Glossary of College Terms

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1 Glossary of College Terms ACT The ACT is a pre-college standardized test utilized by college admissions offices as a part of the application. It is offered six times a year, and students should take it during 11 th grade, or early in 12 th grade. It includes English, Math, Reading and Science sections, and it is in a multiple-choice format. There is an optional essay section that some colleges require. The test is scored from 1-36, and the average score in Wisconsin was a 22.3 on the 2009 test. Midwestern schools tend to request this test more often than schools in other parts of the country, but almost every college/university accepts it. Advisor Advisors help college students select courses that put them on the path to graduating on time and fulfilling major/minor requirements. Counselors at larger schools may have more students under their watch, so students have to ask for help early. AP Advanced Placement courses are classes offered at high schools that mimic the course load of an introductory college course. A student may receive college credit if they pass the AP test at the end of the year. AP course offerings vary by school, but there is a test in virtually every academic subject Foreign Languages, English, History, Physics, Biology, Calculus, Statistics and Art, among others. Articulation agreement Some colleges will create a plan to ease a students transition from a two-year program to a four-year. Some of these agreements will allow students to complete two years at a local two-year school and then transfer to a four-year campus with third-year standing. Others will streamline the application process so that a student would be granted acceptance if they hold a certain GPA. For specifics on the agreements, see the two year school s guidance office. Associate s degree Students receive an associate s degree after completing coursework at a two-year college. Popular jobs that require this degree physical therapist assistant, Web designer, paralegal, mechanic, cosmetologist, veterinary technician, registered nurse, administrative assistant, dental hygienist. You can also use your associate degree to jump into a bachelor s degree. Audit Some students choose to audit courses in college. This means they get the experience from the class, but they do not get any credits. The course s instructor may have different expectations for auditors, since they do not receive a grade. Students paying tuition by the credit, rather than by the semester/quarter, may pay less for audited courses. Bachelor s degree Students receive a bachelor s degree after completing coursework at a four-year college or university. Teachers, journalists, engineers, translators, interpreters, account managers and copywriters all need bachelor s degrees. It is also required if you want to pursue a master s degree or a professional degree. Credit Colleges and universities measure classes by credit, usually by how much time and work is required. Students must earn a certain number of credits to graduate, and they must accumulate a certain number of credits in one area to earn a major. Class standing usually depends on the number of credits collected, not the number of years completed. Difference between college and university Some schools are called colleges and some are called universities. One is not better than the other, the names just have to do with the way the school is organized, and sometimes there is no difference. The majority of the time, the university is the larger school, composed of several specialized colleges. For example, Marquette University is composed of a College of Arts and Sciences, College of Page 1

2 Business Administration, College of Communication, College of Engineering, College of Health Sciences, College of Nursing and College of Education. Colleges are generally simpler in their organization, and they may offer fewer areas of study. Universities offer higher degrees and graduate programs, while colleges only award bachelor s and associate s degrees. Drop Most colleges and universities will allow you to drop a class if you do not like it or if you are not doing well in it. Each school has its own deadlines, so make sure you are aware of the latest date you may drop a class. Also, dropping a class could change a students status from full-time to part-time, which may affect his/her financial aid. Early action/early decision Some schools offer applicants the option of submitting their applications a few months earlier to get a response a few months earlier. Be careful when heading down this road, as some schools will require you to commit to that institution if you are accepted early. Applicants typically are not afforded special treatment if they apply early action/early decision, so the only advantage is he/she finds out earlier. Expected Family Contribution (EFC) After submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the government will determine how much a students family can afford when it comes to college. The formula takes into account his/her family s income, assets, size of the household and the number of children that could potentially go to college. The government and colleges/universities will use your EFC to formulate a financial aid package. Flagship Flagship campuses are the premiere public research university in a state. Wisconsin s flagship school is the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In Illinois, it is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - It s the form the government uses to determine how much grant money you qualify for. It also qualifies you for federal work-study and loans. Need-based scholarships will require a copy of the FAFSA as proof of the student s financial situation. Schools will use it to determine their own financial aid package. You must submit it electronically at and it comes online January 1 of your senior year. You must submit it every year you are in college, but the information will carry over from year-to-year. The FAFSA requires information found on your family s taxes, so you must get those materials together before applying for financial aid. Four-year school Four-year schools offer bachelor s degrees. They are typically more expensive than their twoyear counterparts. They offer what is commonly thought as the traditional college experience, and graduate schools may be attached to their campuses. Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin are four-year schools. Full-time student Full-time students take credits per semester/quarter. Full-time status is generally a requirement for financial aid opportunities and normal tuition rates. General Ed classes Most colleges and universities have a core of general subject areas all students must take, regardless of major. So even if a student majors in History, he or she may have to take some math classes and some science classes. Graduate student Students who have already obtained a bachelor s degree and are working toward a master s, PhD or professional degree are known as graduate students. Grade Point Average One way colleges/universities evaluate students academic achievements is through their GPA. To calculate a GPA, a 4 is given for every A, a 3 for every B, a 2 for every C, a 1 for every D and a 0 for every F. Those Page 2

