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Glossary of Terms

Academic Class: Assigned to entering undergraduate students based on number of credits already earned (including transfer credits): freshman, 0-23 credits; sophomore, 24-53 credits; junior, 54-84 credits; senior, 85+ credits. Also, see "social class" below.

Add/Drop Period: For roughly two weeks at the beginning of each semester, you can adjust your course schedule: drop courses you registered for but don't want to take; add new courses (if they still have open seats). 

Advisor: W&M embraces the faculty-advisor model, with the term faculty advisor encompassing pre-major advisors, major advisors, and pre-professional program advisors.

  • Academic Advisor: A staff advisor in the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.
  • Pre-Major Advisor: A faculty member who serves as an advisor for students before they declare their majors, typically throughout the freshman and sophomore years.
  • Major Advisor: A faculty member who serves as an advisor for students who have declared their major within that faculty member’s discipline.
  • Pre-professional Program Advisor: A faculty member who assists students in planning coursework around an intended professional program (post-graduation).

Alternate Pin: A six-digit number students use to access Banner registration in the first year. The number is provided by your pre-major advisor.

Attribute: A descriptive tag associated with a course. One common use is to identify courses that meet COLL requirements. You can search for attributes directly in the various online course listings.

Audit (a course): A way to take a course and be graded either satisfactory or unsatisfactory, without earning credit. Audited courses appear on your transcript; do not count toward the 12 earned credit hour minimum required for undergraduate students; and do count toward the 18 earned credit hour maximum allowed for undergraduate students.

B.A.: Bachelor of Arts degree.

B.S.: Bachelor of Science degree.

Banner: The software platform used to register for classes, check your grades, verify your personal records and financial information, and more.

Catalog: The undergraduate catalog is your official "contract" with W&M. Students fulfill the general education requirements described in the catalog that's in effect when you matriculate. Students fulfill the major requirements described in the catalog that's in effect when you declare your major.

College Studies: The online summer course for entering freshman students, also offered to transfer students, focusing on strategic course planning and information literacy.

Concentration: A structured course of study within a major. For example, you can get a B.S. in Kinesiology with a concentration in Public Health.

Continuance Requirements: To continue as a full-time undergraduate student, you will need to meet these minimum requirements.

Co-requisite: A course that must be taken at the same time as another course. Many laboratory courses have the associated lecture course as a co-requisite.

Course Prefix: The four-letter code that indicates the department or program offering the course. Example: CHEM 103

Course Substitution - Before you graduate, you need to take some specific courses to fulfill major and degree requirements. By submitting a Course Substitution Request form [pdf], you might substitute one of the required courses with a different one that has similar learning goals. Approval is not automatic.

Credit Hour: A unit of measurement for educational credit. Many courses are 3 or 4 credits, and many labs are 1 credit.

CRN (Course Reference Number): Each class section offered has a unique number attached to it.

Dean's List: A recognition of students earning a 3.6+ GPA in a semester.

Degree Works: The information system that allows students to track progress toward completing their degrees.

Department: An academic unit that offers classes and majors. Each department has a main office where you can ask for information or be referred to faculty in your interest area.

Elective: A course that counts toward the 120 credits needed for graduation but does not fulfill proficiency, major, COLL, or minor requirements.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): A federal law that protects the privacy of student records.

Grade Mode: The way in which a course is graded. The most common grade modes are standard grade (letter grade from A to F) and pass/fail (P for pass or F for fail).

Grade Point Average: Also known as "GPA." The average value of your final course grades over a period of time (e.g., semester GPA, cumulative GPA).

Hold: An administrative "hold" on your student record can prevent registration, receipt of transcripts, and more. To resolve the issue, contact the office that placed the hold.

Honor Code: The Honor Code sets the standards for the way in which we live, learn, and work together in the W&M community.

Honors: In A&S majors, advanced students can undertake an Honors project/thesis. W&M awards the Latin Honors cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude at graduation based on grade point average.

Incomplete GradeAn incomplete grade for a course indicates that you have not yet completed essential coursework because of illness or other extenuating circumstances.

Independent Study: A course involving structured independent research under the supervision of a faculty member. Independent Study courses usually culminate with a research paper or other project.

Internship: A period of work off campus, often arranged through an academic department or program and complementing your program of study. Some internships qualify for academic credit [pdf].

Knowledge Domain: Three knowledge areas that apply in the COLL 200 courses and the knowledge domain elective courses. They are: ALV (Arts, Letters, and Values); CSI (Cultures, Society, and the Individual); and NQR (Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning).

Matriculate: To formally begin your studies at W&M. Opening Convocation celebrates the matriculation of new students.

myW&M: Your portal for W&M digital resources. It includes links to email, Banner, and Blackboard.

Office Hours: Every professor has specific hours where students can drop by their office without an appointment to discuss their class. These hours are listed in the course syllabus. You may make appointments to meet with professors outside these hours.

Overload: When you enroll in more than 18 credits during an academic semester.

Plagiarism: A form of academic dishonesty that consists of using someone else's words or ideas without clearly identifying the source. Plagiarism is a violation of the Honor Code.

Policy Waiver - To graduate from William & Mary, you need to meet various degree requirements. In rare circumstances, one or more of these requirements may cause undue hardship or be impossible to meet. By submitting a Policy Waiver Petition [pdf] to the Committee on Degrees, you might receive an exception to the policy. Policy Waivers are given only in extraordinary circumstances.

Pre-Matriculation Credits: Credits you earned before beginning your studies at W&M.

Prerequisite: A course that must be completed before you enroll in another course. The prerequisite course covers knowledge or skills you need to have mastered before taking the second course.

Probation: Students whose academic work falls below the minimum continuance requirements will be placed on probation for the following semester.

Proficiency: A requirement whose fulfillment demonstrates skill in a given area.

Program: An academic, interdisciplinary unit within Arts & Sciences that offers classes and majors. Each program has a main office where you can ask for information or be referred to faculty in your interest area.

Reinstatement: The return to good standing of a student who has been suspended.

Research: Every faculty member at William & Mary conducts research, and you'll do the same in your course assignments. Here's a pretty definition from Merriam-Webster: "The investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws."

Restricted Courses: Courses open only to students in certain majors or only to students at certain academic levels.

Restricted Majors: Majors for which students must meet certain criteria in order to declare. 

Scholarship: Often used interchangeably with "research," the emphasis here is on activities that help to integrate new knowledge into a larger context.

Self-Designed Major: A major constructed by the student, under the supervision of a faculty member and approved by the Charles Center.

Social Class: Your "social class" indicates the year of your projected graduation (e.g., Class of 2020).

Suspension: A temporary or permanent separation from W&M.

Syllabus: The semester plan and expectations for a course, distributed by a professor at the beginning of the course.

Transcript: A complete record of all your academic work, provided by the institution. You can provide a transcript from another institution to petition for transfer credit. You can provide a transcript from William & Mary to support your graduate or employment application.

Transfer Credit: Credits from another university or college that are posted to your academic record, documenting college-level coursework or pre-matriculation exam credits.

Underload: When a student takes fewer than 12 credits during an academic semester.

Undergraduate Research: At W&M, this term generally refers to a faculty-mentored research experience of some kind.

Variable Credit Course: A variable credit course could be from 1 to 3 credit hours, for example. The student can chose whether to take the course for 1, 2, or 3 credit hours.