Decoding College Lingo

Higher education comes with its own rules, culture, and language. If you have not been to college in the past ten years, it has changed a lot. There are so many acronyms and politically correct ways to say things that can cause a lot of confusion when you are trying to figure out if this is the right school for you or not. Here is a breakdown of some of the terms organized by the campus department, which will hopefully help you navigate your college visits and your first year of school.


Academic Advisor: He/She will help you pick out classes, determine your major, and make sure you are on track to graduate.

Career Counselor/Coach: He/She will help you determine your career if you are undecided. They will also help you find internships and jobs and help you with your resume and cover letters.

TA: Teaching Assistant is a graduate or doctoral student that will assist the professor with grading, teaching, and tutoring.

Academic Warning: If your GPA dips below 2.0 for a semester, you will be given a warning for a semester allowing you to increase your GPA, so you aren’t on probation.

Academic Probation: If you have not increased your GPA from above a 2.0 in a semester, you will be given one more semester to improve your GPA before being academically dismissed from the school. If you are academically dismissed, you are no longer allowed to return to school because your GPA is below 2.0 for an entire year.

SAP: Satisfactory Academic Progress is when a student can stay at or above a C average without failing out of too many courses, which shows that they are progressing towards graduation. If the student is not showing progress, they can have their financial aid taken away from them. If this happens, they can write an SAP appeal letter stating why they are not progressing in school in hopes of receiving their financial aid back. Each school has a different SAP policy, so make sure you understand the policy before starting your education.

Student Success: An office on campus with professionals that will help you with studying techniques, time management skills, and other skills required of college students to be successful. This is a free service.

Tutoring: This service can be offered through the Success Office, Library, or Disability office. There will be students available to help you understand your college material and provide you with one-on-one help our group assistance. This is a free service.

Writing Center: Like tutoring, this support center will have either students or staff assist you with your papers, including content, grammar, and formatting (i.e., APA, MLA, etc.). This is a free service.

DRC: Disability Recourse Center, sometimes called the Disability Office. This office supports students with diagnosed disabilities, including physical, learning, and mental health. They uphold ADA laws and regulations at the college to ensure that students receive the education and services they need to be successful. This is a free service.

General Education Requirements (Gen Eds): The basic classes you need to graduate. These courses will include some form of composition, communications, philosophy, foreign language, a math course, and a science course.

Add/Drop: Within the first two weeks of school, you can change your class schedule as much as you need to without being penalized. If you decide to change your schedule after the determined date, that course will go on your transcript, even if you stop attending.

Withdrawal: You can withdraw from a course at any time, but the school will note the grade, withdrawal notice, or incomplete on your transcript.

Registrar: This office registers students for classes. They also will provide you with your transcripts. They will also put holds on your account if you are missing something which would not allow you to register.

Supplemental Instruction (SI): Some courses will be deemed very difficult with a low success rate from the institution, allowing the college to provide that course with extra support for the students. SI instructors are students who have taken the course successfully, will be trained in various study techniques, will attend the course, and then will provide additional instruction in and out of class to help students grasp the material and pass the course. This is a free service.

FERPA: This law allows students to have complete control of what they want their parents or people within the institution to know about. If a parent calls the school asking to talk about a grade and the student hasn’t signed a waiver allowing this, then the school cannot even confirm that the student attends that institution.

HIPPA: The law allows students to control their medical information completely. This means that faculty, staff, and parents can not gain any medical or mental health information unless the student signs a waiver.

Student Affairs

GA: Graduate Assistant are Masters or Doctoral students working in various departments on campus.

OSA: Office of Student Activities allows students to find clubs and organizations to join. Some schools might have this office under a different name.

CAB: Campus Activities Board is a group of students under the direction of a staff member that will provide campus-wide events for the student population. Some events include comedians, musicians, the beginning of the year campus approved parties, etc.

Bursar: This office is where you go to pay your bill. It is different from financial aid, although they work together to resolve students’ financial accounts.

First-Year Experience, First and Second Year Experience (FYE, or FSYE): This office makes sure that first-year students (or first-year students) are getting involved and being retained at the school. They will have mentoring programs events and sometimes offer a course called first-year seminar that a student can take for college credit that is all about transitioning and being successful.

Housing and Dining

RA/CA: Resident Advisor or Community Advisor is a second-year student or upperclassman who enforces housing rules, plans events, and assists with any student problems.

Hall Director or Coordinator: This is a professional full-time staff member or a graduate student who is the supervisor of the RA/CA. They will deal with any problems that the RA/CA can’t handle, and students can always go to them for help.

Student Conduct: This office follows up on any rules that the student broke in housing or academically. They hold students accountable to the handbook and will enforce the necessary punishment for breaking the rules. Many of these punishments will include fines and meetings with various campus staff, depending on which rule was broken. Students can also volunteer to be on hearing boards, which will listen to student cases and determine if the student is responsible for breaking that rule or not.

Housing Form/ Roommate Contract: You turn in this form when you put down your deposit, which declares that it is the school you have chosen to go to. Make sure you are honest about how you live and how you want someone else to live in the space. This form will also serve the housing staff in finding you a roommate.

Emotional Support Animals or Service Animals: By ADA law, a school cannot turn away a service animal if you have documentation proving why you need the animal and that the animal has finished service training. Some animals can be labeled as emotional support, which means they do not need special training. These animals can live on-campus even if the school has a no animal policy. Still, the student needs to provide proper documentation stating why this animal helps with their emotional or mental health disability.

ID Card: This is your lifeline. Your card will be your proof of identification at the school. It will contain your ID number, which you will need for classwork and filling out forms. It will also contain your money for meal plans and sometimes money for the laundry machine and printer. Some schools will also require that you have your ID to enter buildings.

Meal Plans: Some schools allow you to choose from a variety of meal plan options, including how many meals you get a week or throughout the semester, and if you can have extra spending cash attached to your ID that you can spend at different dining areas on campus.

Flex Dollars or Bucks: Also known under other names, but the extra cash attached to your ID that you buy food with on-campus and at some off-campus locations depending on the school.