College Advice Blog

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Aug 13, 2010

Common College Terms

--->These are some common college terms you should get to know. They are listed in alphabetical order. There are still many more to go, so this list will get larger. Feel free to add terms you are not familiar with (not listed here) to the comment section and I'll get a definition for you. 

Associate's Degree- This degree is approximately 60 credits of college courses. On average, students finish it in two years; however, others might take longer, while some might finish in less time. I finished my associate's in about one year and three months. 

Bachelor's Degree- A degree which is equivalent to 120 credits of college courses. If you have done an associate's separately, then you only have to do another 60 credits; you don't have to start from scratch. 

Community College- This is a college where you can study for only two years and the highest degree you can receive is an associate degree. Many students, including myself decide to start in a community college just to get things going and take it one step a time. Other students fear the idea of going to a community college, which is totally wrong. There is nothing wrong with starting off at a community college, no matter what anyone tells you. Remember that it's not about the college, but rather it's all about the professors. Thus, you might have some of the best professors ever in a community college. 

Double Major- This is when a student has two completely different interests and wishes to receive a degree in each. For instance, as an undergrad I was passionate about English and psychology; I could not choose just one. Thus, I had a double major in both fields. I studied both fields and ended up with two bachelor degrees.

Dual Major- Refer to Double Major

Elective Courses- My favorite college courses! Electives are courses you can take out of choice and just for fun. Basically these are not requirements for your major, but since you still need a certain number of credits to complete your degree, you can take any course you want to meet that requirement. These are excellent for taking courses of interest in the beginning of your college years. You know, just in case you decide you like something else besides what you are majoring in (as I did).

Final- This refers to the last exam given by professors before the semester concludes. This is usually a large percentage of a student's grade. Sometimes professors will give a big project or research paper instead of a final exam. I would choose a 20 page paper over an exam any time!

Final Examination- Refer to Final

Freshman- This refers to a first year college student.

Graduate- This refers to a student who has completed 120 credits.  

Grade Point Average (G.P.A.)- This refers to your total grade in a course, semester or overall in your studies. The GPA ranges from 1.0-4.0 with 4.0 being the highest you can achieve.

Junior- This refers to a third year college student.

Major- This is a concentration that a student chooses to pursue. This concludes in a degree in the specified field. For instance, my majors as an undergraduate were psychology and English.

Master's- This is a post-graduate degree, which can take between one to six years of studying in a specific and specialized field.

Midterm- This is a major exam given half way through a semester to track student's progress. You seriously have to study for this; it’s not like the other minor tests you get during the semester. Of course that is if it is in fact an exam, sometimes professors choose to give a project or an essay instead of an exam. Either way, you have to prepare it well because it will be a large percent of your grade.

Midterm Examination- Refer to Midterm

Minor- This is a smaller concentration that compliments the major of each student or simply another interest that a student has on top of their major. A minor can not stand alone and receive a degree, but a major can. While minors are not required, it sometimes helps to have it. For instance, if you major in business, it would be smart to minor in marketing. 

Ph.D (Doctor of Philosophy)- This is the highest degree attainable of graduate study; this can take between three to five years to complete.

Prerequisite- This refers to a requirement you need to complete before taking a certain course. For instance you might need 30 credits before you can take course B, thus 30 credits is a perquisite for course B. Or you might need course A before you can take course B, thus course A is a prerequisite for course B.

Research Paper- This is really a project that professors assign to students. Sometimes it's so large that you will only have one in each class. This can range from being 10-20 pages to something much larger. If you will be presenting these kinds of papers, remember to add a lot of visual elements, such as PowerPoint slides, handouts, and so on.

Semester- A college semester is approximately 16 weeks and on average there are two semesters in an academic year. The spring semester starts from January until May and the fall semester starts roughly in late August or early September until December. There is also the summer semester, but it is not really accounted for as a major semester. Unlike the other two semesters, students who study in the summer rarely receive financial assistance. *Some colleges, especially private ones, have three major semesters where students receive full financial aid in each semester.

Senior- A fourth year college student; this is your last year as an undergraduate student. In other words, this is when you will be graduating!

Sophomore- This refers to a second year college student.

Syllabus- A syllabus is a set schedule provided by most professors to help students keep track of what is required and by when. Basically this will be the calendar for each class with exam dates, papers required, rules and regulations, etc.  

Undergraduate-  This refers to a student who is working on a bachelor's degree. An undergraduate student has less than 120 credits. 

Do you have other college words you're curious about?  
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