Academic Vocabulary
academic concentration See major.

academic year Usually this refers to the September-June school year. In some cases it refers to
the entire year.

accreditation Certification that a school or an instructional program meets standards set by an

outside reviewing organization. Many forms of financial aid are available only to

students attending accredited institutions.

admission Approval for a student to attend an educational institution. The admission

process usually involves an application form and may require transcripts or other

supporting documents.

advisor A member of the college faculty or staff who assists students with planning

quarter or semester schedules as well as their overall programs of study.

Advisors may also help with career planning. See also counselor.

application The first step in requesting admission to an institution of higher education.

Usually there is a form to fill out by a certain deadline; sometimes there is an application fee to pay.

articulation A formal agreement between high schools and colleges or between

community/technical colleges and baccalaureate institutions, designed to make it

easy for students to move from one educational level to the next without any

gaps or repetition in their coursework..

assessment A method of determining a student’s knowledge or skill level, often taken to find

his or her best placement or starting level in a series of courses in English,

foreign languages, math, or science.

At MSU Great Falls CoT students can take the ASSET test to determine placement in English and Math courses.

ASSET test ACT’s standardized test designed to asses skills in math, reading and English.

MSU Great Falls CoT uses the ASSET test for student’s placement in English and math courses.

associate's degree A diploma earned after successfully completing a required program of study in a

community or technical college. It typically requires 60 or more credits and takes

at least two years of full-time study. An Associate of Arts and Associate of

Science degrees enable students to transfer to baccalaureate colleges and

universities, Associate of Applied Science degree’s prepare students to go right

into the workforce in a professional/technical field.

audit A student who audits a course formally registers for it and attends class sessions

but earns no credit and has no obligation to complete homework projects or take


baccalaureate or bachelor's degree A college degree which can often be earned by following a four-year instructional

program. A baccalaureate institution, sometimes informally called a “four-year

college,” is a college or university which is entitled to grant a baccalaureate or

bachelor’s degree.

basic skills Usually refers to a level of competency—specifically in reading, writing, and

mathematics—which is required for successful college-level work in all fields of


campus The land and buildings that a college or university uses for instruction or student


catalog A comprehensive resource listing college regulations, program and course

descriptions, degree and graduation requirements, transfer requirements, and

other essential information.

certificate A document granted by a college or university indicating that a student has

successfully completed specified courses and requirements (compare with

degree, which usually requires more time and coursework).

class (1) A specific group of students meeting for specific instructional purposes. It can

mean the whole series of scheduled meetings (“Dr. Owen is teaching two English

Composition classes this quarter”) or just one session (“we had a guest speaker

in my Home Economics class today”).

(2) Often means the same as course (“she’s taking classes in Interior Design”).

(3) A group of students who start at a school together and expect to complete their studies at the same time (“he’s in the graduating class of 2003”).

class schedule (1) A publication listing detailed course and section information (days, times,

room numbers, etc.) for a specific semester or quarter.

(2) The specific courses that an individual student is taking or plans to take for a given semester or quarter.

college-level study Curricula and instruction that assume the student has already mastered certain

skills and abilities and has the level of commitment needed for postsecondary

school work. Compare to developmental-level study.

commencement The ceremony at the end of an academic year when students receive their

degrees or diplomas (compare to graduation).

community college The community colleges in Montana are: Dawson Community College; Flathead

Valley Community College; and Miles Community College


In “competency-based” courses or instructional programs, students must

demonstrate certain skills and abilities (instead of just earning passing grades in

classes) before moving from one level to the next or earning the final certificate

or degree .

CORE General education courses that students can take to transfer to a 4 year state

institution. Students must complete the entire CORE and ask the Registrar’s

office to post it on their transcript for it to transfer to one of the Montana

University System 4 year schools.

counselor A member of the college faculty who has special training in guidance and who

assists students in academic or personal matters. See also advisor.

course (1) Often means the same as class.

