A College Students Guide for Freshman Year

Attending college as an incoming freshmen is an overwhelming experience for many students. College differs greatly from high school in that students are faced with a higher degree of responsibility and independence. Freshmen will need to understand what needs to be done without relying on the assistance of teachers and parents. This means they must understand what certain things mean. Upon entering college, students will encounter terminology that is different from what was used in high school. Failure to understand what faculty and even other students are referring to can make it difficult to adjust as quickly as necessary. In order for students to successfully start their journey toward a higher education, they must grasp some of the basic terms that are commonly used in college. It is important to remember, however, that certain terms may have slightly different meanings depending on the college that is being attended. This list includes some basic college terminology, and their definitions, that freshmen will encounter.

Academic Advisor – An individual employed by a college or university to guide or administer advice to students regarding their classes and studies.

Academic Dismissal – A dismissal from college due to a student’s inability to meet a college or university’s academic expectations. Dismissal typically occurs if a student fails to raise his or her overall GPA to a 2.0 or greater following an academic probationary period.

Academic Probation – A warning period in which a student’s grade point average is below what is needed to be in good academic standing, but not low enough for dismissal. Typically academic probation occurs when a student’s GPA drops below 2.0. During this probationary period a student must improve his or her performance to avoid dismissal. It is an official warning.

Academic Standing – Academic achievement based on one’s cumulative grade point averages, or earned grades. There are typically three potential levels of academic standing; good standing, academic probation, and academic dismissal.

Course – Units of instruction on a particular subject. A course will meet a set number of days and hours per week.

Course Load – The number of credits that a student takes during a term. The course load determines if the student is considered full or part-time. It is sometimes referred to as “Class Load” and varies from one university to another.

Dean – An administrator who is responsible for an entire unit of departments, including the staff and students.

Dean’s List – A list of students that is compiled at the end of a term or an academic year. The list consists of the names of students who have achieved high academic accomplishment.

Drop/Dropping – Completion of a form that officially allows a student to discontinue taking a class. Upon completion of dropping a class it will no longer show up on transcripts.

Electives – Courses that students are allowed to take which are not a required part of his or her major.

Financial Aid – Funding that is meant to assist students in paying for college. It is available in different forms, such as scholarships, loans or grants. Private organizations, businesses or government agencies offer financial aid to students who qualify.

Major – The field in which a student is focusing his or her studies in order to obtain a degree. This may also be referred to as a “Field of Study.”

Prerequisite – This is a course that must be taken and successfully passed prior to taking what is typically a more advanced course.

Quarter – An organization of an academic year into three periods lasting approximately ten to twelve weeks. These periods are the Fall Quarter, Spring Quarter, and Summer Quarter. Also known as a term. Universities or colleges that do not operate under a quarter system, will operate under a semester system.

Registration – The selecting and enrollment of courses, which takes place every semester. Confirmation of course enrollment, and payments are a part of the registration process.

Semester – An organization of an academic year into two parts. Each part is approximately sixteen weeks and are called the Fall semester and Spring semester. Also known as a term. Colleges that do not operate under a semester system will operate under a quarter system.

Syllabus – An outline given at the beginning of a course by the instructor. It is a basic summary of information pertaining to the class, such as the instructor’s name, exam dates, textbooks, and learning objectives.

Term – This is either a quarter or a semester depending on the college or university.

Work-Study Programs – Programs in which students are provided with jobs while attending school. These programs often are a part of one’s financial aid.

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