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The A-Z How to Survive College Completely On Your Own List


ADD/DROP CLASSES: At the beginning of the semester, there may be a short window of time you can add or withdraw from a class without it affecting your transcript – check with your advisor first. 

AMAZON!: 2-day shipping, stream movies and original content, and more discounts at Whole Foods if you scan at check-out

ATM: Automatic Teller Machine – where you can withdraw money from your bank checking account. Watch those extra fees, they add up quickly. And find out where your bank offers no-fee ATM machines.

ADVISOR: A faculty member assigned to you to advise (re: course registration, requirements, and more). Start to build that relationship now.

APR: Annual Percentage Rate for credit card purchases (i.e. how much you will pay in interest if you don’t pay in full and on time).

APPs: AKA  the applications on your phone and yes, there’s an APP FOR THAT. See our link to student faves.

ASSOCIATE’S DEGREE: A degree awarded for completing 2-year Community College

AUDIT:  Attend a class without receiving any credit


BANK: Where you keep your money! Don’t bank with your parent’s bank just because you think that’s easy. If it’s not in a network of ATMs around your campus you’ll get hit with some serious fees that add up quickly. While $4 doesn’t sound like much, 8 ATM withdrawals in a month = $32! X 10 months of school = $320 (Shop around & do your $ homework!)

BACHELOR’S DEGREE: A degree awarded to undergraduates after completing four years of classes

BURSAR: The campus accounting department that handles all the student tuition & billing

BREAKFAST!: You won’t be able to concentrate in class if you’re hungry. Keep protein in your fridge & grab a bite before class.

“BIG”: Big brother or sister (mentor) to a new pledge in the Greek system

BUDGET: A monthly spending plan that takes into account all your income and expenses. It can help you save and make sure you’re not spending money you don’t have.


CAREER FAIR: Go to it! A great way to find internships, part-time and full-time jobs while going to school. Multiple companies visit your school looking for potential employees – check out what we have to say in our “Want to land your dream internship?” article. Oh, and read how to prepare for career fair success here. 

CSS PROFILE: Online application to determine eligibility for non-federal aid. This is required by many schools in addition to FAFSA. Start your application here: (There’s a $25 fee for each school you apply to, but fees can be waived.)

COA: Cost of attendance or the average cost of expenses of attending school over a certain period of time. This is calculated by the school and includes tuition, room & board, misc. fees, book allowance, transportation, etc. Your COA helps determine how much you are eligible to borrow.

CO-INSURANCE: Once you’ve met your deductible, your insurance will cover a higher percentage of a medical bill (leaving you responsible for paying less).

CO-PAY: The flat-fee you pay for some medical costs (decided by your insurance plan)

COMMENCEMENT: Graduation Day ! ‍‍👩‍🎓🎓👨‍🎓🎓

CREDIT CARD: Like a loan or advance on money. Careful, it’s too easy to tap & swipe your way through the month for things you like/want but don’t need or have money for.

CREDIT HOURS: # of hours a week assigned to a class. The # also determines if you are considered a full- or part-time student. 


DATA PLAN: The plan for your mobile phone service that lets you call, text, browse the internet every month without facing overage fees. You may want to get a new carrier/plan if you plan to go abroad. If you’re not going to stick to WiFi when you travel outside of the country, you should consider T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan. Or just arrange to “rent” a phone with a SIM card affiliated with that country.

DEBIT CARD: Pay card that deducts money straight from your bank account

DEBT: This is when you owe money that you currently can’t pay off in full. It happens a lot with credit cards and student loans. 

DEDUCTIBLE: The amount you have to pay in insurance costs (medical, auto, renters) before your insurance company starts paying a portion of the bill

DRN: Data Release Number, assigned by Federal Student Aid (FSA), enables students to ask FAFSA customer service to change personal info/school list after applications have been submitted. Keep your DRN & FSA ID safe.

DROPBOX: Digital storage service that lets you upload and share files. Get a free account and keep your work in the cloud.

DEFERRAL: Federal student loans can be temporarily postponed. 

DELINQUENCY & DEFAULT: You become delinquent if you fail to make your loan payments. After missing so many monthly payments, you are considered in default.

DIRECT LOANS (& INDIRECT LOANS): Direct loans pay tuition and dorm fees. Indirect loans pay for books, transportation and other misc. expenses.


ELECTIVE: Class you take that is not required by your major; a chance to expand your knowledge base in other areas of interest

EFC: “Expected Family Contribution” – often seen on financial aid applications. After the FAFSA is processed, you’ll receive a “Student Aid Report”, which includes an EFC amount. You can expect there will be additional expenses to pay, though. Try out the EFC Calculator at to estimate.

EXERCISE: It’s not only good to work off pizza, but also to clear your mind. And it makes for a great, healthy study break.


