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The Admission Professional’s Glossary
Claire Hollowell

If you’re relatively new to the world of admissions, you may be a little confused by all the jargon. To help you make sense of it all, we’ve put together this handy glossary of helpful admission and enrollment terms.




Not to be confused with enrollment, acceptance is the decision that a prospective student is eligible to enroll in a particular school. Once a student has been accepted, they can decide whether to enroll or not. The period between acceptance and enrollment is critical for relationship management, ensuring a prospect stays engaged with your school. Personal engagement is often a major factor in the prospective family’s decision process over where to enroll.


This is a former student who has graduated from your school. Alumni are often the best sources of support through testimonials, financial contributions, appearances at events, and their desire to send their children to be educated at their alma mater.

Alma Mater

This is the school that an individual previously graduated from. Previous students often feel a sense of loyalty and affection toward their alma mater, and may send their children to the school they once attended, for a similar educational, college preparatory, and social and leadership development experience.


Attrition is the number of students who leave an educational program before they have finished, i.e. before they have graduated. To find your attrition rate, divide the number of students who have left your school by your total number of students, and multiply the result by 100. [ATTRITION RATE (%) = (Number of leaves ÷ number of students) x 100]. Effective relationship management can help you identify students at risk of leaving before they simply un-enroll, and determine what additional support they may need to see out the year(s) to graduation.


CMS (Content Management System)

A Content Management System, or CMS, is a piece of software that allows users to create, edit, show and hide, and otherwise, modify content on a website without the need to write code. In other words, a CMS–such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla–can allow a school to maintain its website without anyone on site needing to know how to code. This easy updating allows schools to rapidly optimize their messaging and design choices around what works best for them, and experiment with different language, images, and layouts.

Committee Review

Admissions committees face tough decisions! In a committee review, admissions officers will discuss applicants’ qualifications, personal qualities, values fit, extracurricular interests, special circumstances, and other criteria that may affect their acceptance.

Common Application

The common application allows families to apply to multiple schools without having to repeat standard information on forms for each school. Accepting the common application tends to increase application volume for a school, but can decrease yield, as applicants apply to a larger number of schools overall.

Communication Plans

communication plan is a road map for delivering your messages to the people who need to hear them, such as students, their families, alumni, donors, and faculty and staff. Communication plans are a key part of maintaining relationships with prospective students and allies of the school to maintain application rates, enrollment rates, and drive fundraising.

Continuous Enrollment (also known as Evergreen Contracts or Perpetual Enrollment) 

Continuous enrollment is an enrollment philosophy and practice in which once a student enrolls in a school, they remain enrolled until they either graduate or deliberately un-enroll. Often practiced in colleges and universities, continuous enrollment helps prevent student attrition by removing the annual obstacle of re-enrolling from the process for students’ family.

Conversion Rate

The number of potential families, or inquiries who fully enroll at your school. The rate is found by dividing the number of enrolled students (50) by the number of total interested or prospective families (1,000). For example, if 50 of the 1,000 students interested in your school enrolled, your conversion rate would be 5%. 

C-Suite (also known as C-Level)

C-Suite is a term used mostly in the corporate world to represent a collection of senior executives that include “chief” in their titles. For example, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO), etc.

CRM (Client Relationship Management)

CRM, or Client Relationship Management system, is a technology for managing all of your school’s relationships and interactions with families and prospective families. These school admissions software tools are designed to simplify tedious record-keeping making an easily edited central repository for student and prospect information and can help you see what steps to take next with each prospective family. 



An application denial is the rejection of a prospective student’s application for admission. Unfortunately, the number of students who want to attend a school is often greater than the number of available seats, and some very good candidates must be denied. 

This is not always the end of the prospective family’s relationship with the school, as applicants may try again next year. Need to manage sending out application denials while still keeping your prospective parents as friends and allies of your school?

Draft Applicant (also known as Draft Application)

An applicant who’s in the process of completing their application form. Some of these draft applicants may have previously inquired with your school, whereas some may have straight applied. Families that previously inquired should have records in your CRM with contact information so that you can interact with them.  Having the ability to interact with these draft applicants is critical to your conversion rates and yield.



