Having definitions for university terms will make it easier to plan for university life.

academic calendar

  • a catalog that lists all the university’s programs, courses and important dates
  • most schools will link to download it if you don’t have a physical copy
  • also called a course calendar

academic advisor

  • A faculty or staff member who provides guidance on academic matters, including: registering for courses; choosing majors and minors; requirements for specific degree programs; and managing your academic situation during periods of personal, financial or medical difficulty.

bachelor’s degree

  • the first level of degree you can earn in university
  • usually given out at the end of four-year programs
  • also called an undergraduate degree

bursary

  • money you are given to pay for school, based on how much help you need to afford the full amount
  • some universities offer bursaries that are also based on your grades
  • you don’t have to pay back bursary money

course/credit/unit

course

  • a class you take to earn credit toward your university degree
  • examples: Intro to Business, Canadian Social Policy, Newtonian Mechanics

credit

  • a way to keep track of how much coursework you have completed
  • when you finish a course, you get a certain number of credit hours for passing
  • with enough credit hours in the subjects you’re studying, you can graduate

unit

  • a way to keep track of how much coursework you have completed
  • similar to credit hours, but counted differently
  • example: if you finish a course that runs one term, you will earn 3 credit hours or 0.5 units

frosh

  • a first-year student, or group of first-year-students

frosh/orientation/welcome week

  • the first week at your new school
  • there are events planned to help you get more comfortable on campus
  • some schools call it welcome week

GPA

  • abbreviation for grade point average
  • a way to measure your overall grades each term and throughout university
  • some schools use a letter grade while others use a numeric scale (for example, from 0 to 4.0)

grant

  • money you can apply for that supports academic project or research
  • you don’t have to pay back grant money

homecoming/alumni weekend

  • former students (alumni) return to campus for events to celebrate their time at the school
  • current students are often invited to participate in order to build school spirit and connect with alumni
  • a tradition at many universities

lab

  • a part of some courses that gives you hands-on learning experience with the topics you’ve learned about in class
  • common in science programs

lecture

  • the part of a course you spend in the classroom listening to your professor

major/minor

major

  • your main field of study
  • what gets printed on your degree when you graduate
  • example: if you major in French, you will earn a Bachelor of Arts in French

minor

  • not your main area of study, but a subject you take enough courses in to be considered your sub-specialty
  • having a minor can be useful if you want to continue your studies after your first degree
  • example: you could graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in French, but take enough Mathematics courses to also earn a minor in Mathematics

master’s degree

  • the level of degree you can earn after a bachelor’s degree
  • programs are usually shorter than four years
  • also called an graduate degree

meal plan

  • a prepaid way to get food from cafeterias or restaurants on campus
  • the price depends on your school and how many meals the plan covers

office hours

  • a period of time each week when professors are available to meet with students
  • hours and locations can usually be found in the course outline

reading week

  • a week off from classes for students to catch up on work or take a break
  • usually in February or March, although some schools also give one in the fall
  • also called spring break

registrar

  • the person (and the office) at a university that looks after course registration, the course timetable, exams and academic policies

scholarship

  • money you are given to pay for school, usually awarded based on good grades
  • you don’t have to pay back scholarship money

student ID/student card

  • identification, usually a plastic card, given to you by your university at the start of the school year
  • can be used to access certain buildings on campus (for example, residence buildings)

student line of credit

  • a type of loan offered by banks and credit unions to help you pay for school

student loan

  • money you can apply for and receive from the government to help you pay for school
  • you usually don’t have to pay back the loans until after you graduate

students’ union

  • a group of students elected by students at a university to represent their interests
  • organizes events and advocates on behalf of students
  • a portion of your school fees fund the services and representation a students’ union offers
  • students’ unions usually have their own stores and pubs on campus and help make sure you get a lively experience at the school

syllabus

  • a document usually handed out on the first day of class that tells you what to expect in a course
  • explains the course, including what topics will be covered, assignment or project due dates, dates of tests and how you will be graded
  • also called a course outline

TA

  • abbreviation for teaching assistant
  • someone, usually a senior student, who works with the professor to answer questions and help students understand the course material
  • supports the professor in running labs and tutorials

timetable

  • a list of courses offered by a university in a particular term
  • students use it to choose classes, create a schedule, and figure out where classes are and who’s teaching them

transcript

  • a record of your courses and grades at university
  • you can request a copy of your transcript if you need it to apply for a job, scholarship or future studies
  • you can usually check it online through your school’s website at any time

tuition

  • how much it costs to go to university
  • when tuition fees are listed, they usually only include your academic costs (not residence or extracurricular fees, etc.)

tutorial

  • a part of some courses that’s outside lecture and lab time where you can learn more about the topics from class, ask questions and work on assignments
  • directed by professors or teaching assistants
  • sometimes optional to attend (check with your professor)

undergraduate/graduate

undergraduate

  • students working toward a bachelor’s degree are called undergraduate students
  • programs for these students are called undergraduate programs and usually last four years

graduate

  • students who have a bachelor’s degree and are working toward a master’s degree are called graduate students
  • programs for these students are called graduate programs and are usually one or two years long