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What Does That Even Mean?
A glossary of terms for new college students

Did you get a side-order of confusion along with your college acceptance? Don’t worry, everybody gets at least one of those, and this website is here to help you figure some things out. Your college advisors, professors, and even sometimes fellow students will throw "college-y" terms at you, and while you may not have any idea what they’re talking about, you can use this page as a handy reference guide.

Don’t worry if you’ve never even seen some of these before—people who’ve been here for years sometimes don’t know what the terms mean, and to be honest, we had to look up some of these ourselves. This list gives you something you can read through or just use to look up the weird lingo as it occurs. You can also follow the links if you want more information.

Don’t forget, the Accountability in Student Learning Program (ASLP) office, your connection specialist and your advisor are always ready to help you find answers, too, so ask away!

Academic Calendar—You will find a link to this on the Class Schedules website of the college website, and it’s really useful. The academic calendar tells you all of the important dates and deadlines for each semester, including summer terms. You’ll find the dates of the last day you can drop or add a class, the date you can start registering for next semester, the dates of exams and much more.

Academic Standing—Generally speaking, this is how you’re doing in college. “Good standing” means that you have a grade point average of 2.0 or higher (See GPA). There are some other, less-fun academic standing classifications that you probably need to know about, so you can avoid them.

President’s List—If you’re taking at least 12 credit hours and you have a grade point average (see GPA) of 3.5 or higher AND you’ve taken at least 20 credit hours of college-level classes (see Credit Hours), you automatically receive this designation. It looks great on transfer and job applications.

Dean’s List—If you’re taking at least 12 credit hours of college-level classes and you have a grade point average of 3.2, you’re automatically placed on the Dean’s List for the semester. This looks spiffy on applications, too, so kudos to you!

Academic Warning—If your grade point average (see GPA) drops below a 2.0 in any semester, you’re going to get a letter asking you to kick it up a notch. The next step is Academic Probation, and nobody wants that, so keep your GPA in view all the time. You can always go to your professor for help, sign up for tutoring, or withdraw (see Withdrawal) from a class if things are beyond salvaging.

Academic Probation—If your GPA drops below 1.5 for a given semester after attempting 12 semester credits, you may be placed on “academic probation,” which means you need to get your grades up ASAP. A student who is on “academic probation” has a semester to get a GPA off the bottom. Try not to fail a bunch of classes, because academic probation goes on your permanent record.

Academic Suspension—Should a person be unfortunate enough to have a grade point average lower than 1.5 after 24 credit hours he or she will have to take a semester off, presumably to get those academic ducks in a row. Academic suspension also goes on your permanent record.

Academic Dismissal-- After at least a semester of academic suspension, students are allowed to come back to school and attempt to increase their GPAs. In the first semester after an academic suspension, students must earn at least a 2.0 GPA for the semester in order to stay in college. Beyond that first semester, students must earn at least a 1.75 GPA until their total, or cumulative, GPA increases to at least 1.75. If a student does not meet these thresholds, he or she will be academically dismissed. There is an appeals process; however, academic dismissal is normally permanent and goes on a student’s permanent record (official transcript).

Adjunct Faculty—“Adjunct” is the college-y word for “part time.” An adjunct faculty member is one who teaches one or more classes but does not have full-time status. Adjunct faculty members often work in their teaching fields and have great experience to share with students. They’re excellent mentors and teachers, but you may need to remember that they are not on campus as much as full-time faculty. When you need to meet with your adjunct professor, make an appointment to be sure (s)he’s on campus.

Advisor—Your advisor is your go-to person when you don’t know what classes to take for your major, or you don’t know if a class will transfer credit to another school, or you can’t figure out the financial aid forms, or have any other problem with your academic life. You have a faculty advisor who is assigned to you via the Student Information System (see SIS), but you can also visit the Advising Center in Rooker Hall in Dublin or meet with an advisor at the Christiansburg site at any time for help with all things college-related. You should especially see your advisor with transfer questions before you register for classes each semester.

Audit—If you take a course but don’t want to get a grade, take the tests, or turn in assignments for credit, it’s called “auditing.” Sometimes you might want to do this in a really hard course that’s required for your major, and you want a trial run before the real thing. You have to have permission from the professor and declare that you are not taking the course for credit on your registration. Audited courses carry an “X” grade and do not factor into your GPA but do show up on your transcript. You do have to pay tuition to audit a course, which is probably why it doesn’t often happen.

Canvas—New River Community College has a “learning management system” called Canvas. It is an online site where your professors often (but not always) deliver course content like homework assignments, tests, readings, films, grades and other goodies. You will use Canvas every day, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with it, especially if you plan to take online courses, but remember that professors use it in face-to-face courses, too. You get there by logging into “My Accounts” from the NRCC main webpage and then clicking “Canvas.”

