Universal College Lingo Glossary

College Care Package: A Perfect Gift for Students

When you attend college, the administration really should give you a special dictionary for deciphering university lingo. But because they usually don’t, the university care package pros at My College Crate are here to save the day.

Check out this massive list of vocabulary words you should know as you navigate toward your college degree.

Adjunct professor: Professors who work as independent contractors and teach a limited number of classes.

Assistant professor: A faculty member who ranks above a lecturer or instructor, but below an associate professor.

Associate professor: A faculty member who ranks above an assistant professor and a full professor.

Assistantship: An opportunity for students to earn tuition reimbursement by working for faculty members in their degree program, usually while pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate. 

Audit: To attend a class without completing assignments or taking tests, and without credit. Students can choose to audit a class to learn more about the subject, but are not graded for it.

Bursar: staff member who manages finances and accepts tuition payments.

Cohort: a group of students who work through a curriculum together, in pursuit of the same degree.

College vs. University: Colleges tend to be smaller and focus on undergraduate degrees; universities are usually larger institutions that offer graduate degree options, including master’s degrees and doctorates.

Commencement: Formal graduation ceremony.

Dean: An academic administrator with responsibility for students or faculty.

Degree audit: A registrar process. A degree audit lists all completed courses toward a student’s degree program, as well as all the remaining degree requirements.

Department chair: Professor assigned to manage an academic department and act as a liaison between the department and college administration.

Externship: An unpaid, short opportunity, for students to experience their fields, generally in the form of job shadowing. Externships are often required for certain degree programs, like nursing and speech-language pathology.

FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid. A document for prospective and current students to complete to determine whether they are eligible for federal student loans and grants.

Federal grants: Need-based financial aid awarded through FAFSA. Students do not need to pay back grant money.

FERPA: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also called the Buckley Amendment, is legislation that ensures educational institutions protect students’ personal and educational information. 

GRE: Graduate Record Examination, a standardized test that is often an admission requirement for graduate school.

Higher education: Any schooling after high school.

Internship: Paid or unpaid opportunities for students to work in their fields for an employer.

Matriculate: To be admitted to a college or university and enrolled in classes.

Pedagogy: The art of teaching.

Plagiarism: Taking credit for someone else’s work, including copying word-for-word, or using their sentence structure or ideas. Plagiarism also includes asking someone else to complete your work for you and turning it in as your own. 

Post-graduate education: Any higher education after an undergraduate degree, including master’s degrees, post-graduate certificates, and doctorates.

Post-secondary education: Any type of education pursued after high school, including college or technical school.

Practicum: A course in a specialized field of study that gives students supervised application of what they’ve learned. Education and social work students usually must complete a practicum prior to graduation. 

Professor of Practice: Non-tenure track faculty with expertise and professional achievements who instruct at the college level. Professors of practice are usually exemplary in their chosen field, and thus qualified to convey their knowledge to students.

Provost: A senior academic administrator who works with academic deans, department deans, and faculty to ensure the quality of academic programs; sometimes called the Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Registrar: A staff member tasked with administrative academic duties, like class registration, preparing student transcripts, preparing class schedules, and analyzing enrollment statistics.

Stafford loan: A federal student loan with a fixed interest rate.

State grants: Need-based financial aid awarded through the student’s home state. Students do not need to pay back grant money. 

Subsidized loan: A student loan for which the U.S. Department of Education pays all interest accrued during your years in school, during the six-month grace period following graduation, and deferment. 

Synchronous learning: Combining an online classroom format with in-person classes, allowing online and in-person students to engage and learn together. Generally conducted through video conferencing tools.

Unsubsidized loan: A student loan for which the student must pay interest for while enrolled in school, or have the accrued interest added to the principal loan balance. 

Work-study: A type of financial aid that pays students to work part-time, on campus, during the academic year.

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