Words to Know: What does that mean?

As a First-Generation student, sometimes it is easy to lose information in translation, because the university environment has a language all its own. Below we have provided you with the meaning of common university words, phrases, and ECU specific terminology, so that you can be confident when you are interacting with others on campus.

Academic advisor: Academic advisors are staff members assigned to students to help students choose majors and minors, design a course of study, and help ensure students fulfill graduation requirements.

Academic Dean vs. Department Chair: Department chairs work as professors who also perform administrative duties. They set the department curriculum, interview potential new professors, manage faculty schedules, settle faculty and student disputes, and sometimes oversee research. In this role, the department chair liaisons between a department and the administration, reporting to the dean. Academic/College Deans lead multiple departments and work to secure funding for their departments, ensure smooth operations, and set goals for the future.

Accelerated program: Programs designed to help students graduate sooner. Accelerated programs often include more stringent admission requirements and summer courses.

Accreditation: Accreditation is granted to academic programs, departments or entire schools within a university to ensure academic quality and is often tied to professional licensure exam requirements.

Add/drop period: The time when students can drop or add courses to their course load without consequences, including incomplete marks on their transcript. At ECU, this is the first five days of the semester.

Adjunct faculty/professor: Adjunct professors work as independent contractors who teach a limited number of classes, as opposed to full-time faculty.

Assistantship: Most common at graduate level, assistantships give students the opportunity to earn tuition reimbursement by working for faculty members in their area of study.

Associate degree: Undergraduate degree that generally requires two years of full-time study.

Audit: When taking an “audit” course, students attend a class they are interested in without being required to complete assignments or take tests—giving them a chance to learn the material but not for credit.

Bachelor’s degree: Undergraduate degree that generally requires four years of full-time study. Students must declare a major in a particular field of study and choose a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree path.

Campus: The physical buildings and grounds owned by the university.

Career Services: Department that helps students and alumni job-search, explore careers and interests, develop resumes, give interviews and network.

Certification: A non-degree credential that proves knowledge or skill in a specific area. Valued credentials vary by industry and job title.

Clinical education: Often called clinicals, these programs allow students to practice their skills under a practitioner’s supervision. Clinical education is most common in the healthcare field.

Cohort: A group of students working through a curriculum together towards the same degree.

College vs. University: Colleges are typically smaller institutions focusing on undergraduate education while universities are typically larger institutions offering more graduate degree options.

Commencement: A formal graduation ceremony that celebrates recent graduates of the institution with their family and friends.

Continuing education: This typically refers to part-time formal education for working adults. Professional certifications may require continuing education credit—though not all necessarily require college coursework.

Course catalog: A college publication that describes academic programs, policies, majors and minors, and required courses and their contents.

Course load: This refers to the total number of credit hours a student is taking per term.

Credit for prior learning: College credit granted to students who can demonstrate knowledge gained outside of a traditional college setting that is used to satisfy course requirements. Examples can include work and life experience, independent study, or industry certifications.

Credits/Credit Hour: A credit (credit hour) is the amount of work represented in meeting course outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement. It approximates one hour of classroom instruction and at least two hours of out-of-class student work per week for the semester.

Cupola: The Cupola is in the middle of the Mall and was built as a replica of the cupola which sat atop the old Austin Building. It has since become a symbol for ECU and a representation of its rich history. Campus legend says if you walk under the cupola then you will not graduate in four years!

Curriculum: The knowledge, skills, lectures, assignments, tests, and presentations that make up a course. It may also refer more broadly to the courses that make up a major or academic program.

Degree: A qualification awarded to students upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education, usually at a college or university.

Department: Academic division specializing in an area of study like Nursing, English, Engineering or Biology.

Dean: The head of the academic college that is responsible for overseeing the operations.

Department Chair: Educator assigned to manage an academic department. They unite the department and act as a liaison between the department and college administration.

Dissertation: The completed thesis of a doctoral student. This intense document of research and findings is often required to earn a doctorate.

Doctoral/terminal degree: The most advanced academic degree in most fields. Provides the graduate with a high level of expertise and greater options for research, writing, teaching and management within their specialty.

Electives: Classes students choose to fulfill a general education requirement or just because they are interested in a topic outside of their major’s core courses.

Employer education assistance benefit: A benefit some employers offer that may cover some or all of student education expenses. Details will vary depending on employer—some may have stipulations to remain eligible for the benefit.

Faculty: Academic staff including professors, both full-time and adjunct.

Faculty Member vs. Staff Member: Faculty consists of members of the academic staff comprising teachers, lecturers, or professors in an educational institution. The word staff indicates all the members of any organization and represent those who support the institution such as academic advisors, student affairs educators, office staff, facility workers, and more.

FASFA: Stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. A document students complete each academic year to determine eligibility for federal loans and grants.

