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Glossary of College Terms

College terms and their definitions


Academic Advisor — This person will help you select the correct courses, review the course requirements in the field you have selected to pursue and help you with any academic problems you may encounter.

Academic Probation All colleges require students to maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) to remain in school. Any student not making satisfactory progress toward his or her educational objectives will be placed on academic probation for a semester.

Academic Suspension — A student on academic probation may be placed on academic suspension if he or she fails to earn the minimum cumulative GPA required. A student placed on suspension will be dismissed from the college for a specified time period — usually one semester. Specific requirements may be necessary for the student to return to college.

Academic Year The school year that begins with fall classes. At SUNY Plattsburgh, the academic year begins in August and ends in May of the following year.

ACC Angell College Center. This is the focal point on campus for students, faculty, staff and visitors. Housing, Student Support Services, Equal Opportunity Program (EOP), Career Development Center, The Sundowner, Burghy’s, Campus Express convenience store and meeting rooms are housed in the Angell College Center.

ACT and SAT — These letters are acronyms for the American College Test and the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Both tests are designed to measure a student’s level of knowledge in math, science, English and social studies. SUNY Plattsburgh takes one or both of these scores into account when evaluating applicants for admission.

Advanced Standing Credit — These are credit hours an institution accepts toward a degree based on credit a student has earned from completing courses at another institution. Such credit may be given for work done at another college bypassing a competency exam or by military service.

Alumni People who have graduated from the college.

Application, Acceptance and Admission — The application process involves a prospective student submitting the required forms and credentials to a college. Application criteria may include previous academic records, test scores, interviews and letters of recommendation. Admission is the status granted to an applicant who meets the prescribed entrance requirements of the institution. It must be noted that there is a wide variation nationwide in the application, acceptance and admission policies of higher education institutions. Check the college catalog for the specific requirements of the schools you are considering.

Associate Degree — The Associate Degree is granted upon completion of a program of at least two but less than four years of college work. Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees are conferred upon students who successfully complete programs designed for transfer to a four-year college and are usually conferred by community or technical colleges.

Audit — A student who does not want to receive credit in a course may, with approval of the instructor, take a course as a visitor. A student who audits a course usually cannot petition the institution at a later date to obtain college credit for the audited course.


Bachelor’s Degree — This is the undergraduate degree offered by four-year colleges and universities. The bachelor of arts degree requires that a significant portion of the student’s studies be dedicated to the humanities — literature, history, language, music, etc. The bachelor of science degree requires that a significant portion of the studies be in the sciences — chemistry, psychology, biology, math, etc. If you are looking to go to medical school, for example, getting a bachelor’s in biology is a route you could take. The minimum credit hour requirement for a bachelor’s degree is 120 hours.

Banner The main database used by SUNY Plattsburgh. It houses student information, scheduling, budgets and other items.

Blue Room — Formally known as Flynt Commons, this is a common area for students on the second floor of the Angell College Center near Tim Horton’s.


Campus Express — Convenience store located on the first floor of the Angell College Center.

Career Development Center (CDC) Provides services for career exploration, resume and cover letters, graduate school applications and job and internship postings.

College — A college is an institution of higher education that grants degrees and certificates. The term is also used to designate the organizational units of a university such as the College of Education or the College of Engineering. Informally, the term is often used interchangeably with “university.” SUNY Plattsburgh is officially designated as a college (not a university) by the SUNY system.

College Auxiliary Services A contracted company that provides various services to SUNY Plattsburgh like catering and food services, ID card dissemination, meal plans and conference or event management. Located in Clinton Dining Hall.

College Catalog College catalogs provide information students and their families need to know. It lists, for example, the institution’s history and philosophy, policies and procedures, accreditation status, courses of study, degrees and certificates offered, physical facilities, admissions and enrollment procedures, financial aid, student life activities and other items.

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) This test is given to students who want to obtain college credit by taking proficiency tests in selected courses. If the student scores high enough on the test, college credit can be awarded. There is a charge for each test taken. Information concerning an institution’s policies on CLEP tests can be found in the institution’s catalog.

College Store All colleges have bookstores. It will generally have all the books and other materials required in any courses offered as well as apparel and other items.

Commencement Graduation ceremony where students become alumni.

Community/Junior College — A junior or community college is a two-year institution of higher education. Course offerings generally include a transfer curriculum with credits transferable toward a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college, and an occupational or technical curriculum with courses of study designed to prepare students for employment.

