College Terms to Get You Ready
Getting ready for college can be exciting, but it can also be confusing. Everyone has probably already told you that college is nothing like high school! Even some of the terms used in college will be new to you. We visited www.collegeprep101.com and found a glossary of college terms that might come in handy as you get ready to enroll. We used that list as an inspiration to create our own!
Course Load – This is your schedule of classes for a semester. It’s usually measured in credit hours (see below). Taking a “full load” means you’re taking the most credit hours you can for a semester without taking an “overload.” Overloads (taking more than the recommended number of credit hours) usually require permission from an administrator. After all, college is tough, but your professors don’t want to work you into the ground!
Credit Hours – College classes are measured by credit hours. Most of the time, you’ll get one credit hour if you spend one hour in class per week for the entire term (usually 16 weeks). College classes usually range from one to five credit hours, so you’ll spend one to five hours per week in each class you take. Unlike high school, you might not necessarily be in the same class every day, and you probably won’t be in 6-7 classes each day! Your history class might meet for 90 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (3 credit hours total), while your English class might be held for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday (4 credit hours total). Lab science classes often include lengthy sessions in the labs for experimentation and study. Your credit hours will vary depending on the classes for which you sign up. There’s usually a minimum number of credit hours you have to take in order to earn your degree from the college.
Department – Colleges organize their fields of study into departments. The history department handles the requirements for a history degree, the art department handles art, etc. You might spend time in a variety of departments at first, but once you decide on a major (your chosen field of study), you’ll probably spend more and more time in the department that covers your major.
Dorm – Short for “dormitory,” this is probably where you’ll live if you live on campus. Dorms vary a lot between colleges! Some are very simple and sparse, while others have lots of amenities. Make sure you visit the dorm of the college you want to attend to make sure you’d be comfortable living there. Just remember: it’s not a hotel! Expect to make some allowances for comfort while you’re there.
Financial Aid – This is money that helps you pay for college. You might get it through grants, loans, scholarships, or even jobs. The amount of financial aid you get is often determined by need (how much money your family makes), how much money is available to give out, and how well you do in school.
Pass/Fail – Most college classes will earn you letter grades that factor into your grade point average, just like high school. But if you take a pass/fail class, you won’t get a letter grade. If you pass, you’ll get a “pass” or “satisfactory” rating, and you’ll get credit for the hours you took. If you fail, you get a “fail” or “unsatisfactory” rating and no credit for the hours. Pass/fail classes aren’t used to figure your GPA, but the hours you take still count toward any credit hour minimums you need.
Prerequisites – Colleges don’t want you to jump into the hardest calculus class right out of the gate, or take Abnormal Psychology II before you take Abnormal Psychology I. Prerequisites are classes that you have to take before you can take other classes, in order to prepare you for what’s coming. That way, you don’t end up signed up for a class way above your head!
Syllabus – This is an outline of what a course will cover. Most college instructors and professors will pass this out on the first day of class, and from that point on, you’re responsible for what’s on it. It will probably list assignments, tests, exams, projects or anything else coming up in that class, right up until the final. Some syllabi are pretty long, with lots of explanation, while others are short and sweet. Some instructors and professors will remind you of what’s on the syllabus as dates get closer (such as a test coming up), but some will simply expect you to keep track on your own. Did you forget that there’s a quiz today? Too bad, it was on your syllabus. Make sure you keep your syllabus close and check it often to make sure you don’t miss something important!
Tuition – This is the cost of taking classes at a college. It’s often figured as a cost per credit hour of enrollment. It does NOT include the cost of books, materials, fees, your dorm room, your meal plan, or any other college costs. So the real cost of college is far more than just tuition! Tuition is different for every college and varies based on a lot of factors, including whether the college is public or private, whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student, and the level of classes you’re taking.
Undergraduate – This will be you! An undergraduate is someone who’s pursuing a degree of one, two or four years, such as an Associate Degree (usually two years) or Bachelor’s degree (usually four years). If you want to keep going for higher degrees after you graduate from your undergraduate college, you’ll be a Graduate student.
These terms should help get you thinking like a college student. Don’t forget to get to know your chosen college as well as possible before you arrive for your first day. Study campus maps, learn where key offices (such as the business office and registrar) are, and see how long it takes to get around with the campus transportation system or on foot. Have fun!