Federal grants vs. state grants: Grants are need-based forms of financial aid that do not need to be repaid. Federal grants are awarded through the FASFA. State grants are awarded through the student’s home state and usually have different eligibility requirements than that of the FASFA.

Final exam: Test taken at the end of a course that usually includes subject matter from the entire course.

Financial Aid: Money to help pay for college or career school. Grants, work-study, loans, and scholarships help make college or career school affordable.

First-generation college student: A college student whose parents have not obtained a degree from a four-year college or university.

Fraternities and sororities: Social and academic organizations for college students formed to pursue a common goal or a set of ideals. Most are identified by letters of the Greek alphabet (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.) and the social organizations comprise the school’s Fraternity and Sorority Life.

Freshman/First-year student: Student class standing is based on completed credit hours. A freshman has accumulated between 0-29 semester hours.

General education courses: Curriculum that creates the foundation of an undergraduate degree including courses in English, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences.

Grade point average (GPA): Represents the average of a student’s final grades in all their courses. It is calculated by adding the final grades divided by the number of credit hours.

Grading scale: System in which letter grades are awarded a grade point or number to help calculate GPA.

Higher education: Refers to any formal education after high school.

Income-driven repayment plan: A loan repayment plan where monthly payments are based on the bower’s income and number of dependents.

Internship vs. externship: Both are experience building opportunities for students and the terms are often used interchangeably. That said, internships can take the form of paid opportunities to work in their fields in a low-level role for an employer. Externships typically aren’t paid, are shorter and are often a form of job shadowing. For example, student nurses complete clinical externships under the supervision of established nurses.

Junior: Student class standing is based on completed credit hours. A junior has accumulated between 60-89 semester hours.

Lecture: Oral presentation given by a professor to educate students. Sometimes this can refer to a class format that does not require lab-work hours.

Liberal Arts: Interdisciplinary study of humanities, social and natural sciences meant to give students a broad spectrum of knowledge.

The Mall: Centrally located, this is the large green grassy area between Joyner Library, Old Cafeteria Complex, and Cotton, Jarvis, and Fleming Residence Halls.  This represents the heart of ECU’s campus and is home to the iconic Cupola.

Major: A group of courses required by a college or university to receive a degree or certificate in a specialized area.

Matriculate: A matriculated student is admitted, registered for classes and in good academic standing at a college or university.

Master’s degree: A graduate-level degree pursued after completing a bachelor’s degree program. A master’s degree requires a year and a half to two years of full-time study and a high-level of proficiency in a specific field at the completion of the program.

Mentor: An experienced and trusted person who can provide advice and guidance.

Midterm: An exam given halfway through a course term that covers all lecture, reading and discussion material presented thus far in the course.

Minor: A secondary focus is meant to add value to the student’s major. A minor consists of the lower-level courses required for a major in the same discipline. For example, a business major with a minor in Spanish will be required to complete a certain number of lower-level Spanish courses—which are typically the same lower-level Spanish courses as those pursuing it as a major.

No Quarter: If a Pirate ship refused to surrender, they raised a No Quarter flag showing that the Pirates would now take no prisoners and give no mercy to the enemy. ECU’s No Quarter flag features the skull and crossbones on a burgundy/brick red background. The No Quarter flag is raised at the start of the fourth quarter of home football games.

Net price: Calculated by taking the “sticker price” for tuition, room and board and other fees, and subtracting any scholarships and grants the student is receiving.

Non-Traditional Student: This term typically refers to adult students (usually 25 or older) who either work full-time, are financially independent, have children or attend college part-time.

Orientation: Program that includes activities and sessions intended to help students connect to the institution, connect to campus resources, and create connections with other students.

Pass-fail course: Instead of receiving a letter grade, students receive either a P(ass) or F(ail) on their transcript. Requirements for passing will vary depending on the course.

PeeDee the Pirate: ECU’s mascot was named by local Pitt County elementary schools in 1983 and inspired by the Pee Dee rivers through North and South Carolina. In December of 1985, the Chancellor dropped the nickname PeeDee from the mascot’s name in response to the student body who was upset they did not have a say in naming the mascot. Over the years, people still refer to the mascot as PeeDee “The Pirate.”

Ph.D.: A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities or colleges. The degree is awarded to people who have done advanced research or clinical studies into a particular subject.

Plagiarism: Taking credit for someone else’s work as your own including copying words, sentence structure or ideas. Plagiarism has very grave consequences in higher education and is addressed in the Academic Integrity policy.

Postgraduate education: Includes higher education completed after an undergraduate degree. This includes master’s degrees and doctorate degrees.

Post-secondary: Any education, whether degree-seeking or not, pursued after high school.

