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Glossary of College Terms


Helpful Definitions of College Terms

Many colleges use the following terms, but their definitions may vary slightly.  It is our hope this will assist you with understanding some of the terms used in the college environment.

For further assistance please view the Student Resource Guide.

ACADEMIC ADVISEMENT: A meeting between a student and an adviser to discuss career plans, program of study or class selections prior to registration.

ACADEMIC DROP: Dismissal from the school for academic ineligibility (unsatisfactory academic work).

ACADEMIC PROBATION: A status resulting from unsatisfactory academic work; a warning that the student must improve academic performance or be dismissed after a specific period of time.

ACADEMIC STANDING:  The scholastic standing of a student based on his/her grade point average (GPA).

ACADEMIC YEAR:  The period of formal academic instruction, usually extending from August through May.  It is divided into fall and spring semesters.  Students may also be able to take classes during summer sessions, mini-mesters or intersessions.

ACCREDITATION:  An endorsement given to educational institutions or academic degree programs by an organization that reviews qualifications.

ADDS/DROPS: Refers to changes of registration in which a student enrolls or stops enrollment in a course.

ADJUNCT FACULTY:  Part-time faculty member.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT:  A waiver of some of the classes normally required for an undergraduate degree, granted to a student based on a student’s prior study or experience (usually indicated by the student’s performance on a special examination).

ALUMNUS/ALUMNI:  A person/persons who attended or graduated from a particular school.

ARTICULATION AGREEMENT: A written agreement listing courses at one college that are equivalent to courses at another college.  These agreements facilitate the smooth transition of students through the secondary, community college and university educational systems.

ARTICULATED CREDIT:  Allows high school student to take courses that lead to college credit in technical courses.  Course credit is awarded by the college after the student has enrolled in a participating college.

ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE:  A two-year degree from a community or junior college.

AUDIT:  To attend a class without receiving credit for the class.  Audit students do not take tests or write papers.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE:  A four-year degree from a college, university or professional school; usually requires at least 124 credit hours.

COURSE NUMBERS:  Numbers assigned to specific classes.

:  Credit given for attending one lecture hour of class each week for 15 weeks or equivalent. Most college classes are three credit hours, meaning their total meeting time for a week is three hours.

COMPRESSED TERM:  A normal semester is about 15 weeks; a quarter term is 10 weeks. Some colleges compress their terms into a shorter time frame, for example, 8 weeks or on weekends.

CONTINUING EDUCATION UNITS (CEUs):  Many colleges have a Continuing Education Division or a College of Extended Students.  It consists of coursework that meets community needs at times and locations convenient for working adults.  They may or may not be for credit.
Subjects vary – they can be leisure and recreational courses, such as square dancing, cooking, yoga, furniture making, genealogy, or photography.  Or they can be courses that meet professional education needs, such as license renewal, a professional certificate or keeping up-to-date in a career field.
Noncredit courses are usually taught by experts in the subject matter.  Upon completion, students are often awarded CEUs, based on the number of clock hours he/she attended class.  Ten clock hours equal one CEU.  CEUs do not equate to college credit nor can they be transferred to another college.

COURSE LOAD:  Number of credits for which a student is enrolled during a semester.

COURSE NUMBER:  The identification code for each course.

COURSE OVERLOAD: Defined by most colleges as over 18 credits for undergraduates.  Graduate school overload is usually over 12 credits.  Approval is required to take an overload.
DEGREE:  A certificate of completion of a course of study.

DEGREE PLAN:  A specific list of required courses and electives to be completed for a degree.

:  The most advanced degree that can be earned.
ELECTIVES: Electives are courses you choose based on your interests or to explore other avenues of student.  Every degree program will allow you to choose some courses for yourself.

FEES: Course-related costs to attend college.

:  Policy instituted by some institutions in which students are charged a single rate beyond a certain number of credit hours taken.

:  A student who has completed less than 30 hours of college credit.

:  Twelve or more credit hours per semester for undergraduate students.
GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENT: General education courses are those everyone must take no matter what degree they are pursuing.  Each school has its own list of core courses, but most require a mix of English, arts humanities, social sciences, and physical or natural science courses.  These courses are the most easily transferable.

GPA:  Grade point average; the average of your class grades, generally based on a 4.0 scale.
GRANTS: Financial assistance that does not require repayment.

: Six credit hours per semester for undergraduate students.
INTERNSHIP:  A job in a student's field of study; may be required in some academic programs and may include salary and college credit.

:  A student who has completed 60 to 89 college credit hours.
LOANS:  Financial assistance that must be repaid.
LONG SESSION:  Regular fall or spring semester.

:  A student's concentrated field of study.
MASTER'S DEGREE:  A graduate degree that usually requires two or more years of study beyond the bachelor's degree.

MINOR:  A student's secondary field of study.
NONRESIDENT:  Any student who lives out of state or does not meet specific state residency requirements.

: Classes held on the Internet instead of in a traditional classroom.
PREREQUISITE:  A course that must be taken prior to enrollment in another course.

:  A non-state assisted college or university that relies on private funding, tuition and fees.
PUBLIC UNIVERSITY:  A state-assisted college or university.
REGISTRATION:  Enrollment in classes.
RESIDENT:  A student who meets state residency requirements.
ROLLING ADMISSION:  Policy in which a school sends out acceptance letters to students as they are accepted.

:  Financial assistance based on merit; does not require repayment.
SELF-PACED: A self-paced course or program has loosely defined time frames for learners to complete their course work.  Most have no fixed starting or ending dates, due dates for assignments, or exam dates.  Most will not allow students to complete the course in less than a certain amount of time (typically six weeks) and do allow students to take as much as a year to do so.

SEMESTER HOUR:  See Credit hour.
SENIOR:  A student who has completed 90 or more hours of college credit but has not received a bachelor's degree.
SOPHOMORE:  A student who has completed 30 to 59 college credit hours.

:  A summer term of approximately six weeks.
THREE-QUARTER TIME:  Nine credit hours for undergraduate students.

TRANSCRIPT: A permanent academic record of your courses and grades, with your term and cumulative GPA.  Students request transcripts from their college, whether for themselves (unofficial) or for an official copy to be sent directly to another college.  Colleges may charge a fee for each transcript sent.  If you college no longer exists – contact the State Department of Education (the state your college was in).

NOTE:  If you owe the college money, it will not issue a transcript until your “bill” is settled.

TUITION:  Costs for courses, not including certain fees.
UNDERGRADUATE: A student who is working toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree; an institution that awards associate’s or bachelor’s degrees; a program that leads to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

WEB-BASED CLASSES:  Online courses.

:  Registration through the Internet for classes.
WORK-STUDY PROGRAM:  A federal financial aid program that allows students to work on campus.