Glossary - UW HELP



ACE Military Credit

Based on your military experiences and training, you may have college credit recommendations to apply toward a degree requirement. Actual credit transferred is solely at the discretion of the receiving college or university.


U.S. college admissions test, measuring what you learn in high school to determine your academic readiness for college.

Academic Adviser

A contact at the university who provides guidance with course selection and degree planning.

Academic Probation

A warning that the student’s performance has fallen below the institution’s requirement for “good academic standing.”


A process of validation in which colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning are evaluated. The standards for accreditation are set by a peer review board whose members include faculty from various accredited colleges and universities.

Admission Priority Deadline

Applications received prior to this date are guaranteed to be reviewed. Applications received after the priority deadline are not guaranteed to be reviewed; it usually depends on the space available.

Advanced Placement (AP)

A program that offers college-level coursework and exams to high school students. College credit is given based upon the results of a final examination.

Associate Degree

A two-year postsecondary degree. Students who pursue this kind of degree full-time can complete a program in as little as two years— though many choose to go at their own pace. An associate degree translates into the first two years of a bachelor’s degree (freshman and sophomore year).


Taking a class for no academic credit. Typically, the student can listen in lectures but not participate in labs, papers, projects, or tests.


Bachelor’s Degree

Postsecondary degree awarded to an individual after completion of undergraduate coursework, usually taking eight semesters and 120 credits to complete. Also called an undergraduate degree.

Bursar’s Office (Cashiers Office)

The bursar is responsible for billing students’ accounts for tuition, room and board, and various other fees. This responsibility involves sending bills and making payment plans. The Bursar’s office and the Financial Aid office are two separate independent offices.


Certificate/Certificate Program

An academic program in a specific or specialized area of interest with fewer credit requirements than an academic major.

College-Level Examination Program (CLEP)

CLEP allows students who have gained knowledge through independent study, advanced high school courses, noncredit adult courses, or professional development to take examinations for possible college credit.

Cost of Attendance (COA)

The average cost to attend college for one academic year (fall through spring). COA includes tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses.

Course Load

The total number of high school or college credits someone is taking.


Every course is assigned a value in terms of “credits” or  “credit hours”. Schools use credits to show a student has completed and passed courses that are required for a degree. 



The failure to repay an educational/student loan, or the failure to make on-time monthly payments.


An academic rank awarded to students by a college or university after successful completion of a program of study.

Department of Public Instruction (DPI)

The Department of Public Instruction is the state agency that advances public education and libraries in Wisconsin.

Dependent for Financial Aid Purposes

Typically, undergraduate students who are under the age of 24 as of December 31 of the award year. These students will report their parents’ information on the FAFSA.


To remove a course from a student’s schedule.

Dual Credit

Courses in which a student may obtain simultaneous high school and college credit.


Elective Credit

Credits of a student’s choosing. Does not always meet core requirements for graduation.

English as a Second Language Program (ESL)

Programs available at many of the UW campuses that teach English to students who are non-native English speakers.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The amount of money that a student’s family is expected to contribute to college costs for one year.


Fall Semester

In the UW System, the fall semester courses typically begin after Labor Day and end the third week of December.

Federal Pell Grant Program

A need-based grant issued from the federal government to low-income undergraduate and certain post-baccalaureate students, and does not need to be repaid.

Federal Student Loan

Money students borrow from the federal government for college, and must repay with interest.

Financial Aid

Money to help students pay for their education. This can be in the forms of grants, work study, and loans.

Financial Certification

An official document proving adequate funding from an individual or organization to cover an international student’s educational and living expenses while enrolled at a U.S. college or university.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

A form filled out by undergraduate or graduate students who are eligible for government-sponsored financial aid.

Full-Time Student

Undergraduate students who are taking 12 or more credits during a fall or spring semester.


General Education Requirements (GERs)

Subject area credit requirements that all students must complete to graduate. GERs give students exposure to a variety of academic areas.

Graduate Degree

An advanced degree beyond the bachelor’s level. Examples include master’s, doctoral, specialist, and professional degrees.


Money that is given to a college student usually by the government that does not need to be paid back.


Higher Education

Any type of education that takes place after high school, or secondary school.

Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB)

The state agency responsible for the management and oversight of the state’s student financial aid system for Wisconsin residents attending institutions of higher education.


In-State Tuition

Cost of tuition for residents of Wisconsin.

Independent Study

A course designed by the student and an instructor which usually focuses on a specific subject area. The student does a majority of the work independently with guidance from the instructor.

