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ELC - English Language Center Boston
College Application Vocabulary July 17th, 2015

We here in Boston call our city the Hub of the Universe because we believe that we’re the center of everything! We’re definitely a center of higher education: there are more than 100 colleges and universities in and around the city itself.  Besides famous schools like Harvard and MIT, we have colleges for art, theater, music, medicine, pharmaceutical science, and many more!  Deciding which college you’d like to attend can be very difficult, but once you’ve made the decision, what should you do next? Here are some important words you should know:


Every college has a series of forms that you need to fill out with your personal information. Most of them can be found online.  Conveniently, a lot of colleges use the Common Application, so you do not always have to fill out a different form for every school.  You do, however, have to pay a small fee each time!

Essay/Personal Statement

You’ll be doing so much writing in college; this is your first chance to show off what you can do! The topic of the personal statement can differ from school to school.  One of the examples from the Common Application, for instance, is “The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?”  Use your personal statement to share something of your unique self with college administrators and to showcase your writing skills! Ask your teachers at ELC (very nicely!) if they can give you any tips or advice.

Admission Tests

American students applying for college needs to take tests like the SAT or ACT.  Some colleges require these tests for international students as well.  If English is not your first language, you will also be asked to take a test like the TOEFL or IELTS.  Make sure to research the requirements for international students at each school you apply to, as they will likely differ in which tests they are willing to accept, and what scores they are seeking.


Most schools ask you to provide recommendation letters from teachers, counselors, or community leaders. These letters are meant to support your application to college and show why you would be a great fit there. If you ask a teacher or anyone else for a recommendation, you must do so politely and with the understanding that they are not obligated to say yes. Ask them as far in advance as you can; the chances of them helping you are lessened if they only get a few days’ notice. Make sure to give them all of the information they’ll need; schools will sometimes want specific forms filled out. If a school wants the recommender to send the letter directly to them without giving it to you first (which is common), provide them with a stamped and addressed envelope for that purpose. And when the letter has been submitted, make sure to write them a thank you note!


Not all colleges require one of these, but if you can schedule one you definitely should! Your interview, like your essay, is a chance for the college to see you as an individual. Like a job interview, you want to make the best first impression you can. Dress professionally, be on time, and mind your manners!


This is the formal report of your grades from your secondary school or any other college or university you have attended. The format may differ from school to school. Be in touch with the administration at your secondary school and ask them what they normally send to colleges in terms of student records.


These refer to anything outside of your schoolwork. Play on a sports team? That counts. Act in the drama club? That counts, too. Have an after school job? Ditto. Colleges and universities aren’t just looking for good students. They want people who will contribute to the atmosphere and environment of their school—people who will join clubs and run for student government and make the university look good. Make sure to list as many of these as you can think of!


This is the amount of money it will cost you to attend a particular college or university for a year. It doesn’t always include the cost of meals, books, or living in the dormitories, so make sure to check on those things. Tuition in the United States is quite expensive and getting more so all the time. If you can, you should apply for financial aid from the school, though this is unfortunately an option that colleges don’t offer to international students. But you might be eligible for a scholarship—money based on your accomplishments and talents that doesn’t have to be paid back. Check in with the colleges you’re applying to and see what they have to offer.

All of this probably looks pretty intimidating! Happily, one of the programs offered at ELC is our University Pathways Program. If you’re a part of this program, you’ll have access to an ELC advisor to guide you through the application process, a chance to tour local universities, and much more—including access to a network of universities connected with ELC that will waive TOEFL or IELTS scores if you’ve passed your ELC classes. Click here for more info: https://elc.edu/english-courses/academic-english-programs/university-pathways-program/.


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