WLU Higher Education Dictionary

We acknowledge that universities may have an intricate language of their own. We have provided a list to some college-related terminology that you may encounter throughout your time at W&L.


Academic Advisor: This person's job is to help their advisees with everything from settling on a major or career to getting involved on campus to selecting classes for the next semester. Once a student declares a major, they will be assigned an advisor in their academic discipline. This person could be a professor or a professional advisor. 

Academic Calendar:  Published by the Registrar's office each year, the academic calendar contains dates regarding schedule cancellation, withdrawal, course drops, University breaks, and exam times, as well as other important deadlines that students are responsible for knowing.

Academic Coaching:  An academic service offered through the Hart Center.  Coaches can provide assistance with test preparation, note-taking, study strategies, and time management.

Academic Discipline:  A specific area of study, such as Geography or Environmental Science. Also known to college students as a "Major."   

Academic Probation: Time frame in which a student must improve their GPA to meet the university's academic criteria.

Academic Year:  The academic year consists of three terms: fall, winter, and spring.

Accredited:  Recognition that a university or program meets national or regional standards.

Add/Drop: A timeframe, typically during the first two weeks of classes, in which a student can drop out of or add a course without impacting tuition cost or GPA.

Alumni/ Alumna/ Alumnus:  People who have graduated from W&L. A female graduate is an alumna; a male or female graduate is an alumnus.

Audit: A registration status that allows a student/staff (with the approval of the instructor) to enroll in a course without receiving credit.


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.): A type of degree that includes modern language courses.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.): A degree that generally includes science related course.

Bachelor's Degree / Baccalaureate: Degree awarded to students who graduate from a four-year college or university, and typically required before a master's degree. When you graduate from W&L, you will receive a bachelor's degree.


Community Assistant (CA): A student, employed by the office of residence life to live in on-campus housing and serve as a resource and role model to upperclassmen.

Cannon Green: Grass field between Elrod Commons and the DARC.

Canvas: The online course management system used by W&L. You will find information related to your class assignments, announcements, and discussion boards here.

Co-ed:  Refers to any program, residence hall, or activity that includes all genders.  

Colonnade: Grass area in front of the chapel, place where students study and hang out

Commencement:  The ceremonies at which degrees or diplomas are conferred at a school or college. Also referred to as Graduation.

Convocation: The annual program held in the fall shortly after the beginning of classes. It is the official welcome to the academic year. 

Coop: Café 77 or Coop is a campus dining venue inside Elrod Commons serving early morning to late night.

Course Catalog: A listing of the courses offered by the university.

Course Load:  The number of courses, or total credit hours, a student takes in any given term.

Course Numbers: The level a course is designated as, based on the complexity and prerequisites of the classes. Generally, 100 and 200 levels are first year and sophomore courses, while 300 and 400 levels are more suited for juniors and seniors.

Course Registration: Time period where students sign up for classes they will take the upcoming term. 

Credit Hour: A unit of credit for a course. This is usually based on the number of hours per week spent in classroom-based instruction.  Most classes are three credit hours, but this can vary depending upon the amount of time required in a laboratory, fieldwork, studio, or seminar-based course. To be considered full time, you must take 12 credit hours or more per academic semester.

Creek: an abbreviation for Woods Creek Apartments (second year housing).


Dean: An administrator with authority over a specific academic unit, over a specific area of concern, or both.

Dean of Students/Student Affairs Office: The Dean of Students/Student Affairs Office oversees student life, student services and on-campus activities. They are a great resource for student support, development and success at W&L.

Deferment: A plan allowed under certain conditions to delay payment on a loan.

Department Chair: Typically, a faculty member in a particular department, assigned by the dean to manage the department.

Double Major:  Students with a double major are planning to earn two bachelor's degrees at the same time, such as a BS in Biology and BS in Psychology.


Electives:  A class you choose to take that is not required for your major.  They are an opportunity for you to study something outside of your major that interests you.

Executive Committee (EC): The Executive Committee (known as the EC), is made up of representatives from all class levels who report to the president of the student body. The EC is entrusted with the administration of the Honor System and is responsible for allocating funds to student organizations.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): A value from the FAFSA that represents the amount a student or family should be able to contribute toward their college costs.


