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Academic Probation: If your grades fall below a certain level, your campus may place you on academic probation. This traditionally means that you need to raise your GPA or face the possibility of being removed from your school for academic reasons.

Adjunct Professor: A professor who is usually part-time or not on campus with a long-term contract (and, consequently, not eligible for tenure).

Admissions -

Advanced Placement (AP) - is a program in the United States and Canada created by the College Board which offers college-level curricula and examinations to high school students. American colleges and universities may grant placement and course credit to students who obtain high scores on the examinations.

Alumna: Female graduate or former student.

Alumnae: Female graduates or former students.

Alumni: Male graduates or both male and female graduates.

Alumnus: Male graduate or former student.

Application -

Area Coordinator (AC): This person usually oversees an area of your residence hall, or an area of your campus. They have more responsibility, and may sometimes supervise, Resident Advisers (RAs).

Area Director (AD): This is usually just another title for an Area Coordinator (AC).

Award Letter - The document you receive from a college that explains the terms of the financial aid that the college is offering you. The information includes the types and amounts of financial aid offered, what you’re expected to do to keep the award and a deadline for accepting the award.

Board of Directors/Board of Trustees: Most colleges have a board that oversees all parts of the campus. Traditionally, the board hires (and possibly fires) a president; manages the college or university’s finances; and is responsible for all major policy decisions. Many college and university boards comprise alumni, faculty, staff, community leaders, and (sometimes) students.

Board of Regents: Similar to how a Board of Trustees oversees a single college or university, a Board of Regents traditionally oversees a state system of public colleges or universities..

Bursar - The college official responsible for handling billing and payments for tuition, fees, housing and other related expenses.

College: In contrast to a university, a college traditionally only offers undergraduate degrees and programs. (There are, of course, some exceptions to this definition.)

College Credit - When a college grants credit for a course, it means that passing that course counts toward a degree. Colleges may also grant degree credit for scores on exams.

Common Application -

Commencement: Usually another name for graduation.

Convocation: On some campuses, each year starts with a convocation ceremony where the new class is officially welcomed and the academic year formally begins.

Cost of Attendance - The total amount of college expenses before financial aid. Cost of attendance includes money spent on tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and living expenses.

CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® - A financial aid application used by more than 300 colleges, universities and private scholarship programs to award their financial aid funds. The College Board offers this service. Read more about the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE.

Dean: A Dean is someone traditionally in charge of a major area of a college. For example, there may be a Dean of Students, a Dean of the Faculty, and a Dean of Arts & Sciences.

Demonstrated Need - The difference between your expected family contribution (EFC) and the total cost of attendance for a particular college.

Discipline: On a college campus, a discipline is often synonymous with a major. It usually refers to a field of study. (Of course, if you are charged with violating campus or community rules, you may be required to have a disciplinary hearing…and that definition is more traditional!)

Discourse: A conversation, exchange of words, or dialogue, usually incorporating a wide range of views and opinions.

Enrollment Status - A classification based on the number of credit-hours you're taking; for example, your enrollment status may be full-time or half-time. Some loans or aid may be available only to students with a certain enrollment status, usually half-time or more.

Essay -

ESL(English as a Second Language) -

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - A measure of your family’s financial strength. States and colleges use this number to help determine your financial aid award. The EFC is calculated using information you supply about your family’s financial circumstances. Read about the EFC.

Faculty: The faculty, or a faculty member, is generally anyone who teaches at the college.

FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This form is required for any student who wants to be considered for federal aid of any kind. Make sure you get your form in by the deadline!  The free application form you submit to apply for federal financial aid. It is required for all students seeking federal student grants, work-study programs and loans. Most colleges require it as well. The FAFSA may also qualify you for state-sponsored financial aid. Read more about the FAFSA.

Fees: Fees can be charged for anything from seeing a doctor in the campus health center to returning your library books late. Additionally, you may see something listed as "student fees," which cover some student services that the school provides and/or may be the basis for the student government budget.

Financial Aid: Anything related to the way you are paying for school. Loans, scholarships, grants, work awards, and any other resource you use are all considered part of your financial aid.  Money given or loaned to you to help pay for college. Financial aid can come from federal and state governments, colleges, and private and social organizations. Learn about financial aid options.

Financial Aid Office - A college office that serves as a resource for students who need help paying for college costs. Financial aid officers can help you to apply for and receive grants, loans, scholarships and work-study employment. The financial aid office may also offer programs to help you manage your money.

