Unit 1: Launch
“Language is the dress of thought”
Getting started in college can seem like an uphill battle. One of the first challenges a student can encounter is navigating a college website. In the attempt to get as much information as possible into the hands of current and future students, college websites are crammed full of information and language that may be new to the first-time college student. Trying to figure out how to get started can be confusing, even when the website says, “Steps To Enroll.” Registration, admission, enrollment… are they all the same thing? If you are registered, are you admitted and enrolled? Is enrollment in the college the same thing as enrollment in classes? And that’s just the beginning of the potential for confusion! How can a student know the answers to these questions?
Learning the “language of college” can be like having to learn yet another language and culture, one that everyone else already seems to know. Even though it can feel a little overwhelming at times, learning college terminology is helpful because it can help you understand how the procedures, policies, and hierarchies of higher education are organized.
Because of the time and expense of attending college, it is important to get the most out of your college experiences. To make progress on your degree or certificate, you may need to take some classes before others, with the consideration that some classes are only offered at some times of the year. Similarly, some classes require you to get a certain grade (GPA) in order to take the next class in the series. Understanding vocabulary like pre-requisties, co-requisites, and GPA, can help you plan and track your progress through your time in college.
Learning to speak the language of the college is part of learning the school’s culture. Most words are used in the same way, but it is important to pay attention to the context in which they are used and ask your professor or academic advisor if anything is unclear!
Commonly Used Academic Vocabulary
Below is a list of commonly used terminology. Without using the Internet or college catalog, see how many words you know the meaning of.
- Discuss the meaning of each word with a partner.
- Which words have you encountered before?
- Are there any words you don’t know?
- Are there any important words that are not on this list? Why are they important?
Table 5.1. Commonly used academic vocabulary
|Words about enrollment:
Student (ID) Number
Course Number (CRN)
Words about grades
Words about finances
Federal Work Study
Words about degree
General Education/Gen Ed
Words about classes
College Level Course
Pre-College Level Course
Lower Division Course
Upper Division Course
Words about people in higher education
Words related to services
Disability resource center
License and Attributions:
CC licensed content, Previously shared:
Lamoreaux, Alise. A Different Road To College: A Guide For Transitioning To College For Non-traditional Students. Open Oregon Educational Resources, 2018. Located at: https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/collegetransition/chapter/chapter-4/ License: CC BY: Attribution.
Adaptions: Reformatted, some content removed or revised to fit a broader audience.
License: CC BY – NC – ND 4.0 International.