101 Questions That Aspiring and Current College Students Should Be Able To Answer

When I started out as a first-generation college student back in 1996, I felt as though I was being thrown to the wolves. My high school guidance counselor spent most of her time grooming the students who were most likely to succeed, and I wasn’t one of them. So, when I got to college, I had to figure things out for myself. Thankfully, I made it, graduated and went on to a fulfilling career in the field of education.

To pay it forward and to pay homage to the professors that helped me matriculate through college, I decided to write an article entitled “101 questions that aspiring and current college students should be able to answer.” Hopefully knowing the answers to these questions will help high school students who are currently going through the college application process and those who are already attending college make sense of the jungle that is higher education.

  1. What are Semesters? The academic calendar that divides the school year into equal segments of approximately 15 to 18 weeks each. Most colleges in the U.S. divide their school year into the spring, summer and fall semesters.
  2. What is a Seminar? A class that is given to a small group of students who are usually more advanced, during which students meet with their professor to discuss specialized topics.
  3. What is a Senior? A student who is in their fourth year of high school or college.
  4. What is a Sophomore? A student who is in their second year of high school or college.
  5. What is a TA (teaching assistant)? A student, usually in graduate school, who assists a professor with instructing an undergraduate course, generally as part of an assistantship or even fellowship. At some institutions, TA’s give lectures and grade assignments.
  6. What is a Thesis? A piece of writing on a certain subject that is required for a student to finish a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
  7. What is a Transcript? An official record of a student’s marks at a high school or institution of higher education.
  8. What is Transfer Credit? Credit that is given toward degree completion based on studies that were completed at another institution.
  9. What is Tuition? A sum of money that is charged by an institution per term, course or credit, in exchange for instruction and training.
  10. What is an Undergraduate Student? A student who has already graduated from high school who is enrolled in a two-year or four-year degree program at an institution of higher learning, leading to an associate or bachelor’s degree.
  11. What is a University? An institution of higher education that usually offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
  12. What is Work-Study? A financial aid initiative that is administered by the U.S. federal government that gives undergraduate or graduate students the opportunity to work part-time on campus or with approved off-campus employers.
  13. What is a Registrar? The institutional official who is charged with registering students and keeping their official academic records, which are referred to as transcripts.
  14. What is Registration? The process during which students enroll in the classes that they would like to take during an academic term.
  15. What is Rolling Admissions? An admissions policy whereby institutions consider each application as soon as it has all of the required materials, instead of a certain deadline.
  16. What is the SAT? A uniform college entrance assessment administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) on behalf of the nonprofit College Board, which measures reading, writing and math skills.
  17. What is a Scholarship? A form of financial aid that is comprised of free monies being given to a student by a school to aid in the payment of their college expenses. The most frequently given scholarships are usually academic or athletic in nature.
  18. What is Need-Based Financial Aid? Financial assistance that is given to students based on their powerlessness to pay the full cost of their college expenses.
  19. What are Open Admissions? An institutions policy of giving admission to students who have obtained a high school diploma, irrespective of their grades or test scores, until enrollment is at maximum capacity.
  20. What is Orientation? An institution’s formal process of welcoming admitted students to campus and giving them an education on the information and policies that they will need to be successful from day one. It is usually a half day or full day event.
  21. What is Plagiarism? Using someone else’s thoughts, ideas, or words as your own, without acknowledging their influence.
  22. What is a Post-Doctorate? Academic studies that occur after the doctoral level.
  23. What is a Post-Secondary Education? Any form of education that takes place after high school, or secondary school.
  24. What is a Prerequisite? A required class that has to be completed before a student is allowed to register for a more difficult one.
  25. What is a Private College or University? An institution of higher education controlled by a private individual(s) or a nongovernmental agency.
  26. What is Probation? A specific amount of time, during which students whose academic work has been judged to be unsuccessful according to the university, must improve their grades or face dismissal from the institution.
  27. What is a Professional School? An institution of higher education for students who already have a bachelor’s degree and would like to gain training in specific professions, such as law, medicine, and pharmacy.
  28. What is a Provost? The senior academic leader of an institution usually oversees all academic policies and curricular issues.
  29. What is a Public College or University? An institution of higher education that is financially supported mainly by public funds.
  30. What are the Liberal Arts? The study of topics in humanities, social sciences, and the sciences, with a focus on broad knowledge
  31. What is a Liberal Arts College? A college or university that stresses an undergraduate education in liberal arts.
  32. What is a Loan? A form of financial aid that is comprised of monies that are given to a student for a period of time to assist them in paying for college and related fees. The monies have to be paid back at a later date.