Faculty:  Professors and instructors who teach and/or conduct research.

FAFSA:  The Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA must be completed each year in order to receive need-based aid from the government, such as the Pell Grant or work-study awards.

FDR: Foundation and Distribution Requirements (requirements that must be fulfilled before graduating).

Fellowships: Fellowships are funded, short-term opportunities, that can last from a few weeks to a few years. They can be focused on professional, academic and/or personal development. Fellowships are sponsored by a specific association, organization, institution, or government which sets the eligibility requirements. 

FERPA:  Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act. This law governs how colleges protect and share student information.

Financial Aid:  Financial support that students receive for college expenses. Some financial aid, such as loans, must be repaid, while other forms, such as grants or scholarships, do not need to.

Final Exam:  An exam that typically is given during finals week, the last week of the term.

First-Generation Student:  A college student enrolled in a higher education institution in  the United States of America, who is the first in their family to complete a baccalaureate degree.

First Year Experience 100 (FYE: 100):  Course taken by first-year students during their first fall term to assist them with their transition from high school to W&L.

Freshman:  A first-year college student, or one who has earned fewer than 30 credit hours.

Full-Time Student:  An undergraduate student enrolled in at least 12 credit hours during the fall/spring and/or nine hours in the summer semesters.


GPA: Grade Point Average.  A measure of course performance. A GPA is obtained by dividing the number of grade points by the credit hours completed, where each credit hour of an A = 4 points, a B = 3 points, a C = 2 points, a D = 1 point, and an F = 0 points.

Glees: An abbreviation for Graham-Lees Residence Hall.

Grant:  A form of financial aid that does not need to be repaid.

Greek Life: Community of students broken down into fraternities for men and sororities for women. At W&L, we have 3 Greek Life Councils (NPC, IFC, & NPHC).


Handshake:  The Career Center's recruiting and career services platform.

Hold:  A restriction that limits a student's ability to enroll, log in to email and/or other actions until the hold is removed. A ‘hold' can be placed on a students' account when a bill is not paid, a book is overdue or when health forms are not completed.

Honor System/Code:  One of W&L's most important traditions. Students are expected to abide by the Honor System by representing themselves truthfully and seeking no unfair advantage over their peers. This understanding instills a profound sense of trust among all within the University community and enriches every aspect of student life.

HIPAA Release Form:  The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives students a right over the privacy of their medical records when they turn 18.  A HIPAA Release Form gives the parent the ability to access the student's medical records and make important medical decisions in case of an emergency. 

Huntley: The Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics building.


Incomplete: Under extraordinary circumstances and only at the discretion of the instructor, a grade of I (Incomplete) may be assigned to a student whose work is satisfactory but who has not completed a portion of the course. The terms for the removal of the Incomplete, including the time limit for removal, is decided by the instructor.

Instructor/Professor:  A faculty member who teaches.

Internship:  A temporary professional experience typically in a student's career field or major. It can be paid or unpaid and can sometimes be taken for academic credit.

Intramurals:  Individual and team sports for W&L students played against each other and not other institutions.


Junior:  A third-year college student, and/or who has earned at least 90 credit hours.



Lab:  Short for laboratory; a part of a course that allows students for hands-on practical exposure to the subject matter.

Leading Edge: Weeklong immersive experiences for incoming First-Year students right before O-week.

Lecture:  The term for a class that does not entail lab work.

Liberal Arts:  A term that refers to subjects such as humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics.

Loan: Financial aid that must be repaid. Student loans typically come from the government or from private banks.


Major:  The concentration of courses required to earn a degree. For example, a biology major is pursuing a degree in biology and will take courses oriented to that area of interest.

Master Promissory Note:  A legal document that is signed upon receiving government loan that indicates that you promise to pay off loan and any accrued interest.

Matriculation:  The process of being accepted to W&L and subsequently enrolling in classes.

Master's Degree:  A graduate degree is usually completed after the bachelor's degree; most commonly two years in length.

Midterms:  Exams that occur in the middle of a semester, to test a student's grasp of topics covered in a course up to that point.

Minor:  A secondary focus of study, typically earned in tandem with a major.


Non-traditional student:  Most commonly describes a student starting college later in life rather than right after completing high school, or one who is a parent.


