Students gathering outside of the library

Glossary of Terms

Academic advisorAcademic advisors can help students explore majors, pick classes, locate tutoring resources, shop study abroad options, find ways to gain real-world experience or declare graduation. Schedule an appointment with your advisor on Navigate.

Academic probationA student is placed on academic warning when the student’s cumulative GPA falls below 2.0 (grade C) at the conclusion of any semester of attendance — fall, spring or summer.

Academic suspension: A student is placed on academic suspension if the student earns a semester GPA below 2.0 while on academic probation. Notification of suspension appears on the student’s academic record. The student also receives a letter from the Office of Records and Registration stating the conditions of the suspension.

Add/drop period: The grace period at the beginning of each semester during which a student can decide to add or drop a course without earning a withdrawal or a letter grade.

Campus Learning Center (CLC): Academic support for courses including supplemental instruction, tutoring, and academic coaching. Located in Hibbs Hall.

Canvas: The login portal for current VCU faculty, staff and students. It’s used to access and manage online course learning materials and communicate about skill development and learning achievement. This will be crucial to accessing syllabi, homework assignments and submissions, and ways to connect with your professor and classmates.

Child Development Center (CDC): The VCU Child Development Center is a full-day, inclusive young children's program which provides high-quality care and education for the children of VCU faculty, staff, and student families.

Commencement: Another word for graduation

Commons: Building central on Monroe Park Campus that houses space for student activities, dining, meetings and events, and many student services offices

Course: Another word for a class that you attend. Your Course Load refers to the number of courses you are taking in a specific semester.

Credits: Value of how long you are in the class, you need at least 120 credits to graduate from VCU. Most classes are 3 credits but some can be worth slightly more or less.

Curriculum: A program of study made up of a set of courses offered by a school.

Drop: When you remove yourself from a course, or withdraw, so you are no longer taking that course. Charges are removed to indicate that the student never attended the class. Any financial aid already credited to the student’s account based on the original course registration will be removed and may create a balance due to VCU.

Electives: Courses that students can take for credit towards a degree but are not required

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): An index number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school. The information you report on your FAFSA form is used to calculate your EFC. Typically the lower your EFC, the more financial aid you may receive.

Faculty: Also known as professors, responsible for designing programs of study, teaching, and research.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): This act affords eligible students certain rights concerning their education such as: 1) The right to inspect and review the student's education records within 45 days after the day Virginia Commonwealth University receives an access request. 2) The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA. 3) The right to provide written consent before the university discloses personally identifiable information from the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.

Federal Work-Study (FWS): An opportunity program that funds jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, which can help pay for college expenses. Earnings are paid semi-monthly in the form of a paycheck through direct deposit, not deducted from your bill. FWS allows students to earn a determined award amount per academic year in on-campus or off-campus positions.

First Generation: Students who are the first in their families to attend college or whose parents didn’t complete a four year college degree. VCU has a lot of resources for First-Gen students including the First Generation Student Success and Research Center.

Financial Aid: Refers to any type of student loan, scholarship, or grant a student receives to help pay for college.

Financial Need: This is determined by the difference between the total cost of attendance at a college and the amount the student and their family is expected to contribute (Expected Family Contribution or EFC).

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): Completing this online form is the first step in applying for financial aid. All colleges require students who'd like to be considered for financial aid to complete the FAFSA every year. It is free to apply. All financial aid is optional and you do not have to accept everything offered to you. 

Full-Time: When a student takes 12 or more credit hours a semester during the fall and spring semester.

Grant: A type of financial aid that is free money to a student, one that does not need to be paid back.

Internship: Supervised, structured work experiences for students to gain training and skills. They are time-limited and ideally project-based with a tangible outcome. Can be for academic credit, pay, both, or neither, depending on the opportunity and employer.

Intersession: VCU courses run for two weeks during the university's winter break

J - termVCU courses that run for three weeks during the university's winter break

Living-Learning Communities (LLC): Specialized residential environments designed to integrate on-campus living with a focused academic experience.

Loan: Financial aid that is given to a student that they will need to repay later. There are federal student loans with lower interest rates and can be more flexible to work with. There are also private student loans which may have higher interest rates.

Major: An academic subject area that you choose to focus on during college.

Military Student Services (MSS): The office that works with veterans, active service members, spouses and dependents to ease the transition from military life to academics.

Minor: An academic subject area that you choose to have a secondary focus on during college. It has significantly less credits than a major (minors can be 18-24 credits). It can be relevant to your major and lead to a specialization in your field, or it can be something unrelated to your major that you’re just passionate about.

