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Getting Ready for College Glossary

As you move through the college planning process, you're sure to hear words and acronyms you've never heard before. Here are some acronyms and phrases you're likely to encounter when preparing for college.

A.A. Degree: Associate in Arts degree. (see Associate Degree)

A.A.S. Degree: Associate in Applied Science degree. (see Associate Degree and Associate in Applied Science Degree)

Academic Adviser: The person at a college or university who helps students decide what classes to take, what major to pursue, etc. An adviser is similar to a high school counselor.

Academic Forgiveness: Ways for students to recover from academic problems without forever jeopardizing academic standing. Repeating courses, reprieving semesters and renewing all course work prior to a certain date are types of academic forgiveness provisions.

Academic Service Fees: Fees assessed students for certain courses of instruction or academic services in addition to tuition and mandatory fees. These services may include, but are not limited to, special instruction, testing, and obtaining laboratory supplies and materials.

Academic Term: The time duration of a course schedule, generally a fall or spring semester consisting of 16 weeks, a summer session consisting of four or eight weeks, or an intersession consisting of the weeks between a semester and/or session.

Accreditation: The process used by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education or other entities recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to ensure postsecondary education providers meet and maintain minimum standards of quality and integrity regarding academics, administration and related services.

ACT: The college entrance exam required by more four-year colleges than any other exam. It measures high school students' educational development and ability to do college-level work. The multiple test section includes English, math, reading and science. There is also an optional writing test. It is usually taken during the junior year of high school, but many students opt to retake the test as seniors. Highest possible score: 36.

Admission Requirements: Certain requirements that students wanting to attend an Oklahoma college or university must meet, such as achieving a specified ACT or SAT score or combination of high school GPA and rank in class, taking specified high school courses, etc., to be considered for admission.

Advanced Placement (AP) Courses: Courses that allow students to take college-level course work in high school and receive credit at Oklahoma colleges and universities. Many Oklahoma colleges and universities award college credit to students who successfully complete these courses and pass the corresponding AP exams.

A.S. Degree: Associate in Science degree. (see Associate Degree)

Associate Degree: A degree given upon completion of two years of full-time study (at least 60 credit hours) or the equivalent. Most associate degrees are awarded by two-year colleges, although some four-year universities also offer associate degrees. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recognize three types of associate degrees: Associate in Arts, Associate in Science and Associate in Applied Science. Some associate degrees transfer to four-year universities (A.A., A.S.); others are for career preparation (A.A.S.).

Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) Degree: Typically, a credential requiring two years of full-time equivalent college work (at least 60 credit hours) that emphasizes an occupational specialty and is designed to lead the individual directly to employment (typically does not transfer to universities).

Baccalaureate Degree: Alternate term for bachelor's degree (see Bachelor's Degree).

Bachelor's Degree: Also referred to as a baccalaureate or undergraduate degree. Given upon completion of four years of full-time study (at least 120 credit hours) or the equivalent. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recognize three types of bachelor's degrees: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of (Specialty).

B.A. Degree: Bachelor of Arts degree. (see Bachelor's Degree)

B.Comm. Degree: Bachelor of Commerce degree. (see Bachelor's Degree)

B.Eng. Degree: Bachelor of Engineering degree. (see Bachelor's Degree)

B.F.A. Degree: Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. (see Bachelor's Degree)

B.S. Degree (also B.Sc.): Bachelor of Science degree. (see Bachelor's Degree)

B.S.G.S. Degree: Bachelor of Science in General Studies degree. (see Bachelor's Degree)

Certificate: Recognition awarded for an organized program of study that does not lead to an academic degree.

Class Rank: Ranking of a student within a high school graduating class based upon his or her high school GPA.

Clock Hour: A 50- to 60-minute class, lecture, recitation, faculty-supervised laboratory, shop training or internship. Can also be 60 minutes of preparation in a correspondence course.

College: A higher education institution that generally offers associate, or two-year, degrees but does not offer bachelor's- or graduate-level programs.

