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Essential SCU Admission Lingo

Are you beginning the college application process? As you browse through college websites, you’ve probably come across a lot of new terms. It can be a bit confusing, especially since universities often have their own vocabulary to explain what they offer. To clear up any confusion, we want to walk you through some terms that we use at Santa Clara University.


Are you beginning the college application process? Congratulations! There are so many opportunities for you to explore! The fun part is looking at different schools and determining which one is the right fit for you. As you browse through college websites, you’ve probably come across a lot of new terms. It can be a bit confusing, especially since universities often have their own vocabulary to explain what they offer. In order to clear up any confusion, we want to walk you through some terms that we use at Santa Clara University:

  • Core curriculum: This is a set of course requirements all Broncos have that they fulfill before they graduate. As a student, you still get to choose which classes you are taking, but we want to make sure that you challenge yourself in different areas. For example, one of the requirements is to take a class in the Arts. You get to choose if you want to take a Basic Watercolor class in the Studio Arts Department or something like Laptop Orchestra in the Music Department. Maybe you would rather take an Improv class in the Theatre Department - the choice is yours! While you will be an expert in whatever you choose to major (and maybe minor) in, we also want you to take classes outside of your expertise or comfort zone to provide you with a more well-rounded education.

  • Cura Personalis: One of our Jesuit values, this Latin phrase means "care for the person." Cura personalis is having concern and care for the development of the whole person. This implies a dedication to promoting human dignity and care for the mind, body, and spirit of each individual on our campus. When you come to SCU you are so much more than just a student, so we want you to develop wholly and fully, not just academically. This theme is something our students talk about often, and it is an important part of the SCU experience.

  • Demonstrated interest: We know there are a lot of colleges out there for you to choose from. We also know that there are a lot of special reasons that students want to be Broncos. Demonstrating your interest is how we know that YOU want to be a Bronco. There are many ways you can show us that you have done your research about SCU. A great place to start is to join our mailing list and attend an event through Virtual SCU. By doing either of these things, they automatically become part of your profile, and we will see that you took the time to learn more about SCU when we read your application. You can also visit campus or reach out to your admission counselor. Check out this blog post to learn more about demonstrating interest! When you go to college, you are joining a community, and we want to see that you have taken the time to learn about ours and see yourself as part of it. 

  • Early Decision (ED): Early Decision is an application track to apply to SCU, and there are actually two options: Early Decision I at our November 1st deadline and Early Decision II at our January 7th deadline. This application track is a binding commitment, meaning that you will enroll if admitted (basically: we are your first choice!), so it does have our highest admission rate. You, as the student, a parent or guardian, and your high school counselor will sign a binding contract when you apply. Students who apply EDI or EDII are eligible for financial aid, but they will not see their financial aid package until they have already committed to SCU.

  • Financial Aid: The cost of attending college these days is quite high. Most students at SCU are not paying the full sticker price, they are receiving some type of financial aid to help cover the cost. Students who are accepted to SCU and are offered financial aid will see this in their financial aid award package (often sent to students within 48 hours of being accepted). We offer two different types of financial aid at SCU: need-based aid (which could include grants, scholarships, work study, and/or loans) and merit-based aid (scholarships). Check out our Financial Aid Decoded blog post to learn more!

  • Holistic: In our admission process, we review applicants holistically, which means we review each application as a whole. We do not have a computer previewing your application, and we do not separate your application into different parts. We look at your grades and classes while also considering how you spend your time outside the classroom and with your community. We use both your statistics and your story to paint a better picture of who you are and what you would bring to our campus. In a holistic review, we see you as a whole person (sounds a little bit like cura personalis, right?) and recognize that we want to bring a diverse class to SCU. We are not looking for thousands of photocopies of the same student. We are looking for unique stories, talents, interests, and backgrounds.

  • Jesuit: Jesuit tradition, Jesuit mission, Jesuit values - these are phrases you will hear frequently at Santa Clara or other Jesuit universities! SCU celebrates being Jesuit both inside and outside the classroom, but what does being “Jesuit” mean? The Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, an international, Roman Catholic religious order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century. Since founding their first school in 1548, the Jesuits have always aimed to provide an education that forms students as whole persons who will change the world for the better. Students do not need to be Catholic to attend SCU, and the Jesuit ideals of social justice and building community can be lived out in multiple ways, such as through our immersion programs or Experiential Learning for Social Justice classes. Check out this past blog post about two students putting the Jesuit mission into action!

  • Rigor: We don’t just want to know your grades; we also want to know what type of classes you are taking - and have taken - and how you are challenging yourself. Rigor refers to the strength of your courses. There are different ways for your classes to be considered “rigorous.” This could mean taking honors, AP, or IB courses at your school or pursuing extra community college classes in addition to your high school curriculum. We also know that each high school is different and offers nuanced opportunities (at my own high school there were only 4 AP classes total and you couldn’t take them until senior year!). We look at what your school offers and any notes shared by your counselor or yourself to evaluate you within that context.

  • Supplements: The “supplements” are what we commonly call the Supplemental Writing Application on the Common Application. These are additional required questions that are specifically about Santa Clara University; we are the only college that will see your responses. They help us determine if SCU is a good fit for you and if you truly envision yourself on our campus and as part of our community. While these responses are not full essays, you should still do some research about SCU to answer them (see more tips on past supplemental questions here!). This is where you tell us not just “why college,” but “why Santa Clara.”
  • Test-optional (for students applying for Fall 2022): TRULY optional. There is no advantage to submitting scores, and there is no disadvantage to not submitting scores. Think about submitting standardized test scores (SAT or ACT) like the option to submit a resume with your application. It is not required, and it does not mean that students who submit a resume have a better chance of getting admitted. Test scores now work the same way. They are not required for scholarship consideration either. *Please note: if you are applying for a term after Fall 2022 the university has not yet published what our test policy will be, but we are likely to continue being test-optional. 


Hopefully defining these terms helps you get a better sense of Santa Clara University and what we are looking for throughout our application process. As you continue your college application journey, remember that it is absolutely okay if you come across a new term or phrase that is unfamiliar to you. If this happens, ask what it means! Speaking of, is there anything we missed in this article that you would like us to define?


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