Financial Aid Officer - College employees trained to help students and families apply for and receive grants, loans, scholarships and work-study employment. They can answer questions about ways to make college more affordable.

GPA, Weighted

Graduate Assistant/Graduate Adviser (GA): A GA is often the same thing as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI).

Graduate Instructor (GI): A GI is often the same thing as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI).

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI): A GSI is often a graduate student who helps out in your classes. They made grade papers, lead seminar discussions, and sometimes teach classes.

Grants: Similar to scholarships in that you don't need to pay them back. Some grants may be connected to your course of study or allow you to do research while still having your financial needs taken care of. (For example, you may earn a grant to cover your room and board while you do summer research with a professor.)

Hall Coordinator (HC): A hall coordinator is typically in charge of your entire hall and oversees Resident Advisers (RAs).

Hall Council (HC): A Hall Council is a small governing body that serves as a student voice and helps make decisions and plan programs for your hall community; frequently the same thing as a Residence Council.

Hall Director (HD): Hall Directors are often the same things as Hall Coordinators (HCs).

Instructor: An instructor is often someone who is teaching at a college or university but who does not have a PhD. They often, however, have quite a bit of experience in their fields and are otherwise very qualified. Treat an instructor like a professor, since their roles -- and power -- in the classroom are often the same.

Living-Learning Community (LLC): These are becoming more and more popular on college campuses. An LLC is a community where students who live together also take one or more classes together. There are often events in the hall that connect to what is being covered in everyone's coursework.

Loan: Money your school (or a bank, or even a relative) is giving you but that you must pay back at some point. Some loans have no interest; some loans don't collect interest until you graduate; some loans have terms that are connected to your plans after graduation (loans that are forgiven over time for teachers, for example).  Money you borrow from the government, a bank or another source. Loans need to be paid back, usually over an agreed period of time. You will most likely also have to pay interest on a loan — a fee for borrowing the money. Learn about Your College Loan Options.

Mortarboard: The term “mortarboard” usually refers to the academic cap worn during graduation and other ceremonies. Additionally, at a college or university, “Mortar Board” may refer to a national student organization that recognizes the highest academic achievers on campus.

Office Hours: Professors are usually required to hold office hours on a regular basis throughout the semester, which is when students are able to drop in or make an appointment to meet with them. Often, if you can't make it to a professor's office hours, you can work with them to schedule a different time that works for both of you. If you can take advantage of office hours, you should! It can be a great opportunity to get feedback on your papers or other assignments, and a great chance to get to know your professors a little bit better.

Pedagogy: A theory about, or style or method of, teaching.

Professor: Most students come from high schools where their teachers were called . . . teachers. In college, most of your "teachers" are called professors. This indicates that you are 1) in a college environment, and, more often than not, 2) being taught by someone with a PhD. Drop the "teacher" reference the moment you start unpacking!

Provost: A provost is one of the highest-ranking people on campus. The provost traditionally serves as the Chief Academic Officer of a college or university. Typically the #2 person on campus, a provost is in charge of many aspects of an institution.

Room and Board: The cost of having a place to sleep (room) and food to eat (board) while at school. If you choose to live on-campus, this is usually a preset fee. If you choose to live off-campus, this may be an estimate. This may also change a bit, depending on which meal plan you select.

Resident Adviser (RA): Usually an undergraduate student, an RA is in charge of smaller sections of a residence hall. You can go to them for help with adjusting to college, problems with your roommates, and advice on just about anything.

Residence Council (RC): A small governing body that serves as a student voice and helps make decisions and plan programs for your hall community; a Residence Council is frequently the same thing as a Hall Council (HC).

Residence Hall Association (RHA): This is typically the same thing as a Hall Council (HC) or Residence Council (RC).

Resident Coordinator (RC): This term is a bit more fluid than the other titles you’ll see in your residence hall, and can mean someone similar to a

Hall Coordinator (HC) or an Area Coordinator (AC). They usually oversee an area of your residence hall, or an area of your campus. They have more responsibility than, and may sometimes supervise, Resident Advisers (RAs).

Resident Director: Resident Director is often the same as an Resident Coordinator (RC).

Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) - A program offered by the military and available at some colleges. ROTC offers scholarships to students who agree to serve in the military after they graduate. Some ROTC four-year scholarships cover full tuition and fees. The program combines a military education along with college study leading to a bachelor’s degree.

Scholarship: money being given to you for your studies. You usually do not need to pay scholarship monies back. Scholarships can come from your school, an organization, or a contest.

