You may be surprised by the number of unfamiliar terms associated with college and college life. Undergraduate, TA, accreditation, Greek life, the FAFSA—high school counselors and college admissions officers use these terms every day. Unfortunately, they don’t always stop to explain what each term means.
The “College Speak” series explains the college-oriented vocab that you need to be in the know and focus on the more important questions, such as “which school would be the best fit for me?”
Today’s terms are:
- full-time student,
- first-time student, and
- transfer student.
Full-Time Student: Unlike high school, most colleges don’t care whether you’re there from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every weekday. If you want, you can take just a single course at a time! (In that scenario, it will take you forever to get a degree, but, now that you’re an adult, you can decide what’s best for you.)
To be considered a full-time student, you will probably need to take either three or four courses every semester, trimester, or quarter. (Different colleges break up the year in different ways.) At most schools, three or four courses will give you about 12–15 credits, or 12–15 hours in class each week. That might not seem like a lot, but, for every in-class hour, you’re generally expected to do two or three hours of out-of-class work. Being a full-time student takes about as much time as working a full-time job.
What’s the benefit of being a full-time student? There are several, but the most important is that it allows you to graduate on time. Full-time students generally can get an associate's degree in two years or a bachelor's degree in four years.
First-Time Student: First-time students have never attended college before. This may sound pretty obvious. However, if you’ve taken AP or dual enrollment classes in high school, or have otherwise earned college credits before your freshman year of college, you may have questions about this. Fortunately, there’s a simple answer: any college credits that you earn before you officially start college won’t affect your first-time status. This includes any credits that you earn while a high school student.
Unless you’re transferring from another college (see below), you’ll be a first-time student and will fill-out applications for freshman or first-year admission.
Transfer Student: If you enroll at a college after you graduate from high school and earn credits there, you lose your first-time status and become a full-fledged college student. This is a good thing—most students never look back!
If, however, you decide that you’d rather be a college student somewhere else, the application process will be somewhat different the second time around. You will apply as a transfer student and will complete applications for transfer admission. For more information on transferring, check out this article on PrincetonReview.com.