College Catalog: An online or printed booklet published by an individual college or university to provide detailed descriptions of course and degree offerings, fees, academic policies and requirements for graduation.

Community College: Also known as a "two-year college," an institution that grants associate degrees for transfer to universities or for career preparation. Community colleges usually offer flexible class schedules with smaller class sizes. They are known as open-door institutions because performance standards (standardized test scores or combination of class rank and GPA) are not required for admission. The public community colleges in Oklahoma are:

  • Carl Albert State College, Poteau and Sallisaw
  • Connors State College, Warner and Muskogee
  • Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton and McAlester
  • Murray State College, Tishomingo and Ardmore
  • Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, Miami
  • Northern Oklahoma College, Tonkawa, Enid and Stillwater
  • Oklahoma City Community College
  • Redlands Community College, El Reno
  • Rose State College, Midwest City
  • Seminole State College, Seminole
  • Tulsa Community College
  • Western Oklahoma State College, Altus

Commuter College: A college at which students live off campus and travel to campus for classes.

Concentration: The area of study a student is focusing on. This term is sometimes used in place of "major;" however, a major can include various concentrations. For example, an English major may concentrate in literature or writing.

Concurrent Enrollment: A program that allows eligible high school students (juniors and seniors) to take credit-earning college courses.

Co-op Program: A program that combines classroom learning with paid, hands-on work experience. Often, students alternate between attending classes and working at a real job in their field of study.

Cooperative Agreements: High school students can complete their high school studies while earning college credit toward an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree by successfully completing recognized assessments, and colleges in Oklahoma may award college credit for the successful assessment.

Course of Study: A sequentially organized series of educational experiences designed to culminate in the awarding of an academic degree or certificate. The terms "instructional program," "academic program" and "course of study" are considered synonymous.

Credit (also Credit Hour): Credit given for attending one lecture hour of class each week for 16 weeks or equivalent. Most college classes are three credit hours, meaning the total meeting time for a week is three hours. To calculate the cost for one course, multiply the number of credit hours the class is worth by the total tuition and mandatory fees per credit hour.

Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA): The average of a college student's earned grades calculated by point values assigned to letter grades that include grades for all attempted regularly graded course work, including activity courses and forgiven course work. This GPA may be used for financial aid or eligibility purposes, for admission to graduate or professional programs, or to determine eligibility for graduation honors. (see Retention/Graduation GPA)

Curricular Deficiencies: High school curricular requirements required for college admission that have not been met by the student in high school.

Curricular Requirements: The 15 units of high school course work required for college admission to public colleges and universities in the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.

Curriculum: Courses and classes offered by a school comprise the curriculum.

Deferred Admission Option: Allows students to take extra time between being accepted and beginning classes. Students choosing this option typically wait one school term or one calendar year before starting classes.

Degree: An academic credential conferred by a college or university as official recognition for the successful completion of an instructional program.

Department of Education: The federal government agency in charge of administering several student financial aid programs. Also referred to as USDOE (U.S. Department of Education.)

Dependent Person: One who is under the care, custody and support of a parent or legal guardian.

Diploma: A formal document issued by an institution that certifies a student has successfully completed an instructional program.

Distance Education: Learning that normally occurs in a different location than teaching and, as a result, requires special techniques of course design and instruction and special methods of communication by electronic and other technology, as well as special organizational and administrative arrangements.

Doctorate (doctoral degree): The highest level of academic achievement in our country.

Drop Period: In general, the first one-eighth of an academic term.

Early Admission: Allows students to enroll in college before completing high school, generally after their junior year.

Early-Action Plan: Allows students to find out if they have been accepted before other students. A student accepted under an early-action plan is not obligated to attend that school -- they can accept the offer under the procedures for regular admissions.

Early-Decision Plan: An option in which a student can apply for admission and receive the school's decision earlier than students applying for regular admission. If a student applies under early decision, they must agree to accept an offer of admission and withdraw any applications to other schools once they've been accepted.

