College Dictionary – Guide to College Terms

College is full of new experiences, new classes, new people, and new opportunities. There’s so much “new” associated with going to a post-secondary institution that one aspect is often overlooked: a new language. While going to college doesn’t literally require learning a whole new language, it brings up a whole new list of terms that no one really takes the time to teach you.

For students and parents alike, these foreign terms and phrases can often be confusing and difficult to navigate. So, we’ve put together a list to help you work your way through all the “new-ness” that is going to college.

  • Academic Advisor – This is the person you will meet with prior to each semester to help you create your schedule. They will advise you as to which classes you need to take in order to stay on track and meet your degree requirements.
  • Associate’s Degree – The degree earned after completing an associate’s degreedegree program that typically consists of 60 (or more) credit hours. Associate’s degrees usually take about 2 years to earn. To be eligible for TN Promise at a 4 year institution, you must be enrolled in an associate’s degree program!
  • Bridge Program – These are courses students take during the summer to prepare themselves for college level coursework. If you scored below 19 in math or reading and/or below an 18 in English on your ACT, you may be required to take learning support classes. The Bridge Program is an opportunity to test out of those courses!
  • Credit Hour – One credit hour is equal to one “class hour” (typically the amount of hours spent in class, but sometimes a class hour is more or less than 60 minutes). Classes are assigned a specific number of credit hours, and the amount of credit hours you are enrolled in each semester determines whether you are a full-time or a part-time student. To be eligible for TN Promise, you must be enrolled as a full-time student.
  • Community College – A 2 year college that offers an associate’s degree (sometimes called a junior college) All 13 of Tennessee’s community colleges are TN Promise eligible institutions.
  • FAFSA – This is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is how the government awards federal aid, which can be in the form of federal grants, work-study, or loans. The FAFSA needs to be filed before each academic year. It is a mandatory eligibility requirement for TN Promise to file your FAFSA each year prior to the deadline.
  • Financial Aid Office – The financial aid office at your institution is dedicated to serving as a financial aid resource to students and parents.
  • Full-Time – To be considered a full-time student, students must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester. Being a full-time student is required to be eligible for TN Promise. Take note that if a student is at 12 hours and drops a class, they are no longer eligible for TN Promise.
  • Office Hours – This is a time set aside outside of class that your professor has designated to meet with students, answer questions, and help with assignments. This can usually be found on a professor’s syllabus for the class. Office hours are a valuable resource, take advantage of them!
  • Prerequisite – A class you are required to take before you can register for another class. An example would be, to take English 254 you need to take English 101 first.
  • Registrar – The Registrar’s office is responsible for keeping all student records. This is important to know if you wish to transfer schools (during your associate’s degree or even after to pursue a bachelor’s degree).
  • Semester – The academic school year at community and 4 year colleges is divided into semesters. The fall semester is typically from late August – early December and the spring semester is typically early January – early May. Summer semesters are also offered. To receive TN Promise during a summer semester, you would need to be a full-time student (at least 12 credit hours).
  • Syllabus – This is a document your professors will give you at the beginning of theSyllabus semester for each class. Syllabi contain tons of useful information, such as a class schedule, due dates, exam dates, grading scales, class expectations, office hours, and professor contact information. These will be an extremely helpful resource throughout your academic career.
  • Transcript – This is an official record from your institution that includes your grades, courses completed, dates attended, and your degree. You will need a copy of your transcript from the registrar’s office if you’re looking to transfer, among other things as well.
  • Trimester – if you’re enrolled in a technical college, your academic year is divided into 3 trimesters as opposed to 2 semesters.
  • Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) – 2 year colleges that offer career focused programs and hands on training for specific jobs. Common programs of study include welding, cosmetology, and automotive programs among many others.
  • Verification – You may be randomly selected for verification by the federal government or by your institution’s financial aid office. This means that they need additional information to verify the information you provided on your FAFSA. Make sure you follow through with your financial aid office and provide them with the necessary documents if this happens to you.

There you have it, you’re go-to guide to some of the important terms you need to knowenglish-dictionary-clipart-1 during your college career. If you’ve encountered an unfamiliar word or phrase that you can’t find here, contact your mentor or anyone on our staff for additional help!


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