College Glossary

Glossary of Terms

You’ll see many of these terms as you choose a college. The definitions may vary slightly.

Accreditation: An endorsement given to universities or academic degree programs by an organization that reviews qualifications.

Associate degree: A two-year degree from a community or junior college.

Audit: To attend a class without receiving credit for the class.

Bachelor’s degree: A four-year degree from a college, university or professional school; usually requires at least 120 credit hours.

Church-affiliated university: Some private colleges have a religious affiliation. Students at these colleges often must attend chapel or religious classes of some kind.

Community college: Two-year college also known as junior college. You can either transfer your courses to a four-year university or receive an associate's degree in a certain field.

Course numbers: Numbers assigned to specific classes.

Credit hour: 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.

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.

Doctoral degree: The most advanced degree that can be earned.

Fees: Course-related costs to attend college.

Four-year university: Four-year colleges award bachelor’s degrees. Many offer graduate-level courses leading to master’s and doctoral degrees.

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

Full time: 12 or more credit hours per semester for undergraduate students.

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.

Half time: 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.

Junior: A student who has completed 60 to 89 college credit hours.

Junior college: See Community college.

Loans: Financial assistance that must be repaid.

Major: 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.

Minority-serving institution: Colleges or universities whose primary mission is to serve African American, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian American/Pacific Islander students.

Nonresident: Any student who lives out of state or does not meet specific state residency requirements.

Online courses: Classes held online instead of in a traditional classroom.

Prerequisite: A course that must be taken prior to enrollment in another course.

Private university: A non-state-assisted college or university that relies on private funding, tuition and fees.

Public university: A college or university that receives funding from the state, lowering costs students pay.

Registration: Enrollment in classes.

Resident: A student who meets state residency requirements.

Rolling admission: A policy in which a college’s admissions office sends out acceptance letters to students as they are accepted.

Scholarships: Financial assistance based on merit; do not require repayment.

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.

Summer session: A summer term of about six weeks.

Three-quarter time: Nine credit hours for undergraduate students.

Tuition: Costs for courses, not including certain fees.

Undergraduate: A student at a college or university who has not yet earned a bachelor’s degree.

Web-based classes: See Online courses.

Web registration: Online registration for classes.

Work-study program: A federal financial aid program that allows students to work on campus.