3 Grants Like scholarships, grants are a source of financial aid that does not need to be repaid. Students need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to receive many of these. Grants are only based on the student s financial situation, so grades are usually not a factor. They dry up quickly, so get your FAFSA in ASAP. IB Some high schools have adopted the International Baccularette curriculum, which allows students to take a set of classes designed to simulate a college workload. Unlike AP, students must take several core IB courses at the same time, and they would be required to be in the program for their final two years to qualify for the IB diploma. Colleges may award credit for each passing score on an IB test, and they may issue additional credit if the student finishes the IB diploma, which requires community service along with an extensive essay or project. IB is offered at far fewer high schools than AP. Liberal arts college Liberal arts colleges stress the importance of a well-rounded education, and they force students to take classes from a variety of disciplines. Liberal arts colleges tend to focus on the classical education. Liberal arts colleges may be housed in a larger university, like the University of Wisconsin s College of Arts and Sciences, or they may be a free-standing institution, like Beloit College. Loans Students who don t receive enough scholarships and grants may need to take out loans to afford college. These do need to be repaid, and with interest. They can be obtained through the federal government via the FAFSA, or from private lenders and banks. The repayment schedule and interest rate vary by lender. Major A major is a student s focus of study while in college, and they have to complete a certain number of credits in that area. It is usually either an area of interest, or it relates to a career of interest. Popular majors include business, psychology, biology, engineering and communications. Master s degree It s the degree you receive after completing a graduate program, which usually takes 2-3 years after completing a bachelor s degree. A master s program is generally more rigorous than bachelor s coursework, but it is required for some professions, and it can unlock higher salaries. Librarians, economists, museum curators, nurse practitioners and community college professors all need a master s. You need to complete a bachelor s degree before obtaining a master s. Minor Some colleges and universities allow students to earn a minor along with their major. It will be in an area in which the student has interest, but does not have the time or energy to double-major. Minors typically require fewer credits than majors. Non-traditional students There is not an exact definition for a non-traditional student, but it typically refers to a student who did not enter college in their late-teens/early-20s, or someone who works full-time and only attends school part-time. Online class Some colleges have begun offering more of their classes online. These began as an accommodation for students that didn t have time to attend a full lecture or couldn t make it down to campus, but they have become more commonplace. Their format varies from school to school. Part-time student Students who take less than 12 credits per semester/quarter are referred to as part-time students. Part-time students may not be eligible for as much financial aid as full-time students, and they may be charged different tuition rates. Page 3

