Academic Year

The school year that begins with autumn classes; the academic year at most US colleges and universities starts in August or September.


School official assigned to help you choose your classes and make sure you are taking the right courses to graduate.


To attend a class without receiving academic credit.

Bachelor’s Degree

A degree awarded to undergraduates, usually after four years of college classes.


Day of graduation.


Students who take college courses but do not reside in campus housing.

Course Number

The number your college or university uses to classify a course. You usually need this number in order to register for a class.

Credit Hour

The number of hours assigned to a specific class. This is usually the number of hours per week you are in the class. The number of credit hours you enroll in determines whether you are a full-time student or a part-time student.


Failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to in the loan’s promissory note. Most federal student loans will default if a payment has not been made in more than 270 days. Students may experience personal and legal consequences if they default.


A loan is delinquent when loan payments are not received by the due dates. A loan remains delinquent until the borrower makes up the missed payments through payment, deferment, or forbearance. If the borrower is unable to make payments, he or she should contact his or her loan servicer to discuss options to keep the loan in good standing.


Highest academic degree after receiving a Bachelor’s or Master’s.


A class you can take that is not specifically required by your major or minor.

Extracurricular Activities

Groups you belong to outside of class, such as sporting teams, clubs, and organizations.

Financial Aid

Money you receive for your college tuition or expenses that you may or may not have to pay back. (See “Grant,” “Loan,” and “Scholarship”).


First-year college student.

Full-time Student

A student who enrolls in at least a minimum number (determined by your college or university) of credit hours of courses.

General Education classes

Classes that give students basic knowledge of a variety of topics; students often must take general education classes in order to graduate. This set of classes includes different courses and is called by different names at various colleges and universities.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

The average of all of the course grades you have received, on a four-point scale.


A form of financial aid from a non-profit organization (such as the government) that you do not have to repay.


Fraternities and sororities.


A temporary job, paid or unpaid, usually in the field of your major. You may be able to receive college credit for an internship.


Third-year college student.


A form of financial aid that you must repay.


Your primary area of study. Your college major is the field you plan to get a job in after you graduate (for example, business, education, broadcast journalism, social work or computer science).

Master’s Degree

A degree awarded to graduate students. The awarding of a master’s degree requires at least one year of study (and often more, depending on the field) after a student earns a bachelor’s degree.


Your secondary area of study. Fewer classes are required for a college minor than for a major. Colleges and universities usually don’t require students to have a minor. Many students’ minors are a specialization of their major field. For example, students who want to become a science reporter might major in journalism and minor in biology.


Your semester is divided into two eight-week periods.

Office Hours

Time set aside by professors for students to visit their office and ask questions or discuss the course they teach. Your professor will tell you at the beginning of the term their office hours.

Online Classes

Courses you take by computer instead of in a traditional classroom.

Part-time Student

A student who doesn’t enroll in enough credit hours to become a fulltime student, as defined by the college. Part-time students often take only one or two classes at one.


A class that must be taken before you can take a different class. (For example, Composition I is a prerequisite for Composition II).


A student who lives in and meets the residency requirements for the state where they intend to enroll.


A form of financial aid that you do not have to repay. GPA requirements often apply.


Type of academic term. A school with this system generally will have a fall semester and a spring semester (each about 15 weeks long), along with a summer term.


Fourth-year college student. You are a senior when you graduate from college.


Second-year college student.


A description of a course which also lists the dates of major exams, assignments and projects.


The length of time that you take a college class. (e.g., “Module”, “Semester”, “summer”).


An official academic record from a specific school. It lists the courses you have completed, grades and information for the period for which you attended.