MassTransfer: Your way to maximize credit and complete a degree in Massachusetts' public colleges & universities

Glossary of Terms


Academic Program: A program of study, usually involving knowledge and research, and usually leading to a diploma, certificate, associate, bachelor’s, master’s doctor’s or first-professional degree.

Accreditation: Accreditation is a voluntary process of higher education oversight that serves to assure the public of the institution’s quality and to promote continuous institutional improvement. In Massachusetts, the organization that oversees the accreditation process is the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. An institution that has gone through the accreditation process is called an accredited institution.

Admissions: Being accepted into an institution, college, or program once the entrance requirements are met. Some admissions are limited by spaces available, and by selection criteria. The basis of admission is the evidence, primarily academic, on which your admission decision is based, for example your high school record, college credits, GPA, etc.

Advanced placement courses (AP): College-level courses taught in high school. Students may take an examination at the completion of the course; some colleges accept certain scores as college credit or advanced standing.

Application: The formal way of notifying an institution that you want to become a student at the institution.

Applied Degree: A degree in an applied subject such as allied health and computer information systems. Applied degrees are career-focused, and coursework is directed at occupational training and development.

Articulation Agreements: A type of transfer agreement between two or more institutions for a particular academic program or major.

Associate Degree: An academic degree awarded by community colleges and some colleges or universities.

Bachelor’s degree (or Baccalaureate degree): An undergraduate academic degree awarded for a course or major.

Basis of Admission: See Admissions.

Catalog: The book of rules, regulations, policies, programs, requirements, and courses for a particular institution. Also called course catalog or college catalog.

Certificate: Recognition of successful completion of a program of study; certificate programs vary in length.

Chair: The head of a program or department. “Coordinator” is sometimes used synonymously with “Chair.”

Co-op/Internship: The system of having paid (co-op) or unpaid (internship) work placements, usually four to eight months, as a component of a program of study with earned college credit.

Core Requirements: See General Education Courses.

Credit: The value given to a course. May be related to the number of hours of instruction. The majority of academic courses are worth three credits. Associate degrees generally require 60 or more credits and bachelor’s degrees require 120 or more credits.

Dean: Head of a Division or College (e.g., the Dean of Student Affairs or the Dean of the College of Education).

Degree: Recognition of successful completion of a program of study often with a specific major or minor. See also associate degree and bachelor's degree.

Department: Faculty and administrators associated with a particular discipline or academic program (e.g., the Sociology Department).

Developmental Coursework: Instructional courses designed for students who need additional coursework to meet an instutition's required subject knowledge. This is sometimes referred to as Remedial Coursework.

Diploma: Recognition of successful completion of a program of study.

Distribution Requirements: See General Education Courses.

Dual Enrollment: A program through which high school students may enroll in college courses while still enrolled in high school. Students are not required to apply for admission to the college in order to participate.

Exemption: The waiving of a prerequisite or required course for students who have proven they have comparable learning. The student may be required to replace the prerequisite course with an alternate course.

Elective Courses: Courses to fulfill the elective requirement, if applicable, of your major. A list of choices is often provided.

Financial Aid: Grants, loans, assistantships, scholarships, fellowships, tuition waivers, tuition discounts, veteran's benefits, employer aid (tuition reimbursement) and other monies (other than from relatives/friends) provided to students to meet expenses.

FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the form used by the U.S. Department of Education and most all colleges and universities to determine eligibility for federal, state, and college-sponsored financial aid. The form may be completed electronically. Note: Deadlines for completing the FAFSA may differ from the institution’s admissions deadline.

GPA or Grade Point Average: The average overall grade for all courses taken for credit in a particular semester, year or institution. A cumulative GPA is the average of all grades for courses taken to date at one institution. Note: During the transfer process, you may have two GPAs: one calculated by your current institution, and your GPA as re-calculated by the transfer institution. The calculation by the institution you are applying to is called the admission GPA, and this number may be different than what your current institution reports as your GPA.

General Education Courses: Courses designed to introduce students to the fundamental knowledge, skills and values essential to the study of academic disciplines; in some instances any prerequisite or supporting course requirements for the major can be taken and counted as general education requirements. Also referred to as Core Requirements or Distribution Requirements.

Independent (or Private) Institution: A post-secondary institution supported by private funds, rather than state funds.

Lower Division (or Lower Level) Courses: Generally courses numbered 100 and 200 (e.g., ENG 101 and PSY 223), usually making up the initial courses taken towards a bachelor’s degree.

Major: A program of study in a degree where about 25-50% of the courses are in a single discipline (e.g., Philosophy, History).
Minor: A program of study requiring fewer courses than a major.

Non-credit Course: A course taken for learning value rather than for credit. A grade may be assigned, but the course is not usually applicable to degree requirements.
Native Student: A student is native to the institution where they begin their college career.

Post-secondary Institution: The level of education following high school, provided by colleges and universities.

Prerequisite: A course you must complete before taking a more advanced course in the discipline.

Public Institution: A post-secondary institution supported in part by state funds.

Receiving Institution: The institution to which you are transferring.

Registration: The process of enrolling in individual courses after completion of all required admission procedures.

Remedial Coursework: See Developmental Coursework.

Requirement: A course you must take in order to complete your major or degree.

Residency: The number of courses or credits (or percentage of the program) you must complete at an institution to graduate from that institution. This has nothing to do with living on campus.

Sending Institution: The institution from which you are transferring.

Syllabus (Syllabi): A description of the main content, organization and expected outcomes of a course, normally including the number of credits awarded, hours of class time, how students are evaluated, assignments, and texts.

Transcript: An official record of student performance showing all schoolwork completed at a given school and the final mark or other evaluation received in each portion of the instruction. Transcripts often include an explanation of the marking scale used by the school.

Transfer: Consists of the granting of credit (transfer credit) toward a credential by one institution, for programs or courses completed at another.

Transfer Student: A student who attends one institution (sending institution) and then transfers their coursework to another (receiving institution).

Upper Division (or Upper Level): Courses at the 300-level or above, usually taken during the later portion of a bachelor’s degree. Institutions and programs have requirements for how many upper division/upper level courses you need to take.