Study Guide and Glossary
The study guides on this website contain much of the same information as you will find in the CAKE quiz, but in a way that makes specific things you may be looking for easier to find. This particular study guide is focused on what we call ‘college culture’, which are some norms, policies, and procedures related to being a college student. Click on the letters below to skip to a specific term if you would like.
Associate’s Degree – Associate’s degrees can typically be completed in two years of full-time study.
Attendance – College students are treated like adults, and can therefore choose to attend or not attend classes. A professor may try to contact a student they notice who has not attended several classes in a row, but the general expectation is that students are responsible for themselves.
Bachelor’s Degree – Bachelor’s degrees can typically be completed in 4 years of full-time study.
Community College – Community colleges offer mostly associate’s degrees (approximately 60 credits) and shorter certificate programs. While most students are from the local community, this is a matter of convenience and not policy.
Credits, per Class – While there are exceptions (e.g., 1 credit lab or enrichment classes), the vast majority of classes in most colleges are 3 or 4 credit classes.
Credits, Number Required to Graduate – Most colleges require about 120 credits total to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. There are some colleges that have different systems for assigning credits to courses, but the vast majority of colleges require about 120 credits. This means that to graduate in four years with a Bachelor’s degree, a student needs to take 15 credits per semester.
Full-time Student Status – Being a full-time undergraduate student at most colleges equates to taking at least 12 credits per semester.
Learning Supports on Campus – Colleges offer many resources to support student learning, including a professor’s office hours, tutoring/learning centers on campus, and access to a Teaching Assistant (TA) if the class has any assigned. TA’s are usually graduate students with advanced knowledge on the subject.
Majors, Changing – It is not uncommon for college students to change their major, and colleges have processes in place to help students in the process. According to this report, approximately 1 out of every 3 college students changes their major at least once.
Majors, Choosing – Being accepted to a college does not always mean a space is reserved in the desired major. At many colleges and for many majors, a major can not be declared until specific ‘gatekeeping’ courses have been completed. The exception to this would be if a student applied to a college for a specific, competitive major (e.g., Nursing).
Majors, Number of Credits – Most majors typically require less than 50% of the courses a student takes to satisfy the overall degree requirements. Science-based majors tend to require more credits in the major than others.
Professors – Most professors are subject matter experts that have not had as much training in how to teach as public high school teachers.
Quarter – For colleges operating on the quarter system, the year is divided into four 10-week quarters.
Required Courses – Called different things in different colleges (e.g., core curriculum, general education requirements), colleges have a set of learning outcomes they achieve with specified, required courses outside of the major or minor field of study.
Semester – Most colleges operate on the semester system, which consists of the Fall and Spring semesters that are each about 15 weeks long
Size of College Classes – College classes can be very small with less than 10 students, or very large with hundreds of students.
Soft Skills – College students are responsible for their learning. Having skill in self-advocacy, communication, and organization helps to manage those responsibilities!
Syllabus – The syllabus in college courses outlines the schedule of classes, assignments, student responsibilities, and the professor’s responsibilities.
Time Spent in Class – Much of the learning that happens in college happens outside of the actual classroom. Full-time students typically spend 12-15 hours each week in scheduled classroom-based activities, with the expectation that 24-30 hours each week will be spent engaged in learning outside of the classroom studying, reading, writing, or otherwise engaged in learning experiences
Trimester – Some colleges operate on a trimester system, with Fall, Winter, and Spring sessions that are each 12-13 weeks long.
Value of College Education – College graduates, on average, have substantially higher earning across their lifetime than students without a college degree. For example, see this report from the Department of Education, and this information from the Social Security Administration.
Work Outside of Class – Each college credit should equate to approximately 3 hours of “student engagement”, so a three credit class that meets for about 3 hours a week would require an additional 6 hours of work (reading, writing, studying) outside of class. Colleges receiving Federal Title IV funds for financial aid (which is nearly all of them) are required to follow this definition of the credit hour. See the Federal Regulations for more information if you are interested.