(2) A planned sequence of instruction in a particular topic; may include class meetings, lectures, readings, demonstrations, exercises, assignments,

examinations, etc.; offered repeatedly to different groups of students.

credit A unit of measure for college work. Generally speaking, one credit hour

represents one hour of classroom attendance each week for one term, plus the

study time, homework, etc. that go along with it.

credit load The total credit value of the courses a student is currently enrolled in.

curriculum (plural: curricula)

(1) An established sequence of information to be learned, skills to be acquired,

etc. in a specific course or in a complete instructional program.

(2) Collectively, all the courses offered by a department, division, or college.

dean An academic administrator or official at a school, college, or university, especially

one with responsibility for students or faculty.

degree A rank conferred by a college or university and earned by a student who has

successfully completed specified courses and requirements (compare with

certificate, which usually requires less time and coursework).

department An organizational unit within a college or university, offering courses about

closely related topics (at a small school there may be one general education

department, at a large school there may be separate departments for

psychology, English, math, etc).

developmental-level study Instruction that helps students improve their English and math abilities and

prepare themselves for college-level study.

diploma An official document issued by a college or university indicating that a student

has earned a certain degree or certificate .

discipline (1) A subject; field; branch of knowledge or learning ("he teaches in the related

disciplines of physics and astronomy")

(2) Orderly behavior ("instructors are responsible for maintaining discipline in

their classrooms")

(3) Correction or punishment for disorderly behavior ("she disrupted the class

repeatedly, so the college will begin disciplinary action").

distance learning or distance education Instruction which is not time- or place-specific; can include correspondence

courses, televised or videotaped lectures, online courses (internet and e-mail),


At MSU Great Falls CoT distance learning refers to our on-line and hybrid courses. MSU Great Falls CoT has a distance learning department that will help

students with their on-line courses.

distribution requirements Course requirements included in an instructional program to make sure that the

student is well-rounded and gains some perspective outside his or her specific

focus or major.

division An organizational unit within a college or university consisting of two or more

related departments.

drop To cancel registration in a course after enrolling into it. Students often add and

drop courses before settling on a class schedule for a particular quarter or

semester. See also withdrawal.

elective A course that is not required for a particular instructional program. Many

programs require a certain number of elective credits, and many recommend

certain electives for students to choose from.

ESL (English as a Second Language) Usually refers to developmental-level instruction in English language skills for

non-native speakers.

enrollment (1) The process of signing up and paying for courses. See also registration.

(2) The total number of registered students attending classes in a particular instructional program or the whole school.

evaluation (1) The process and standards by which an instructor judges a student's work

and assigns a grade.

(2) At MSU GREAT FALLS COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY , the process of determining that a student has met all requirements to complete a degree or

certificate and is ready to graduate.

faculty The instructors or teaching staff at a school.

financial aid Money available from various sources to help students pay college expenses.

These funds come as loans, grants, or scholarships from the state or federal government or other organizations. Work-study is also a form of financial aid.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) The application required for students to be considered for federal student

financial aid. The FAFSA is processed free of charge and is used by most state

agencies and colleges. There is a form for each academic year. FAFSA forms

are available from colleges, high schools and on the website

freshman A student in the first year of a typical four-year baccalaureate degree program (or

one who has earned fewer than 45 quarter credits or 30 semester credits so far).

GED (General Education Development) A certificate representing the equivalent of a high-school diploma.

general education At MSU Great Falls CoT you can either do the general education CORE classes

to transfer to another institution, or complete an entire associates degree in

general education


A formal indicator of a student's overall performance in a course, recorded on the

official transcript. Traditional letter grades are "A" for outstanding achievement,

"B" for high achievement, "C" for satisfactory achievement, etc.

grade-point average (GPA) The GPA is computed by multiplying the number value of the grade earned in

each course (generally, A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0) times the number credits for

each course, then dividing the result by the total number of credits taken.

graduation The formal completion of an instructional program or course of study. Students

graduate after successfully meeting all credit and course requirements and other

criteria set by the college or university (compare to commencement).

