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Glossary of College Terminoloy

Take the confusion out of your college journey with this helpful guide to commonly used words and phrases that you’ll encounter throughout the admissions process.

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Academic Advisor

Advisors guide and advise students to make informed choices related to their program of study, course selection, career choices, and other matters. Note that students bear ultimate responsibility for completing all requirements for graduation.

Academic Calendar

The academic calendar lists pertinent dates related to academic programming, opening and closing dates, and other official information. The calendar is listed in the College Catalog and posted on the College website.

Academic Probation

All colleges require students to maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) to remain in school.  Any student not maintaining satisfactory progress toward his/her educational objectives will be placed on probation for a semester.

Academic Suspension

Students must meet cumulative GPA standards in order to maintain enrollment. Criteria needed to avoid suspension are listed in the College Catalog.

Add/Drop Period

The add/drop period at the beginning of the semester is the time in which students may make schedule changes to their class schedule without incurring a failing grade.


An alumni is a person who has graduated from the College. A male is called an alumnus, while a female is called an alumna.

Asynchronous Courses

A nontraditional approach to classes that do not meet face-to-face.  Students do not “attend” class at a set time, but rather, access pre-recorded lectures and digital curriculum materials and respond through email, discussion boards, social networking, and collaborative documents at a time of their own choosing.


A student who does not want to receive credit or a grade in a course may, with approval of the College, audit a course as a “visitor.” The student usually must pay the tuition for the course. A student who audits a course usually cannot ask or petition the College at a later date to obtain college credit for the audited course.

Bachelor’s Degree (also called a Baccalaureate Degree)

This degree is the undergraduate degree offered by four-year colleges and universities.  The Bachelor of Arts degree requires that a portion of the student’s studies be dedicated to the arts (literature, language, music, etc.).  The Bachelor of Science degree requires that a portion of the studies be dedicated to the sciences (chemistry, biology, math, etc.).  The minimum credit hour requirement for a bachelor’s degree is 120 hours.


The College has partnered with Akademos to provide easy ordering of textbook options online. The Panther Grounds houses the campus spirits shop as well as a coffee shop with to-go food options. Visit the bookstore.

The Carter Center for Academic Success

The Carter Center for Academic Success houses a number of programs that assist and empower students to achieve academic success. Housed in the lower level of the Stanley Library, the Carter Center for Academic Success is open 24 hours a day and provides a quiet place for students to study or complete individual or group projects. Throughout the day, faculty from varied disciplines hold their office hours in the Carter Center of Academic Success, giving students an opportunity to work with professors outside of class in a comfortable environment. Currently the Carter Center for Academic Success is following Covid protocol, limiting hours.


The College Catalog is an important tool for understanding the College’s academic and administrative policies, procedures, and academic programs. It describes all academic programs and associated policies and provides a list of courses required in each major as well as complete descriptions of all courses. The Catalog is considered the student’s contract with the College. The Catalog is available on the website.


The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) can be administered to students who desire to obtain college credit by taking proficiency tests in selected courses. If a student scores high enough on the test, college credit can be awarded. There is a charge for each test taken. Information concerning the College’s policies toward CLEP Tests can be found in the College Catalog.


A college is an institution of higher education that grants degrees and certificates.


Day of graduation.

Course Number

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

Credit Hour

Courses are usually measured in credit hours. A credit hour is equivalent to about 1 hour of class time per week/semester. Credits are assigned to a course based on how many hours a week it meets (i.e., a 3 credit course meets 3 hours a week). Students may refer to how many credit hours or credits they are carrying for a particular semester. The appropriate number of credit hours are awarded to a student upon passing a course. At Ferrum College, a typical course load is around 15 credit hours. Full-time status requires a minimum of 12 credit hours. Enrollments greater than 18 credit hours result in overload charges. A student must maintain 12 credit hours to maintain financial aid requirements as a full-time student. A specific number of credits are required to graduate.


