What Does That Mean?

As a First-Generation student, sometimes it is easy to lose information in translation, because the university environment has a language all its own. Below we have provided you with the meaning of common university words, phrases, and FAU specific terminology, so that you can be confident when you are interacting with others on campus.

Academic Dean vs. Department Chair: Department chairs work as professors who also perform administrative duties. They set the department curriculum, interview potential new professors, manage faculty schedules, settle faculty and student disputes, and sometimes oversee research. In this role, the department chair liaisons between a department and the administration, reporting to the dean. College deans hold the vision of multiple departments. They lead admissions, student affairs, individual schools, and more. For example, the dean of admissions oversees admissions officers who review student applications. Academic deans set the academic standards, manage department chairs, and conduct community outreach. Deans responsible for student affairs oversee hundreds of clubs, manage student government, and improve the overall student experience. All deans secure funding for their departments, ensure smooth operations, and maintain a clear vision for the future.

Adult learner: This term typically refers to an older student who usually has experience in the workforce and didn’t necessarily attend college right after high school.

Campus: The physical buildings and grounds owned by the university, here at FAU we have 6 campuses: Boca Raton, Jupiter, Davie, Dania (Sea-tech), Harbor Branch, and Ft. Lauderdale.

Career Center: A resource department that helps students and alumni job-search, develop resumes, give interviews and network.

Cohort: A group of students working through a curriculum together towards the same degree.

College vs. University: Colleges are generally smaller institutions that focus on undergraduate education while universities are typically larger institutions that offer a greater number of graduate degree options.

Commencement: A formal graduation ceremony that celebrates recent graduates of the institution with their family and friends.

Controller: an individual or office who has responsibility for all accounting-related activities, including high-level accounting, managerial accounting, and finance activities, within the college or university.

Course catalog: A college publication that describes academic programs, their majors and minors, and required courses and their contents.

Continuing education: This typically refers to part-time formal education for working adults. Oftentimes professional certifications may require continuing education credit—though not all necessarily require college coursework.

Credit Hour: A credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally-established equivalency

Faculty Member vs. Staff Member: The main difference between faculty and staff is that the word faculty essentially means the members of the academic staff comprising of teachers, lecturers or professors in an educational institution while the word staff means all the members of any organization.

First-generation college student: a college student whose parents have not obtained a degree from a four-year college or university.

Fraternities and sororities: Social and academic organizations for college students formed to pursue a common goal or ideals. Most are identified by letters of the Greek alphabet (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.) and as whole comprise a school’s Greek life.

Freshman: First-year student at a university or college.

Higher education Refers to any formal schooling after high school.

Junior: Third-year student at a university or college.

Mentor: an experienced and trusted adviser.

Orientation: Time at the beginning of a school year that serves as a training period for new students. Typically includes activities or courses intended to help students get to know the institution and how to use available resources.

Post-secondary: Any education, whether degree-seeking or not, pursued after high school.

Private college vs. public college: Public colleges and universities are funded by state governments while private colleges and universities are not publicly-owned, often relying on tuition payments and private contributions to operate.

Provost: Sometimes called the vice president of academic affairs, a provost is a senior academic administrator who works closely with academic deans, department deans and faculty to ensure the quality of academic programs.

Registrar: A specialist tasked with handling several administrative and logistical areas of academia. The registrar’s office is responsible for many administrative academic duties like registering students for classes, preparing student transcripts, preparing class schedules and analyzing enrollment statistics.

Resident Hall: Campus housing where full-time students live within close distance of the academic buildings.

Semesters vs. Mini term vs. Intersession: The academic year is often divided into terms—most commonly in the form of semesters, mini semesters or intersession. Semesters typically include a fall and spring semester and summer session that may be shorter. Mini semesters are 5- and 8-week courses that run concurrently with the regular fall and spring semesters. Students can build a schedule with a combination of mini-term and full-term courses. Intersession maxes out your winter break with a 3-week online Intersession course.

Senior: Fourth-year student at a university or college.

Sophomore: Second-year student at a university or college.

Student handbook: A student’s primary resource on their school’s academic policies, disciplinary procures, student expectations and information about financial aid and other student services.

Tenure: Employment track for professors that essentially guarantees a permanent position at the institution (barring termination for cause or financial insolvency).

Traditional vs. nontraditional studentTraditional students generally attend college right after high school, are financially dependent on parents and attend full-time. While there’s no set-in stone definition, “nontraditional student” typically refers to adult students (usually 25 or older) who either work full time, are financially independent, have children or attend college part-time.

Work-study program: Work-study programs help college students with financial need get part-time jobs to help pay for day-to-day expenses and tuition payments. Work-study jobs are federally- or state-funded.


Academic University Terms

Academic advisor: Academic advisors are staff members assigned to students in their department. They help students choose majors and minors, design a course of study and help ensure students fulfill graduation requirements.