grant A type of financial aid that does not have to be paid back after the student leaves

school. Grants are available through the federal government, state agencies, and

educational institutions.

hy-brid class A course that is taught both on-line and on campus. Students are required to

participate in both portions of the class.

incomplete A temporary grade given to a student who is doing satisfactory work but is forced

by illness or other emergency to miss an exam or a major assignment. The

instructor and student arrange how and when the student will complete the work

and have the "I" changed to a final letter grade. At MSU GREAT FALLS

COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY , the student must finish the incomplete work

within one academic semester.

independent study An arrangement that allows a student to earn college credit through individual

study and research, usually planned with and supervised by a faculty member.

internship A supervised short-term apprenticeship or temporary job in a real-world setting

closely related to a student's field of study. The student may or may not be paid

but earns college credit for the work experience. See also practicum.

junior A student in the third year of a typical four-year baccalaureate degree program

(or one who has earned 90-135 quarter credits or 60-90 semester credits so far).

learning outcomes What students are expected to know and to be able to do as a result of their

experience at the college and, more specifically, as a result of completing their

general education requirements.

load See credit load.

loans A type of financial aid that must be repaid to the government agency or other

lending organization when the student leaves school.

lower division The courses students are generally expected to complete during the first two

years of a typical four-year baccalaureate degree program.

major Specialization in one academic discipline or field of study.

MPSEOC (Montana Post Secondary Educational Opportunities Council) The Montana Post Secondary Educational Opportunities Council (MPSEOC) is a

non-profit organization representing the 24 institutions of higher education across

the state of Montana. The mission of the organization is the promotion of higher

education to students, parents and guidance counselors, with the awareness of

the post secondary opportunities available throughout the state of Montana and




Montana University System

The campuses associated with the Montana University System are: the

University of Montana (Missoula); UofM College of Technology (Missoula); the

University of Montana Helena College of Technology; Montana Tech; Montana

Tech College of Technology; the University of Montana Western; Montana State

University – Bozeman; Montana State University Billings; MSU Billings College of

Technology; Montana State University Northern; and MSU Great Falls College of


no-show A student who registers into a course but never goes to class. At MSU Great

Falls CoT a no-show student will receive an "F" for the class on his or her


noncredit Courses or instructional programs which do not require extensive homework or

examinations and which do not offer college credit. Students frequently take

noncredit courses for basic skills improvement, job training or career

enhancement, or personal enrichment.

open admissions The policy of some colleges to admit nearly all applicants, regardless of high

school grades and admission test scores. It means different things at different

schools. Community and technical colleges in Montana admit anyone who is over

18 or has a high school diploma or GED.

outcomes See learning outcomes.

pass/passing At most schools, a student will earn credit and "pass" a class with a grade of "A"

through "D." A student who earns an "F" grade fails the class and earns no credit.

Different schools have different standards, so a student who passes a class with a "D" may or may not be able to use that class to meet prerequisites or fulfill


placement The appropriate level to enter a series of courses, based on the student’s skills

often used in the context of basic skills subjects such as mathematics or English

composition. See also assessment.

postsecondary Refers to all educational programs for students past high-school age; it includes

community and technical colleges and job training programs as well as

baccalaureate colleges and universities.

practicum A course that includes job-related activities and stresses the practical application

of theory in a field of study. See also internship.

prerequisite A course that must be completed (often with a certain minimum grade) or a skill

that must be demonstrated before a student can enroll in a more advanced

course (for example, Anatomy and Physiology I is a prerequisite for Anatomy and

Physiology II).

private college The private colleges located in Montana are: Carroll College; University of Great

Falls and Rocky Mountain College


A course or instructional program that emphasizes job skills training for a

particular field of work; often called "occupational" or "vocational" education and

often contrasted with "academic" or "transfer" education.

program A very general term used in many ways in a college or university:

(1) The courses that an individual student plans to take ("the academic advisors

can help you plan your program each year").