FAFSA: FREE Application for Federal Student Aid. Filing usually begins Oct. 1. Don’t stall! Apply here: And click here for our FAFSA to-do list.

FACEBOOK: Not a bad idea to join your university and class pages for important announcements. Also useful when you lose something or need a ride. Plus, you can even sell or buy stuff on the Facebook Marketplace. Parents, there’s a page for you too.

FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that grants privacy and access to grades & educational records. Parents need to sign academic & financial forms to be granted access. Check out your college’s registrar page for the details.

FICO SCORE: Your credit score or a glance at your financial history. It is determined by how frequently your bills are paid on time, how many cards you have, whether you exceed your credit limit and how much debt you have. Fair: 630-689. Good: 690-719. Excellent: 720+

FREE: Not always! You’ll often find that free offers only come with a purchase or with opening an account. Read the fine print!!

FORBEARANCE: If you can’t pay your federal or private student loan because you lost your job or can’t work for medical reasons, you can ask for forbearance. You will still accrue interest that’s added to your loan balance.


GEN EDS: General Education Requirements are the courses that are required to graduate.

GRANTS: Need-based and merit-based money offers that don’t require re-payment

GREEK: Many schools have a variety of sororities and fraternities on- and off-campus. This is called the Greek System. 

GRAMMARLY: You’ll be writing a lot! Many students say this is the best free app for spell check & more.

GOOGLE DOCS: Similar to Microsoft Word but it’s all saved online in your Google Drive cloud. Easy to edit, share, and it saves automatically. GRACE PERIOD: Professors may give you extra time to turn in an assignment in case of emergency. Check first.


H2O: You need to drink it daily and especially at parties. It’s good 4U! 

HIPPA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Students over age 18: Give your parents written permission for health-related information or decisions.

HOLD: A student’s account (i.e. fees & forms) must be up-to-date in order to register for a class or receive a transcript or diploma. If it isn’t, his or her account is put on hold.

HOMESICK: The feeling you get when you are really missing your peeps! With all of the adjustments you are making, multitasking, stress and deadlines, it’s super common. Try talking to your RA (resident advisor), Student Health or connecting with a friend on campus. Stay in touch using Skype or FaceTime.

HULU: Why pay for cable? Subscribe to a streaming service like HULU for your entertainment instead.

HYGGE: Danish word for cozy contentment. You’ll want to make your tiny space your comfort zone and an inviting space.


INSURANCE CLAIM: You have insurance so they can help you pay! A claim is a charge from your insurance company. Keep your policy #’s on-hand. See if your doctor’s office will file a request electronically on your behalf. Otherwise, log in to the insurance company website and download a claim to fill out and mail (or fax).

INDIRECT LOANS: $ to cover a range of college expenses other than tuition and housing. Examples include books and transportation costs.

INTERNSHIP: Work (often unpaid) available to students, a great way to get experience and training. It’s never too early to start networking to land yours. Two awesome sites for info, guides, resume help and internship listings: Wayup and InternQueen. Check out our (link to other articles).

INTERTERM: Special class offerings between semesters

INSUFFICIENT FUNDS: Don’t let yourself get to this point or you’ll be hit with lots of fees! Make sure you always have the minimum amount of funds in your checking account and that you always have enough $ available to pay your bills. P.S. Get the mobile app for your bank.

ISBN: A searchable # under the bar code that’s usually on the back of a book. You can enter the ISBN into most search engines & find the options for purchasing or renting your book.

INTEREST RATES: The percentage of your credit card bill you’ll have to pay in fees if you don’t pay in full each month. Pay up or your fees will add up.


JOB: (Get one!) College life is expensive, so try to make some spare cash. Check out campus listings for local/on-campus jobs or take a look at for available opportunities.


KEYCARD: Don’t lose it! Whether it’s for your dorm, apartment, or job.

KEYS: Don’t lose those either.


LATE FEES: They ADD UP! Pay your bills (in full) before the due date. Sign for mobile alerts and/or auto-pay if available. Make sure you have enough in your account.

LATTES: Everyone loves a latte, but do the math & you’ll say whoa. If you need to save some $, try making your own coffee. Check out this article:

LAUNDRY: Mom can’t help you anymore. Learn what you need to do it correctly on your own. 

LD: Learning disabilities/differences. Every school has a department. If you qualify, you can receive accommodations such as extended time, class notes, a personal counselor and more.

LIBRARY: Find it. Use it! Not just for borrowing books, but quiet study spots, computers, printer access and more.

LINKEDIN: Sign up now and set up your profile. Learn to use it and start making connections.

“LITTLE”:  New member or pledge to a sorority or fraternity member


MAJOR: A concentration of course requirements you must complete to get your degree 

MINOR: Additional courses of a specialty 

MERIT: Some scholarships are awarded based on academic performance.