Office Hours: Specific times that faculty are available in their office to meet with students. Students are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities, usually no appointment is needed.

Off-Campus: Students who do not live in residence halls or with their families are considered to live ‘off-campus' generally in an apartment or house near the campus.

Okta: Virtual hub where you can access every software/weblinks used by W&L.

Orientation/O-week:  A program run by W&L to welcome new students and families held a week before first day of classes.


Pell Grant:  Federal financial aid for undergraduate students with financial need; it does not have to be repaid.

Plagiarism: Refers to the act of using someone else's work, ideas, thoughts, or language and representing it as your own by failing to give credit to the original author. Plagiarism is a serious offense and is subject to disciplinary actions that may include failure in a course and/or dismissal from the university.

Prerequisite:  A course that is required prior to being permitted to enroll in another class. 

Provost: A provost is a senior academic administrator. At many institutions of higher education, the provost is the chief academic officer; overseeing the development and implementation of the university's academic programs and policies.


Quad: Area across from Graham Lees Residence Hall and Huntley Hall

Quiz:  A short assessment of knowledge given to students in courses.


Residence Halls:  Buildings on campus where students live, eat and engage in activities together.

Registrar:  The college official who oversees registration, student grades and transcripts.

Registration:  The period in which a student can sign up for the classes they wish to take in a term.

Residential/Resident:  Term that refers to students who live on campus in residence halls.

Resident Advisor (RA):  A student, employed by the office of residence life to live in a campus residence hall and serve as a resource and role model to first year students.

Room and Board:  Another term for the cost of living on campus and having a meal plan.  


Scholarship: A form of financial aid to support students' education, awarded on the basis of academic merit, athletic skill, financial need; that does not have to be repaid.

Semester:  The time period during which courses are offered. The word "term' is another word to describe a semester.

Senior:  A fourth-year college student, or one who has earned more than 90 credit hours.

Sophomore:  A second-year college student, or one who has earned more than 30 and fewer than 60 credit hours.

Student Accounts/Business Office: The office where students pay their bills.

Study Abroad:  A semester or short time (1-4 weeks) where a student attends school and earns W&L credit while living in another country.

Student Affairs:  Used to refer to the Office of Student Affairs and/or the Dean of Students Office at W&L, which provides services to support students through their campus journey.

Student Judicial Council (SJC): The Student Judicial Council (known as the SJC) helps to uphold Washington and Lee's commitment to individual responsibility and honorable behavior among students. The council helps investigate and acts upon student misconduct on and off campus that is not governed by the Executive Committee or other conduct boards.

Subsidized Student Loan:  A loan that is not charged interest and does not require payments while the student is in school.

Syllabus:  A document that describes important information about a course. It may include items such as the faculty member's office hours, required books or other materials, assignments, due dates, grading scale, course expectations, and procedures and policies.


Term:  Another name for a semester.

Thesis:  A thesis is often required at the end of a graduate program, and sometimes an undergraduate program. A thesis is a paper summarizing a student's finding on their chosen topic of research.

Traditional Student:  Most commonly describes a student starting college right after completing high school and who is not a parent.

Transcript:  An official record of the courses a student has taken, and the grades received at a college or university.

Transfer Credits:  Credits from courses completed outside W&L that are transferred in for academic credit.

Transfer Student:  A college student who completed courses at another college or university before enrolling at W&L.

Tuition:  The amount paid to attend a college.


Undergraduate:  A student who is pursuing but has not yet received a bachelor's degree. 


Vice President: At a college or university, a Vice President is a senior administrator that has executive responsibilities as members of the President's cabinet. They have functional authority over the work assigned directly to their units as it relates to policymaking and coordination for their respective functional areas on a university-wide basis. At W&L, we have the Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid, the Vice President for Finance, the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice President for University Advancement.


Withdrawal:  The process of ending enrollment in a course. Students may withdraw from courses without penalty during designated times. Withdrawing after a deadline may result in a Withdraw, or W, placed on the transcript to indicate that the class was started but not finished.

Workday: Webpage used by W&L where you can access your course history, work-study, finance, personal information, benefits and more.

Work-study:  A part-time job offered by W&L as part of a financial aid package from the federal government.




Zoom: A video communications website connecting people through video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars.