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College Lingo

College is full of new experiences and new opportunities. There’s a lot to learn and much to adjust to whether it's doing your own laundry, figuring out what’s edible in the cafeteria or pulling an all-nighter for a 15-page term paper. Of course, you’re also likely hear some new terminology bandied about. Here’s a list of some collegiate jargon you should familiarize yourself with before hitting campus:

Audit - Auditing is when a student attends a course without receiving credit. One will participate in discussions and likely do the assigned readings. However, a grade will not be earned. Many times, students interested in auditing a class need to receive permission from the instructor to do so. It’s also important to note that students usually cannot retroactively petition the school for credit following the audit.

Add/Drop Period - Many schools allow undergraduates to make changes to their schedules at the start of the semester, without any financial or academic consequences. This affords students the opportunity to sample a class before fully deciding if it’s the right course for them.

Baccalaureate - A baccalaureate is a farewell speech/sermon that is traditionally delivered to seniors in conjunction with their commencement ceremonies.

Core Curriculum - Sometimes referred to as “general education” (or “gen. ed.”) requirements, the core curriculum are prescribed classes that all students must take, regardless of major. The intent behind the core curriculum is to ensure that undergraduates receive a well-rounded education.

Course Catalogue - Course catalogues are booklets that contain a comprehensive list of the courses offered by a particular institution. They also typically include a bevy of information pertaining to academic policies and procedures.

Dean - An important administrative role, deans are usually in charge of a particular area/sector of a college (i.e. there is a Dean of Students, Dean of the College, etc.)

Dean’s List - Dean’s List is an academic honor, typically tallied and awarded at the end of each semester. Students who are named to the Dean’s List have earned high grades and met certain academic minimums (these vary by college). It is similar to being named to a high school honor roll.

Elective Courses - As the name might suggest, electives are courses that are not requisite or needed to fulfill core and/or major requirements. Undergrads enroll in electives due to personal interest in a subject.

Major - As you might already know, a major is a course of study that serves as a student’s primary focus. Majors can be declared in a range of subjects, from history and comparative literature to physics or photography. Most undergraduates have to declare a major by some point during their sophomore years. Every major comes with its own particular set of requirements.

Minor - A minor is a secondary concentration in a particular field or subject. To declare a minor, students will have to fulfill a certain number of requirements. However, the requirements will be smaller than those of a major.

Non-Traditional Student - A non-traditional student is an individual who falls outside of the average age of college students (18-24).

Prerequisite Course (Prereqs) - A prerequisite course is a class a student must take before enrolling in a different, subsequent course. For example, an undergrad might have to take Introduction to Chemistry before being allowed to register for Organic Chemistry. Normally, a handful of upper level courses require students to take a lower level class first. Some colleges will make exceptions for certain students and allow them to bypass the prereq.

Resident Advisor (RA) - An RA is an upperclassman who helps to supervise groups of student residents and enforce dorm/housing policies. They also assist with any questions or problems that might arise.

Registrar - The registrar is the administrative office responsible for keeping permanent records and student files, maintenance of enrollment records/statistics, administering probation, etc.

Syllabus - A syllabus is an outline or overview that contains important information about a particular course. It typically includes test dates, assignments and class policies. Syllabi are written by professors and often distributed on the first day of class.    


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Don Munce