Student Aid Report (SAR) - The report sent to your family after you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that tells you what your expected family contribution (EFC) is.

TA, GI, GSI, GSA, GA: While these all look completely different, these are very common terms for people, besides the professor, who might be in your classroom. A TA is a Teaching Assistant or Adviser; a GI is a Graduate Instructor; a GSI is a Graduate Student Instructor; a GSA is a . . . are you seeing the pattern? . . . Graduate Student Assistant or Adviser; a GA is a Graduate Assistant or Adviser. Each campus uses one of these terms to more or less denote someone who helps the professor out and who is usually a graduate student or upper-class student. They may lead smaller seminars, grade your papers, and be available during office hours.

Tenure: Tenure is something unique to higher education. A traditional path of someone who wants to teach at a college is to get their PhD and then get a job as a professor on a campus. For the first six years or so that they are teaching, they are usually in a "tenure-track" position. This means that they are focusing on teaching, doing research, getting published, and contributing to the campus community. If all goes well, the professor is then granted tenure. Earning tenure is equivalent to ensuring one's job on a campus. If you have a tenured professor teaching your class, it means you have someone who has been at the school for a while and been judged, by a committee of their peers and the academic dean, to be an essential member of the faculty and campus community.

Transcript - The official record of your course work at a school or college. Your high school transcript is usually required as part of your college application and for some financial aid packages.

Tuition: the cost of your classes. Some schools charge tuition based on how many units you are taking, while others charge a base rate per semester as long as you stay within a certain range of units.

Visiting Professor: Just like the "professor" term mentioned above, a visiting professor usually has a PhD. However, a visiting professor is usually someone not normally associated with your college or university. He or she may only be there for one semester or one academic year, and is usually also doing research or other work. It's hard to gauge what a visiting professor will be like, since you usually can't check with other students about their experiences with someone who hasn't taught classes on campus before.

Undergraduate - A college student working toward an associate degree or a bachelor's degree.

Work award: another name for work study.

Work study: this is basically a "job" that you will have as part of your financial aid package. (Note, however, that you still need to go out and find a job yourself; this just provides funding for it.) Most students work on campus but some work study jobs can be set up off-campus. You are usually not allowed to make more money in your work study job than has been allocated in your financial aid package.

529 Savings Plans

State-sponsored investment plans — officially called qualified tuition programs (QTP) — that help families save money for college. The plans have tax benefits so your savings can grow faster. The money in the accounts can be used only for education expenses. 


A kind of "gift aid" — financial aid that doesn’t have to be paid back. Grants are usually awarded based on need. Learn more about gift aid.

Merit Aid

Financial aid given to students based on their personal achievements. Most scholarships are considered merit aid, as they are generally awarded for success in school, the arts, athletics or another area.

Need-Based Financial Aid

Financial aid (grants, scholarships, loans and work-study opportunities) given to students because they and their families are not able to pay the full cost of attending a certain college. This is the most common type of financial aid.

Need-Blind Admission

A policy of making college admission decisions without looking at applicants’ financial circumstances. Colleges that use this policy may not offer enough financial aid to meet a student’s full need.

Net Price

Net price is the true amount a student will pay for a college.

On this site, we use “net price” to mean the published price of tuition and fees for a college minus the amount of gift aid and education tax benefits a student receives. Another common definition of “net price” is the full cost of attendance at a college (including room and board, supplies, and other expenses) minus the gift aid and education tax benefits.

Net Price Calculator

An online tool that gives you a personalized estimate of what it will cost to attend a specific college. Most colleges are required by law to post a net price calculator on their websites.

Outside Scholarship

Also called “private scholarship.” A scholarship offered by a private organization — not the government or a college. Outside scholarships are offered by all kinds of groups, individuals, corporations and nonprofit organizations.

Priority Date

The date by which your application – whether it’s for college admission, student housing or financial aid – must be received to be given the strongest consideration. Since financial aid is often limited, meeting the priority date is important to be eligible to receive funds.

Residency Requirements

The amount of time a student has to live in a state before he or she is eligible for in-state tuition prices and state aid.


A kind of "gift aid" — financial aid that doesn’t have to be paid back. Scholarships may be awarded based on merit or partially on merit. That means they’re given to students with certain qualities, such as proven academic or athletic ability. Learn more about gift aid .


A program that allows students to take a part-time campus job as part of their financial aid package. To qualify for the Federal Work-Study Program, which is funded by the government, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some colleges have their own work-study programs.