Words to Know for First-Gen Students

Feel free to search for a word you may not know or understand. Breaking down the gaps in university knwoledge is a key component to success.

Academic Advisor College staff or faculty member who assists students (advisees) with course selection, developing an academic plan, and providing advice regarding careers and/or graduate school.
Academic Calendar Provides key dates and deadlines -- by term -- for an academic year, including add/drop deadlines, final withdraw date, registration dates, mid-term and final exam periods, school holidays, and more.
Academic Degree Conferred by academic institutions in recognition that a student has completed a specified course of study. Undergraduate examples include Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Business Administration. See also Bachelor's Degree.
Academic Honesty Ethical standards applied to all students regarding conduct related to academic performance -- on papers, tests, etc. Some colleges have detailed codes of conduct and honor codes. Penalties vary from failing the work in question to expulsion from the institution.
Accreditation The oversight of a university, college, or academic program by one or more outside organizations. Accreditation organizations certify that an institution is following certain guidelines and policies.
Active Listening Actively thinking about and doing something with what is being said in class.
Active Reading Reading strategies designed to increase a student's involvement with a textbook or other reading assignment that should result in improved comprehension and retention.
Add/Drop A short time period at the beginning of the semester in which students may add or drop courses from their schedules without them showing up on their transcript.
Adjunct Faculty A professor who teaches on a limited-term contract, often for one semester at a time, and who is ineligible for tenure.
Articulation Agreement An arrangement between colleges and universities that facilitates the ease of transferring credits from one school to the other by outlining that certain courses offered at one school are the equivalent to those offered at the other.
Associate Degree Requires completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours of academic work and is considered the first level of college degrees.
Bachelor's Degree Requires the completion of a minimum of 120 credit hours of academic work, sometimes including a concentration in one or more academic majors.
Blue Book Small, traditionally blue-covered booklets filled with ruled notebook paper that many college instructors use for short-answer and essay exams.
Certificate Program Involves a small group of related courses designed to provide expertise in a particular field and can be added to any degree.
Class Participation Some professors require, and grade class participation (i.e., asking questions, participating in discussions, etc.), while others reward active students with bonus points.
Class Schedule List of classes that a particular student is enrolled in during a given semester, including course names and sections, instructor, meeting days and times, and classroom or lab location.
Class Standing Refers to a student's official year in school -- first-year (freshman), sophomore, junior, or senior -- based on the number of college credits completed.
Community College Local educational institution developed to provide a broad array of educational opportunities, typically offering both certificate programs as well as tracks leading to associates degrees.
Concentration An area of specialization, focusing on a core number of classes in a very specific field. In some majors, students need to choose at least one concentration.
Course Catalog Official list of programs and courses offered at a college or university that outlines critical information about admissions and academic requirements.
Course Description Important information and details about the course, from what the course entails to pre-requisites required.
Course Load The number of credit hours for which a student is enrolled in a given semester.
Course Name/Number A cataloging system that contains a series of letters and numbers to designate a course by the department that teaches it and the academic level. For example, ENGL 150 is a freshman-level course taught in the English department.
Course Section When the same course is offered multiple times in the same semester, each course is designated with a section number. For example, ENGL 150-001, ENGL 150-002, etc.
Credit Hour A unit of measurement that determines the amount of class time required each week of a term. In a typical semester system, a 3-hour class requires classes to meet in three 50 minute sessions or two one hour and fifteen minute sessions.
CRN Course Reference Number. Used to specify each particular section of a course.
Curriculum The subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college.
D2L The learning management system used for online learning and coursework.
Degree Credential awarded to a student who has completed all requirements of a course of study/degree program.
Degree Audit A list of courses and other requirements required to complete a certificate or degree.
Degree Audit An evaluation of a student's progress (courses completed, grades received) in his or her degree program (majors and minors).
Degree Plan A sequence of courses and academic requirements that a student must complete in order to graduate (referred to as the semester by semester layout on the check sheet).
Department A division within a school or college that offers instruction in a specific subject area.
Department Chair A faculty member who manages an academic department, and typically the person to see when a student is having scheduling problems or issues with a particular faculty member.
Elective Course A course that is not required for any major, minor, or general education requirements, but used to fulfill the credit hours required for a degree. Most degree programs allow for at least a few elective courses.
Essay Exam A type of test that requires students to express their understanding of a topic through a written detailed explanation of a topic or answer to a question.
ExploratoryStudent A student who enters college with an undeclared major. Undergraduate Student: College student who is pursuing an associates or baccalaureate degree.
Faculty Instructors or professors who teach college courses.
FERPA Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
Final Exams A comprehensive and cumulative (final) exam that often represents all of the topics from a class and take place the final week of the semester (i.e., the week after week 15 in fall and spring semesters).
Full-Time Faculty The core instructors (professors) of a college or university who are under contract for at least a complete academic year.
Full-Time Student A student who is enrolled in at least 12 credit hours during a given term.
General Education Set of required curriculum/courses that all students are required to take, including courses in math, English, science, communication, culture, society, etc.
Grade Point Average (GPA) A numeric measure of a student's class performance in a given period or over a number of credits.
Hold A hold (or registration hold) can be placed on a student’s account due to academic dismissal, not fulfilling required faculty advising, a disciplinary problem, money owed to the University, failure to return library books and/or other supplies, or non-compliance with housing and health center regulations.
Honors The Honors Program at Ferris State University provides intellectual challenges, resources and support to highly able and motivated students, while encouraging service and leadership for the public good.
Incomplete Grade A temporary grade that faculty can award a student who, for reasons outside his or her control (illness, death in family, etc.) cannot complete all coursework and assignments in a given term. Students have one semester following the incomplete to complete the course requirements.
Interdisciplinary Studies Programs, majors, minors that use a combination of classes from two or more academic disciplines, often to compensate for not having the resources for a complete program.
Junior An undergraduate student who has earned between 60 and 89 credit hours.
Lab/Laboratory Class Learning environment in which hands-on work is completed, typically in science and foreign languages. Is often tied to a lecture portion of a course.
Learning Center Provide instructional services at no-cost to students to assist in achieving better academic success in all academic areas. This includes tutoring and help with writing and one on one coaching with the professional staff learning specialists
Lecture A class session in which the instructor speaks on a specific topic or topics during class.
Major A concentration of courses that is a student's primary course of study. Students must major in a subject while in college.
Mid-Term Exams An exam given toward the middle of the term. Often used to establish mid-term grades.
Minor A secondary course of study, typically with a concentration smaller than a major, that a student chooses to enhance his or her major or simply to pursue a subject of interest.
MyDegree a web-based degree audit program designed to help students track their degree progress, to help prepare for registration, and to help plan for graduation.
Non-Credit Course A course in which no credit is offered toward degree requirements.
Office Hours The days and times that college faculty set aside to meet with students enrolled in their classes. Traditionally these take place in the instructor’s office (not in the classroom).
Part-Time Student A student enrolled in fewer credit hours (and courses) in a given term than the college considers as full-time. A change to part-time status typically affects things such as financial aid.
Pass/Fail Option Some colleges offer an option to take a small number of courses -- typically free electives that do not count to a major or core educational requirements -- to be taken as pass/fail (instead of granting the typical letter grades).
Placement Tests Tests used by the institution to gauge a student’s level of proficiency in a subject area in order to place him/her in the appropriate level of coursework. Sometimes a student can exempt courses by doing well on placement tests.
Plagiarism A major form of academic dishonesty that occurs when a student uses the words of another person without attribution, passing them off as their own.
Postsecondary Refers to all educational programs after high school, including technical schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities.
Practicum A course designed to provide students with supervised practical experience in which students apply the materials learned in their coursework to the actual situation. An example is student-teaching for education majors.
Prerequisite A course that is required to be taken and passed prior to registering for another course. A number of upper-division courses often have prerequisites.
Probation The academic status of a student when their GPA falls below a 2.0.
Professor General term for faculty teaching at a college or university.
Provost The senior academic officer of a college or university.
Registrar An administrator and office on any college campus who oversees such things as registration, storing academic credit records, maintaining academic audit sheets, and dealing with transfer credits from other colleges.
Registration When students enroll (register) for classes for an upcoming academic term.
Rubric A scoring guide used to define what is expected and what will be assessed to evaluate an assignment.
Semester The academic terms during which courses are taught. Typical fall and spring semesters last 15 weeks, plus exam week. Summer semester varies in length.
Senior An undergraduate student who has earned 90 or more credit hours.
Sophomore An undergraduate student who has earned between 30 and 59 credit hours.
Study Abroad College coursework that students take outside the U.S., providing a great opportunity to experience foreign cultures and travel.
Study Groups Studying with a group of friends, which can be a fun and rewarding study method.
Syllabus A document (which some students and faculty see as the binding agreement for a course) provided at the beginning of a term that outlines the key elements of a course, including things such as learning objectives, assigned readings, major assignments, test and quiz information, and other requirements or expectations of the course.
Transcript Official record of a student's academic work showing dates attended, courses taken, grades earned, and credits received.Transfer Credit
Transfer Credit College credit earned at one college or university and applied and accepted for credit at a different school.
Transfer Student Student who attends one college but decides to leave that school and apply for admission to a different college or university. The student then transfers some (or in rare cases, all) credits from old school to new school.
Tutoring An option offered to assist students who need assistance in a particular subject.
Undergraduate Student College student who is pursuing an associates or baccalaureate degree.
Upper Division Course An undergraduate course that is designed for and taught at the junior or senior levels. Upper-division courses are numbered 300 or 400.
Withdrawal Typically refers to the dropping of a course (or all courses) for which a student is registered in a given term. These courses will show up as a “W” (withdraw) on the students transcript.
Writing Center Writing consultation provided free of charge to all Ferris students either face to face or online.