Monroe Park Academic Learning Commons (MCALC): Building that houses the School of Social Work, the Writing Center and the Academic Learning Transformation Lab. Located at 1000 Floyd Ave.

Navigate: Navigate is a free mobile app. Whether you're looking for academic advising, tutoring or scheduling an appointment with someone on your success team, Navigate will connect you to the right people and resources. You can also add your own reminder and “to-do”s.

Orientation and Transition Programs (OTP): The office that provides your official welcome to VCU and will prepare you for your first semester. VCU offers a variety of Orientation programs based on your experience, so whether this is your first time at college, you are transferring from another school or you are returning after some time off, you can find the Orientation experience that works for you!

Office Hours: Office hours are times when you can meet with your professors and teaching assistants to discuss the material being presented in class or other related interests you have.

Part-Time: When a student takes less than 12 credit hours a semester. Pay attention to how this impacts your financial aid if you decide to become a part-time student.

Prerequisite: Required course that needs to be completed before a student enrolls in a more advanced course.

Provost: Academic officer who oversees academic policies and curriculum.

Recreation and Well-Being (RecWell): RecWell provides a broad range of programs and services that support the well-being of our VCU community, including group exercise, outdoor adventure, intramural sports, personal training, aquatics, employment opportunities, and much more. RecWell educates and provides outreach on health topics that impact student well-being, including publication of the popular Stall Seat Journal.

Registration: Process of when a student enrolls in courses for a future semester. Check the VCU Academic Calendar where registration dates are posted for each semester.

Room and Board: Housing and Meals for students who are living on campus.

Semester: Length of time when a student takes classes, typically 15 weeks during the fall and spring. Shorter sessions are offered for the summer semesters and during the winter (see J term and Intersession)

Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success (SEMSS): This division is comprised of multiple units that provide the primary oversight for the recruitment, retention, success and graduation of students at all levels

Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity Office (SAEO): The designated office on VCU's Monroe Park Campus that fosters an environment where all students have equal access to the University's programs, services, and activities. They provide support and services for any student with a disability or health-related impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Student Financial Management Center (SFMC): Serves as a central hub for financial outreach, literacy and management to VCU students, parents and families. SFMC's goal is to provide personalized experiences on matters concerning financial wellness, as well as managing debt, budgeting and planning for the future. Meet with their financial counselors!

Student Financial Services (SFS): Made up of the Student Financial Management Center, Office of Financial Aid and Student Accounting. Their team is dedicated to supporting you through the many financial stages of your VCU experience.

Study Abroad: Programs that give students a chance to live and take classes in another country.

Supplemental Instruction (SI): A peer-assisted study session designed to assist students in courses that have proven difficult. SI leaders have previously completed the course and are trained to facilitate group learning and assist students in learning strategies and concepts that help them in their classes. SI leaders attend the current class, take notes, talk with the professor and read the text. Located in the Campus Learning Center in Hibbs Hall.

Syllabus: A general summary of a course given to students at the beginning of the semester. Includes required textbooks and other study materials along with dates of assignments, papers and exams. The professor's contact information and office hours will also be listed. Reading and following the syllabus is a key success tool for college students.

University Academic Advising (UAA): They help students at Virginia Commonwealth University choose courses, interpret general education and major requirements, address academic difficulties and identify educational and career goals. Services are for first-year, undeclared, pre-health, and pre-professional health, and non-degree students. Located the first floor of Hibbs Hall.

University Counseling Services (UCS): This office provides comprehensive clinical services, advocacy, recovery support, outreach, and professional training. They offer short-term and focused treatment. All enrolled students have the opportunity to meet with a clinician to assess the specific needs and how to best meet those needs.

VCU Career Services (VCS): Provides individual advising, as well as career resources and guides. They can help with searching for jobs, internships, and other opportunities, as well as customized career events focused on skill-building, learning about industries and career paths, and networking. They also offer free headshots and the Suit Yourself closet where you can get some professional clothes for free!

Virtual Student Services Center (Virtual SSC): Virtually chat with an advisor about student accounting, financial aid, or general information. You can also browse self-help articles and call the SSC.

Waitlist: The waitlist option is offered on a first-come, first-served basis for select courses when a class is full. This option is not available for every class. If a seat becomes available in the course, students will receive an email to register for the course.

Withdraw: When you remove yourself from a course, or drop, so you are no longer taking that course. Charges are assessed and adjusted according to VCU’s refund policy. Medical withdrawals are treated no differently than other withdrawals. Students who withdraw may owe a balance to the university.

Writing Center: Meet with a writing tutor to get assistance at all stages of the writing process, from brainstorming to final draft. It does not matter your major or if you’re an undergrad or graduate student. Schedule an in-person or virtual appointment through Navigate.