Campus Map—Yeah, you know what this means, but just in case you can’t find one of those hidden classrooms in Godbey Hall, we thought you might like to have a handy link to the campus map here. You can go to the menu in the upper left corner and get a map of individual buildings, too.

CTE/Career and Technical Education—NRCC offers a lot of programs that don’t require you to transfer to another school, although you certainly can transfer in many of these majors. Career and Technical Education programs are designed to prepare you for a specific career, like accounting, human services, nursing, police science, web design—you get the idea. All of the CTE programs are listed in the college catalog.

Catalog—Every year NRCC produces a new edition of its college catalog, and you will find a TON of helpful information here. If you plan to graduate with an Associate Degree or certificate, you will find the requirements for your program in the catalog, and it’s very important to keep in mind which catalog you will “graduate under.” Since the requirements change, you will usually keep the one found in the catalog that was current when you became a college student for the first time, so if you enter NRCC in the fall of 2018, you will graduate under the 2018 catalog. The catalog contains policies, lists of majors, lists of courses you can take; you can find the whole catalog here, and it’s super helpful.

Class Schedule—No, this doesn’t just mean YOUR class schedule. When your advisor talks about the class schedule, they mean this big list of every course NRCC offers. Think of it as a master list of all the classes offered in a specific semester. The details of your major in the catalog will tell you which courses you need, while the class schedule will tell you when they’re offered and who’s teaching them. You can look up courses on the class schedule by subject area, time of day, instructor and much more.

Connection Centers –These are casual spaces where students can gather for group or individual study or to access computers and a printer. Both Connection Centers also have food pantries which offer snacks for students who are in need of food. They are located in Godbey 170 in Dublin and room 202A at the Christiansburg site (upstairs).

Connection Specialist – Every NRCC student is assigned to a Connection Specialist whose responsibility is to connect you to resources you may need to be successful during your time here. That may mean tutoring, emergency transportation funds, a referral to a mental health counselor, or even figuring out how to make friends and get involved here at NRCC. You will meet (or have already met) your Connection Specialist at a new student orientation session, but if you don’t know who yours is, you can log into www.nr.edu/studentinfo or contact the Accountability in Student Learning Program at 540-674-3677 or aslp@nr.edu to find out.

Course Plan—Every course you take at NRCC is part of the larger Virginia Community College System (see VCCS), and in some broad ways, every course is standardized. You will receive a course plan for each course you take, and this is NOT the same thing as a syllabus (see Syllabus). The course plan contains system-wide policies, like how to withdraw (see Withdrawal), but the most important thing it contains are the course objectives. This is a list of everything you will be expected to learn in the course, so it’s a good idea to read through it at the beginning of the semester, so you’ll know what to expect. Every course plan can be found in Canvas (see Canvas), even if the professor isn’t using Canvas for your course.

Credit Hours—Think of the credit hour as the unit of college. You’ll notice that every course carries a certain number of credit hours—one, three, and four are the most common numbers of hours, and they represent how much work you’re expected to do in the class. A five-credit class will require a lot more effort than a one-credit class. The most important function of the credit hour is as a multiplier when you’re calculating your Grade Point Average (see GPA). BIO 141 is a four-credit course, so if you make an A in that class, you multiply the points you get for the A by the number of hours in the course, which is four. The result of multiplying your grade in the class by the number of hours is how you get a “Quality Point” (see Quality Points). You also need 12 credit hours per semester to be enrolled full time, and that is usually four three-hour courses. You will see the credit hours listed in the class schedule and the catalog. If you are pursuing an Associate Degree, for example, you will need between 60-67 credit hours to graduate, depending on your program of study (see Program of Study and Major).

Developmental Courses—Sometimes people aren’t quite ready to take, say, calculus, even though it’s required for their major. Never fear—there are developmental courses that will help you get ready for college level math or English by helping you brush up on material you’ve forgotten or maybe never learned that well to begin with. These courses are labeled MTT for math and ENF for English, and they do not carry transfer credit. They ALSO do not count toward your GPA (see GPA), because you either successfully complete the course (an S grade) or fail to do the work (a U grade). Many students place into developmental level courses (see Placement Tests) and discover how much easier they find their college level courses later.

Drop/Add—You may hear your advisor talking about drop/add or “the drop/add period.” This is the first week of class, when you can still add any class to your schedule without penalty or approval. The drop period continues for another week, but during the drop period, that’s all you can do. To add a class, you will have to have the instructor’s permission, which may be granted if you ask.

Dual Enrollment/DE Courses—Many NRCC entry-level courses are taught at local high schools by high school faculty. These receive both high school and college credit and are called “dual enrollment” because, well, students are enrolled in two schools at once. If you took DE courses in high school, they will show up on your NRCC transcript and count toward your NRCC degree; not a bad deal.