Community Living Sometimes referred to as Residence Life on some campuses, the term used for the office that administers services to students who live in on campus Residence Halls. Functions include the supervision of Community Advocates (CAs).

Commuter — A student who lives off campus.

Course Numbers — All courses are identified by numbers, usually containing three or four digits. For example, an introductory English course might be designated as 1113. Course numbers generally reflect sequencing, with lower numbers attached to entry-level or foundational courses.

Course Schedule A list of classes a student is taking in a semester, which includes course name and number, time and location of the class and the name of the instructor.

Credit Hour — The number of hours assigned to a specific class. This is usually the number of hours per week a student is in the class. Courses taken in college are measured in terms of credit hours. To earn one credit hour, a student must attend a class for one classroom hour (usually 50 minutes) per week for the whole semester, which is generally 16 weeks. Classes are generally offered in one to five credit hour increments. The number of credit hours you enroll in determines whether you are a full-time or part-time student. The typical credit load per semester is 15. To be considered full-time, a minimum of 12 credit hours must be completed in a semester. Falling below full-time will impact the amount of financial aid received. It is important to complete 30 credit hours per year in order to stay on track to finish a bachelor’s degree in four years. Many financial aid packages expire after five years.

Center for Student Involvement (CSI) — Provides access to free on-campus activities and discounted tickets for day trips, performances, movies and other events. The Greek Life, Student Association, clubs and organizations and the information desk also operate under this office. The Center for Student Involvement is located in Angell College Center 110.

Curriculum — A curriculum is composed of those classes outlined by an institution for completion of a program of study leading to a degree or certificate.


Dean’s List — Students are placed on the dean’s list for GPAs that exceed specified levels. Criteria for president’s, dean’s or other honor rolls vary by institution. In most cases, students must be enrolled full-time to be eligible.

“de-Burgh” — Nickname for deFredenburgh residence hall.

Degree Requirements — Includes a minimum number of credit hours, required GPA, prerequisite and elective courses within a major or minor areas of study.

Degree Works — A comprehensive academic advising, transfer articulation and degree audit tool.

Degrees — There are three basic types of degrees: associate, which is obtainable at a two-year community or junior college; baccalaureate or bachelor’s, offered by four-year colleges and universities, and graduate degrees like a master’s degree or doctorate, which are earned after the bachelor’s degree.

Department — A department is the basic organizational unit in a higher education institution. It is responsible for the academic functions in a field of study. It may also be used in the broader sense to indicate an administrative or service unit of an institution.

Division — A division could be several things: an administrative unit of an institution, usually consisting of more than one department, a unit of an institution based on the year level of students like lower and upper division or a branch of the institution, instructional or not like the Division of Student Affairs, for example.

Doctorate — Highest academic degree that can be conferred on an individual. Doctorates are earned after obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

Drop/Add — Students are generally permitted to remove courses from their class schedules and/or add other courses. Colleges allow varying lengths of time for students to add and drop classes. The college catalog or class schedule should note the correct procedures. Students may need written approval from designated college officials to initiate dropping or adding a class.


Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) The Educational Opportunity Program begins as a special admission program, opening the door to higher education for students who might not otherwise have a chance to pursue their college dream.

Elective — A class you take that is not specifically required by your major or minor.

Enrollment — The procedure by which students choose classes each semester. It also includes the assessment and collection of fees. Pre-enrollment is the method by which students select courses well in advance of the official enrollment date for the next term.

Extracurricular Activities — These are non-classroom activities that can contribute to a well-rounded education such as athletics, clubs, student government, recreational and social organizations and events.


Faculty — All persons who teach classes for a college.

Fees Fees are additional charges not included in tuition. Fees may be charged to cover the cost of materials and equipment needed in certain courses and they may be assessed for student events, programs and publications.

Final Exams (Finals) These exams are usually given during the last week of classes each semester. The type of final administered in a course is left to the discretion of the instructor. Final exams are given on specified dates that may be different than the regular class time and are usually listed in each semester’s class schedule.

Financial Aid Financial Aid is made available by federal, state, institutional and private sources using grants, scholarships, loans and part-time student employment. The types and amounts of aid awarded are determined by financial need, available funds, student classification, academic performance and sometimes the timeliness of application. See: Grant, Loan and Scholarship.