An enrolled student has completed all admission and registration requirements and can begin attending classes. 


Feeder School

A feeder school is a school from which alumni tend to graduate into a particular school at the next grade level. Identifying existing feeder schools and building relationships with potential feeder schools can help increase a school’s applicant pool by creating a natural expectation that families from particular earlier grade level schools will apply for your school when the children graduate.


Ghost Applications (also known as Stealth Applicant or Shadow Applicant)

A ghost application is an application from a prospective student who does not first pass through the traditional steps of inquiry, such as an open house or admissions event attendance. These students first become known to your school when they fill out an online application. Wonder where your ghosts come from? We’ve got an article just for you admissions professionals who know “once they’re on campus, I’ve got ’em!”

GTP (Gateway to Prep)

Gateway to Prep is a website that allows online applications to multiple schools. This site allows parents to submit the candidate student’s profile, essays, and recommendations, then apply to several schools at once.


HSPT (High School Placement Test)

The HSPT or High School Placement Test is a standardized test used by many high schools across the U.S. to aid admissions, scholarship selection, and curriculum placement decisions.



As part of the application process, the interview can help determine whether a prospective student is a good fit for the school and vice versa, as well as giving a glimpse of their academic and extracurricular interests, learning style, and personality. Check out 12 admissions interview questions to ask, as well as 6 tips to improve your interview process



A legacy applicant or legacy student is an applicant or student related to a family member who has attended a particular school. Some schools may grant favored admission status or set aside specific tuition assistance dollars for these students.


Common in charter schools with many more applicants than available slots, a lottery system is a random drawing of applicants, by hand or by computer, to select a school’s incoming class. A lottery is usually blind, giving all students an equal chance of acceptance, but some schools may give preference to students with siblings attending the school, particularly disadvantaged groups, or students who meet certain other admissions criteria.

LMS (Learning Management System)

A learning management system is a software that allows students to learn and study on their own time at their own pace. This personalized education approach can do more than distributing homework; it can help support students with disabilities, different learning styles, or simply family lifestyles with a lot of travel and unpredictable schedules.

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Matriculation is the formal process of entering a college or university. Publicly available matriculation statistics for your alumni can encourage prospects to inquire at your school by helping to assure prospective families that attendance at your school can help students get into the college or university of their choice.


Merit aid is financial aid given to students who contribute a particular talent to the school’s culture and prestige, such as academic, athletic, or artistic excellence. This financial aid can help students attend a school their families otherwise could not afford and can help enhance a school’s reputation for excellence. Students may need to maintain a certain grade point average or other eligibility criteria to continue receiving this type of financial aid.

[Read: Financial aid hacks to help your school enroll more students]


Net Tuition

Net tuition revenue is the amount of revenue your school receives from tuition and fees, minus any institutional aid your school provides to students to help them afford the cost of attendance. Tracking your net tuition revenue can help you determine whether your school needs to enroll more or fewer partial pay students in order to cover operating expenses.

Notification Date

The notification date is the date on which prospective families receive admissions decisions from your school. Although this is sometimes called Decision Day, it is not necessarily the date on which admissions decisions are actually made.


Open Enrollment

A school with open enrollment does not restrict admissions and will educate all eligible students who come to its doors. Learn more about how SchoolAdmin can help you manage your enrollment process.


Partial Pay

Partial pay students pay tuition, but not the full sticker price of attending your school. In particular, partial pay students receive some amount of financial aid from your school directly and therefore do not generate net tuition revenue equal to the cost of their tuition. Accepting partial pay students can be advantageous, because the net tuition revenue they generate is positive overall, and/or because their skills, talents, and academic excellence enhance the prestige or mission of the school.

Perpetual Enrollment

See Continuous Enrollment.


A person interested in your company, business, or product. Someone who has a need, desire, or interest in what you offer. For a school, a prospect would be a student or family who is interested in attending and enrolling at your school. 



Whereas enrollment is the process of granting a student a seat in the incoming class, registration is the actual paperwork–even if that paper is digital–of obtaining identity documents, immunization records, any remaining placement exam results, and similar records, and determining a student’s class schedule.


