Terms to Know, Part 1

Whether you just stumbled across our site or have already submitted an AmeriCorps application, you might be a little confused by some of the higher education access and success jargon we use. Check out this list of terms to know as you read more about our work!


ACT/SAT – A standardized college entrance exam high school students take during their junior or senior year. Most colleges and universities require students to submit their ACT or SAT score. Often, the more competitive a school, the higher scores they look for. On average, College Possible high school juniors raise their scores by more than 20 percent. Learn about our results.

Degree Divide – What we’re working to close! The degree divide refers to the difference in bachelor’s degree attainment rates between low-income and upper-income students. According to Pell Institute, in 2013, 9 percent of students from the bottom income quartile graduated with a four-year degree, while 77 percent of students from the highest income quartile did.

FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students must fill out the FAFSA each year they plan to attend college if they want to receive federal aid, often in the form of grants or work-study positions.

Persistence rate – The percentage of first-year college students who return for a second year of college. Persisting from their first to second year is an important milestone in a student’s college journey. (Different from retention rate—the percentage of students who stay at the same institution from their first to second year of college).

Summer melt – The phenomenon where high school senior students are set to start their first year of college in the fall, but “melt away” over the summer and don’t end up enrolling. College Possible hosts Summer Bridge sessions throughout the summer to ensure students are completing the necessary steps—like registering for classes, confirming financial aid and ordering books—to begin college in the fall.

Undermatching – When a student selects a postsecondary institution that is less rigorous or less selective than their academic profile. Low-income students are more prone to undermatch, and those who do often pay more to attend institutions with fewer resources and lower graduation rates.

Want to help us close the degree divide? Apply to serve as an AmeriCorps member!

  • Meet Destiny

    “My College Possible coaches haven’t just helped me increase my ACT score and apply to colleges; they’ve made me feel confident in myself.”

    Read their story
  • Meet Jessica

    “Making it through college, a step that people think is impossible for students with backgrounds like mine, is the most amazing thing.”

    Read their story
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