Independent for Financial Aid Purposes

Students who are either over the age 24 or married, have dependents, are orphaned, are applying for graduate school, are a veteran or serving in active duty, are emancipated minor, are homeless youth, or are determined by a school’s financial aid office to be independent due to special circumstances.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

A written statement for a student with a disability that outlines an educational plan through 12th grade. Individuals who have questions about their college coursework need to contact the disability office at the campus they attend.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

College-level classes taken during a high school student’s junior and senior years. If a student passes the IB exam at the end of a class, he/she may earn college credits. Students can choose to earn an IB diploma upon graduation, or they can take individual IB classes.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

A standardized test that measures English-language proficiency in reading, listening, speaking and writing. Many U.S. colleges and universities require nonnative English speakers to submit IELTS or TOEFL scores as part of the admissions process.


Letter of Recommendation

A letter written by a student’s teacher, counselor, coach or mentor that assesses his or her qualifications and skills. Required by UW-Madison as part of the application process.


A type of financial aid that is given to someone for a period of time, with an agreement that it will be repaid later. 



A subject or field of study you choose  to represent your main interest.



Your secondary field of study or specialization.


Office Hours

A set time period that a professor or instructor will meet with students for answering questions and providing additional course help. A professor will usually provide this time availability in their syllabus.

Official Transcript

A transcript that has been received from a secure authenticated designated party or the issuing institution. It must bear an institutional validation (such as seal, logo, or watermark), date, and appropriate signature. Transcripts received that do not meet these requirements are not considered official.


A day or multi-day event that helps new freshmen and transfer students meet other students, become familiar with campus services, and register for classes.

Out-of-State Tuition

The amount nonresidents of a state will pay in tuition to a public university.


Part-Time Student

Students who are registered for less than 12 credits during a fall or spring semester.

Placement Testing

Before they start college, new freshmen take placement tests to determine which levels of English, math, and foreign language courses they will register for.


Any type of education that takes place after high school, or secondary school.


A required course that must be completed before a student is allowed to enroll in a more advanced one.

Priority Deadline

Applications received prior to this date are guaranteed to be processed. Applications received after the priority deadline are not guaranteed to be processed. It usually depends on the space available.


Re-entry Student

A student who previously attended the institution as a degree-seeking student, and wants to take courses at the campus again.

Registrar’s Office

An office in a college or university that is in charge of registering students and keeping academic records.


The process where students choose and enroll in courses to be taken during the academic year or in summer sessions.

Retroactive Credit

Lower-level credit that students may earn by succeeding at advanced-level courses.

Rolling Admission

Institutions accept applications and admit students at any time during a specific time period until all available spots are filled.



An admission exam used by colleges and universities to help determine college readiness.


Money granted to a student because of merit, need, or other criteria. Scholarships do not need to be paid back.

Special Student

A student who is not seeking a degree at the campus where he/she is registered.

Spring Semester

In the UW System, the spring semester courses begin in late January and end mid-May.

Study Abroad

A student may choose to take educational classes at a university in another country for a set period of time. Study abroad opportunities can range in time from a 3-week experience to a year-long stay.

Subsidized Federal Student Loan

A loan that is based on financial need, and interest is paid by the government while the students are enrolled in college. Only undergraduate students who are enrolled at least half time are eligible.

Summer Term

Students may take courses in the summer term. Courses during the summer are offered over various, condensed timelines, as compared to fall or spring semesters.


Teaching Assistant (TA)

A graduate student in a college or university who is the recipient of a teaching fellowship. He/she helps teach undergraduate courses.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

standardized exam which measures English-language proficiency in reading, listening, speaking and writing. Many U.S. colleges and universities require nonnative English speakers to take the TOEFL or IELTS and submit their scores as part of the admissions process.


A record of your academic work including courses, grades and credits. 

Transfer Student

Anyone who has attended another college or university after graduating from high school and wishes to enroll at a different college or university.

Transfer Wisconsin

Website where a student can check how courses will transfer throughout the UW System, as well as in the Wisconsin Technical College System.


UW Branch Campuses

The UW System has 13 branch campuses where students can complete their first two years of college and earn an associate degree. Usually, students will then transfer to one of the four-year UW System campuses to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Undergraduate Student

A student pursuing a bachelor’s degree, which is generally the first four years of a college education.

Unofficial Transcript

A transcript that is unsealed, not on official watermark paper, printed off by the student, or sent via email.

Unsubsidized Student Loan

Loan that is not based on financial need. Interest accrues as soon as the loan is disbursed. Undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to receive these loans.



An official mark or stamp in a passport that allows someone to enter a country for a particular amount of time. Common visa types for international students in the U.S. include the F-1 (student visa) and J-1 (exchange visitor visa).



Some campuses offer a very short (approx. 3-week) term in January. They often call this term Winterim or J-Term.

Wisconsin G.I. Bill

The WI G.I. Bill provides tuition waivers for certain eligible veterans, spouses, or dependents to attend UW System institutions or Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges. Details on eligibility and application procedures are listed in the WI G.I. Bill brochure.

Work Study

The Work Study Program helps students earn funding through a part-time job. Work study is part of a financial aid offer.