First-year — A student in his or her first year of college. See also: Freshman.

Fraternities/Sororities (also called the Greek System or Greek Life) — Fraternities and sororities offer students a community identity with peers who have common values, interests and goals, while allowing opportunities for personal development. These organizations provide a values-based environment founded upon the principles of friendship, leadership, scholarship and service.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) The universal application for financial aid that encompasses loans, grants, college work study and other programs.

Freshman — First-year college student.

Full-time Enrollment/Part-time Enrollment — A full-time student is enrolled in 12 or more credit hours in a semester. Full-time status for a summer term is usually six credit hours. A part-time student is enrolled in less than 12 credit hours in a semester or less than six in a summer term.


Gen Ed/General Education Classes — Courses that give students basic knowledge of a variety of topics. Students must take general education classes to graduate. General education classes are broken up into different classifications depending on the required area of study.

Grade Point Average (GPA)/Letter Grades The average of all of the course grades you have received, reported on a four-point scale. Grades at most colleges are figured using the following method: A’s are worth four points, B’s are worth three points, C’s are worth two points, D’s are worth one point and F’s are worth zero points. To calculate a GPA, multiply the number of hours a course is worth by the number of points for the letter grade, then add up the totals for each course and divide by the number of credit hours.

Grant A form of financial aid from a non-profit organization like a government agency that you do not have to repay.


Humanities Courses — Humanities courses are classes that teach you about aspects of human culture. Examples of disciplines within the humanities are writing and literature, philosophy, anthropology and fine arts. Most undergraduate degrees require a certain number of humanities credit hours.


Internship — A temporary job, paid or unpaid, usually in the field of your major. You may be able to receive college credit for internship work.


Junior — Third-year college student.


Kehoe — Kehoe Administration Building.


Lecture/Laboratory/Discussion Classes — In lecture classes, students attend class each week and the instructor lectures on class material. Laboratory classes require students to perform practical functions in controlled situations that help them test and understand what is being taught in the lecture. Discussion classes offer students the opportunity to talk about the course material, ask questions and discuss material with their classmates. Discussion classes are often taught by master’s or doctoral students. However, that is not the case at SUNY Plattsburgh. Here, classes are taught by tenured faculty or adjunct faculty members who possess degrees in their field.

Loan A form of financial aid you must repay.


Major — Your primary area of study in the field you plan to get a job in after you graduate. For example, accounting, education, public relations or psychology.

Master’s Degree — A degree awarded to graduate students. The awarding of a master’s degree requires at least one year of study, and often more, depending on the field, after a student earns a bachelor’s degree.

Mid-Term Exams (Midterms) — During the middle of each semester, instructors may give midterm exams that test students on the material covered during the first half of the semester. Some classes have only two tests, a midterm and a final exam.

Minor — A minor is designated as a specific number of credit hours in a secondary field of study. Colleges and universities usually don’t require students to have a minor. Many students’ minors are a specialization of their major field. For example, a student who wants to become a science reporter might major in journalism and minor in biology.

My Plattsburgh The MyPlattsburgh portal is your secure gateway to SUNY Plattsburgh’s online services. Current students, faculty, staff and college applicants can access and manage academic and administrative information and services quickly and easily using this tool.


Non-credit Courses — Classes that do not meet the requirements for a certificate of a degree at a given institution. Non-credit courses may serve several purposes: to explore new fields of study, increase proficiency in a particular profession, develop potential or enrich life experiences through cultural or recreational studies.

Non-resident — A student who isn’t an official resident of the state where a public university is located. Tuition at public universities is less expensive for residents.


Office Hours — Time set aside by faculty or teaching assistants where students are free to visit their offices and ask questions or discuss the course they teach. Your professor or teaching assistant will tell you at the beginning of the term when and where office hours will be held each week.

Online Courses Class you take online instead of in a traditional classroom.

Open-door Institution — Usually public two-year junior or community colleges. The term open-door refers to an admission policy that states that anyone who is 18 years of age or older, whether a high school graduate or not, can be admitted to that institution.


Part-time Student — A student who does not enroll in enough credit hours to be a full-time student, as defined by your college or university. Part-time students may take only one or two classes at one time.

