College Lingo


Academic Year (at FAU): The academic year is divided into three semesters; fall, spring and summer.  The fall (Aug.-Dec.) and spring (Jan. - May) semesters are approximately 16 weeks in duration.  The summer semester consists of two 6 week semesters: summer Term 1 (May - June) & Term 2 ( June - August), and a 12 week semester (summer Term 3) that overlap both the Term 1 & Term 2 semesters.

Associate Degree: This degree may be an associate degree in arts or an associate degree in science (AA or AS).  An associate degree is a two-year degree.  Many associate degree programs are offered at community colleges and at technical schools, but many large universities also offer such programs. Earning an associate degree does not necessarily mean a student is half way to earning a bachelor’s degree.  Some states have agreements that require state colleges and universities to accept all classes satisfactorily completed toward an associate degree, and to count those credits toward a bachelor’s degree.  This is not true in all states. (NOTE: FAU awards the AA degree only)

Advance Placement (AP credits): These are courses or exams taken by students, while in high school, that may qualify them to earn college credits. How they are interpreted varies from institution to institution.  Students should check with the Office of Admissions or an academic advisor when transferring AP credits.

Baccalaureate degree: The baccalaureate degree, more commonly called the bachelor’s degree, is a college degree granted in a specific field of study. Although it is generally designed as a four year degree, it can be completed in as few as three or as many as six or more years.  This degree prepares students for entry level careers in numerous fields.

Catalog: The catalog serves as an official college document, and is generally viewed as a “contract” between the student and institution. It outlines the mission and infrastructure of the University, and includes information on degree requirements, curriculum, faculty and administration and campus resources.

CLEP: Stands for College Level Examination Program, and is a series of tests students may take to demonstrate proficiency in various college subjects.  Students who pass a CLEP test with appropriate scores can earn college credit.  CLEP tests are usually administered through the university testing office.  Information about CLEP tests can be obtained through the testing office or from an academic advisor.

Intellectual Foundations Program curriculum: A series of courses that are required of all degree seeking students, regardless of the major.

Co-requisite: Is a class, lab, or discussion component that is taken, usually in conjunction, with another class.  Registration for the course and co-requisite generally requires two separate transactions, however, both courses are needed to fulfill the course requirements. A co-requisite is designed to complement a course and to help students better understand the course material i.e., BSC1005 w/lab – Life Science.

Credit Hours: A credit hour is equated to the number of “contact hours” a student will spend in class.  Most classes are 3 credit hours meaning a student will attend or participate in class three hours per week. Science, foreign language, and some math courses that require a lab are worth 4-5 credit hours. This formula may vary during the summer terms.

Distance learning: A distance learning course is generally taught via computer and requires internet access. Class assignments, exams, discussions etc., all take place on-line.  The instructor and students typically do not meet in a classroom environment although some courses may require that students come to campus for exam days.

Elective: An elective is a course that a student chooses to take outside of his or her major field of study. An elective can be in an area of interest to the student or in an area that complements the student’s major. Electives can also be used to work towards a minor or certificate.  

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA): Also known as the Buckley Amendment, ensures a student’s right to privacy as it pertains to “parental notification” and releasing information without the student’s authorized consent. Questions about FERPA should be directed to the University Attorney or the Registrar.

Living Learning Communities (LLCs): The FAU Learning Communities consist of a combination of courses totaling 12-14 credit hours and cover a wide range of disciplines. The majority of the FLC courses fulfill the Core Curriculum. In addition to the Core, students in the learning communities take SLS 1503- Learning Strategies and Human Development, a course designed to ease student’s transition into the college environment. Student participants in the LLCs share the same major, and to maximize the “cohort like” experience, enrollment is capped at twenty-five. 

Freshman Warning: Freshmen, who in their first semester of enrollment (including summer), do not earn a minimum GPA of 2.0 are placed on “Freshman Warning”.  This status does not prohibit students from re-enrolling.  Its purpose is to make students aware they are in academic jeopardy, and provides them with an opportunity to reconcile their academic situation before it can deteriorate further.

Gordon Rule: Is a policy native to the state of Florida.  It is a legislative mandate requiring all students earning a degree from “public” (and some private) universities and community colleges to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in the areas of mathematics and writing. Courses in the curriculum, identified as Gordon Rule, require students to earn a grade of “C” or higher in order for the course to be counted toward the student’s degree.  Questions about Gordon Rule should be addressed to an academic advisor.

GPA: The grade point average, GPA, is the numerical grading system used by most colleges in the United States.  A student’s GPA determines his or her eligibility for continued enrollment, financial aid, and honors.  Most colleges operate under a 4.0 system: an A is worth 4 quality points, a B 3 points, a C 2 points a D 1 point, and an F 0 points.  To calculate a GPA, the number of quality points earned is multiplied by the number of credit hours carried by each course. Add this total and divide by the total number of hours carried to get the GPA.

Major: Refers to the student’s field of specialization in college.  As much as 30 percent of the courses needed for graduation will fall into this category.  Major courses usually carry higher level course numbers.  An advisor can explain requirements for the major.

Minor: A student’s minor usually comprises six to eight courses in a specific field that complements the student’s major area of study. 

MyFAU: MyFAU is the University’s on-line student information and registration system.  Through MyFAU students can register for classes, check on financial aid awards, request transcript, view grades etc.  To access MyFAU students will need to provide a student ID (referred to as Z-number) and PIN number.

Pass/Fail Option : On occasion, students will be given the option of electing to take a course for pass/fail as opposed to earning a letter grade. Students choosing this option are required to complete all work for a course, the same as any other student in the class.  However, upon completing the course the student will see the letter “P” reflected on their grade report/transcript.  This indicates the student has earned passing credit for the course, but there is no numerical calculation for the GPA. If the student fails the course, a grade of “F” will appear on the grade report/transcript and the “F” is numerically calculated into the students GPA as a zero.

Pre-requisite: A pre-requisite is a course that is required prior to a student being eligible to take another course, i.e., ENC 1101- College Writing I is a pre-requisite for WOH 2012 - History of Civilization I.  A pre-requisite provides a foundation or knowledge base upon which students need to build in order to be prepared for the next class.

Summer Attendance Requirement: Students entering the University as First-Time-In-College students (freshmen) or transfer students with less than 60 earned credits must take summer classes (for a total of 9 credit hours) over the course of one or more years. The policy pertains to students attending a State of Florida Public University and the credit hours must be earned at one of the eleven public state institutions. 

Syllabus: A document, usually one or more pages, distributed to students on the first day of class.  It generally encompasses the professor’s expectations and class requirements.  The syllabus acts as a course outline, telling students what and when assignments are due, textbook readings, exam schedules, and so on.  Also included may be the professor’s grading system, attendance policy, and a brief description of the course and what will be covered.

Transient Student Form: Students wishing to “cross enroll” at another institution while simultaneously remaining a FAU student must complete a “transient student form”.  This form can be completed on-line via the University Advising Services website at, and must be submitted to and approved by an academic advisor prior to the student cross enrolling.

 Last Modified 1/28/15