(2) The courses required to complete a particular degree or certificate ("he's almost finished with the Recreation Leadership program").

(3) The courses that make up a department or the departments that make up a division within the college organization

(4) Organized activities with a specific function


Some schools organize the academic year into three main periods-Fall, Winter,

and Spring Quarters-plus a shorter Summer Quarter (compare to semester).

records Refers to all the information the college might keep regarding a student; it

includes registration activity (enrollment, withdrawal, etc.), grades, payments,

awards received, financial aid applications and award notices, and notes on

disciplinary actions, as well as address, phone number, and student identification


refund (1) Tuition and fees that are paid back to a student who has withdrawn from a


to be refunded depends on how many credits the student is taking and

exactly when the student dropped the course(s). The refund policy and

deadlines are published in each Credit Class Schedule and on the students

Registration Worksheet.

(2) Financial aid money that is not required as payment to MSU Great Falls CoT for tuition, fee and book charges.

register/registration To sign up or enroll in a course or courses. "Registration activity" includes

enrolling, dropping/withdrawing, choosing "pass/fail" in place of letter grades,

making payments, etc.

requirements Minimum standards defined by the college, for example for admission or

graduation. See also prerequisite; distribution requirements.

resident For purposes of calculating a student's tuition and fees, someone who has lived

in the state for a specified length of time as shown by specified types of


scholarship (1) A type of financial aid. Organizations may give scholarships according to

academic achievement, financial need, or any other basis. Usually there is a

competitive application process.

(2) A person's ability and expertise in a particular discipline of study ("I've always admired Dr. Busacca's scholarship in Italian art and literature").

section A specific class with its own unique days, hours, location, and instructor. A

number of sections of a certain course may be offered during a quarter or

semester, each with different days, times, locations, and instructors but

presenting the same curriculum.

semester Some schools organize the academic year into two main periods-Fall and Spring

Semesters-plus a shorter Summer Semester (compare to quarter). MSU Great

Falls CoT operates on a 16 week Fall and Spring semester and an 8 or 10 week

summer semester.

senior A student in the fourth year of a typical four-year baccalaureate degree program

(or one who has earned 135-180 quarter credits or 90-120 semester credits so


sophomore A student in the second year of a typical four-year baccalaureate degree program

(or one who has earned 45-90 quarter credits or 30-60 semester credits so far).

syllabus (plural: syllabi)

An outline plan for a particular class, including textbook requirements, class

meeting dates, reading assignments, examination dates, the instructor's grading

standards, etc.

term A unit of time that can refer to either a quarter or a semester, depending on

which system the college or university follows.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) A standardized test which assesses the English language abilities of students

who are not native English-speakers.

transcript An official record of the courses and semester or quarter credits a student has

taken at a college or university, the grades and degrees or certificates earned,

and any awards and honors received.

transfer To move from one college or university to another and have the second

institution recognize and accept some or all of the courses taken and credits

earned at the first.

tribal colleges The tribal colleges in Montana are: Blackfeet Community College; Chief Dull

Knife College; Fort Belknap College; Fort Peck Community College; Little Big

Horn College; Salish Kootenai College; and Stone Child College.

tuition & fees Tuition is a student's basic payment towards the cost of instruction at a college or

university. Most institutions also charge fees for laboratory equipment and

materials, computer use, parking, and other miscellaneous costs.

undergraduate A student who has not yet earned a bachelor's degree; also refers to the courses

and instructional programs such a student enrolls in.

upper division The courses students are generally expected to complete during the last two

years of a typical four-year baccalaureate degree program.

waiver To waive a right or a claim is to voluntarily give it up.

(1) If a student meets specific criteria, the college may waive some of his or her tuition & fees (that is, some of the money owed to the college will be forgiven).

(2) If a student demonstrates certain knowledge and abilities, the college may waive a course prerequisite (that is, allow the student to take the class even

though he or she hasn't completed the listed requirements for it).

withdrawal The process of formally dropping a class or classes after the term has started.

work-study A type of financial aid which pays students