MIDTERMS: Just like high school midterms, these exams will determine determine your progress midway through a semester. Also a good time to ask for additional support.


NETWORK: it’s never too early to start networking and making contacts in your possible fields of interest. Start attending your campus career fairs and making connections.

NETFLIX: Skip the cable and stream thousands of shows and movies (use your family account to save $).


OFFICE HOURS: Use them! Try to let your professor get to know you.

ORGANIZE: Get a planner or journal. Sometimes things in the Cloud can disappear…

ORIENTATION: A must! As a freshman, you’ll have mandatory sessions & fun activities to meet new students and get to know your way around campus. Remember, all the fellow freshmen are in the same boat.

OVERDRAFT: Occurs when you do not have enough $ in you account to cover a transaction. Depending on which type of account you have, your bank may charge you approx. $35 per returned check. Talk to your bank and see if they offer overdraft protection.


P2P: Peer to peer mobile payment ie: Venmo, Cash app, or Zelle

PASSPORT: YOU WILL NEED IT IF YOU PLAN TO: spend a semester abroad, spring break or even if you go to school in upstate New York or Detroit & plan to go to Canada for the weekend. Note that certain countries want your passport valid 6 months AFTER your departure from their country. Keep copies in a safe place & with you when you travel.

Also, come Oct. of 2020, if you don’t have the new version of a driver’s license you will be required to show your passport even for Domestic (within the USA ) destinations.

PROCRASTINATE: Just don’t! The workload is a lot more than high school & it keeps accumulating…

PLEDGING: Process of joining a sorority or fraternity. Pledges = the newest members

PREREQUISITE: Courses to be completed and passed before you can enroll in a class 

PSA: Public Service Announcement


QUIET!: There are times that you will need to respect your roommates. There are quiet floors in the library, too.


RUSH: The process of selection in your school’s greek system

REGISTRAR: Office that manages student transcripts and miscellaneous forms

RA: Resident Assistant, or school-trained student who lives in a dorm to help students with conflicts, rules, and lends an ear to your issues on campus, etc.

RENTER’S INSURANCE: Sad to say, but &@%! happens & theft exists. Double-check to see if your parent’s homeowner’s insurance may cover some loss away from home (if they have it). If there’s an accident at your apartment or your laptop or other valuables are stolen, renter’s insurance can cover it. Allstate offers approximately $250/year for up to $10,000. Talk to an insurance agent for a quote.

ROUTING #: If you ever have to pay a bill over the phone, the routing # is your bank’s unique code. It’s the 9 digits before the account # on a check.


SAR: Student Aid Report. It shows the info the schools and government will use to determine eligibility for financial aid. The schools you listed on the FAFSA receive copies.

SCHOLARSHIP: Merit-based & grant-based free money. Tuition is costly, spend time researching

STREAM: The easiest way to save money on cable. Popular services are Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.

SYLLABUS: Info provided by your professors at the beginning of the semester listing the course requirements, book titles and dates for projects, exams, and days off (which are subject to change). Also may include attendance and grading policies.

SAFETY: Don’t walk alone at night, be aware of your surroundings & emergency phones, use an escort service to get back to your dorm, let a friend know where you are, don’t drink (too much), keep your computer passwords safe & practice safe sex! When getting into a rideshare (Uber/Lyft/Via), make sure it’s the correct driver, car, license # & the child locks are in the unlocked position. NEVER meet a stranger alone.


TRANSCRIPT: An official record of the courses you have taken and completed, along with your grades. 

TUTOR: Don’t be shy. Line up help as soon as you think you could use it. Check w/ your professors or TA (Teaching Assistant). Each department may have a list of upperclassmen or grad students that can help!

TA: Teacher’s Assistant. Often large lectures have TA’s (usually grad students) to run small discussion groups.

TAXES: If you had a summer job and earned over $12,000 you can expect to receive a W-2/4 by as early as January. Talk w/ your parents about how you should file.TWITTER: Follow your schools account for very important alerts (be the first to know it’s a snow day)


UMBRELLA: Be prepared…carry a mini in your backpack.

UNDECIDED/UNDECLARED: You haven’t declared a major yet, but still are attending classes.


VARIETY: College is full of it – people, classes, on & around campus, theater, clubs, sports. There are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of and to try something new.

VENMO: Basically, a verb for the most popular peer-2-peer payment app

VISA: Not the credit card kind. It’s a Student Visa. If you are studying abroad, you will likely need a VISA. Your school dept of study abroad should be able to assist you.


WAITLIST: You may be on this if the initial registration for a class has filled up. If a spot opens up, depending on your position, you may be able to enroll.


What’s your favorite X word? Contact us and we’ll add it to the list


Yourself: Be yourself, find yourself.


ZZZ’s!: Catch them when you can and stay refreshed.

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