Academic Terminology - The University of Tulsa
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Academic Terminology

Some terms used in the United States or at The University of Tulsa may be different than what you are familiar with. This section explains terms as they are used at The University of Tulsa.


COLLEGE – In the USA, a college offers university courses. Students must graduate from high school before attending a college. A U.S. college may be a small university or it may be a unit within a larger university. The University of Tulsa is divided into four undergraduate colleges: Arts & Sciences, Business, Health & Natural Sciences, and Engineering & Computer Science. In addition, TU has two graduate colleges: the graduate school and the law school.

BACHELOR DEGREE – In the USA, after completing high school,
a student may apply for a bachelor’s degree program. A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years of college or university study and is awarded by a college or university in a specific subject area.

UNDERGRADUATE – In the USA, an undergraduate is a student who is enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program at a college or university. Students must complete high school before being admitted to undergraduate study.

GRADUATE STUDENT – In the USA, a graduate student has already completed a bachelor’s degree and is enrolled in a higher-level university program such as a master’s, doctorate, or law.

MAJOR – In a U.S. bachelor’s degree program, a major is the area of academic study on which a student chooses to focus. Upon completion of requirements set by the university and by the specific college, the student will receive a bachelor’s degree in the major field of study.

MINOR – In a U.S. bachelor’s degree program, the minor is an additional, less intensive area of study the student may choose to combine with the major. A minor requires fewer credit hours than a major.


COURSE – a class lasting one semester. Most courses meet one to three times per week. Most students enroll in four to six courses per semester.

COURSE NUMBER – the reference number for each class. Courses numbered from 1001-1990 are primarily for freshmen, 2000-2990 for sophomores, 3000-3990 for juniors, 4000-4990 for seniors, and 7000+ for graduate students. The last number in the course generally states the credit value of the course. For example, ENGL 1033 is a freshman-level course that awards three credits.

CREDIT HOUR or SEMESTER HOUR – a measurement of
university instruction and academic work. U.S. university courses are measured by the number of hours per week that a class meets. A one-credit-hour course meets one hour per week for about 15 weeks (full semester). After completing a one-credit-hour course the student has earned one credit. Most university courses are three credits (three hours in class per week for 15 weeks). This does not include time outside of class doing homework or projects. Usually, a student should plan to spend two hours per week studying outside of class for each hour in class. For
example, a three-credit-hour class will meet with the professor three hours per week, and students will need to spend about six hours per week doing homework and studying for that class.

CLASSIFICATION – Undergraduate students are classified based on the number of credit hours completed as follows:

Freshman: 0 – 29 credit hours completed
Sophomore: 30 – 59 credit hours completed
Junior: 60 – 89 credit hours completed
Senior: 90+ credit hours completed
ELECTIVE – a course that a student may choose according to his or her personal interest and that fulfills degree requirements but is not necessarily related to the student’s major.

ENROLL – to register for a class.

FULL-TIME ENROLLMENT – U.S. F-1 student visa regulations require international students to be enrolled full-time during both fall and spring semesters. Full-time enrollment is 12 credit hours during a regular semester (fall or spring). Most students actually enroll in 15 or 16 credit hours per semester. The University of Tulsa charges a flat rate for full-time enrollment up to 18 credit hours. That is, as long as a student is enrolled in at least 12 credit hours, the student may take up to 18 credit hours for the same price as 12 credit hours.

GRADE POINT AVERAGE (GPA) – a general indication of academic performance. The highest possible GPA at The University of Tulsa is 4.0. For each credit hour that a student earns an A, the student receives four grade points; for each credit hour that a student earns a B, the student receives three grade points; for a C, two points; for a D, one point; and for an F, zero points. To compute a GPA, determine the total number of grade points earned and divide by the total number of credit hours. Example:

Course 1003 earned B, 3 credit hours x 3 points = 12 points
Course 1092 earned B, 2 credit hours x 3 points = 6 points
Course 1063 earned C, 3 credit hours x 2 points = 6 points
Total number of points = 24

Total number of credit hours = 8

GPA = 24 points / 8 credit hours = 3.0 GPA

PLAGIARISM – to use someone else’s words or ideas and claim them as your own. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense and could result in a failing grade or dismissal from the university.

PREREQUISITE – a course that must be taken before the student can enroll in a more advanced course.

PROBATION – A student may be placed on probation or dismissed from the university if his or her cumulative GPA drops below 2.0. A student may also be placed on probation or dismissed for reasons other than poor grades, including but not limited to the falsification of application materials or academic records, failure to maintain the standards of academic, ethical, or professional integrity expected in the colleges or in a particular discipline or program, and failure to satisfy these or other program or college requirements in a timely fashion. The decision to remove a student from academic probation may be made only by the dean of the college in which the student is enrolled. Students who remain on probation for two semesters in a row may be dismissed from the university.

SYLLABUS – A general outline/plan of a course. Some syllabi will be highly detailed while others will be more general. Information that may appear in a syllabus includes the grading scale, attendance policy, reading assignments, exams, upcoming projects and the professor’s office hours and contact information.

TRANSCRIPT – A student’s official academic record. This lists all university classes with grades earned for each class. Only the Registrar’s Office issues transcripts.

This is only a guide to assist you in understanding the academic terms used at The University of Tulsa. For official academic policy consult the Undergraduate Bulletin.