4 Pell Grant These are federal grants given to the neediest of students, as determined by the FAFSA. The maximum award fluctuates annually, but it was $5,350 in the academic year. The amount a student receives in Pell depends on the Expected Family Contribution and the cost of his/her education. PhD This stands for a Doctor of Philosophy. No, all PhD student don t actually have to study philosophy. PhD students study and research a particular subject in great depth and for multiple years. Head down this path if you re interested in some advanced science, if you d like to be a professor or if you d like to be known as an expert in your field. You need a bachelor s degree before pursuing your PhD, and you also may need a master s before entering this program. Postsecondary education This refers to any form of education. Going to community college? That s a postsecondary education. Training to be a mechanic? That s a postsecondary education. Pursuing a PhD in quantum physics? That s a postsecondary education. Heading to UW-Whitewater? That s a postsecondary education. Experts predict that in the not-so-distant future, all living wage jobs will require some sort of postsecondary work. Private colleges/universities Private schools are funded by private entities (i.e.: religious institutions) and tuition dollars. As a result, they have higher sticker prices than their public cousins. The most expensive colleges in the country are private institutions, but they typically are able to award more aid to their students. Examples Alverno, Marquette. Professional Degree Professional degrees often lead to the best-paying jobs, but they are also some of the most expensive. You need one of these degrees to become a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, veterinarian or dentist. You will need a bachelor s degree before applying to a professional school. Public college/universities Public schools are funded by the local taxpayers (either from the state, county or city), so tuition rates tend to be lower for residents, but they may have older resources and fewer institutional scholarships. Tuition rates increase if you are not from the institution s base. So a Wisconsin resident would pay more at an Ohio public university than an Ohio resident. Examples Milwaukee Area Technical College, the University of Wisconsin. Reciprocity Non-residents typically pay much more than residents at public universities (see Public Universities and Colleges), but that changes when states create reciprocity agreements. Currently, Minnesota and Wisconsin have a reciprocity agreement for their state university systems. So a Wisconsinite can go to a Minnesota state school (i.e.: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Mankato State) for around the same price as a similar Wisconsin school, and vice versa. Research university As the name implies, research universities focus on research. These institutions expect professors complete a certain level of research in addition to their teaching duties. These schools typically offer research opportunities to undergrads. Rolling admissions Some schools do not have a set application deadline, and they will continue to accept candidates until their classes are full. But the lack of deadlines shouldn t prevent you from applying early on in the fall. SAT The SAT is a pre-college standardized test utilized by college admissions offices as a part of the application. It is offered seven times a year, and contains three sections. The test consists of two multiple choice sections in critical reading and math, and there is a mandatory writing section. The test is more popular with schools on the coasts. It is scored on a scale of , and the average score from 2009 was a Page 4

5 Schedule College students typically have more freedom in selecting their courses every semester than high school students. With help from an advisor, they create a schedule for every semester/quarter. Scholarship Scholarships are money given to students by corporations, individuals, foundations and colleges (among others). Students do not need to pay back money earned from scholarships, but they may have to maintain a certain GPA, remain in a particular major, attend a specific school, go to an event or do community service. Scholarship awards range from $50 to the entire cost of college. There is no limit to the number of scholarships you can receive, but the amount of money can t exceed your college costs. Semester/Quarter Colleges and Universities academic years are either divided into semesters or quarters. Students in semester institutions have two semesters (one in the fall, one in the spring) to go with an optional summer session, while students in quarters have three main quarters (fall, winter and spring) and an optional summer session. Students in the quarter system will take more classes than their semester counterparts, but they will have exams more frequently. Student Aid Report (SAR) A few days after a student submits a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, he/she will receive a Student Aid Report. The SAR contains all the data from the FAFSA, along with the calculated EFC. This is a student s last chance to correct any information before the government sends the data to the student s selected schools. Tuition The fees a student pays for classes each semester/quarter. This is generally the largest cost connected with college, but it does not include things like books, room and board or student fees. Two-year school Two-year schools offer associate s degrees and certifications. They usually attract a large local student body and non-traditional students. They may try to teach the more practical aspects of a profession rather than theoretical ideas. Milwaukee Area Technical College, Gateway College and UW-Waukesha are all examples of this sort of school. Students may transfer to a four-year institution after their two years if they desire. Undergraduate All college students pursuing an associate s degree or bachelor s degree are undergraduates. Work-study Work-study is a form of federal financial aid that arranges for a student to get a job either on-campus or near-campus. These jobs may be related to a student s interests, and he/she may only work an allotted number of hours. Page 5

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