Academics

Glossary of College Terms

The process of college admittance and registration can be confusing. Whether or not your college student dons Greek letters as part of a sorority or fraternity, you might be thinking, “It’s all Greek to me!” when you peruse the university website or scan through the various offices and departments.

To help you make sense of it all, here is a list of common college terms and their definitions:

Articulation agreement: An agreement between a two-year and a four-year college that states what classes will transfer to the four-year college and the required grades to earn credit.

Audit: An opportunity for a student to sit in on a class without receiving credit or paying for the class.

Board of Regents: Like a board of directors that govern individual colleges and universities or a state university system. Tasks might include fund raising and overseeing the university president and provost.

Board of Trustees: Same as the Board of Regents.

Bursar: Professional financial administrator in a school or university. Tasks might include billing tuition, although might not participate in the financial aid process.

Chancellor: Chief executive of the university, also called a president. In a university system, the chancellor may serve as a system-wide chief, over presidents at each institution. Tasks might include being a public figurehead and having ultimate authority over the entire school or system.

Deans: People with significant authority over a specific department. Tasks might include hiring faculty, setting policies, and overseeing the budget. Examples: Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dean of Students, Dean of the School of Medicine.

FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It allows students access to their academic records, as well as some control over the disclosure of the records. Only students can receive their own grades and school work.

For-profit universities: Schools that collect fees from students and have national accreditation, rather than regional accreditation. They mostly offer vocational, career or technical programs, and many regionally accredited schools (like state or private universities) will not accept transfer credits from a nationally accredited school.

Independent study: A program that allows students to design their coursework under the supervision of a professor.

Ivy League universities: Eight private universities in the Northeast that are generally known for excellent academics, elitism, and selective admissions: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

Magna cum laude: The second-highest level of distinction upon college graduation, Latin for “with high honor.” Summa cum laude is the highest.

Postgraduate education: Higher education, generally referred to as graduate school, working toward a Master’s degree or doctorate.

Provost: Senior academic administrator. In many universities, the provost is the second-ranking officer, beneath the president. Tasks might include supervision and oversight of curriculum, research and instructors.

Registrar: Official who handles student records. Tasks might include processing registration requests, scheduling classes, makes adding or dropping classes official and keeps transcript information.

Rolling admission: The practice of a school sending acceptance letters to students year-round or upon acceptance.

Summa cum laude: The highest level of distinction upon college graduation, Latin for “with highest honor.”

Tenure: Status granted to a professor that protects his/her position from being terminated without just cause. It guarantees academic freedom, so professors can dissent from prevailing opinion or disagree with authority without losing their job.

Title IX: An equal opportunity in education act that states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance …” This especially affects athletic opportunities for females in college sports.

Undergraduate education: Post-secondary education (after high school) attained up to the level of a Bachelor’s degree.

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