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Home > Future Students > College Terminology

College Terminology

The following terms are often used at NOVA in printed materials and online. Use this reference list of alphabetized words to learn more about their meaning.

Academic Calendar - NOVA's Academic Calendar contains key dates important to every student, including the start and end dates of classes, holidays, exam days, registration dates and more.

Administrative Information System (AIS) - AIS is the financial reporting system used by NOVA to manage and monitor office and unit budget activity and financial resources. 

Admission - Students who have completed and filed the College Admission Form and received a student number are admitted to the College and are eligible to register for classes.

Advising - The College provides free advising services to all students for help with program planning and course selection.

Applied Associate Degree - The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and Associate of Applied Art (AAA) degrees are designed to prepare individuals to become employed or improve their employment status in a career or technical occupation. The "applied" (AAA and AAS) degrees are composed mainly of applied courses in the program major and are designed to prepare graduates for immediate employment (or improved employment opportunities) in a career or technical field. AAA and AAS program graduates may be able to transfer some coursework to a four-year institution, but they will have most of the lower division general education courses to make up in order to earn a bachelor's degree.

Articulation - NOVA and the VCCS have special agreements with more than fifty four-year colleges and universities. These joint agreements define the way courses, programs or entire categories of programs transfer to another institution and may include admission guarantees.

Audit - Students who audit a class attend class meetings but do not receive credit or a grade for the course.

Career Services - The Career Services website offers a variety of services to support the career and employment needs of students and local employers in the areas of career development, job search skills and job leads.

Catalog - Establishes degree requirements, college calendar, administrative information and policies, student development services and course descriptions.

Certificates - Are awards granted by community colleges that are intended to be completed in less than two years of full-time study (30 to 59 credit hours) by individuals who are seeking to become employed in an entry-level position or who are seeking to improve their current employment opportunities in a career or technical field. Certificate programs also usually prepare graduates to continue their education by meeting some of the program requirements for an associate degree in the same field of study.

Community College Transfer Grant - A grant for students with financial need that complete their associate degree with a 3.0 grade point average and transfer to a public or eligible private college or university in Virginia to complete the bachelor's degree. The grant is applied to the student's tuition expenses at a four-year college or university. Eligible students can receive up to $1,000, with an extra $1,000 for students who pursue undergraduate work in engineering, math, nursing, teaching or science. The funds will be available to students whose families have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $8,000 or less.

Continuing Student - Any student who has attended NOVA within the last three years and is in good academic standing is considered a continuing student.

Core Requirements (Core Courses) - Core courses are the required courses within a degree or certificate.

Course Reference Number (CRN) - This five-digit number in the Schedule of Classes is used to identify a particular class section in a particular subject. The CRN must be listed on the registration form next to the class title.

Cumulative GPA Minimum Requirements (GPA Rule) - Students must earn at least the minimum cumulative grade point average, as shown below, once they have attempted a specified number of credit hours. Only courses with grades of A, B, C, D and F are included in this calculation. In order to graduate a minimum of a 2.0 curriculum grade point average is required.

Total Number of Regular Credits Attempted GPA Requirement
0 - 12 Not applicable
13 - 23 1.5
24 - 47 1.75
48+ 2.0

* Withdrawals (W grades): Are recorded on the student's permanent academic transcript will be included as credits attempted and will have an adverse effect on the student's ability to meet the requirements of the completion rate for financial aid.

*  Incomplete Grades: Courses that are assigned an incomplete grade are included in the cumulative credits attempted. These cannot be used as credits earned in the progress standard until a successful grade is assigned.

*  Repeated Courses: Enable the student to achieve a higher cumulative grade point average. Repeating courses adversely affects the student's ability to meet the requirements of the completion rate requirement for financial aid.

Curriculum GPA - A curriculum GPA, which includes only those courses applicable to the student's curriculum, is computed in order to ensure that the student satisfies the graduation requirement for that curriculum. When students repeat a course, only the last grade earned is counted in the computation of the curriculum GPA.

Degrees - Are awards granted by community colleges that are two years in length and are designed to meet one of the following two purposes: 1) to prepare individuals to transfer to a senior institution in order to pursue a baccalaureate (four-year) degree, or 2) to prepare individuals to become employed or improve their employment status in a career or technical occupation.