Elective Courses: Courses that fulfill the "Other" high school units to meet the total of 15 required for college admission by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Electronic Media: Includes courses and programs offered through videotape, CD-ROM, telecourses, Web (online), Interactive Television or other digital methodologies.

E-LOR: Electronic Letter of Recommendation. Some colleges and universities allow letters of recommendation to be sent via e-mail or fax. (see LOR)

English Learner (EL): Designation for students, programs and courses for which English is not the primary or native language.

Entry-Level Assessment and Placement: An evaluation conducted prior to enrollment that assists institutional faculty and counselors in making decisions that give students the best possible chance of success in attaining academic goals.

Extrainstitutional Learning: Learning attained outside the sponsorship of legally authorized and accredited postsecondary institutions. Applies to learning acquired from work and life experiences, independent reading and study, the mass media, and participation in formal courses sponsored by associations, business, government, industry, the military and unions.

Fall Semester: An academic term that begins mid- to late-August or early September and ends in December.

Financial Aid: Money provided to the student and/or parents to help pay for the student's education. Major forms of financial aid include gift aid (grants and scholarships) and self-help aid (loans and work-study). (see the Financial Aid Glossary for more information.)

First-Time-Entering Student: A student with six or fewer attempted credit hours, excluding remedial/developmental (zero-level courses) or pre-college work and excluding credit hours accumulated by concurrently enrolled high school students.

Full-Time Student: An undergraduate student enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester in an academic year or a minimum of six credit hours in a summer session or a graduate student enrolled in a minimum of nine credit hours per semester in an academic year or a minimum of four credit hours in a summer session. The definition of full-time summer enrollment for financial aid purposes may be different, so check with the financial aid office at the college or university you're considering.

GED: General Educational Development exam. Composed of five tests, the GED exam can be taken by people who, for whatever reason, were unable to graduate high school.

GPA: Grade Point Average. The GPA is calculated based on the grades obtained in individual classes, usually on a four-point scale. A equals four points, B equals three points, C equals two points, D equals one point, and F equals zero points. High school GPA is indicated on the student's school transcript, typically covers grades 9 through 12 and is part of the evaluation for college admission. Postsecondary GPA is used to evaluate students transferring from one college to another.

Graduate Student: A student working toward a master's or doctoral degree.

Half-Time Student: An undergraduate student enrolled in at least six credit hours or a graduate student enrolled in at least five credit hours, or the equivalent, in one semester or academic term.

HBCU: Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

HiSET: High School Equivalency Test. In some states, this exam can be taken by people who did not graduate from high school.

Independent (Private) Colleges and Universities: A private, denominational or other two-year or four-year college or university that offers courses beyond the 12th grade for which students earn credit and that may be applied to satisfy the requirements for an associate, bachelor's, graduate or professional degree. Independent colleges and universities are not supported by state taxes and are not for profit. They receive the bulk of their revenues from tuition, donations and grants.

Independent Person: One enjoying majority privileges (or legally emancipated from the parental domicile) and who is responsible for his or her own care, custody and support.

Independent Study: An approach in which a student designs his or her own course of study, with assistance from an advisor or faculty member.

Intensive English Program (IEP): A program designed to provide English instruction for non-native speakers to adequately prepare them for collegiate-level instruction in a short period of time.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS): The British Council's English language assessment primarily used by those seeking international education, professional recognition, benchmarking to international standards and global mobility.

Internship: Provides supervised work experience in an area relevant to a student's career goals. Internships can be paid or unpaid.

Intersession: Academic terms shorter than a traditional semester or summer session, generally between semesters or between the summer session and spring and fall semesters.

Learning Site: A site designated by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education with the function and responsibility of ensuring that higher education needs are met either through programs offered by a designated institution or imported courses from other institutions.

