Academic advisor: A member of a school’s faculty who provides advice and guidance to students on academic matters, such as course selections.

Bachelor’s: An undergraduate degree awarded by a college or university upon successful completion of a program of study, typically requiring at least four years (or the equivalent) of full-time study. Common degree types include Bachelor of Arts (B.A. or A.B.), which refers to the liberal arts, and Bachelor of Science (B.S.). A bachelor’s usually is required before starting graduate studies.

Credits: Units that a school uses to indicate that a student has completed and passed courses that are required for a degree. Each school defines the total number and types of credits necessary for degree completion, with every course being assigned a value in terms of “credits.”

Department: A division of a school, made up of faculty and support staff that gives instruction in a particular field of study, such as the Department of History.

Drop: To withdraw from a course. A college or university typically has a period of time at the beginning of a term during which students can add or drop courses.

Electives: Courses that students can choose to take for credit toward a degree, but are not required.

Enroll: To register or enter a school or course as a participant.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): Application used by U.S. citizens and permanent residents to apply for financial aid from U.S. federal and state governments. International students are not eligible for U.S. government aid, but schools may ask international students to submit a FAFSA to determine financial need.

General Education courses (Gen Eds): A broad, common foundation of study upon which to develop skills of oral and written communication, as well as logical and scientific reasoning. Most General Education courses are taken during the freshman and sophomore years.

Grade point average (GPA): A student’s overall academic performance, which is calculated as a numerical average of grades earned in all courses. The GPA is determined after each term, typically on a 4.0 scale, and upon graduation, students receive an overall GPA for their studies.

Lower division: A unit of credit earned during the freshman and sophomore years. Lower-division credits will typically begin with a course number of 1000 or 2000. Example: English 1010.

Major: The academic subject area that a student chooses to focus on during his or her undergraduate studies. Students typically must officially choose their major by the end of their sophomore year, allowing them to take a number of courses in the chosen area during their junior and senior years.

Midterm exam: An exam given after half of the academic term has passed and that covers all material studied in a particular course until that point. Not all courses have midterm exams.

Minor: An academic subject area that a student chooses to have a secondary focus on during undergraduate studies. Unlike a major, a minor is typically not required, but it allows a student to take a few additional courses in a subject different from his or her major.

Placement test: An exam used to test a student’s academic ability so that he or she may be placed in the appropriate courses in that field. In some cases, a student may be given academic credit based on the results of a placement test.

Portfolio: A selection of a student’s work compiled over a period of time and used for assessing performance or progress within a course.

Prerequisite: A required course that must be completed before a student is allowed to enroll in a more advanced one.

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA): A process used by regulatory bodies, colleges, and universities to evaluate skills and knowledge acquired outside the classroom for the purpose of recognizing competence against a given set of standards, competencies, or learning outcomes.

Registration: The process in which students choose and enroll in courses to be taken during the academic year or in summer sessions.

Scholarship: A type of financial aid that consists of an amount of free money given to a student by a school, individual, organization, company, charity, or federal or state government.

Seminar: A course offered to a small group of students who are typically more advanced and who meet with a professor to discuss specialized topics.

Term: Periods of study, which can include semesters, quarters, trimesters, or summer sessions.

Transcript: An official record of a student’s coursework and grades at a high school, college, or university. A high school transcript is usually one of the required components of the college application process.

Tuition: An amount of money charged by a school per term, per course, or per credit in exchange for instruction and training. Tuition generally does not include the cost of textbooks, room and board, and other fees.

Upper division: A unit of credit earned during the junior and senior years. Upper-division credits will typically begin with a number of 3000 or 4000. Example: UNIV 4995.

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