Composed of those classes prescribed or outlined by an institution for completion of a program of study leading to a degree or certificate. Students should note that it is the combination of core courses, major/major-related courses, and elective courses that leads to the required number of credit hours needed for graduation.


A dean is an administrator at the College. Most commonly, a dean leads a school or college within a university. While a dean works with budgets and staffing and other things, the dean’s primary responsibility is for academic oversight. In smaller colleges, there is typically only one person in this role, who may be called “the academic dean.” At Ferrum College, administrators who oversee other areas may also be called “dean,” such as the Dean of Student Success and the Dean of Enrollment for Admissions.


Degrees are rewards for successful completion of a prescribed program of study. There are three basic types of degrees: 1) Associate: a two-year degree usually obtained from a community or junior college, 2) Baccalaureate or Bachelor: offered by four-year colleges and universities, and 3) Graduate: post-baccalaureate degrees (Master’s and Doctorate degrees) offered through college or university graduate schools.

Disability Services

Services for students with disabilities are provided by staff in the Carter Center for Academic Success located in the lower level of Stanley Library. Accommodations are provided in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for students with a documented disability seeking accommodations. Contact Nancy Beach, director of the Office of Accessibility, at

Drop and Add

Students are generally permitted to drop courses from their class schedules and/or add other courses. Colleges allow varying lengths of time for students to add and drop classes. The Academic Calendar denotes the drop/add dates. Students usually need written approval from their academic advisor to initiate the dropping or adding of classes. It is important to remember to maintain 12 credit hours to maintain financial aid eligibility each semester.


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


Enrollment is the procedure by which students choose classes each semester. It also includes the assessment and collection of fees.

Extracurricular Activities

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


The faculty is composed of persons who teach classes for colleges. Some colleges differentiate between faculty and instructors. Instructors are hired to teach a specific class or classes, while faculty members have contracts with the College that require additional duties beyond teaching.

Federal Work-study

Federal work-study is a federally funded program in which students are hired in campus jobs as part of their financial aid package. Students must complete the FAFSA and be qualified to take part in this work-study program. Some institutional work-study jobs are available that are unrelated to financial aid qualification.


Fees are additional charges not included in the tuition. Fees may be charged to cover the cost of materials and equipment needed in certain courses, and they may be assessed for student events, programs, and publications.


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records. Although FERPA gives parents certain rights regarding their student’s educational records, it is important for parents to realize that these rights transfer to students once they turn 18 or attend a school beyond high school. For more information, click here.

Final Exams (Finals)

These end of the semester exams are given during a specific week called “Finals Week.”  The type of final administered in a course is left to the discretion of the instructor.  Final exams given during Finals Week are given on specific dates that may be different than the regular class time and are usually two hours in length.   Final exam schedules can be found on the Registrar’s webpage.

Financial Aid

Aid for paying college expenses is made available from grants, scholarships, loans, and part-time employment from federal, state, institutional, and private sources.  Financial aid from these programs may be combined in an “award package” to meet or defray from the cost of education.  The types and amounts of aid awarded are based upon financial need, available funds, student classification, academic performance, and sometimes the timeliness of application.

First Generation Students

A term used to refer to a student who does not have a parent that completed a four-year degree.

Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA)

The FAFSA is a form used by the college financial aid office to collect information about the student’s total family income, assets, and expenses in order to analyze the family’s potential contribution toward college expenses.

Freshman/First-Year Student

A student who has been admitted to the College and has earned fewer than 24 credit hours.

Full-time Enrollment

A full-time student is enrolled in 12 or more credit hours in a semester.

General Education Classes

Classes that give students basic knowledge of a variety of topics. Students 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

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


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

Humanities Courses

Humanities courses cover subjects such as literature, philosophy, foreign languages, and the fine arts.  Most undergraduate degrees require a certain number of humanities credit hours.


A hybrid (HY) course is a blend of face-to-face instruction with online learning.  In a hybrid course, a significant part of the course learning is online and as a result, the amount of classroom seat-time is reduced.