Legacy: When a student applies to, or attends, a school that a parent graduated from. Some schools give preferential admission (see Preferential Admission) to applicants whose parents or grandparents attended the same institution.

LOR: Letter of Recommendation. Nearly all colleges and universities require that potential students include one or more LORs with their applications. Good sources for LORs include counselors, teachers, coaches, military officers, public officials, top executives of major corporations, and officials from charitable organizations that the student has volunteered with.

Lower-Division Course Work: Courses generally taken in the freshman and sophomore year and numbered at the 1000 and 2000 levels.

LSAT: Law School Admission Test: The LSAT is required for admission to most law schools.

M.A.: Master of Arts degree. This degree follows a bachelor's degree. It generally takes two years to complete a master's degree, but some people are able to complete it in one year, while others take longer than two years.

Major: An academic subject area such as economics or geology in which students take many courses and choose to earn a degree. Some students choose a major before starting college, while others wait until the end of their second year.

Mandatory Fees: Fees required of all students for enrollment at an Oklahoma higher education institution and used to support the institution and support service facilities. Mandatory fees include, but are not limited to, library fees, technology services fees, student activity fees and assessment fees.

Master's Degree: A graduate degree that follows a bachelor's degree; may be required before earning a doctoral degree.

MCAT: Medical College Admission Test. The MCAT is required for admission to most medical schools.

Minor: An area of interest studied at the same time as a major. It requires fewer courses than a major.

M.S.: Master of Science degree. This degree follows a bachelor's degree. It generally takes two years to complete a master's degree, but some people are able to complete it in one year, while others take longer than two years.

National Merit Scholarship Program: Program that administers the PSAT/NMSQT exam. Students who do well on the PSAT/NMSQT may qualify for scholarships. A few students receive full scholarships. (see PSAT/NMSQT)

NCAA: National Collegiate Athletic Association. The NCAA regulates and governs college and university athletics programs. It verifies that student athletes maintain their GPA to be eligible to play on an NCAA team.

Nonresident: Students who do not live in the state where the school they are applying to, or attending, is located. It also includes students who haven't lived in the state long enough to be considered residents.

Open Admissions: A policy under which a school admits almost all high school graduates without taking grades or test scores into account. They also admit most students who have earned their GED (see GED).

Part-Time Student: A student who is enrolled in a certain number of course credits or hours which are less than full time. For an undergraduate student, this is usually less than 12 credits or hours. For a graduate student, it is usually less than nine credits or hours.

Ph.D.: Doctor of Philosophy degree. A Ph.D. is a graduate degree, often following a master's degree, and also referred to as a doctorate. Sometimes referred to as a "terminal degree" when it's the highest degree possible in a given field. Ph.D.s typically take three years to complete.

Preferential Admission: Gives preference to students from certain groups, such as state residents, members of supporting churches, or students whose parents went to the same school.

Prerequisite: A course which a student must successfully complete before he or she can enroll in another (usually more challenging) course. For instance, first-year math might be a prerequisite for second-year math.

Professional Student: A student majoring in what are considered the professional degrees. These include Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), Law (J.D. or LL.B.), Medicine (M.D.), Engineering, Business Administration (MBA), Nursing (B.Sc.N.), Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and more.

Program: A sequentially organized series of courses and other educational experiences designed to culminate in an academic degree or certificate. The terms "instructional program," "academic program" and "course of study" are considered synonymous.

Proprietary/Trade School: A privately owned or out-of-state institution offering courses in Oklahoma. This type of school prepares students for direct entry into an occupation or profession.

PSAT: Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test. The PSAT is usually taken in 10th or 11th grade, and is part of a student's preparation for the SAT.

PSAT/NMSQT: The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It is used to determine the recipients of National Merit Scholarships. It is also a practice test for freshmen, sophomores and juniors for the SAT, like the PSAT. Only juniors may qualify for NMSQT.

Public Liberal Arts University: An institution that grants bachelor's degrees in arts and science fields, including humanities. A public liberal arts university tends to have smaller class sizes that facilitate close interaction between faculty and students. Oklahoma's public liberal arts university is the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha.

