Information for the parents of college students
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College Lingo for College Parents: Talk the Talk – Part 6

Every profession, activity, or area of interest has its own jargon or set of specialized vocabulary.  College is no different.  College administrators, faculty members and students develop a set of short-hand terms that can be confusing to those not familiar with them.  As a college parent, you may be surprised at how quickly your college student will pick up the appropriate lingo.

If your college student slips into “college-speak” and you don’t understand what she is talking about – ask!  She may express impatience, but she’ll probably explain.  However, if you want to be able to at least begin to talk-the-talk, here are five terms to get you started.  Please remember that there may be some variation in the use of these terms at various institutions.

 We’ve written five earlier posts about some of the college vocabulary that might be helpful for you to know. Be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.  It’s been a while since we’ve added an installment, so here are a few more terms.

Course Wait List


A course wait list is a system for adding students to a class once it is full.  If a student attempts to register for a class that is already at capacity, she may be allowed to add her name to a waitlist for that class.  If another student later drops that class or is removed, the student on the waitlist will be added to the roster.  Priority is usually given on a first come, first served basis.  Schools have differing policies regarding waitlisting students and notifying waitlisted students.  There are no guarantees given to students and there are often limitations and restrictions.


Matriculated/Non-matriculated students


Matriculated students are students who have applied for admission and been accepted to a degree program at the college.  Non-matriculated students may register for courses on a semester by semester or course by course basis.  They generally do not receive financial aid and are not enrolled in a degree program.  These students may be taking courses for personal enrichment, improved job skills, or to transfer credits to another institution.


Priority Registration


The term priority registration is sometimes used synonymously with registration ranking.  Registration ranking is the order in which students may register for classes.  This is usually based upon number of credits or units earned.  Priority registration also refers to the permission for specialized groups of students to register in advance of other students.  Priority registration policies may vary greatly across colleges.  This early registration is sometimes provided for groups of students with special circumstances that impact their ability to choose the appropriate classes to attain a degree such as students with disability related needs, or students in state mandated special programs.  It is also sometimes afforded to veterans, athletes, or honors students.


Satisfactory Academic Progress


Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is defined by the federal government as successful completion of coursework to maintain eligibility for financial aid.  The federal government requires that schools establish, publish and apply standards to monitor progress toward completion.  These standards apply both to grade point average (GPA) and to progress toward degree completion.  Students must maintain the standard minimum GPA established by their school and must complete the required number of credits for graduation within a maximum number of attempted credits – 150% of credits required.  (For instance, students who are required to complete 120 credits for graduation must do so within 180 attempted credits.)




A student’s college transcript is the official, permanent record of the courses taken, grades earned, honors earned and degrees conferred by the institution.  The task of maintaining transcripts falls to the Office of the Registrar.  Students may obtain official transcripts of the college record by requesting it from the appropriate office.  There may be a fee, or a fee for multiple copies.  Students need transcripts for transfer to another institution or sometimes for a potential employer.


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