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First-Gen Dictionary

Universities have a language all their own.  We have provided a guide to some of the terminology that you will encounter throughout your academic career.

Essential Key Terms

Catalog: A resource of all academic policies and procedures, college and degree requirements, faculty, and course descriptions.

Canvas: The online course management system used by UTK.  You will find information related to your class assignments, announcements, and discussion boards here.

College: An academic unit of the university. Each college represents an organization of related departments.

Full-time or part-time: This refers to the number of classes you are taking in a certain semester. A full-time student is enrolled in at least 12 credit hours and a part-time student is anyone enrolled in fewer than that. If you receive financial aid you are required to be enrolled as a full-time student. Falling below full-time status could result in a failure to receive aid.

Grade Point Average (GPA): A measure of your scholastic performance. The GPA is obtained by dividing the number of grade points by the hours of work attempted.

Office hours: The time set aside by professors and instructors to meet with their students and answer questions.  You can usually find a professor’s office on his/her syllabus.

Orientation: A program that introduces newly admitted students to the University of Tennessee and its academics, customs, traditions, and opportunities.  An important part of orientation is meeting with an academic advisor.  At this time you will learn about your intended degree program and decide on courses you will take in your first semester.

Registration: The act of signing up for classes and creating a class schedule for the next semester.  Your registration date and time depends on the number of credit hours you have accumulated, with priority given to students who are further along in their degree program.  Students are required to meet with their academic advisor prior to registering for courses.

Financial Terminology

FAFSA: Stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  It is the basic form you must fill out to receive financial aid from the federal government to pay for college.

FERPA: This acronym stands for Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act. This is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Any student who is taking, or has taken a course at UTK, is protected by FERPA.

Syllabus: An outline of the professor’s plans for the course that describe course requirements, grading criteria, course content, faculty expectations, deadlines, examination dates, grading policies, class attendance requirements, and other relevant course information.

uTrack: Universal Tracking (uTrack) is an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. To remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

Transcript: The official record of a student’s coursework maintained by the Office of the University Registrar.

Terms Related to Academic Policies & Procedures

Academic Dismissal: When a student’s academic performance is consistently poor and his/her GPA falls below a 2.0.  Students who have been academically dismissed are not eligible to enroll in classes, either full-time or part-time.

Academic Second Opportunity: Policy designed to assist students who were not successful in progressing towards a degree during a previous attendance at UTK but are now performing satisfactory work.

Academic Probation: Status that indicates a student is in academic difficulty.  Students are placed on probation when either their cumulative GPA falls below a 2.0 for one semester or when their semester GPA falls below 2.0 for two consecutive terms of enrollment.

Add/drop: Changing a student’s course schedule by adding and/or dropping a course or courses.

Incomplete: Under extraordinary circumstances and only at the discretion of the instructor, a grade of I (Incomplete) may be assigned to a student whose work is satisfactory but who has not completed a portion of the course.  The terms for the removal of the Incomplete, including the time limit for removal, is decided by the instructor.

NetID: At UTK, every student and employee have a NetID that is used with a password. Your NetID permits secure access to email, certain computer programs, and a variety of other applications and services.

Off Track for a Single Semester: Students who are off track at the end of a tracking semester must meet with an academic advisor as soon as possible, but no later than the end of the next tracking semester to develop a plan for getting back on track.

Off Track for Two Consecutive Semesters: Students who are off track for two consecutive semesters will have a hold placed on their registration and must meet with a new advisor in one of the advising centers no later than the end of the “add” period of the next tracking term to select a new major that is better aligned with the student’s abilities.

Plagiarism:  Refers to the act of using someone else’s work, ideas, thoughts, or language and representing it as your own by failing to give credit to the original author. Plagiarism is a serious offense and is subject to disciplinary actions that may include failure in a course and/or dismissal from the university.

Satisfaction/No Credit Grading (S/NC):  An alternative to the standard grading system of letter grades.

Withdrawal: The students’ decision to remove themselves from a class after the drop/add period is over.  If a student withdraws prior to the withdrawal deadline, they will receive a W on their transcript.  Students are allotted six W’s throughout their academic career.

Total Term Withdrawal: When a student officially drops all courses for a given term.  If you withdraw from UT, you must apply for readmission in advance or your next term of anticipated enrollment.

Terminology Associated with Majors, Courses, and Degrees

Audit: A registration status that allows a student (with the approval of the instructor) to enroll in a course without receiving credit.

Bachelor’s Degree: College degree awarded after four or more years of prescribed study in a major area.  A bachelor’s degree consists of general education courses, a major, elective courses, and in some cases, a minor.  BA is the Bachelor of Arts degree and BS is Bachelor of Science degree.