Practicum: Practical application of theory learned in the classroom. Often a requirement for programs in Education, Social Work or other clinician fields.

Prerequisites: Courses required to take more advanced courses or apply to a program.

Private college vs. public college: Public colleges and universities are funded by state governments while private colleges and universities are not publicly owned, often relying on tuition payments and private contributions to operate.

Probation: Academic probation means a student has fallen from good standing status (2.0 GPA) and is at risk of being dismissed from the university. At ECU, once the cumulative GPA falls below 2.0 a student is placed on warning. If, at the end of the semester a student is on probation, the cumulative GPA remains below a 2.0, the student is placed on probation. If at the end of the semester a student is on probation, the cumulative GPA remains below a 2.0, the student is suspended from the University unless the GPA for the current semester is at least a 2.5, in which case the student remains on probation instead.

Professional certificate: Certification earned outside of an academic degree program to increase specific skills or knowledge to help keep professionals current on industry trends, technology, and other topics.

Provost: Sometimes called the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, a Provost is a senior academic administrator who works closely with academic deans, department deans and faculty to ensure the quality of academic programs.

Purple and Gold: ECU’s school colors and the oldest ECU tradition were voted on in 1909 by both the students and administration with the selection of royal purple and old gold. When someone yells “purple” you respond with “gold.”

Registrar: The registrar’s office is responsible for many administrative academic duties like preparing class schedules, overseeing the course registration process, providing student transcripts, and verifying course work for graduation.

Registration: Process of reserving a spot in specific classes for enrolled students for an upcoming academic term.

Residence Hall: Campus housing where full-time students live within close distance of the academic buildings.

Room and board: Term for charges stemming from on-campus food services and housing.

Scholarship: An award given to help a student pay for tuition or day-to-day expenses that do not need to be repaid. Criteria varies depending on individual scholarships.

Semesters: The academic year is divided in terms of courses that typically include a fall and spring semester as well as a summer session that may be shorter.

Seminar course: A course based on reading, research, and group discussion. Seminar courses are typically smaller, led by professors and cover advanced topics.

Senior: Student class standing is based on completed credit hours. A senior has accumulated 90 or more semester hours.

Servire: ECU’s motto which is Latin for “to serve.”

Sophomore: Student class standing is based on completed credit hours. A sophomore has accumulated between 30-59 semester hours credit.

Stafford loan: A direct federal loan that may be awarded through financial aid with fixed interest rates.

Student Code of Conduct: A set of policies and procedures that set behavioral standards that protect the health, safety, welfare, property, and human rights of all members of the community as well as property of the University.

Subsidized vs. unsubsidized loan: If a student receives a subsidized loan, the U.S Department of Education pays all interest accrued while students are attending school, the 6-month grace period and deferment. Students with unsubsidized loans must pay interest either while in school or have the accrued interest added to the principal loan balance.

Synchronous learning: Online classroom format where students learn together at the same time and can engage with classmates and instructors via chat rooms and video conferencing.

Tenure: Employment track for professors that guarantees a permanent position at the institution (barring termination for cause or financial insolvency).

Thesis: An extensive research paper created as part of an academic program—typically at the graduate degree level.

Traditional vs. nontraditional student: Traditional students attend college right after high school, are financially dependent on parents and attend full-time. While there is no set-in stone definition, “nontraditional student” typically refers to adult students (usually 25 or older) who either work full time, are financially independent, have children or attend college part-time.

Transcript: Official record of courses completed, and grades earned at a given institution.

Transfer credits: Course credits carried over from one institution to another.

Tuition: The core price for college classes. Tuition may be listed as a flat rate for a range of credits (usually 12-18) or priced per credit.

Tutors: A more experienced student or teacher who offers one-and-one academic help usually in a specific subject.

Undecided or undeclared: A student enrolled in courses but has not yet declared a major. At ECU this is called the Major Advisement Program (MAP).

Warning: Academic warning means a student has fallen from good standing status (2.0 GPA) and is at risk of being dismissed from the university. At ECU, once the cumulative GPA falls below 2.0 a student is placed on warning. If, at the end of the semester a student is on probation, the cumulative GPA remains below a 2.0, the student is placed on probation. If at the end of the semester a student is on probation, the cumulative GPA remains below a 2.0, the student is suspended from the University unless the GPA for the current semester is at least a 2.5, in which case the student remains on probation instead.

Waitlist: A term commonly seen during registration period. Students hoping to enroll in a full class can opt to be placed on a waitlist. This saves a place in line in case spots open from registered students dropping or changing plans.

Withdraw: To drop a class after the add/drop grace period. Withdrawing means receiving a W on your transcript.

Work-study program: Work-study programs help college students with financial need get part-time jobs to help pay for day-to-day expenses and tuition payments. Work-study jobs are federally- or state-funded.