Marts Hall, located on Bucknell's Malesardi Quad, is home to administrative services like the bursar's office and the registrar's office. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

College 101: Essential Terms You’ll Want to Know Before Starting College

April 5, 2024

by Bryan Wendell

Marts Hall, located on Bucknell's Malesardi Quad, is home to administrative services like the bursar's office and the registrar's office. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

By the time you reach senior year of high school, you've become the GOAT at understanding the lingo of applying to college. By that point, all the acronyms (SAT, ACT, AP, GPA, FAFSA) and terms (Common App, Coalition App, credits, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation) need no further explanation.

But once you arrive at college to start the next four years of your life, you'll encounter a whole new set of terms that you might not have heard — at least not in the context of higher education.

To help you prepare, we've collected a few of these essential terms below. You'll likely hear these used in meetings and emails whether you attend Bucknell or anywhere else, so we've included definitions with each.

For those headed to Lewisburg in the fall, we've also shared specifics about how those terms are used at Bucknell — helping you start strong from day one.

Welcome to College 101.

Key Terms to Know


Basic Description

Bucknell-specific Notes


Chief administrative officer; the highest authority at a university; responsible for all operations; sometimes referred to as chancellor, depending on the institution.

Learn about Bucknell President John Bravman.


Chief academic officer; responsible for curriculum, faculty, academic policies, accreditation of the institution.

Wendy Sternberg has been named Bucknell's next provost and will take office in July. Professor Margot Vigeant is interim provost.

Academic Dean

Chief administrator of a specific college or set of departments within a college, where they oversee academics.

College of Arts & Sciences: Dean Karl Voss.
College of Engineering: Dean Brad Putman.
Freeman College of Management: Dean Michelle Roehm will take office in July. Professor Cynthia Guthrie is interim dean.

Academic Associate Dean

Administrator responsible for supporting the academic success of students in their college, including connecting students with appropriate resources to support their success on campus.

College of Arts & Sciences: Dean Bethany Collier
College of Engineering: Dean Terri Norton
Freeman College of Management: Dean Ivy Kepner

Dean of Students

Oversees student life (or life outside of the classroom) and typically is responsible for residential education and housing, health and wellness, student activities, conduct, and diversity and inclusion.

Teresa McKinney is the interim dean of students.

Department Chair

Faculty member who is the administrator of an academic department; elected by fellow professors and serves a fixed term.

Check a department's webpage on to find the name and contact information of its chair. If you have questions about specific courses, first check the course guide. If you still have questions after reviewing the course information, contact that course's instructor.

Course Catalog

A course catalog is the official record of courses offered by a university during a specific academic year. It includes detailed information about course requirements for academic majors and minors.

The course catalog is a great resource to explore the requirements of different majors and minors in an in-depth way. This information can help you map out your classes over future semesters and prepare you to get the most out of meetings with your academic adviser.

Course Guide

Lists courses available in a given semester — you'll use this to plan registration for the upcoming semester. This is different from the course catalog.

Consult the Course Information page for a listing of available courses. For details about a particular course, click on Course Guide. If you still have questions, contact the instructor directly — they'll be glad to help.

Registrar's Office

Processes course registration and withdrawal; manages class scheduling; monitors academic progress toward a degree; reviews transfer and AP courses for credit; maintains official educational records, transcripts and degree verifications.

To speak with registrar staff, call 570-577-1201, email or stop by Marts 102.

Bursar's Office

Processes student payments and refunds; issues billing statements.

Bucknell Bursar Services is located in Marts 108 and can be reached at 570-577-3733 or

Teaching Assistant

A student who works as a professor's assistant in a specific course and serves as an academic resource to students enrolled in that course.

Bucknell teaching assistants, or "TAs," can help answer questions about assignments and labs — don't hesitate to ask. At many schools, TAs, often grad students, will teach portions of a class, often called "recitations." At Bucknell, TAs are still a valuable resource, but professors teach the class.

Academic Assistant

Administrative assistant for an academic department; supports faculty and serves as a non-academic resource for students.

Academic assistants have extensive knowledge of department and University operations — they can often help with questions that do not require a professor to answer.

Academic Adviser

A faculty member who provides guidance for course selection and helps ensure that students fulfill the academic requirements needed to earn their degree. Academic advisers may also provide assistance with career or graduate/professional school advice and referrals to other resources on campus.

At Bucknell, your first-year academic adviser will be determined by your college or foundation seminar. You'll receive your academic adviser assignment when you arrive on campus. To get the most out of your advising session, be sure to prepare in advance by reviewing our online resources, which explain the advising and course registration process from start to finish.

Financial Aid Office

Processes applications for and disbursement of funds to pay for the cost of attending college. Aid can come in forms including grants, loans and work-study.

Bucknell's Office of Financial Aid is available to assist students and their families throughout their years at the University. Reach them at or 570-577-1331, or stop by 621 St. George St.

Office Hours (Drop-in Hours)

Regular times established by a faculty member for office meetings with students. Some professors may require booking an appointment in advance, others offer "drop-in" hours. Check your course syllabus for details.

Be sure to take advantage of the office hours offered by your Bucknell professors. They welcome the opportunity to answer your questions about classes, discuss ideas or offer feedback. Your faculty will help you get the most out of your Bucknell experience and beyond, so don't hesitate to connect.

Credit Hour

A credit hour is the measurement unit for academic course credit. The number of credit hours per course varies by institution.

At Bucknell, most academic courses are worth one credit, with 32 or 34 credits required to earn a four-year undergraduate degree. That means you'll take, on average, four courses each semester.


A syllabus is a document that explains class expectations, policies, assignments and grading for an academic course. It is provided by the professor at the beginning of the semester as your primary reference for class information.

When you have questions about a class, first check the syllabus. If you don't find the information you're looking for, or if you still have questions, contact your professor and ask.

Resident Assistant

A student who holds the job of peer leader for a group of students living in one section of a residence hall. "RAs" build community, serve as a resource for residents and enforce residence hall rules.

Bucknell RAs are committed to making your first year on campus the best it can be — they're ready to answer your questions and help you make connections. RAs are supervised by community directors (CDs), professional staff who lead a specific residence hall community and get to know all of the first-year students living there.


University chaplains provide religious and spiritual guidance to members of a campus community.

Bucknell has four chaplains dedicated to serving the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim communities. They are available to meet with students of any faith background.


A multiday welcome event with programming to introduce new students to all aspects of college life and help ensure their smooth transition to campus.

New Student Orientation is an action-packed week where your first Bucknell friendships will begin. From academic advising to social events, educational sessions and traditional ceremonies, we'll make sure you feel at home and ready to start your life as a Bucknellian. We also offer an optional Pre-Orientation with themed programs that take place just before general Orientation begins.

Orientation Assistant

A student leader who is trained to guide a group of new students through the orientation process.

Bucknell "OAs" introduce first-year and transfer students to University life and serve as a resource during your first weeks on campus.

For Terms Not Covered Above

If you hear an unfamiliar term in your first weeks of college, don't worry. Everyone was a first-year student once, and they remember what it's like to start a whole new chapter of life.

For academic questions, check with your adviser, a professor, a TA or your academic associate dean. For questions about residential life, ask your RA, who can refer you to the right place for help.