Accelerated program: Programs designed to help students graduate sooner. Accelerated programs often include more stringent admission requirements and summer courses.

Add/drop period: Time frame when students can drop or add courses to their course load without consequences, including incomplete marks on their transcript.

Adjunct faculty/professor: Adjunct professors work as independent contractors who teach a limited number of classes, as opposed to full-time faculty.

Associate's degree: Undergraduate degree that generally requires two years of full-time study.

Audit: When taking an “audit” course, students attend a class they are interested in without being required to complete assignments or take tests—giving them a chance to learn the material but not for credit.

Bachelor's degree: Undergraduate degree that generally requires four years of full-time study. Students must declare a major in a particular field of study and choose a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree path.

Certification: A non-degree credential that proves knowledge or skill in a specific area. Valued credentials vary by industry and job title.

Class rank: Refers to a student’s standing in comparison with their classmates. It’s often determined by grade point averages and is expressed as a percentile.

Clinical education: Often referred to as clinicals, these programs allow students to practice their skills under supervision of a practitioner. Clinical education is most common in the healthcare field.

Core coursesInclude fundamental classes like English, math, general science and history that provide a foundation for major-specific classes. The exact class requirements may vary depending on your major. Core courses may also be referred to as general education courses.

Course load: This refers to the total amount of courses a student is taking per term.

Credit for prior learning: College credit granted to students who can demonstrate knowledge gained outside of a traditional college setting that is used to satisfy course requirements. Examples can include work and life experience, independent study or industry certifications.

Credits: A measure of a class’s time based on how many hours students spend in class, but specific numbers largely depend on the institution.

Curriculum The knowledge, skills, lectures, assignments, tests and presentations that make up a course. It may also refer more broadly to the courses that make up a major or academic program.

Degree: A qualification awarded to students upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education, usually at a college or university.

Department: Academic division specializing in an area of study like Nursing, English, Engineering or Biology.

Department Dean: The head of a college or university department.

Department chair: Educator assigned to manage an academic department. They unite the department and act as a liaison between the department and college administration.

Didactic learning: This teaching method focuses on improving students’ foundational knowledge one lesson at a time with teacher-directed lessons.

Dissertation: The completed thesis of a doctoral student. A long document of research and findings required to earn a doctorate.

Doctoral degree: The most advanced academic degree in most fields. Provides the graduate a high level of expertise and greater options for research, writing, teaching and management within their specialty.

Electives: Classes students choose to fulfill a general education requirement or just because they’re interested a topic outside of their major’s core courses.

Faculty: Academic staff including professors, both full-time and adjunct.

Final exam: Test taken at the end of a course that usually includes subject matter from the entire course.

General education courses: Curriculum that creates the foundation of an undergraduate degree. It generally includes lower-level courses in English, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences.

Grade point average (GPA): Represents the average of a student’s final grades in all their courses. It’s calculated by adding the final grades divided by the number of credit hours, though some classes may be weighted or measured on a different scale.

Grading scale: System in which letter grades are awarded a grade point or number to help calculate GPA.

Hybrid degree: Also called a blended degree, hybrid programs combine traditional learning on campus with online components.

Internship vs. externship: Both are experience building opportunities for students and the terms are often used interchangeably. That said, internships can take the form of paid opportunities to work in their fields in a low-level role for an employer. Externships typically aren’t paid, are shorter and are often a form of job shadowing. For example, student nurses complete clinical externships under the supervision of established nurses.

Lecture: Oral presentation given by a professor to educate students. Sometimes this can refer to a class format that doesn’t require lab-work hours.

Liberal Arts: Interdisciplinary study of humanities, social and natural sciences meant to give students a broad spectrum of knowledge.

Matriculate: A matriculated student is admitted, registered for classes and in good academic standing at a college or university.

Master's degree: A graduate-level degree pursued after completing a bachelor’s degree program. A master’s degree requires a year and a half to two years of full-time study and a high-level of mastery in a specific field at the completion of the program.

Midterm: An exam given approximately halfway through a course term that generally covers all lecture, reading and discussion material presented so far.

Minor: A secondary focus meant to add to the value to the student’s major. A minor consists of the lower-level courses required for a major in the same discipline. For example a Business major with a minor in Spanish will be required to complete a certain number of lower-level Spanish courses—which are typically the same lower-level Spanish courses as those pursuing it as a major.

Major: a group of courses required by a college or university in order to receive a degree or certificate in a specialized area.

Pass-fail course: Instead of receiving a letter grade, students receive either a P or F on their transcript. Requirements for passing will vary depending on the course.

Ph.D.: A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities or colleges. A degree awarded to people who have done advanced. research into a particular subject

Plagiarism: Taking credit for someone else’s work as your own including copying words, sentence structure or ideas. Plagiarism has very grave consequences in higher education.

