10 College Terms to Know

Looking at college applications, brochures, and requirements can be overwhelming if you don't understand these basic terms.

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November 8, 2016
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10 College Terms to Know

From FAFSA to registrar, check out all the college terms you need to know before going on your next tour or filling out another application!

Not only do college applications take a lot of time and effort, but they also can be full of unfamiliar terms. Use this college terms guide to help you navigate the language everyone seems to assume you already know.

college terms1. FAFSA

The FAFSA might be one of the most crucial college terms to know since it is necessary for financial aid. It stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is a form you fill out annually with financial information, like how much money your parents make. If you’re counting on any state or federal aid to help pay for college, this is a necessity.

2. B.A.

B.A. and B.S. can be confusing college terms. B.A. refers to Bachelor of Arts and is rewarded to students who complete a four-year undergraduate degree with coursework focused on liberal arts and communication.

3. B.S.

B.S. stands for Bachelor of Science and is received upon completion of a four-year undergraduate degree with a focus on the sciences.

4. Adjunct Professor

Professors have different rankings and therefore are given different names. An adjunct professor is someone right below the highest ranking professorship. They are hired by schools part-time, on a contractual basis instead of being full-time faculty.

There are lots of different types of professors and their rank depends on their education, time spent in the position, and type of position. Some of the different levels include distinguished professor, associate professor, and lecturer.

5. Pass/Fail

college termsPass/fail is just what it sounds like. When you take a class, you have the option to take it “pass/fail,” which means instead of receiving a letter grade, it’ll simply show up as you either passed the class or you failed it. The rules surrounding this vary from college to college, but it is usually something you can only use a couple of times and should save for difficult circumstances. For example, if you think you might have a very low grade in a class because you slept through a test, it might be better to pass/fail the class than have a poor grade lower your GPA. You’re probably thinking pass/fail sounds great right? The main downside is that the class might not count anymore toward your degree, so you either get to retake the class or take a different class that still fulfills the same credit.

6. Registrar

Your university’s registrar is responsible for handling student records. The office of the registrar is where you could go for transcripts, issues with grades, grade reports, and registration. Most of the information will be online, so if you hear a school refer to their registrar, check out their website for more information.

7. Syllabus

Syllabus is one of the key college terms to know. The syllabus is essentially your teacher’s guide to the class. It outlines the policies of the class, gives your teacher’s contact information and office hours, and usually provides all the due dates for homework and tests. The first week of class is usually called “Syllabus Week” because professors spend the first day passing out copies of their syllabus and going over the content. So, it’s basically a free week for you. Also, expect to hear “Check the syllabus” from your professor every other class whenever someone asks a question.

8. Lecture

college termsClasses can have multiple formats and lecture is one. It refers to a class where the professor spends most of his or her time talking to the class, rather than having a class discussion or group work. You might also have discussion classes and labs, which are usually supplemental to lectures. Lectures are where you take notes and receive the main content of the class, whereas discussions and labs enhance your practical knowledge of the subject. Lecture classes are more common for freshmen and as you get older, you’ll have smaller classes that focus more on your major and allow you to have more hands-on experience. Every school differs on this, though, and it’s an important factor to consider when choosing a college. Some students thrive in big classrooms and some thrive in smaller, discussion-driven environments.

9. Add/Drop

Add/Drop refers to the period at the beginning of each semester where you can add additional classes to your schedule or drop classes without any penalty. While each university’s rules vary, most schools will give you the chance to rearrange your schedule in case there were any errors during registration, you don’t like the classes you’re in, or a professor lets you in to a previously full class. This is definitely one of the college terms you’ll want to remember when you show up to your first 8 a.m. class and hate life.

10. Credit Hours

Talking about hours might seem like a foreign concept at first. In high school, you’re probably used to taking up to eight classes but, in college, few students could survive that many classes. Instead of referring to how many classes you’re in, you refer to how many hours you’re in. One class usually equals three hours. So if someone is taking 12 hours, they’re probably in four classes. Most students will take 12 to 15 hours per semester, but that number will vary depending on their degree and how quickly they want to graduate, along with personal preference. This is one of those college terms you will hear a lot, so it’s important to catch on early.


For more resources on college readiness and college terms, check out our guide for student success in college!

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By | 2018-01-16T16:13:22+00:00 November 8th, 2016|Education, Featured, How do I get there?, Real World|0 Comments

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