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College Exploration

Summer is the perfect time to explore your college options, in person or online. Even if college seems like a long way off, it’s never too early to start paving your way to college success. Get familiar with college lingo below, and find other ways to explore colleges near you.

Build Your ‘College Knowledge’ Vocabulary

ACT: A college entrance test. The higher you score, the more likely you will be accepted to college, although they consider other factors like GPA and volunteer experience, too. Find more information on the ACT homepage.

Advisor: A school official, usually assigned by your college or university, who can help you choose classes and make sure you are taking the right courses to graduate.

Bursar’s office: The college or university office that is responsible for collecting and billing charges, including tuition.

Commencement: Day of graduation.

Credit hour: A credit that will count towards the required number for your degree, usually one hour in class.

Dual credit course: A high school course that also counts toward college. Make sure the course counts at the college you want to attend before you sign up.

Elective: A class you can take that is not specifically required by your major or minor. Taking too many electives may put you behind schedule for graduation.

FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, required for financial aid. You can fill it out online at by March 10 of your high school senior year.

Financial aid: Money for college. Financial aid can be scholarships and grants (which do not need to be paid back), loans (which do need to be paid back, with interest) or work-study (working on campus with the money you earn going towards your tuition).

Financial aid office: The university or college office responsible for awarding and keeping track of financial aid.

Greek: Fraternities and sororities. Often, they have specific housing options for their members. GPA and social requirements usually apply to membership.

GPA: Stands for grade point average. The GPA is calculated by dividing your grades, usually out of 4.0, by the attempted number of credit hours. Usually a 4.0 = A, 3.0 = B, and so on. Your high school GPA will determine whether colleges will accept you, and your college GPA determines whether you can graduate and whether you can still receive certain scholarships.

Internship: A real-world experience in a business or organization, usually related to your major, for a set period of time (often one semester or the summer). Internships can be full- or part-time and may or may not be paid.

Major: The subject you’ll spend the most time on, for example, biology, journalism or history. You will have to take a certain number of credit hours to graduate with the major you want.

Minor: A subject you will spend some time on, but not as much as for your major. The number of credit hours required for a minor is much less than for a major.

Office hours: Time set aside by professors or teaching assistants for students to visit their office to ask questions about the course, homework or tests.

Prerequisite: A course that has to be taken before you can take a different class. For example, Biology 100 may be a prerequisite to Biology 200.

SAT: A college entrance test. The higher you score, the more likely you will be accepted to college, although they consider other factors like GPA and volunteer experience, too. Find more information on the College Board’s SAT page.

Syllabus: The schedule your professor will give you at the start of a class. It will usually include required textbooks, tests and what chapters to read, and sometimes lecture topics and homework due dates.

Transcript: An official academic record from a specific school, listing courses you have completed, the grades you earned and dates. You will need a high school transcript to apply to college, and you will need to supply a college transcript if you switch to another college.

Transfer: To move from attending one college or university to another. Previously earned credits may be applied towards a degree at your new college if the courses transfer. See to see how courses transfer among Indiana’s institutions, or ask your advisor.

Tuition and fees: Tuition is the basic cost to take classes. Most colleges also charge mandatory fees for things like computers and student services.