College Lingo for College Parents: Talk the Talk — Part 7

It’s been a while since we posted some of the lingo for you to learn.  Please be sure to check out our earlier lists in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.  Here are a few more terms that may help you navigate the college experience.

Every profession, activity, or area of interest has its own jargon or set of specialized vocabulary.  College is no different.  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!  Please remember that there may be some variation in the use of these terms at various institutions.

Placement Exams

Placement exams or tests are given to students, usually after they have been accepted to the college, to determine how ready students are for college level work in basic core courses.  They are most often given in subjects such as English and math.  Students cannot ”pass” or ”fail” placement tests since they simply measure a level or readiness in a subject.  They are used for placing the student in the appropriate level class.  It is important that students understand that the results of their placement exams are important, but cannot affect their acceptance to the college; they are not linked to admission. Placement exams determine the starting point of their education. They do not measure intelligence or ability, but the student’s academic experience. Students whose tests indicate deficiencies may be required to take a class to ”come up to speed” in that subject area.


A minor is a secondary field of interest after a student’s major.  Minors usually require several courses in an area, but fewer courses than a major.  A minor is usually optional.  A minor can provide a student with a certain set of skills, feed a student’s passion, or complement the major by providing additional depth or breadth to the student’s background.  If carefully planned, adding a minor usually does not require any additional time to the student’s college career.

Open Admission

Open Admission, also called Open Enrollment or Inclusive Admission, generally means that the admission process is unselective and non-competitive.  The only criteria for admission is a high school diploma or GED certificate.  Open Admission is most often found in community colleges.  Although Open Admission is non-competitive, students still need to apply and should pay close attention to admission deadlines.  There may be more applicants than space available.  Open Admission should not be confused with an Open Door policy which usually admits anyone who applies, regardless of educational background.

Block Scheduling

An unusual approach to scheduling used by approximately a dozen or so colleges in the United States also sometimes called ”One Course At A Time (OCAAT) Scheduling.“  In block scheduling, students take only one course at a time for approximately 3-4 weeks followed by a short break of a few days.  Students then begin a new course.  Courses meet daily for 3-5 hours at a time and cover the same amount of material as traditional semester courses. At the end of the year, students will have taken the same number of courses as those with more traditional schedules, but in short, intense units rather than juggling 4-5 courses at any given time.

Sophomore Slump

Sophomore slump refers to the phenomenon in which a second effort fails to live up to the quality of a first effort.  The term is also used in sports (for second year players) and in music (for second recordings by an artist).  At college, students in their second, or sophomore, year often experience both a let down and a decrease in their grades. There are several things which occur during the second year of college which can contribute to the slump that sophomores encounter.  These are especially troubling if the student is unprepared for the differences that happen during this year of college.

Articulation Agreement

An Articulation Agreement is an officially approved agreement between two institutions, which allows a student to apply credits earned in specific programs at one institution toward advanced standing, entry or transfer into a specific program at the other institution.  It matches coursework between schools and so helps students make a smooth transition from one institution to another by minimizing duplication of coursework.

Related Posts:

How College Parents Can Help Their College Student Avoid Sophomore Slump

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