College Glossary of Terms to Know

You may have come across some new words when you’re applying for college or doing research on colleges.  Here are some common terms and their definitions.

Accreditation – This amounts to a stamp of approval by an educational or professional organization stating that the college meets the regulations determined by this group. Each section of the country has its own accrediting organization: Southern, Middle Atlantic, New England, Midwestern, Northeastern, and Western.

Application fee – A nonrefundable fee usually charged for applying to a particular college.

Associate of Arts Degree – A 60-credit (approximately two-years) general education program of study at a community college designed to transfer to a university.

Audit – Attend a course without getting credit for it.

Bachelor’s Degree – A college degree, which indicates the amount and field of study. 120 credits (approximately four years) of college study usually leads to a Bachelor’s Degree.

Bachelor of Arts – Usually signifies concentration of studies in science and the humanities – including foreign language, literature, social studies, etc. – a four-year program.

Bachelor of Science – Usually signifies concentration in mathematics and science without foreign language – a four-year program.

Class Rank – A student’s standing based on his or her academic record as compared with that of the other members of the class. In a class of 100, the highest ranking student would be No. 1; the lowest, No. 100.

Community/Junior College – A college offering training programs of two years or less rather than a four-year program. A community college usually offers vocational programs (Associate of Science, College Credit Certificate, Applied Technology Diplomas) as well as the Associate of Arts (first two years of a four-year college program). The student in the Associate of Science (or CCC, ATD programs) usually goes directly into a job after graduation, while the student in the Associate of Arts program transfers to a four-year college.

Core Curriculum – A group of courses, in varied areas of the arts and sciences, designated by a college as one of the requirements for a degree.

Course Load – The number of hours the student is permitted to schedule in a given semester or quarter. This is usually 12-18 hours on a semester system.

Credit – Colleges assign a given number of credits to a particular college course based on a standard of one credit for every hour per week that the course is held. For example, a course that meets for three hours each week is generally awarded three credits.

Doctorate – Highest academic degree awarded by a college or university for advanced graduate study.

Early Action – Students apply early. Colleges let students know by January or February if they’ve been admitted. If students get in under early action, they can still apply to other schools and wait until spring (May 1) to decide where to go. This can be an advantage if they need financial aid because they have time to weigh offers from several different schools.

Early Decision – Students must apply early, generally by November. Colleges inform students by the end of December if they have been admitted. If students get in under early decision, they agree to withdraw any other college applications and attend that school.

Elective – A course, which you select to fulfill credit hours required for graduation.

Independent student – As of 1988, students generally need to be either 24 years old, a veteran, or have a legal dependent (not including spouse) before they may be considered financially independent and therefore able to file for what is often a greater amount of financial aid.

Graduate Student – A student who has earned a Bachelor’s Degree and is continuing college to earn a “graduate degree” (Masters Degree, Doctorate)

Honors Program – A plan designed to encourage superior students to engage in a more challenging program in their area of concentration than is required. Students who succeed in meeting the stringent requirements of an honors program are usually granted “honor” degrees.

Humanities – The humanities are usually classified as art, the classics, dramatic art, English, general and comparative literature, journalism, music, philosophy, religion and language. Many colleges divide their offerings into three divisions: humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

Liberal Arts – A broad course of instruction comprising the arts, natural sciences, social sciences, languages, literature, philosophy, religion, and the classics. The Latin origin of the term, artes liberates, literally means “the arts that free” (the mind and spirit).

Major – Subject in which a student takes the greatest concentration of courses.

Masters Degree – Degree conferred for completion of a specified program of study after the bachelor’s degree (post-graduate), usually involving one or two years of additional study.

Minor – Subject in which a student takes the second greatest concentration of courses.

Placement test – A battery of tests designed to assess a student’s aptitude and level of achievement in various academic areas so that he can select courses most appropriate for him.

Prerequisite – A requirement, which must be met before a certain course can be taken.

Private college/university – An educational institution of higher education, which is not supported by public taxes. May be independent or church related.

Registration – A process at the beginning of each semester or quarter whereby the student selects courses he will take, pays fees, & sets up a class schedule for the semester or quarter.

Remedial courses – A non-credit course taken to help the student with a weak background in a particular area; taken to prepare the student for a credit course in that area.

ROTC – Many colleges have units of the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps which offer two and four-year programs of military training culminating in an officer’s commission. In some colleges, credits for these courses can be applied toward fulfillment of degree requirements. (Army, Air Force, Navy)

Seminar – Course in which a small group of students, headed by a professor, engage in research and discussion.

Rush Week – A period set aside with the approval of the college for fraternities and sororities to issue invitations to prospective members (“delayed rush” usually indicates this week is held during second semester).

Transcript – The official record of a student’s academic performance from the time of his entrance in a given institution to the end of the latest semester.

Tuition – The charge for instruction. Generally designated for a year or a semester for a full-time student’ for part-time students, it is often designated by the credit hour of a course. (Tuition does not include housing and meal plans).

Undergraduate – Refers to a student who is working toward a bachelor’s or undergraduate degree.

University – An institution organized to provide education beyond high school, generally offering degrees such as Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate’s.