College Lingo


Academic Adviser- College staff or faculty member who assists students (advisees) with course selection, developing an academic plan, and providing advice regarding careers and/or graduate school.  

 Academic Standing- Educational standing of a student based on his or her grade point average (GPA). Academic standing can be computed at college level, school level, or major level.  

Accreditation- The oversight of a university, college, or academic program by one or more outside organizations. Accreditation organizations certify that an institution is following certain guidelines and policies.  

 Adjunct Faculty-  a professor who teaches on a limited-term contract, often for one semester at a time, and who is ineligible for tenure.   

  Alumni- Graduates of a college or university.  

 Associate Degree- Requires completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours of academic work and is considered the first level of college degrees.  


Bachelor's Degree- Requires the completion of a minimum of 120 credit hours of academic work, sometimes including a concentration in one or more academic majors.  


Class Standing- Refers to a student's official year in school -- first-year (freshman), sophomore, junior, or senior -- based on the number of college credits completed.  

 Commencement- Graduation  

 Concentration- An area of specialization, focusing on a core number of classes in a very specific field. In some majors, students need to choose at least one concentration.  

 Course Catalog- Official list of programs and courses offered at a college or university that outlines critical information about admissions and academic requirements.   

 Course Load- The number of credit hours for which a student is enrolled in a given semester.  

Course Name/Number- A cataloging system that contains a series of letters and numbers to designate a course by the department that teaches it and the academic level. For example, ENGL 150 is a freshman-level course taught in the English department. 

Course Section- When the same course is offered multiple times in the same semester, each course is designated with a section number. For example, ENGL 150-001, ENGL 150-002, etc.  

CRN- Course Reference Number. Used to specify each particular section of a course.  

 Credit Hour- A unit of measurement that determines the amount of class time required each week of a term. In a typical semester system, a 3-hour class requires classes to meet in three 50 minute sessions or two one hour and fifteen minute sessions.  


Dean- The top administrator and academic officer within a college or school.  

Dean's List- A high academic honor that is awarded each semester based on student GPA. 

Degree Audit- An evaluation of a student's progress (courses completed, grades received) in his or her degree program (majors and minors).  

Department Chair- A faculty member who manages an academic department, and typically the person to see when a student is having scheduling problems or issues with a particular faculty member.  


Elective Course- A course that is not required for any major, minor, or general education requirements, but used to fulfill the credit hours required for a degree. Most degree programs allow for at least a few elective courses.  

Extracurricular activities- Groups you belong to outside of class, such as sporting teams, clubs and organizations.  


FAFSA- Free Application for Federal Student Aid. A form completed by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.  

FERPA- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.  

Final Exams- A comprehensive and cumulative (final) exam that often represents all of the topics from a class and take place the final week of the semester (i.e., the week after week 15 in fall and spring semesters).  

Financial Aid- Money that is given or lent to students in order to help pay for their education.  

Freshman/First-Year Student- Undergraduate student who has earned fewer than 30 credit hours.  

Full-Time Student- A student who is enrolled in at least 12 credit hours during a given term.  


General Education- Set of required curriculum/courses that all students are required to take, including courses in math, English, science, communication, culture, society, etc.   

Grade Point Average (GPA)- A numeric measure of a student's class performance in a given period or over a number of credits. 

Grant- A form of financial aid from a non-profit organization (such as the government) that you do not have to repay. 


Hold- A hold (or registration hold) can be placed on a student’s account due to academic dismissal, not fulfilling required faculty advising, a disciplinary problem, money owed to the University, failure to return library books and/or other supplies, or non-compliance with housing and health center regulations.  


Incomplete Grade- A temporary grade that faculty can award a student who, for reasons outside his or her control (illness, death in family, etc.) cannot complete all coursework and assignments in a given term. Students have one semester following the incomplete to complete the course requirements. 

Interdisciplinary Studies- Programs, majors, minors that use a combination of classes from two or more academic disciplines, often to compensate for not having the resources for a complete program. 

Internship- An opportunity for students to gain critical real-world hands on experience in their chosen field of study.  




