10 College Terms Every Student Should Know   

Ginger Abbot

Aug 9, 2022
college terms

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Entering college is an exciting time. There is so much opportunity ahead, from exploring your career to making new friends! Along with all this excitement, comes new terminology. To help put your mind at ease, here are ten college terms you should know. 

1. An Academic Advisor 

Your academic advisor acts as a mentor to help guide you. They help you decide what courses to take and answer your academic questions. Your advisor is usually part of your major’s department. Get to know them during the semester since they are a valuable resource. 

2. Being on Academic Probation

Academic prohibition is one of the college terms you should fully understand. It’s when you’re struggling to pass a course. The school will give you the warning to improve your grades. When on probation you could lose your scholarship or not be able to play sports. 


Check out your school’s website for the academic probation requirements. For example, at Temple, you’re on probation if you have a GPA of 2.0 after completing 30 or more credits. 

3. Add/Drop Period 

This is one of the college terms you want to keep in mind. It is a period at the beginning of the semester where you can add or drop a class without a penalty. It’s useful if you’re having trouble with a class and need to drop it. Just make sure you are aware of the deadline. If you end up removing it after the period this is called a withdrawal, which does impact your transcript. 

If you’re having a hard time deciding what to do, reach out to your advisor. The length of the period varies, but you usually have about one to three weeks to change your schedule. 

4. Your Course Load

A course load is the total number of courses you take each semester. Most schools require you to take at least four courses per semester. Each course is assigned a certain amount of credits, based on how often they meet. When choosing classes, remember you need a specific number of credits to graduate. 

5. Choosing an Elective 

You’re often required to take courses in your major and outside of it. The classes you choose outside of your major are known as electives. They tend to fulfill general education guidelines, such as a history course. Plus, they give you a chance to explore a subject you’re interested in. 

6. FAFSA Application 

This stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You want to fill it out before entering school and is a critical step in getting financial support. Between the cost of tuition, room and board, and supplies, the expenses start to add up. Many universities have you complete the form before orientation. Keep in mind applying for grants can also help cover costs. 

To apply, fill out the form on the government official website. The first step is to create an FSA ID, with a username and password. Make sure you enter your social security number and name correctly. 

7. A Meal Plan 

Students will sign up for a  meal plan at the beginning of the semester. It will determine the number of meals the you have per semester. This will include meal swipes for the cafeteria and on-campus dining facilities. There are a few different meal plans available.

For example, a lighter one may offer students 14 meals a week. Although, an unlimited plan is where a student can eat as much as they want, but at a higher price. The meal plan you choose should depend on your lifestyle and schedule. For example, if you live in a dorm then the unlimited option is best. However, if you live off-campus and have a busy schedule go for a lighter meal plan. 

8. Your GPA

It stands for grade point average. It’s also one of the critical college terms to know for passing your classes. Each school will have its own GPA system, but the highest number is usually a 4.0. Having a good GPA is important for keeping you off of academic probation. In addition, a high GPA can qualify you for academic awards, such as National Honor Societies. Your GPA is updated each semester after grades are finalized. 

9. Registration Period 

This is the period where you sign up for your classes. You’ll receive a time slot to register for courses based on your grade level. For example, seniors usually get to pick first. When registering, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

The university may offer pass/fail classes. This means you will either pass or fail the classes, but earn no grade for the course. In addition, there may be some prerequisites for courses. This means you have to complete one course before taking the other. For example, you have to complete Introductory to Psychology before taking Cognitive Psychology. 

Talk with your advisor to determine which ones work with your schedule. Also, have backups in case you don’t get your first choice. 

10. Syllabus 

A syllabus is a document summarizing the course. You will receive one at the beginning of the semester. It includes information, such as course objectives, classroom topics, and test dates. Your professor may spend the first day reviewing it. Make sure to read it on your own as well and reference it throughout the semester. 

Essential College Terms 

Starting college is both fun and a little overwhelming. Once you enter campus, there may be some new terminology to get used to. So, here is a guide to help you learn the university lingo. 


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