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


A student who has earned at least 56 credit hours but fewer than 88 credit hours.

Lecture Classes

In lecture classes, students attend class on a regular basis and the instructor lectures on class material.

Letter Grades/Grade Point Average (GPA)

Most colleges use both letter grades and GPAs using the following method: As are worth 4 points; Bs are worth 3 points; Cs are worth 2 points; Ds are worth 1 point; and Fs are worth 0 points. To calculate a GPA, multiply the number of hours a course is worth by the number of points for the letter grade, then add up the totals for each course and divide by the number of credit hours.

Laboratory Classes

Laboratory classes require students to perform certain functions in controlled situations that help them test and understand what is being taught in the lecture class.


A form of financial aid that you must repay.


Your primary area of study that requires the successful completion of a specified number of credit hours. Your college major is the field you plan to get a job in after you graduate (for example: business, criminal justice, psychology, pre-professional health). A minor is designated as a specific number of credit hours in a secondary field of study.  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.

May Term

May Term is a three-week mini-term where students are enrolled in one course that meets for at least three hours every day, equivalent to one semester-long course.

Meal Plan

A meal plan is a pre-paid account for student meals while at college. All residential students are required to take part in one of the meal plans offered.

Midterm Exams (Midterms)

During the middle of each semester or term, instructors may give midterm exams that test students on the material covered up to that point. Students receive midterm grades based on their grade after the completion of the midterm exams and help the student determine their progress in their courses.


A student who isn’t an official resident of the state where a public university is located. Tuition at public universities is less expensive for residents.

Office Hours

Time set aside by professors or teaching assistants for students to visit their office and ask questions or discuss the course they teach. Your professor or teaching assistant will tell you at the beginning of the term when and where office hours will be every week.

Online Courses

Online courses are offered completely on the computer, accessed via the internet.

PAL Tutor

A current student who has completed assigned courses and serves as a peer tutor to help current students better understand the course material. All tutoring services with PAL tutors are included in your tuition.

Part-Time Student

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

Pass/Fail Courses

Pass/Fail courses do not earn letter grades or grade points for a student. If a student passes a pass/fail course, he/she receives a “P” (pass) or “S” (satisfactory) on the transcript and the credit hours. If the student does not pass the course, they will receive an “F” (fail) or “U” (unsatisfactory) on the transcript and no credit hours. Pass/fail courses are not calculated into the student’s GPA.


PAWS is a one-day summer orientation for all incoming first-year students and families that includes information about all aspects of life at Ferrum College.


A class that must be taken before you can take a different class. (For example, English 100 may be a prerequisite for English 200.)

Private University

A university that is privately funded. Tuition for a private college or university (before scholarships and grants) is the same for all students.


A term for both a category of college employee and for a rank. Faculty members who teach (but not teaching assistants) at a college or university are usually considered professors. In this sense “professor” is the term for the category “college faculty who teach.” College faculty usually have ranks, and “professor” is the highest rank (sometimes you will hear that rank called “full professor”). Here are the ranks in order of highest to lowest: Professor Associate professor Assistant professor: the lowest rank to be called “professor” Instructor: not always used


A way a student can demonstrate learning, often involving creative methods. Examples include artwork to illustrate concepts or skills, a musical composition, or possibly a curriculum design. In some cases, students may be able to choose a project instead of a thesis/dissertation or comprehensive exam. Projects can also be used as assignments in individual courses.


This is the title used at some institutions for the chief academic officer, the highest-ranking academic administrator. In a university, each college or school is typically led by a dean, who is the highest-ranking academic officer within the college or school—and the deans then report to the provost. Provosts typically also oversee a university’s faculty.

Public University

A university that is funded by the government. Public colleges and universities are less expensive for residents of the state where they are located.