Recognized National Accrediting Agency: An accrediting agency that is recognized by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education as a reliable authority as to the quality of higher education institutions under Code of Federal Regulations 34 CFR, Part 602. The secretary periodically publishes in the Federal Register a list of recognized accrediting agencies and the scope of each agency's recognition, i.e., the types of institutions the agency may accredit, the degrees and certificates awarded, the geographic area, and the preaccreditation status(es) that the secretary has approved for recognition.

Regional Accrediting Agency: A nationally recognized accrediting agency whose geographic scope has been defined by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education to include at least three states that are contiguous or in close proximity to one another. Regional accreditation is a voluntary, nongovernmental organization that establishes criteria for educational quality in the geographic region. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accredits public and private institutions in Oklahoma. The HLC evaluates institutions based on Eligibility Requirements and the Criteria for Accreditation and accredits those institutions that meet these requirements.

Regional University: A university that offers bachelor's and master's degrees, and in some instances, associate or professional degrees. While regional universities focus primarily on instruction, they are also responsible for extension and public service, as well as some research. They tend to have mid-sized student populations and campuses. The public regional universities in Oklahoma are:

  • Cameron University, Lawton and Duncan
  • East Central University, Ada
  • Langston University, Langston, Oklahoma City and Tulsa
  • Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Broken Arrow and Muskogee
  • Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Alva, Enid and Woodward
  • Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Goodwell
  • Rogers State University, Bartlesville, Claremore and Pryor
  • Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant and Idabel
  • Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford and Sayre
  • University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond

Remedial/Developmental Courses: Zero-level courses that do not carry college credit and are designed to raise students' competency in the subject area to the collegiate level.

Research University: A university that grants bachelor's, graduate and professional degrees and offers a wide variety of courses and degree programs. Along with instruction, research institutions also focus on research, extension and public service. Research universities usually have large student bodies and expansive campuses. Oklahoma's two research universities are Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.

Resident: One who has lived continuously in a state for at least 12 months duration and whose domicile is in that state. A person's domicile is their true, fixed, permanent home or habitation. It is the place where they intend to remain and to which they expect to return. A person can have more than one residence, but only one domicile. Domicile has two components: residence and the intention to remain. When these two occur, domicile is established.

Residential College: A college at which students may live on campus in dormitories or apartments.

Retention/Graduation Grade Point Average (GPA): The average of a college student's earned grades calculated by point values assigned to letter grades that is used to determine a student's eligibility to remain enrolled or graduate from an institution. Activity courses and forgiven course work are not calculated in the retention/graduation GPA. This GPA may be used for financial aid or eligibility purposes, admission to graduate or professional programs, or to determine eligibility for graduation honors. (see Cumulative GPA)

ROTC: Reserve Officers Training Corps. This is a program in which the military pays a student's tuition or other expenses. The student takes part in summer training while in college and commits to military service after college.

SAT: Scholastic Assessment Test. The SAT measures mathematical, critical reading and writing skills. Students take this test during their junior or senior year. Many colleges require SAT scores as part of their application process.

Semester: Calendar system used by colleges and universities. The standard and traditional academic calendar unit which consists of a minimum of 16 weeks, excluding enrollment, orientation and scheduled breaks.

Specialty Accrediting Agency: An agency, recognized by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, that conducts accrediting activities to evaluate the quality of academic programs in specific programmatic areas.

Spring Semester: An academic term that begins in January and ends prior to the first of June.

Standardized Test (ACT or SAT): Test used by colleges and universities to evaluate an applicant's academic skills and abilities. The standardized tests most widely used by colleges and universities are the ACT and SAT. Oklahoma state colleges and universities rely primarily on the ACT.

State (Public) Colleges and Universities: Colleges and universities that receive funding from state taxes to pay part of operating costs.