Retention describes the rate at which students return the following academic year, or remain enrolled in your school.

[Read: How to build and operationalize a retention committee at your school]

Revisit Day

A day for accepted students to come back to the school and visit. This event gives a school another chance to interact with students and allows students to envision themselves at the school, knowing they were accepted. 

ROI (Return on Investment)

Return on Investment is the ratio between spending on an initiative and the revenue it generates. In other words, it is a measure of the success of a campaign, such as an awareness or recruitment campaign for your school.

An ROI ratio of 5:1 is generally considered strong for a recruitment campaign. If your ROI is lower, you may want to consider learning more heavily upon the individual strategies producing the best ROI and cutting back on those that are performing relatively poorly.

Rolling Admission

Under a rolling admission policy, prospective students may submit their application at any time during a large time window, or at any time during the year until all available seats in the class have been filled. This can be a helpful policy for a school that faces low enrollment, to raise its application rate.


SAO (Standard Application Online)

The Standard Application Online, or SAO, is an online school application that endeavors to streamline the process of applying to multiple independent schools. Students seeking to enter any grade from pre-kindergarten to post-graduate can use this application. 

[Read: Simplify your application process with SchoolAdmin’s SAO integration]


Scholarships for private schools often come in the form of voucher programs, which award financial aid to students based on financial need. Scholarship money may be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, or by lottery among qualified applicants. Scholarships often do not completely cover the cost of tuition.

In addition to financial need, some scholarships may be awarded on the basis of academic merit; see Merit Aid.


Selectivity measures the percentage of students who apply to a school who are admitted. The lower the percentage, the more selective the school is. A school with high selectivity can focus on students who are the very best mission fit.

Shadow Applicant

See Ghost Applications.

Shadow Day 

Shadow Days are an opportunity to entice prospective students and their families with a taste of what student life is like at your campus. Prospective students may have the opportunity to attend classes, eat lunch in the cafeteria, and get to know others at the school. Shadow Days also give schools a chance to determine whether a prospective student is a good fit for the mission and culture of the school and whether they could excel here.

SIS (Student Information System)

A student information system is a software application that allows schools to manage student data. This includes uses like registering students for classes, recording grades, storing and updating transcripts, tracking attendance, and other information management functions.

Stealth Applicant

See Ghost Applications.

Summer Melt

Prospective students who “melt” during the summer have enrolled and put down a deposit, but don’t appear in the fall to begin the school year. To ensure that your enrollment numbers reflect the class size and tuition projections you had in May, the summer is a vital time for maintaining relationships with your prospects. 

[Watch: Virtually freezing summer melt]



The school tour is an excellent opportunity to share your school’s unique value proposition with prospective students and their families. By guiding a visit through your campus, you can showcase the educational programs, opportunities for fun, play, and social interaction, campus diversity, and culture of your school in a way that allows prospective students to picture themselves there.

Transfer Student

A transfer student has un-enrolled from one school to enroll in a new one. Students often request transfers for reasons such as moving houses, dealing with bullying, or tuition affordability.


Tuition is the main source of revenue for most private schools, consisting of annual or semester fees for student instruction.

Tuition Assistance

Tuition assistance is any financial aid, either from the school itself, vouchers, government or nonprofit grants or scholarships, or other sources, that helps families to pay the cost of tuition.



Desirable schools will often be faced with more qualified applicants than available seats. The waitlist is a means of keeping additional qualified applicants on hold until a school knows if all of the accepted applicants will enroll. Waitlisted students may be accepted later if previously accepted applicants decide not to attend.

A waitlist can help mitigate a shortfall in enrollment numbers due to low or unpredictable yield.



Yield is a measure of the number of students accepted from an applicant pool who actually attend the school. You can calculate yield by dividing the number of accepted students by the number of students who choose to attend. [YIELD= # of accepted students ÷ # of students who attend]. 

A higher yield will produce more tuition revenue, along with more prestige through the positive image families have of more highly selective schools. Schools with a higher yield can afford to be more selective in acceptance.

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