Have you been to the registrar to look at the academic calendar so you can find out what GPA you need for co-operative education in your undergraduate program?
While we assure you that sentence is written in English, there’s probably some stuff in there you didn’t quite catch. Don’t worry – terms like GPA, faculty and convocation will be rolling off your tongue in no time. But until then, we thought we’d explain some of the most confusing university terms – the ones that took us forever to figure out back when we were in your shoes.
Academic calendar – A giant, formal online document (400-plus pages) that acts as a comprehensive guide to all of the university’s programs, courses, services and academic policies. Also includes the academic schedule (see below).
Academic schedule – An official list of university dates and deadlines (think the start of classes, deadlines to add or drop classes, payment of fees, etc.) published as part of the academic calendar. Not to be confused with the university’s events schedule, which includes dates from the academic schedule, but also lists things like speaker series and other special events on campus.
Alumni – What you’ll be called after you graduate from your program. Alumni is plural. A female graduate is an alumna and a male graduate is called an alumnus, but the informal term “alum” does the trick as a singular or gender-neutral term.
Apply – (Not to be confused with “register” or “enrol.”) When you apply, you fill in an application form indicating you want to register (sign up for courses) in a particular program. You can’t register until you have applied and been accepted to a program.
Award – A financial award (money) based on criteria such as volunteerism or leadership (additional criteria, such as academic achievement or financial need, may be considered as well). Also see “Bursary” and “Scholarship.”
Bachelor’s degree – A program of study that typically involves four years of study (also called a baccalaureate or undergraduate degree).
Blackboard – A web-based learning environment and course management system where you’ll find information about your courses, participate in discussion boards and view your grades. You can access Blackboard through myStudentSystem.
Bursary – A financial award (money) given based on need, but, unlike a student loan, doesn’t have to be repaid. Also see “Award” and “Scholarship.”
Capstone – Usually one of the final experiences in your program that brings together the big ideas that have been covered. A capstone can take many forms, including a course, a research project or a creative project.
Convocation – A group of people from an academic institution gathered for a ceremony. In a university setting, this is usually the name for a graduation ceremony. MacEwan has two convocation ceremonies each year, one in November and one in June.
Co-operative education – Combines classroom-based education with practical work experience in a paid employment position offered for academic credit. Also see “Practicum.”
Course – A course is made up of regularly scheduled classes, usually during one academic term, that focus on a singular topic. Each program is made up of a combination of courses.
Course outline – Think of a course outline (sometimes called a syllabus) as a road map that that outlines the overall structure of a course and tells you about the kind of learning experiences that you’ll have. Course outlines usually include the course objectives, required textbooks, readings and information on how your grade will be calculated. Make sure you know where this is and refer back to it often.
Credits – Courses (see above) are offered for credit. Each course is assigned a credit value – many are three credits each. For example, if your four-year degree was 120 credits that would mean you would need to take five courses worth three credits each over eight semesters.
Dean – The person who has authority over a specific academic unit. At MacEwan, each of our faculties has a dean.
Drop/Withdraw – This can be tricky. Before you do either of these things for the first time, it’s a good idea to talk to a program advisor. There are deadlines for when you can drop or withdraw from a course. If you drop a course before the add/drop deadline, academically, it’s like the whole thing never happened. It doesn’t appear on your academic transcript (but there can be other implications when it comes to student loans and funding, and whether you’ll get all or part of your tuition fee back). Withdrawing from a course happens after the add/drop deadline. The course will still show on your academic transcript, but it appears as “W” and doesn’t affect your GPA. Dropping or withdrawing from a course is a big decision – make sure to talk to your program advisor first.
Enrol – See “Register.”
Experiential learning – Opportunities to earn course credit while working with community partners. Can be placement-style with students working at a community partner site (also known as internship, practicum, field placement, clinical placement, co-op or work placement), or project-style where students have a consulting-type relationship with a community partner (also known as community-based research, community-service learning, consulting or live case studies).
Faculty – This word can mean two things: Faculty can refer to members of the university’s teaching staff (e.g., assistant professors, associate professors, etc.) or one of the university’s academic areas (e.g., Faculty of Arts and Science, School of Business, Faculty of Nursing, etc.).
GPA – The abbreviation for grade point average, GPA is an average of the final grades you receive in courses during a term (“Term GPA”), at certain points during your program (“Cumulative GPA”) or when you graduate (“Graduation GPA”). Check out these instructions for calculating your GPA.
