College Terminology 5: On Campus Terms

As I start writing more blogs for your information, I realize that some of the terminology might be a bit foreign to you. If you have ever done a college visit, your head begins to spin with what they are saying. I have compiled a great list of college terminology that will help you through the entire process, whether you are thinking of the a 2- or 4-year school.

IMAGE CREDIT:  dantesz


Since the list is quite extensive I am going to break it down into easier sections for each part of the process.

  1. High School Related
  2. Post-secondary Institutions & Programs
  3. Admission Process
  4. Financial Aid & Scholarships
  5. On-Campus Terms

Feel free to add more in the comments section if you come across a term we should include!

Academic year

The school year that begins with autumn classes. The academic year at most US colleges and universities starts in August or September.


School official, usually assigned by your college or university, who can help choose your classes and make sure you are taking the right courses to graduate.


To attend a class without receiving academic credit.

Course Number

The number your college or university uses to classify a course. You usually need this number in order to register for a class.

Credit Hour

The number of hours assigned to a specific class. This is usually the number of hours per week you are in the class. The number of credit hours you enroll in determines whether you are a full-time student or a part-time student.


Deans are the head of a specific department or program at post-secondary institutions. Deans are commonly former professors who oversee the faculty and students involved in those programs, and if necessary, are involved in the program accreditation process.


Highest academic degree. Awarded after a bachelor’s degree.


A class you can take that is not specifically required by your major or minor. These are generally courses you take for fun or just to see if something sparks your interest. Examples might include a theater class, a beginner’s Spanish class or volleyball.

Extracurricular activities

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


Fees are costs that are not part of tuition payments at post-secondary institutions. Fees may be charged in addition to tuition to cover the cost of student activities, facilities or programs.


First-year college student.

Full-time student

A student who enrolls in at least a minimum number (determined by your college or university) of credit hours of courses.

General education classes

Classes that give students basic knowledge of a variety of topics. Students often must take general education classes in order to graduate. This set of classes includes different courses and is called by different names at various colleges and universities.

Grade point average

The average of all of the course grades you have received, on a four-point scale.


Fraternities and sororities. They often have specific student housing options for their members.


An honors program at post-secondary institutions allows students with high academic achievement to be placed in courses designed to help students thoroughly explore topics and further develop critical thinking skills. Honors classes typically have a smaller class size and offer extra-curricular activities. Admission requirements of honors programs vary by institution, but typically place a standard on the SAT or ACT, high school class ranking or GPA, and a type of formal application procedure.


A temporary job, paid or unpaid, usually in the field of your major. You may be able to receive college credit for an internship.


Third-year college student.


Your primary area of study. Your college major is the field you plan to get a job in after you graduate (for example: business, linguistics, anthropology, psychology).

Master’s degree

A degree awarded to graduate students. The awarding of a master’s degree requires at least one year of study (and often more, depending on the field) after a student earns a bachelor’s degree.


Your secondary area of study. Fewer classes are required for a college minor than for a major. Colleges and universities usually don’t require students to have a minor. Many students’ minors are a specialization of their major field. For example, students who want to become a science reporter might major in journalism and minor in biology.

Office hours

Time set aside by professors or teaching assistants for students to visit their office and ask questions or discuss the course they teach. Your professor or teaching assistant will tell you at the beginning of the term when and where office hours will be every week.

Online classes

Courses you take by computer instead of in a traditional classroom.

Part-time student

A student who doesn’t enroll in enough credit hours to become a full-time student, as defined by your college or university. Part-time students often take only one or two classes at one time.

Placement Tests

Colleges and universities use these examinations to place students in courses—most often mathematics and foreign languages—that match their proficiency. In some cases, a student’s level of competency on the test may exempt them from having to take a course required for graduation (see CLEP).


A class that must be taken before you can take a different class. (For example, Astronomy 100 may be a prerequisite for Astronomy 200.)


Type of academic term. A school with this system generally will have a fall quarter, winter quarter and spring quarter (each about 10 weeks long), along with a summer term. (See also: “Semester”.


Short for resident assistant or resident adviser, an R.A. is a college student who supervises the other students living in a college dorm, usually in exchange for food and housing from the school.


The registrar is an administrative department at a post-secondary institution which maintains student academic records. These records include transcripts, degree completion status, and verification of enrollment and degrees.


Remediation involves taking pre-requisite classes which are required for students prior to enrolling in an entry-level class in a subject area. A student who does not perform adequately on a section of a college entrance exam may be required to take a remedial class that is not for credit before enrolling in credit bearing courses. Common remedial courses include English, math and writing.


Type of academic term. A school with this system generally will have a fall semester and a spring semester (each about 15 weeks long), along with a summer term. (See also: “Quarter”)


Fourth-year college student. You are a senior when you graduate from college.


Second-year college student.


A description of a course which also lists the dates of major exams, assignments and projects.


The length of time that you take a college class. (See also: “Quarter” and “Semester.")