College Life From A to Z

Feb 02, 2011

Congratulations - you've been accepted into college. Regardless of the school you've chosen to attend, an amazing experience awaits. Now that you know you're headed to campus, here are some terms you'll want to keep in mind as you settle into your studies and social life.

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By Douglas J. Fehlen

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Academic Probation

Academic probation is something you definitely want to avoid. Students may be placed on probation for having a poor grade point average (GPA), and they often struggle to avoid suspension. Do yourself a favor: Get off to a good start in school by giving your work the time and effort it needs.

College Adviser

Incoming freshmen are assigned an adviser. This person can help with class selection and any challenges that come up in college. At many schools, the adviser you're first assigned will later be replaced by one specializing in your area of study.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

You have to fill out the FAFSA in order to receive financial aid from the government and the school you're attending. Depending on your family's economic circumstances, you may be eligible for a wide variety of scholarships, grants and loans.

Honor Code

Most universities have an honor code designed to police student behavior. This code outlines regulations for academic integrity and behavioral expectations on campus. Not heeding a school's rules may lead to punishments up to and including expulsion.


Colleges feature many majors, or areas of specialization. You probably won't have to worry about declaring a major until sometime during your sophomore year. In the meantime, you can think about what academic area you might like to concentrate on. If you have trouble picking, you could earn a double major.

Office Hours

Faculty members at colleges typically have office hours, during which you can check in with instructors about difficulties with courses. Unlike high school where teachers check in with students, college requires you to be more proactive in getting the help you need.

Office of the Registrar

This is the office where you're officially registered for college. You may be asked to pay tuition or fees here. It also might be a place where you can request a transcript, which is an official record of your grades. These functions may also be accessible online.

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Student orientation typically occurs during the week preceding the start of classes. Some independent students don't feel they need to attend, but it's a great way to get info about the campus and connect with other new students. In other words: Highly recommended.

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Many colleges feature an area called 'the Quad.' The term often refers to a place where there is a grouping of residence halls or other school buildings. At many colleges, these areas have an open space where students congregate

Resident Adviser (RA)

If you're staying in the dorms, it's likely that you'll have a resident adviser. RAs are often peers, but they have a responsibility to watch over residence hall areas. Be sure, then, to observe dorm guidelines to stay in the good graces of these parent-types.

Student Organizations

Most colleges feature a wide variety of student groups. These organizations bring together people who have similar backgrounds, hobbies and interests. Visit your school's website to learn about groups you might join when you arrive on campus.

Student Union

The student union serves as a center of social life at college. This building typically hosts many meetings and recreational activities. Stop by the student union at your school for the scoop on what's going on around campus.

Work Study

Work Study is a part of many students' financial aid packages. Federally funded, the program allows you to perform work in exchange for having part of your college costs covered. Most of these jobs are on campus where you can work with other students.


Okay - very corny! - but sleep is an important part of college life. It's not always going to be easy to get the rest you need, but you'll feel better when you do. And here's more mom advice: Don't forget to eat well. Proper nutrition can help you power through classes with plenty of energy to spare for hanging out.

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