Graduand – What you are called during the short period of time between finishing the coursework in your program and receiving your degree or diploma. When you walk across the stage at convocation, you become a graduate (and an alum of MacEwan University).
Graduate – See “Graduand.”
Honours – An honours degree usually involves extra research training, has different requirements than a standard degree, and is often an advantage when applying for graduate school. Not every degree has an honours program. Check with individual faculties to see if the program you’re interested in has an honours option.
Lecture – An educational class that typically involves a faculty member speaking about a topic. Lectures can also involve other activities.
Labs – Some courses have what’s called a lab. This is a separate, scheduled part of the course where you might do experiments or have hands-on access to instruments and equipment.
Major – In some programs, students choose a major – a particular area of study to focus on during their degree (e.g., in the Bachelor of Arts program, you might major in Anthropology or English, while in the Bachelor of Commerce, you might choose Marketing or International Business). Some programs do not have majors (e.g., Bachelor of Science in Nursing).
Master’s – A master’s degree is the first level of graduate study. To apply to a master’s program, you must already hold an undergraduate degree (a bachelor’s degree). Master’s degrees usually take two years to complete. Note that MacEwan is an undergraduate university and does not offer master’s programs.
Minor – Most programs that have majors (see above) often also have minors – a secondary area of focus. For example, a Bachelor of Arts student might major in Psychology and minor in Sociology.
myStudentSystem – The university’s student information system used to track your application, enrol in courses, pay fees and manage your personal information.
Office hours – Faculty members hold regular office hours during the semester. This is a great time to introduce yourself or ask questions. (Making sure to talk to your profs is the number one piece of advice our graduates share.) Check the course outline (a.k.a. syllabus) to see if your faculty member prefers students to drop in or make an appointment during office hours.
Open studies – A flexible way to take university-level credit courses without registering in a specific certificate, diploma or degree program.
PhD – A doctoral degree (also called a Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD for short), is the next level of graduate study after a master’s degree. It is the highest level of degree that a student can achieve and is based on extensive research in a person’s chosen field. Note that MacEwan is an undergraduate university and does not offer master’s programs.
Practicum – An on-the-job learning experience that is part of a course. Practicums are generally unpaid (as opposed to co-operative education) because they involve learning how to do a job in a heavily supervised setting, rather than performing work duties all day long.
Program advisor – These people know the ins and outs of a particular group of programs. They can help you sign up for courses, figure out the registration system, declare your major and so much more. Learn more about program advisors.
Provost – A university’s chief academic officer. The provost is responsible for creating and implementing the university’s academic priorities.
Register – Once you have applied and are accepted into a program, you can register for courses (sometimes this is also called “enrolling” in courses), using myStudentSystem.
Registrar – A university’s registrar is the person responsible for keeping students’ records. The registrar oversees the Office of the University Registrar, which handles enrolment services, admissions and convocation.
Scholarship – A financial award (money) given to a student based on academic performance. Also see “Award” and “Bursary.”
Semester – See “Term.”
Students’ association – An official body that represents and advocates for all students at a university, and at all levels of government. At some universities, this body is called the students’ union. At MacEwan, it’s the Students’ Association of MacEwan University (SAMU).
Students’ union – See “Students’ association.”
Study abroad – Officially called Education Abroad, this includes opportunities to study in different parts of the world, including exchanges, summer programs, internships, volunteer and work experiences.
Syllabus – See “Course outline.”
Term – The academic year is divided into three terms: Fall (September to December), Winter (January to April) and Spring/Summer (May to August). The Spring/Summer term is also divided into two separate sessions. The academic schedule includes dates for every term and session. Sometimes the words “semester” and “term” are used interchangeably.
Tuition – Tuition fees cover the cost of instruction, and are based on the number of credits you take in a term. Tuition is just one part of your university fees. Other costs include books and supplies, and mandatory fees for things like the students’ association, health care, information technology, etc.
Undergraduate – Undergraduate programs lead to bachelor’s degrees. All degree programs at MacEwan are undergraduate programs.
U-Pass – Provides students with access to Edmonton, Strathcona County and St. Albert transit services. The U-Pass is a mandatory service for most students, and is paid for as part of your tuition and term fees.
Withdraw – See “Drop.”
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