The registrar of an institution is responsible for maintaining all academic records. Duties may also include maintenance of class enrollments, providing statistical information of student enrollment, certification of athletic eligibility, and student eligibility for honor rolls, certification of the eligibility of veterans, administering probation and retention policies, and verification of the completion of degree requirements for graduation.


The process of becoming officially enrolled in classes for a semester. It begins with selecting courses and ends at the beginning of every semester via completion of necessary documentation and “checking in.”


A student who lives in and meets the residency requirements for the state where a public university is located. Tuition at public universities often is more expensive for nonresidents.

Residential College

Many colleges have on-campus housing for students called dormitories.

Resident Advisor (RA)

Resident assistants are trained student leaders responsible for supervising a group of resident students. They assist with questions, social issues, roommate issues, and other problems that might arise. They also assist in enforcing College policies within the residence halls.

Resident Directors (RD)

Resident directors oversee resident assistants and are responsible for managing the overall well-being of the Residence Hall. Residence directors often live in an apartment in the residence hall.

Schedule of Classes

Colleges publish a class schedule for each semester. With the help of academic advisors students make up their own individual class schedules for each semester they are enrolled. Courses are designated in the class schedule by course department, course number, time and days the course meets, the room number and building name, and the instructor’s name. A class schedule is a list of classes a student is taking and includes course name and number, time, and location of the class.


Scholarships are awarded based on a variety of criteria, such as academics achievement, talents, affiliations with various groups, or career aspirations. These funds are grants that do not require repayment.


Generally speaking, a semester is one half of an academic year. However, other terms are included in each academic year. These include May term as well as optional summer sessions and winter term.


A student who has earned at least 88 credit hours but who has not earned a bachelor’s degree.


A student who has earned at least 24 credit hours but fewer than 56 credit hours.

Student Accounts Office

The Student Accounts Office is responsible for all financial transactions pertaining to student’s charges including tuition, fees, and payments. They are responsible for maintaining financial records for the institution.

Student Government Association (SGA)

The official voice of the students, the SGA is a student-elected body that represents the interests of all students while promoting and assisting Ferrum College clubs, groups, and organizations.

Student ID

Students are issued a photo identification card that includes a randomly generated identification number used in lieu of a social security number. It is required to enter residence halls and events on campus and upon entrance to the dining hall.


The syllabus is an outline or overview of the course distributed by the instructor at the beginning of the course. The syllabus often includes course requirements, objectives, textbook information, contact information for the instructor, and a schedule of assignments and topics. Students are always encouraged to read the syllabus carefully and refer to it often throughout the course.

Synchronous Classes

Synchronous learning is online or distance education that happens in real time, often with a set class schedule and required login times.  This means that you, your classmates, and your instructor interact in a specific virtual place at a set time. In these courses, instructors commonly take attendance, same as they would in a lecture hall. Common methods of synchronous online learning include video conferencing, teleconferencing, live chatting, and live-streamed lectures that must be viewed in real time.


This acronym stands for “to be announced” and is used when information is not available at the time schedules are made available to students.


 The official record of a student’s academic experience and includes a list of all courses attempted and the grade earned in each. The official transcript is maintained by the Registrar.

Transfer of Credit

Some students attend more than one institution during their college careers and will wish for accumulated credit hours from the former institution to transfer to the new institution. To transfer credits, a student must have an official transcript sent to the new institution, which will determine the courses that will apply toward graduation requirements.


Tuition is the amount paid for each credit hour of enrollment.  Tuition does not include the cost of books, fees, or room and board.  Tuition charges vary among colleges and are dependent on such factors as resident or out-of-state status, level of classes enrolled in (lower, upper, or graduate division), and whether the institution is publicly or privately financed.


Students at a college or university who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree.


Withdrawal refers to the process of formally removing a student from a single class or from all classes for a semester. Established procedures must be followed as stated in the College Catalog. Withdrawals may have financial implications depending upon the date(s).


A major is the focus area for a two- or four-year degree. Undergraduates choose a major in order to specialize their degree in a particular field.