Lab/Laboratory Class- Learning environment in which hands-on work is completed, typically in science and foreign languages. Is often tied to a lecture portion of a course. 

Lecture- A class session in which the instructor speaks on a specific topic or topics during class.  

Loan- A form of financial aid that you must repay.  


Major- A concentration of courses that is a student's primary course of study. Students must major in a subject while in college.  

Mid-Term Exams- An exam given toward the middle of the term. Often used to establish mid-term grades.  

Minor- A secondary course of study, typically with a concentration smaller than a major, that a student chooses to enhance his or her major or simply to pursue a subject of interest.  



Office Hours- The days and times that college faculty set aside to meet with students enrolled in their classes. Traditionally these take place in the instructor’s office (not in the classroom).  


Pass/Fail Option- Some colleges offer an option to take a small number of courses -- typically free electives that do not count to a major or core educational requirements -- to be taken as pass/fail (instead of granting the typical letter grades).  

Placement Tests- Tests used by the institution to gauge a student’s level of proficiency in a subject area in order to place him/her in the appropriate level of coursework. Sometimes a student can exempt courses by doing well on placement tests.  

Plagiarism- A major form of academic dishonesty that occurs when a student uses the words of another person without attribution, passing them off as their own.  

Postsecondary- Refers to all educational programs after high school, including technical schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities.  

Practicum- A course designed to provide students with supervised practical experience in which students apply the materials learned in their coursework to the actual situation. An example is student-teaching for education majors.  

Prerequisite- A course that is required to be taken and passed prior to registering for another course. A number of upper-division courses often have prerequisites.  

Probation- The academic status of a student when their GPA falls below a 2.0.  

Provost- The senior academic officer of a college or university.  



Registrar- An administrator and office on any college campus who oversees such things as registration, storing academic credit records, maintaining academic audit sheets, and dealing with transfer credits from other colleges.  

Registration- When students enroll (register) for classes for an upcoming academic term.  

Rubric- A scoring guide used to define what is expected and what will be assessed to evaluate an assignment.  


Study Abroad- College coursework that students take outside the U.S., providing a great opportunity to experience foreign cultures and travel.  

Study Groups- Studying with a group of friends, which can be a fun and rewarding study method.   

Syllabus- A document (which some students and faculty see as the binding agreement for a course) provided at the beginning of a term that outlines the key elements of a course, including things such as learning objectives, assigned readings, major assignments, test and quiz information, and other requirements or expectations of the course.  

Synchronous classes- Synchronous learning is online or distance education that happens in real time, often with a set class schedule and required login times.  This means that you, your classmates, and your instructor interact in a specific virtual place at a set time. In these courses, instructors commonly take attendance, same as they would in a lecture hall. Common methods of synchronous online learning include video conferencing, teleconferencing, live chatting, and live-streamed lectures that must be viewed in real time.  


Transcript- Official record of a student's academic work showing dates attended, courses taken, grades earned, and credits received. Transfer Credit: College credit earned at one college or university and applied and accepted for credit at a different school.    

Transfer Student- Student who attends one college but decides to leave that school and apply for admission to a different college or university. The student then transfers some (or in rare cases, all) credits from old school to new school.  

Tutoring- An option offered to assist students who need assistance in a particular subject.  

Tuition- Tuition is the amount paid for each credit hour of enrollment.  Tuition does not include the cost of books, fees, or room and board.  Tuition charges vary among colleges and are dependent on such factors as resident or out-of-state status, level of classes enrolled in (lower, upper or graduate division), and whether the institution is publicly or privately financed.  


Undecided Student- A student who enters college with an undeclared major.   

Undergraduate Student- College student who is pursuing an associates or baccalaureate degree.   

Upper Division Course- An undergraduate course that is designed for and taught at the junior or senior levels. Upper-division courses are numbered 300 or 400.  



Withdrawal- Typically refers to the dropping of a course (or all courses) for which a student is registered in a given term. These courses will show up as a “W” (withdraw) on the students transcript.  

Work-Study- A Federal financial aid program providing part-time employment to students based on the financial need of students and available jobs within the university.  

Writing Center- Writing consultation provided free of charge to all students either face to face or online.