Concentration: A focus within the major. For example, criminal justice is a concentration of the sociology major.

Core Courses: Classes that all students in a major program are required to take.

Corequisite: Specific conditions, requirements, or courses that must be completed at the same time as another course.

Course Load: The total number of credit hours taken in a semester.

Course Number: The three-digit number that identifies a specific course, such as 101 in ENG 101

Credit Hour: A unit of credit for a course. This is usually based on the number of hours per week spent in classroom-based instruction.  Most classes are three credit hours, but this can vary depending upon the amount of time required in a laboratory, fieldwork, studio, or seminar-based course. To be considered full time, you must take 12 credit hours or more per academic semester.

Curriculum: A program of courses that meets the requirements for a degree in a particular field of study.

Discipline: An area of study representing a branch of knowledge, such as mathematics.

Double Major: Students with a double major are planning to earn two bachelor’s degrees of the same time, such as a BS in Biology and BS in Psychology.

Electives: A class you choose to take that is not required for your major.  They are an opportunity for you to study something outside of your major that interests you.

Exploratory Track: College Level Exploratory Track is for those students deciding among one or major majors that are all offered by the same college (e.g., Arts and Sciences Exploratory). University Exploratory Track is for those students who have no clear idea of which major to pursue.  University Transition Track is for those students who find themselves ineligible for the major they initially intended to pursue.

Flipped Classroom: The flipped classroom is a teaching model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

Independent Study: Academic work completed in consultation with a faculty member outside of the regular course.

Lower Division: Courses on the 100 or 200 level that cover introductory content.

Major: A major is a student’s chosen field of study.  Each major has a required set of coursework that you must complete to earn a degree.

Minor: A secondary field of study that requires fewer credits than the major. Students do not earn a degree in their minor, but it is noted on their transcript.

Prerequisite: A course that is required before another course can be taken. Prerequisites are there to ensure that you are prepared for the courses that you are enrolled in and to ensure your success.

Upper Division Courses:  Courses numbered in the 300 – and 400 – level which cover more in-depth content.

General University Terms

Academic Calendar: An official list of dates for the school year.  Includes specific dates for semesters and terms, examination period, holidays, breaks, deadlines, and commencement.

Academic Standing: Students who maintain a satisfactory semester and a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 are in good academic standing.

Academic Year: The part of the year that includes the fall and spring semesters.

Advanced Placement (AP) Credit: Freshman admitted to UTK may receive AP credit based on performance on one or more of the Advanced Placement Examinations offered by the College Entrance Examination Board. Each participating department decides on the acceptable score for credit.

Dean’s List: An honor reserved for students who earn a 3.5 or higher GPA.

Degree Audit Report System (DARS): An automated record of a student’s academic progress toward degree completion in his/her major. The DARS audit contains all requirements and sub-requirements for a specific degree program. Final certification of degree requirements rests with the Office of the University Registrar.

Experiential Learning: Experiential learning gives students hands-on opportunities to connect their academic foundations to the world beyond the classroom through creative endeavors, field schools, internships, leadership opportunities, faculty-mentored research, and service-learning.

Mini-term: The mini-term allows you to attend one concentrated credit course. Students must be admitted for summer semester before registering for a mini-term. Courses follow the same standards as those in a regular semester. Mini-term grades are included in the calculation of the summer term grade point average. You must have permission from the dean of the respective college to enroll in more than one course during a mini-term since one day is equivalent to one week. Mini-terms are not eligible for financial aid.

Quality Points: Quality points are the cumulative points for each credit hour that are used to calculate GPA.

Timetable of Classes: The official schedule of classes produced each semester by the Office of the University Registrar. The most up-to-date information can be found online at

Terminology Associated with Academic Resources

Academic Advisor: A department or college-based faculty or staff member who meets with students each semester to help make decisions about courses needed for achieving educational goals. Academic advising is mandatory prior to each semester for which you plan to register a UTK.

Academic Coaching: An academic service offered through the Academic Success Center.  Coaches can provide assistance with test preparation, note-taking, study strategies, and time management.

First-Generation College Student: A student whose parent(s)/guardian(s) did not complete a four-year college or university degree. Parent(s)/Guardian(s) may have some college experience, including degrees from two-year institutions.

Vol Success Team: As a new first-year or transfer scholar at UT, you will be assigned a Vol Success Team – your academic advisor, academic coach, and a One Stop counselor. You are central to the team and you will co-create your UT experience with your Vol Success Team.