest of the high school class. For example, a class rank of 1/735 would mean that this student had the highest GPA in the senior class of 735 students. Many competitive universities will recruit students from within the top 5 percent of the graduating class. In this scenario, that would mean the students “ranked” in the spots 1 through 36 would belong to the top 5 percent. Keep in mind Ivy League schools will be looking at the weighted GPA in considering class rank. This is because the weighted rank considers and factors the Honors, and AP/IB courses (those that are considered the most difficult).


Reasonable Chance of Admission is a common-sense method to assess whether the student’s profile is consistent with the admitted class of the school(s) being considered. It takes into account your profile and extenuating circumstances.

Reach School

This is a college a student may consider applying, but his/her academic profile is not a “match” and is not superior to the profile of admitted students. The factors taken into consideration to determine whether the school is a “match,” “reach,” or “safety” school include GPA, class rank, SAT or ACT test scores, and academic distinction.

Regular Decision

Regular Decision is the traditional college application process. Students apply by the posted application deadline (generally January 1) and receive admission notification late spring (generally March 30) of their senior year of high school. An admission decision may be rendered sooner than March 30 if the campus is on a “Rolling Admission” cycle. It is a non-binding process, and students may apply to as many schools as they wish via “Regular Decision.” An admission decision by the student is made on or before May 1.

Safety School

This is a college where a student will most likely be admitted because the student’s academic profile is superior to the profile of admitted students. The profile factors should include GPA, class rank, SAT or ACT test scores, and academic distinction.


Scholastic Aptitude Test is an exam administered by the College Board, testing critical reading, writing, and math. See Chapter 16, “College Terms and Definitions.”

SAT Subject Test

The one-hour examination is administered by the College Board and is given in one of 20 specific subject areas. See Chapter 16, “College Terms and Definitions.”


This is a term that references the degree to which a college or university admits or denies admission. Colleges with extremely high admission criteria, that admit very few students, is considered a highly selective school. An example of a highly selective school is Harvard University. Compare this to a campus that admits nearly all candidates. To determine the degree of selectivity for a campus being considered, visit the freshman applicant profile listed on the admissions page.


A transcript is a cumulative record of the student’s academic history. In addition to GPA (both weighted and un-weighted), the transcript will contain all courses taken, as well as any applicable Honors designation, recognition programs, or academic distinction. The transcript will not include middle school grades, unless the student took high school level coursework while in middle school. The transcript may also include state proficiency exam scores (if applicable in your state), SAT and Subject Matter test scores, and AP and IB test scores. It may also show whether your student has had an academic issue (academic dishonesty, etc.). Admissions officers will view the transcript carefully to discern the rigor of the student’s curriculum, rank in class, and number of students in the class.

Two-Year College

Sometimes referred to as a “Community College,” “Junior College,” “City College,” or “Technical College.” This is a two-year, public institution, that offers Associate of Arts or Associate of Science Degrees, as well as pathways to transfer to a four-year university.

Un-Weighted GPA

This is the calculated average of the student’s cumulative high school grades based on a standard 4.0 scale. Most colleges will consider both your weighted and un-weighted GPA.


The title is conferred upon the highest ranked student within a graduating high school class. This student traditionally delivers the keynote speech at the graduation commencement.

Weighted GPA

These are extra points or “weight” added to a standard GPA. The weighting factors and calculates classes that are considered more challenging such as AP, IB, or Honors courses.
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