Degree Progress Report - Available in MyNOVA (NOVACONNECT). The report details all requirements in your chosen degree plan, listing in red each course requirement still not met.

Diplomas - Are awards granted by community colleges that are intended to be completed in two years by individuals who are seeking to become employed in a technical field that requires significant practical training prior to (or concurrent with) employment. Diploma program graduates are frequently prepared to seek industry certification in their field when they have completed sufficient supervised work experience along with their education. Diploma program graduates are not generally intended to continue their education by seeking to complete an associate degree in the same field of study.

Drop - This term refers to the short period at the beginning of any semester or session when students can drop a class and receive a refund. Dropped classes will not appear on an official academic transcript.

Dual Enrollment - Refers to a student being enrolled in two separate academic institutions, most often a high school and a community college.

Elective - These are courses that are in addition to the core requirements of a program. Students choose electives based on a list specified by their program or in specific approved areas of interest. Electives must have a course number of 100 or higher to count toward graduation. Students should choose electives in consultation with their program advisor.

EMPLID (Student ID) - This is a unique identification number assigned to each NOVA student, faculty and staff.

Extended Learning Institute (ELI) - ELI is the distance learning arm of the College. Distance learning courses offered to students are developed, maintained and assessed through ELI. Check out the Distance Learning website for details on how to take one of these classes.

Federal Work Study - A program that provides part-time employment opportunities to students enrolled full-time with financial need as determined by the FAFSA. Students must file the FAFSA by college FAFSA Receipt Date. Based on the results of the FAFSA, eligible students are awarded an allotment, which may be earned through part time employment in FWS approved positions either on or off campus. Students are responsible for their own job placement and should obtain a position as soon as possible.

F-1 Status - This term refers to international students’ certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant (F-1) student status for student visas.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) - This is a required form that must be completed as the first step in applying for many types of financial aid. This application can be found at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/ or obtained at any campus Financial Aid Office.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) - This is a commonly used system for transferring computer files via the Internet.

Full-Time Student - Students are considered full-time if they are registered for 12 or more credit hours in a semester or six or more credits in the summer sessions.

Grade Point Average (GPA) - The average grade earned by a student, figured by dividing the grade points earned by the number of credits attempted. There are two types of GPA, Curriculum and Cumulative. Curriculum refers to only those courses applicable to the student's curriculum. It’s computed to ensure that the student satisfies the graduation requirement for that curriculum. When students repeat a course, only the last grade earned is counted in the computation of the curriculum GPA. Cumulative refers to the overall GPA.

Graduation Application - In order for your degree/certificate to be awarded, you need to apply for graduation. Before you complete the online application, check your records to be sure you have met all requirements for graduation through courses completed or in progress. If there are any discrepancies, contact your campus Student Services Center or your academic advisor. Students must complete the form in order to participate in the college graduation ceremony.

Guaranteed Admission Agreements - General agreements between Virginia Community Colleges and four-year colleges and universities that guarantee admission to the four-year institution to those students who meet the criteria of the agreement (e.g. GPA, completing a transfer associate degree).

Hold - Students who owe fees or fail to return materials will have a financial hold placed on their record. This hold must be resolved before a student is permitted to register for further classes. If a hold is placed on their account, students should see an advisor or financial aid counselor on how to clear their student account.

Information Technology Support Services (ITSS) - This is a services oriented division of the Office of Instructional and Information Technology which provides IT project management, IT quality assurance, IT procurement, the IT Help Desk, IT security, telecommunications services, network management, database administration and more.

In-State Student - Refers to those students who meet domicile qualifications outlined in the Code of Virginia. For complete details on in-state tuition eligibility and domicile guidelines, visit: http://www.schev.edu/Students/VAdomicileguidelines.asp.

In-State Tuition and Fees - Tuition and fees at public colleges and universities listed in the Cost Calculator are for in-state Virginia students. "In-state" refers to those students who meet domicile qualifications outlined in the Code of Virginia. Out-of-state tuition and fees at public colleges and universities are greater than the amounts shown in the Cost Calculator.

MyNOVA - Log-in access to NOVAConnect, Blackboard, Student email and VCCS services.

NOVACARD - The name for the official Northern Virginia Community College photo identification card.