Subject Area Test: Standardized tests given by the ACT program in math, science, reading and English. Public colleges and universities look at these test scores when helping students enroll in courses.

Summer Session: An academic term that begins about the last week in May or the first week in June and ends late July or early August.

Syllabus: The program and requirements for a certain class.

TASC: Test Assessing Secondary Completion. In some states, this exam can be taken by people who did not graduate from high school.

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL): An academic discipline for preparation of teachers who will teach English to non-native English speakers.

Technical Branch: Institution that has a special emphasis on education and training in technical fields. Some technical branches offer academic courses and programs, but not all institutions offer two-year programs (nontechnical) that lead to an associate degree that transfers to universities. Oklahoma's two technical branches are Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee and OSU-Oklahoma City.

Technical-Occupational Program: Vocational-education program offered by an institution of higher education with curricular patterns designed to focus on a specific career and lead to direct employment in that career field.

Technology Center: A school that prepares students to enter a specialized career, trade or vocation.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): The Educational Testing Service's exam that measures the ability of non-native speakers of English to use and understand North American English as it is spoken, written and heard in college and university settings. Many schools require students whose main language is not English to take this test. The test covers all aspects of English-language ability, including spoken English and grammar.

Traditional Off-Campus Courses and Programs: Courses taught for credit at a location that is remote from the main campus of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education college or university and is not considered part of the college's or university's physical plant.

Transcript: Official document, issued by an institution, with student information that is a complete and accurate reflection of a student's academic career. Includes information such as cumulative and retention/graduation GPAs, semesters of attendance, courses taken, grades and credit hours earned, degrees received, academic standing, academic honors and transfer information. Students may need to include a copy of their high school transcripts with college applications. Copies of college transcripts may be needed when transferring to different colleges or universities.

Transfer Credit: Credits earned by students at institutions accredited by a regional accrediting agency or by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education are accepted for transfer at face value into like programs at institutions in the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education (and on a voluntary basis by private/independent institutions) consistent with the State Regents' Undergraduate Transfer and Articulation Policy. Credits earned by a student at an institution accredited by a recognized national accrediting agency may be reviewed on a course-by-course basis for possible transfer to an institution in the State System (and on a voluntary basis by private/independent institutions).

Transfer Student: Any undergraduate student with greater than six attempted credit hours, excluding remedial/developmental (zero-level courses) or pre-college work and excluding credit hours accumulated by concurrently enrolled high school students.

Tribal College: A college controlled and operated by a Native American tribe that provides accredited degrees and/or vocational training for both Native American and non-Native American students. Tribal colleges include Native American culture, language and/or traditions in their course work.

Trimester: Calendar system used primarily by the state's technical branches. Classes and grade reports are divided into three periods, each lasting about 10 weeks.

Tuition: Payment that students make to cover costs of their classes at public and private colleges and universities. Other fees may be also required.

Two-Year College: See Community College.

Undergraduate Student: A student working toward an associate or a bachelor's degree or a certificate.

University: A higher education institution that usually offers bachelor's degrees, as well as degrees beyond the baccalaureate level (i.e. graduate and professional degrees). They may also offer associate degrees.

University Center: Institution with flexible admission standards that provides higher education opportunities to citizens in the areas surrounding the center. The center works with various colleges and universities to provide undergraduate and graduate courses, and students can earn associate, bachelor's or master's degrees. Oklahoma's university center is University Center at Ponca City.

University Transfer Program: A program in which students complete the first two years of a four-year degree program at a two-year college, and then transfer to a four-year college for the last two years of the degree program.

Upper-Division Course Work: Courses generally taken in the junior and senior year and numbered at the 3000 and 4000 levels.

Vocational School: Offers programs that prepare students for specific careers, trades or vocations.

Waitlist: A list of remaining qualified applicants who could take the place of students who have been offered admission to a college but decide not to attend.

Work-Study Programs: Provide students with part-time jobs during the school year as part of their financial aid package. The jobs are often located on campus.


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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.