Free Application for Federal Student Aid. A form completed by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.

Financial Aid

Money that is given or lent to students in order to help pay for their education.


Monetary awards (that do not need to be repaid) presented to college students based on various criteria, such as need-based, academic excellence, leadership, community service, and extracurricular activities.


A Federal financial aid program providing part-time employment to students based on the financial need of students and available jobs within the university.
Alumni Graduates of a college or university.
Classroom Etiquette General rules or norms of acceptable behavior that students are expected to follow, such as arriving to class on time, turning off cell phone ringers, paying attention, and not talking out of turn.
Commencement Graduation
Commuter Student A student who does not live on campus and who drive to campus each day they have classes or other commitments.
Dean The top administrator and academic officer within a college or school.
Dean's List A high academic honor that is awarded each semester based on student GPA.
First-Year Student Undergraduate student who has earned fewer than 30 credit hours.
Myship A portal with information tailored to students, faculty, and staff.
Orientation A program that introduces newly admitted students to Ship and the academics, customs, traditions and opportunities of the university.
Outlook The email and calendar platform used by students, faculty, and staff at Ferris State University.
Curriculum Vitae (CV) Mainly for professors and others who go into academics,
Internship An opportunity for students to gain critical real-world hands on experience in their chosen field of study.
Job Fair A time where the university brings together multiple career fields and you have time to talk to them about internships, job offerings, and about their company.
Resume A collection of your skills and abilities based on experience that is used to show who you are to perspective employers.
Shadowing You will be matched with a professional in the field you would like to be in and see what they do each day.