College Lingo for College Parents: Talk the Talk! — Part 3

We’ve written two earlier posts about some of the college vocabulary it might be helpful for you to know. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.   Here is a third installment.

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 more terms to get you started.  Please remember that there may be some variation in the use of these terms at various institutions.

Course Catalog

The Course Catalog, sometimes called the College Catalog, is an important tool for understanding the college’s course offerings and academic and administrative policies and procedures.  The catalog may contain information about college offices, academic policies and procedures, college facilities, information about campus life, graduation requirements, majors, descriptions of courses, information about faculty members, and college contact information.  There is a wealth of information available.   Students are responsible for knowing and adhering to the policies and requirements in the catalog, so it is definitely worth spending some time with it.  Students don’t, however, need to memorize every word immediately, but they should take time to become familiar with it and refer back to it often.  Many colleges now make their catalogs available on line.


A co-requisite course is a course that may or must be taken at the same time as another course.  Sometimes information in the two courses link and it is important that students take them together.  Pre-requisites and co-requisites are usually listed in the course catalog or course registration materials.

Dean’s List

The Dean’s List (Provost’s list, Chancellor’s Award) is usually produced each semester, and is a list of those students who have high grades or meet a certain academic standard.  It is the college equivalent of an honor roll.  Each institution will set its own requirements for qualifying for the Dean’s List.

RA or RD

Resident Assistants or Resident Directors are college employees who are responsible for students’ life in Residence Halls.  Resident Assistants are usually trained student leaders responsible for supervising a group of students.  They can assist with questions, social issues, roommate issues, or other problems that might arise.  They are also responsible for enforcing college policy and rules.  Resident Directors are usually college graduates, sometimes graduate students, who oversee the Resident Assistants and are responsible for managing the overall wellbeing of the Residence Hall. Residence Directors often live in an apartment in the Residence Hall.   Residence Assistants and Residence Directors are, in some ways, the college representatives who will get to know your college student best outside of the classroom.


The college Registrar is the person or office ultimately responsible for maintaining the permanent academic record for each student.  In addition to maintaining student records,  this office is often also responsible for scheduling of classes, registering students in classes,  maintaining class lists and recording student grades.  Remember that, without the student’s written permission, the Registrar will not be able to discuss your student’s grades or academic progress with you because of FERPA restrictions.

Don’t be intimidated by college terminology or “lingo”.  If you’re not sure what something means, ask!  You’ll be “talking college” before you know it.

Read about additional lingo in Part 4 and Part 5.

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