NOVAConnect - The term for NOVA’s student information system that allows you to conveniently complete many of your business transactions with the College online.

Part-Time Student - A part-time student is a student registered for fewer than twelve credit hours in a semester or fewer than six credits during the summer session.

Portable Document Format (PDF) - Invented by Adobe, it allows all documents to be formatted in a way that they can be viewed and printed from any application, on any computer system and shared with anyone.

Phi Theta Kappa - The largest honor society in American higher education. To be eligible for membership, a student must complete a minimum of 12 hours of associate degree course work and generally earn a grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Members must maintain a high academic standing throughout their enrollment in the two-year college.

Prerequisite - A prerequisite is a required course that a student must successfully complete before enrolling for another course.  Prerequisites are listed in the college catalog with the course description.

Returning Student - Returning students are those students who have not attended NOVA in the last three years and are returning to the College.

Rich Text Format (RTF) - A file format that allows the exchange of text files between different word processors in different operating systems.

Schedule of Classes - NOVA publishes a printed and an online listing of classes offered anytime during the fall, spring and summer terms. The schedule of classes contains all information needed to register for a class, including time, date, location, instructor, fees and any enrollment restrictions.

Sim - This is the slang version of the word simulation. The term is used by the Medical Campus in reference to the Center and Labs. It refers to test conditions approximating actual or operational conditions.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) - This is the Commonwealth's coordinating body for higher education. It was established by the Governor and General Assembly in 1956 to promote the development of an educationally and economically dynamic system of higher education in Virginia.

Student Information System (SIS) - See NOVAConnect.

To Be Arranged (TBA) - TBA is a term used in the Schedule of Classes to indicate that more information is available from advisors or faculty about the course.  Frequently, TBA indicates a flexibly scheduled course that allows students to attend class at times of their own choosing.  Usually, classes with the TBA designation are offered on a self-paced basis or via the Internet. When TBA is found in the instructor column of the schedule, the course had not yet been assigned to a particular instructor at the time the schedule went to print.

Technology Applications Center (TAC) - As part of the Office of Instructional & Information Technology, this NOVA team is dedicated to offering resources and support to faculty for integrating learning, teaching and technology for NOVA students to engage in quality learning experiences.

Transcript - An official transcript is issued by the College Registrar and contains a master list of the courses a student has taken, the grade earned, and the cumulative grade point average. An unofficial transcript is available through NOVAConnect. "W," "I," "Y" and "P" grade are also noted on a transcript but are not calculated in the student's grade point average.

Transfer Associate Degree - The Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS) and Associate of Arts and Science (AA&S) degrees are all intended to prepare individuals to transfer to a senior institution in order to pursue a baccalaureate (four-year) degree. The 'transfer' (AA, AS and AA&S) degrees are designed to allow students to complete the general education (English, math, science, social science, humanities, etc.) component of a bachelor's degree to prepare for transfer to a four-year institution with junior-level standing and all lower division (freshman & sophomore level) courses completed. The successful transfer student is prepared to complete the upper division (junior and senior level) program major coursework required for their bachelor's degree at the transfer institution.

Transferrable
- Students seeking to transfer to a senior institution in order to pursue a baccalaureate (four-year) degree should choose a transferrable degree at a community college. The Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS) and Associate of Arts and Science (AA&S) degrees are all intended to prepare individuals to transfer to a senior institution in order to pursue a baccalaureate (four-year) degree. Non-transferable (or applied) degrees, certificates, and diplomas are designed to prepare individuals to become employed or improve their employment status in a career or technical occupation.

Tuition - Fee charged for educational instruction.

Virginia Community College System (VCCS) - The System is run by a Board of 15 governing members who are appointed by the governor for up to two four-year terms. The VCCS Board meets six times per year to set policy for all of Virginia’s community colleges. The VCC oversees 23 community colleges in the state of Virginia including NOVA.

Withdrawal ("W" grade) - Students who wish to receive a "W" in a course on the student transcript, must complete a change in registration form sometime after the drop period and before the last one-third of the class. Students who withdraw from a class or classes after the deadline for refunds will receive a "W" on their transcripts but will not receive a refund.  Withdrawal with a "W" is only permitted during the first two-thirds of the calendars days of the semester or class. A "W" grade is not factored into a student's grade point average.