Glossary of Terms

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

For glossary terms in Spanish, please visit the Glosario page.

Academic advisor
Your academic advisor provides support and counsel on which classes to take and when to take them.

Accreditation signals that a school adheres to certain educational standards set by state, federal and non-government agencies.

Associate degree
An associate degree requires two years of full-time study and is commonly offered by community colleges and vocational schools. You can also earn an associate degree at a four-year institution.

Asynchronous learning
A type of online education, asynchronous learning allows students to watch lectures and complete assignments on their own time rather than having to attend classes on a specific schedule.

Bachelor’s degree
A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate academic degree that usually requires four years of full-time study to complete.

Common application
Used by thousands of colleges around the country, the Common App allows students to apply to multiple schools by filling out one document rather than completing several applications.

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

Core requirements
Within a degree program, core requirements refer to the classes that students must pass in order to graduate. Electives typically complement core classes.

Course numbers
Numbers assigned to specific courses.

Credit hour
Credit given for attending one lecture hour of class each week. Most college classes are three credit hours, meaning their total meeting time for a week is three hours.

Degree plan
A specific list of required courses and electives to be completed for a degree.

Double major
A program of study that allows a student to complete the course requirement for two majors at the same time.

In addition to tuition, students are charged fees for services such as facilities usage, technology and parking.

First-generation student
To qualify as a first-generation college student, you must be the first individual in your immediate family to pursue higher education. These students often qualify for additional financial aid.

A student in their first year of study at a college or university.

Full time
A full-time student must take a minimum number of credits per semester. At the undergraduate level, most schools require at least 12 credits to qualify.

Grade point average: the average of your class grades, generally based on a 4.0 scale.

Half time
A half-time student takes a minimum of six credits per semester at the undergraduate level.

In-state tuition
Public colleges and universities allow students who reside in the same state as the institution to pay in-state tuition, a lower amount than what nonresidents pay. Most schools require that the students have lived in the state at least a year prior to enrollment.

Internships give students the opportunity to gain relevant hands-on work experience before graduating. Most internships offer college credit.

A student in their third year of study in a bachelor’s degree program.

A student’s chosen area of study, such as accounting or history.

Merit-based aid/scholarship
Merit-based aid supports students who demonstrate academic and or/personal excellence but may or may not have limited finances.

A student’s secondary field of study.

Students attending a college outside of their home state.

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

Out-of-State Tuition
Students attending public colleges or universities outside their home state typically pay out-of-state tuition, which is higher than in-state tuition.

A course that must be taken prior to enrolling 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.

The college or university official responsible for registering students and keeping their academic records, such as transcripts

The process of enrolling in courses every semester.

A student who meets state residency requirements.

Rolling admission
Rather than waiting for all applications to arrive before making admission decisions, rolling admissions allows a university to evaluate applications as they come in and send out acceptance letters as they are accepted.

A student in their fourth and final year of undergraduate study.

A student in their second year of undergraduate study.

Student portal
Colleges often use student portals as a place to review assignments, check grades, register for classes and request documentation like official transcripts.

Summer session
Classes offered during the summer that vary from six to ten weeks.

Costs for courses, not including certain fees.

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

If a school neither approves nor rejects your application in the first round, you will be placed on a waitlist. Depending on the number of students who accept offers of admission, you may still be admitted at a later date.