  33. What is the LSAT (Law School Admission Test? A uniform lay school entrance exam, which is managed by the nonprofit Law School Admission Council, which measures reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning skills. There is an unscored writing component that is forwarded to the law schools that the student applies to.
  34. What is a Major? The academic discipline that a student chooses to study during their undergraduate studies.
  35. What is a Master’s? A graduate degree conferred by a higher education institution once a student completes the requirements for their degree program, usually requiring one or two years of full-time study beyond the bachelor’s degree.
  36. What Does it Mean to Matriculate? To register and enroll in a degree program at a higher education institution with the hopes that you will be able to earn a degree.
  37. What is the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)? A uniform American medical school entrance assessment manage by the nonprofit Association of American Medical Colleges, which assesses verbal reasoning and writing skills and physical and biological sciences knowledge.
  38. What are Merit Scholarships? A form of financial aid that is given by institutions to those who have shown extraordinary intellectual ability, irrespective of their financial need.
  39. What is a Midterm Exam? An assessment that is administered at roughly the halfway point of an academic term that tests all of the material that has been covered in a specific course up until that point.
  40. What is a Minor? An area of academic study that serves as an area of secondary focus during their undergraduate years. Students are not required to have a minor.
  41. What is an Independent Study? A course that allows students to receive degree credit for assignments completed outside of the traditional classroom environment.
  42. What is an Internship? An on the job learning and training experience that allows students to work in a professional environment to gain valuable training.
  43. What is a Junior? A student who is enrolled in the third year of their high school or college education
  44. What is a GPA (Grade point average)? A calculation of the students’ academic performance, which is based on the grades that the students has received in all of the courses that they have taken.
  45. What is a Grade? A score that denotes a students’ academic performance on an assignment or in an entire course.
  46. What is the Graduate School? The division of an institution which administers degree programs that awards master’s degrees or doctorates.
  47. What is a Graduate Student? A student who has already obtained a bachelor’s degree and is enrolled in a program of student that leads to a master’s, doctorate or graduate certificate.
  48. What is a Grant? Financial aid that is comprised of an amount of money that is given to the students, without any financial obligations to repay.
  49. What is the GRE (Graduate Record Examination)? A uniform graduate school entrance assessment. That is administered by the nonprofit Educational Testing Service (ETS), which measures verbal, quantitative and analytical writing skills.
  50. What is Higher Education? Education that takes place after the high school level.
  51. What are Electives? Classes that count as credit towards a university degree, but are not mandatory.
  52. What Does it Mean to Enroll? To sign up for a course or university.
  53. What are Faculty? A school’s instructional, leadership and support staff who have the responsibility of creating curriculum, instructing students, and managing a division or department of a university.
  54. What is a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)? An application that U.S. citizens can use to apply for financial aid, which can be used to pay for college expenses.
  55. What is a Fellowship? Financial support that is given by an institution, typically to graduate students, that can be used to pay for college expenses.
  56. What is Financial Aid? Monies given to students to assist them in paying for their college expenses.
  57. What is a Freshman? A student in the initial year of high school or college.
  58. What is a Full-Time Student? A college student who is taking at least the minimum amount of credits that it takes to have a full course load.
  59. What is the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)? A uniform graduate business entrance assessment given by the nonprofit Graduate Management Admission Council, which assesses verbal, quantitative and analytical writing skills.
  60. What is a Double Major? A degree program that allows students to fulfill the course requirements for two majors simultaneously.
  61. What is a Dual Degree? A degree program that allows students to receive two degrees from a college or university.
  62. What is a Degree? A diploma that is conferred to students by a school after they complete their degree program.
  63. What is a Department? A division of a university that is made of support staff, professors, etc. that provide instruction in a specific degree program, such as the education department.
  64. What is a Discipline? A division of academic study.
  65. What is a Dissertation? A comprehensive research study or writing project on a specific subject of inquiry that usually submitted at the end of a doctoral program.
  66. What is a Doctorate (Ph.D.)? The highest degree conferred by an institution of higher education.
  67. What are Dormitories (dorms)? Student housing provided by a university of higher education. Usually called a “residence hall.”
  68. What is a Course? A scheduled course on a specific topic or subject. Each institution of higher education offers degree programs that are comprised of specific and elective courses.