Pass/Fail Courses — If an instructor offers the pass/fail option as an alternative to a letter grade, a student can elect this option only during the first two weeks of the course. Once elected, the pass/fail option cannot be reversed for a letter grade. A pass (P) will be awarded for performance equivalent to letter grades of A-D, but will not be computed in the GPA. A fail will be awarded for a grade of E and will be computed in the GPA. The pass/fail option is not permitted for courses in a student’s major (including cognates) or minor areas of study with the exception of student teaching, teaching practicums, internships, research, zero credit requirements and clinical nursing courses. A pass (P) grade earned is acceptable if completed prior to declaring a major/minor in which the course is required. Students should be cautioned that the amount of pass/fail work elected may jeopardize their chances for admission to graduate or professional school or career placement, and pass (P) grades may not transfer to other schools. Questions regarding this policy may be directed to the registrar’s office or the Office of Academic Advising.

Petition — A petition is both the process and the form a student fills out to request consideration of special circumstances. For example, if a student is denied admission, they may petition for admission based on extenuating circumstances.

Prerequisite — A class that must be taken before you can take a higher-level class. For example, Astronomy 100 may be a prerequisite for Astronomy 200.

Private vs. Public Institutions — Private and public institutions differ primarily in terms of their source of financial support. Public institutions receive funding from the state government. Private institutions rely primarily on funds from student tuition and private donations from alumni or certain organizations.

Public Institution — A university that is funded by the government. Public colleges and universities are less expensive for residents of the state where they are located. SUNY Plattsburgh is a public college.


Quarter — Type of academic term. A school with this system generally will have a fall quarter, winter quarter and spring quarter, each about 10 weeks long, along with a summer term. See also: Semester.


Registrar The registrar of an institution is responsible for the maintenance of all academic records and may include maintenance of class enrollments, statistical information on student enrollment, certification of athletic eligibility and student eligibility for honor rolls, certification for the eligibility of veterans, probation and retention policies and verification of the completion of degree requirements before graduation.

Residence Life (ResLife) Community Living on the Plattsburgh Campus, the term used for the office that administers services to students who live in in on campus Residence Halls. Functions include the supervision of Community Advocates (CAs).

Resident — A student who meets the residency requirements for the state where a public university is located. Tuition at public universities is generally more expensive for non-residents.


Scholarship A form of financial aid you do not have to repay.

Semester — Type of academic term. A school with this system generally has a fall semester and a spring semester along with one or more summer terms. See also: Quarter.

Senior — Fourth-year college student. A student is a senior when he or she graduates from college.

Sophomore — Second-year college student.

Student Association (SA) SUNY Plattsburgh’s student government organization.

Student Support Services (SSS) An academic support program funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Student Identification Card (ID) — A student ID is a required document at most colleges. It includes a photograph of the student, student number, student name and the name of the college. The card is usually required for admittance to events sponsored by the college or for identification when cashing checks and to receive student discounts.

SUNY State University of New York system.

Syllabus — A description of a course, which also lists the dates of major exams, assignments and projects. These are written by the class instructor and are distributed the first day of classes.


Term — The length of time that you take a college class. See also: Quarter and Semester.

Textbooks — Academic books required of students enrolled in college classes. Faculty notify students which books they must purchase and sometimes additional, optional textbooks at the beginning of each semester. Students can purchase new or used textbooks or rent textbooks.

Transcript — The transcript is a permanent academic record of a student’s GPA, courses taken and the dates of coursework. Transcripts are not released by the college if the student owes any money to the college. Transcripts are confidential.

Transfer of Credits Some students attend more than one institution during their college career. When they move or transfer from one college to another, they can transfer some accumulated credit hours from the former institution to the new one. The new institution determines which courses will apply toward graduation requirements.

Tuition Tuition is the amount paid for each credit hour of enrollment. Tuition does not include the cost of books, fees or room and board. Tuition charges are dependent on residency, level of classes enrolled in (lower, upper or graduate division), and whether the institution is public or private.

Tutor A person, generally another student, who has completed or demonstrated proficiency in a course or subject and is able to provide instruction to another student. Tutors help students better understand course material so they can earn better grades.


Undergraduate — An undergraduate is a student who is pursuing either a one-, two- or four-year degree.

University — A university is composed of undergraduate, graduate and professional colleges and offers degrees in each.


Withdrawal Students may withdraw from courses during a semester, but there are established procedures for doing so. The college catalog or class schedule generally specifies the procedures. Written approval from a university official must be secured and fees are usually required to withdraw from a class.

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