Postgraduate education: Includes higher education completed after an undergraduate degree. This includes master’s degrees and doctorate degrees.

Practicum: Practical application of theory learned in the classroom. Often a requirement for programs in Education, Social Work or other clinician fields.

Prerequisites: Courses required to take more advanced courses or apply to a program.

Probation: Academic probation means a student has fallen from good standing status and is at risk of being dismissed from the university. Institutions measure academic standing by GPA and courses passed. Policies regarding this will vary depending on the institution.

Professional certificate: Certification earned outside of an academic degree program to increase specific skills or knowledge to help keep professionals current on industry trends, technology and other topics.

Programmatic accreditation: Accreditation granted to academic programs, departments or entire schools within a university used as an independent validation of academic quality and is often tied to professional licensure exam requirements.

Registration: Process of reserving a spot in specific classes for enrolled students.

Seminar course: A course based on reading, research and group discussion. Seminar courses are typically smaller, led by professors and cover advanced topics.

Synchronous learning: Online classroom format where students learn together at the same time and can engage with classmates and instructors via chat rooms and video conferencing.

Thesis: An extensive research paper created as part of an academic program—typically at the graduate degree level.

Transcript: Official record of courses taken and grades earned at a given institution.

Transfer credits: Course credits carried over from one institution to another.

Tutors: A more experienced student or teacher who offers one-and-one academic help usually in a specific subject.

Undecided or undeclared: A student enrolled in courses but has not yet declared a major.

Waitlist: A term commonly seen during registration periods. Students hoping to enroll in a full class can opt to be placed on a waitlist. This essentially saves a place in line in case spots open up from registered students dropping or changing plans.

Withdraw: To drop a class after the add/drop grace period. Withdrawing often means receiving a W on your transcript.


Tuition and University Terms

Assistantship: Most common at graduate level, assistantships give students the opportunity to earn tuition reimbursement by working for faculty members in their area of study.

Employer education assistance benefit: A benefit some employers offer that may cover some or all of student education expenses. Details will vary depending on employer—some may have stipulations to remain eligible for the benefit.

Financial Aid: is money to help pay for college or career school. Grants, work-study, loans, and scholarships help make college or career school affordable.

FASFA: Stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. A document prospective students complete to determine eligibility for federal loans and grants.

Federal grants vs. state grants: Grants are need-based forms of financial aid that do not need to be repaid. Federal grants are awarded through the FASFA. State grants are awarded through the student’s home state and usually have different eligibility requirements than that of the FASFA.

Income-driven repayment plan: A loan repayment plan where monthly payments are based on the bower’s income and number of dependents.

Net price: Calculated by taking the “sticker price” for tuition, room and board and other fees, and subtracting any scholarships and grants the student is receiving.

Room and board: Term for charges stemming from on-campus food services and housing.

Scholarship: An award given by a college, university or outside institution to help a student pay for tuition or day-to-day expenses. Criteria varies depending on individual scholarships.

Stafford loan: A direct federal loan with fixed interest rates.

Subscription-based pricing: As opposed to per-credit pricing, subscription-based pricing allows students to take as many courses as they can in a set period of time, usually per semester.

Subsidized vs. unsubsidized loan: If a student receives a subsidized loan, the U.S Department of Education pays all interest accrued during school, the 6-month grace period and deferment. Students with unsubsidized loans must pay interest either while in school or have the accrued interest added to the principal loan balance.

Tuition: The core price for college classes. Tuition may be listed as a flat rate for a range of credits, usually 12-18, or priced per credit.



First & Proud: Motto that is used at FAU to refer to First-Generation students, programs, and services

Mentoring Project: designed to create pathways of success through relationships that promote student success. With various departmentally based mentoring opportunities offered across the FAU campus, students have a multitude of options designed to create avenues of support towards their desired needs and interests

Owl Central: Registered Student Organization portal where all registered student organizations can be located

Owl Chats: Virtual chat rooms

Owl Done: New student onboarding portal

OWL IN: School spirit saying, which means someone is “all in” at FAU.

Owl Family Weekend: FAU’s family weekend

Owl Involved: Registered Student Organization fair where RSO’s can market and recruit new members. Traditionally held in Breezeway.

OWL (Jupiter): Orientation Welcome Leader located on the Jupiter Campus

Owl Ready: FAU’s Safety application

Registered Student Organization (RSO): an organization that has been officially recognized by Florida Atlantic University.

Success Network: an online communication system that connects you, the student, to a network of support and to the resources needed to be successful at FAU. Advisors, faculty, tutors, and many different support staff make up your "Success Network".

WOW (Weeks of Welcome): is a university wide opportunity and service projects that are provided for students on the Boca Raton Davie and Jupiter campuses.