  69. What is a Course Load? The number of courses that students take during a specific semester or term
  70. What are Credits? Units of measurement that a university uses to convey that a student has completed courses that are needed for their degree program.
  71. What is a Curriculum? A degree program that is made up of a collection of courses offered by the school.
  72. What is a Dean? The leader of a division of an institution of higher education.
  73. What is a Common Application? A uniform admissions application that is accepted by 750 institutions of higher education. Students can submit this application to the colleges they would like to gain admission to, rather than filling out applications for each school.
  74. What is Conditional Admission? Acceptance to a school that is dependent on the student completing additional requirements.
  75. What are Core Requirements? Essential courses that student must take to receive a degree.
  76. What is a College? An institution of higher education that usually provides just an undergraduate education, but in some instances, offers graduate programs.
  77. What is Commencement? A graduation celebration and ceremony during which students are conveyed their degrees.
  78. What is a Bachelor’s? A degree at the undergraduate level that is awarded by an institution of higher education, after a student completes a degree program that usually takes four years of continuous full-time study.
  79. What is Career Services? A department at an institution of higher education that offers guidance, workshops and other support to help students find jobs, internships or apply for graduate school.
  80. What is an Academic Adviser? A faculty member at a K-12 school, college or university who is charged with guiding students on academic matters. This could include course selections, the choosing of a major, or finding the right internship.
  81. What is the ACT (American College Test)? A uniform entrance assessment that is administered by the American College Test program. Students are given multiple choice exams that measure their knowledge of English, math, reading, and science, and one optional writing test measures essay management and writing skills. The majority of students take the exam during their junior or senior year in high school
  82. What is AP (Advanced Placement program)? An initiative offered by the College Board, which gives students the chance to take university-level classes while in high school.
  83. What is an Assistantship? A financial aid award that is given to graduate students to assist them in paying for tuition, in return, they serve in positions such as teaching or research assistantships.
  84. What is an Associate’s? An undergraduate degree that is given to a student by a college or university after the completion of a degree program, which typically lasts two years.
  85. What is a Board of Trustees? Governing body charged with overseeing the operations of a college or university.
  86. What is an Audit? To take a higher education course to obtain knowledge, but without receiving degree credits that could be used towards a degree.
  87. What are Developmental or Remedial Courses? Courses designed to help students who are not ready to tackle a college level academic subject make the transition from high school to higher education. To determine if students will be required to take these courses, schools have been known to use ACT/SAT sub-scores or placement tests.
  88. What is Early Graduation? Students who graduate from high school in fewer than four years.
  89. What is a Placement Test? Are used by institutions of higher education to check the academic skills or college readiness of incoming students. It is also used to determine which courses students should be required to take initially. For students who are ready to tackle college-level courses, they start out with all or mostly freshman level courses that will count towards graduation. For students who are not college ready, some or all their courses may be developmental or remedial courses, which are meant to prepare them for college-level work. The problem is that these courses do not count towards graduation, which could lengthen the duration of their matriculation.
  90. What is Service-Learning? Is a strategy used to approach teaching and learning in which students use their knowledge and skills to address actual community needs.
  91. What is a Syllabus? An outline of the curriculum and specific topics that will be covered in a particular course. The syllabus is disseminated by the instructor before the course begins or during the initial course meeting.
  92. What is a Capstone Project? Is a major assignment that serves as the culminating learning activity for students exiting middle school, high school, undergraduate studies, graduate studies, etc. 
  93. What is Grade Inflation? The awarding of higher grades than students have earned, due to decreased teacher expectations or to protect the academic reputations of the school or university.
  94. What is Dual-Enrollment? Allows high school the ability to enroll in college courses while they are in high school, and consequently receive credit for both.
  95. What are 21st Century Skills? Are a collection of skills, abilities, and knowledge that students need to develop to compete in this digital age.
  96. What are Learning Objectives? Are terse statements that explain what students are expected to learn by the end of a lesson, unit, class period, course, etc.
  97. What is an Intelligence Quotient (IQ)? An assessment that evaluates a person’s level of intelligence.
  98. What is Test Bias? When the way an assessment is administered or interpreted in a manner that disadvantages specific groups of students or people.
  99. What are Student Outcomes? Are declarations that denote what students will know or be able to accomplish once they complete a course or program of study.
  100. What is Aptitude? An innate capacity or talent in a particular area of study or work.
  101. What is STEM? Acronym for the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.

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