Electives—Most curricula you choose in the catalog gives you some leeway in the courses you take, and these leeway courses are called electives. If you look at the catalog and see that you need a “Humanities/Fine Arts Elective,” for instance, it means that you can take anything from the list in the catalog, and it could be literature, philosophy, art, music, or religion. Electives are a fun way to sample other areas that you won’t get to see much of in your major.

Email—Yes, we know you know what email is, but this is just one more reminder to check your NRCC accounts every day. All your important college communications will come through your NRCC account, so make it part of your routine. You can check it by logging on through the My Accounts button on the NRCC website.

EMPLID/Student Number—When you are accepted as a student, you get a student number that becomes your identifier in the whole community college system. This is your EMPLID. It’s a good idea to just go ahead and memorize it, because you will use it to register for classes, apply for financial aid, apply for graduation and do a bunch of other things. It is NOT the same thing as your Social Security number, and it will be the same even if you switch to another VCCS school. You’ll hear it called EMPLID, Student Number, and ID Number. They all mean the same thing—the number you see when you log into the Student Information System.

FAFSA/Free Application for Federal Student Aid—Virtually every college and university requires the FAFSA form to help determine what financial aid package a student will receive. It is free, online, and if you’re reading this as a student, you already know that it is complicated. It’s also required, so keep those tax documents handy; you will have to file a new one every year, and money is awarded quickly, so do it earlier rather than later. This link takes you straight to the FAFSA.gov website. Students who plan to take summer courses also must complete a NRCC Summer Financial Aid form if they would like to receive aid for the summer term.

Fees—You will see this on your bill, and it means that there are expenses in addition to your tuition that you will have to pay. Your fees cover technology, student activities and facilities maintenance. If you’re an out-of-state student (see Out-of-State), you will have an additional fee tacked onto your tuition called a “capital outlay” fee that is mandated by Virginia state law to offset the costs of having a non-taxpayer on campus. Fees are assessed per credit hour (see Credit Hour), so they will vary with your course load.

FERPA/Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act—This is the law that protects your information and guarantees confidentiality on college campuses. In brief, it means that your advisors and professors cannot disclose your academic or financial aid information to any third party without your permission. You can give written permission to your parents, say, if you want them to have access to your grades and other information, but without that permission form (which you will fill out and return to the Office of Admissions and Records), the law prevents anyone from discussing your educational information with unauthorized people. Pretty powerful. Of course, your professors and advisors CAN discuss your academic information with each other, but only in order to improve your educational experiences. Know that the college can release your directory information to people like military recruiters. This information includes things like your name, address and major. If you do not want the college to release this information, you can note that in the Student Information System (SIS) in the “student center” under “personal information” and then “other personal and privacy settings.” If you have questions about any of this, check in with the Office of Admissions and Records.

Financial Aid – Many students receive some form of financial aid to help cover the cost of college attendance. At NRCC, financial aid is a global term that refers to any type of aid a student may receive – grants, scholarships, and/or loans. (See FAFSA above about applying for federal and state financial aid.)

First-year/Freshman student—You will be considered a first-year or freshman student until you’ve finished 30 credit hours of college-level work (see Credit Hour). Don’t worry if you see this status on your Student Information website in SIS (see SIS) and you’ve been here longer than a year. It depends on the number of credit hours.

Full-Time Student—If you’re taking 12 or more credit hours a semester (see Credit Hour), you’re considered full time. You have to be attending college full time to get your full financial aid award.

General Education Degree/Gen Ed—You will hear this term a lot because many students are attending NRCC to complete their general education requirements for other schools. If you are taking classes at NRCC and planning to transfer somewhere else, you will be taking a series of courses that everyone is required to take regardless of their major. English, history, math, lab sciences, fine arts electives, sociology, and psychology are all examples of general education courses. It’s really important for you to work with your advisor to choose courses that match the general education requirements of the school you plan to attend after NRCC.

GPA/Grade Point Average—This number is so important for you, but lots of students don’t know how to calculate it. Your GPA determines things like whether you can transfer under an articulation agreement, get a scholarship, or sometimes even get accepted into a competitive program, like nursing. Your Grade Point Average is calculated by multiplying the points you get for a grade in a class times the number of credit hours in the class, and then dividing the total by the total number of credit hours you took in a semester (see Credit Hour). An A gets four points, a B three, a C two, a D one, and an F zero. Fs are really, really bad for your GPA, because you still have to count those credit hours.

Let’s do a calculation. If you have ENG 111, HIS 121, BIO 110 with lab, and SDV 100, then you need to know that English and history are three credit hour courses, biology is four with a one-hour lab, and your student development course is a one hour course. Let’s say you do really well in everything but biology, so your grades look like this:

ENG 111 (3 credit hours) B (3 points)
HIS 121 (3 credit hours) A (4 points)
BIO 101 (3 credit hours) D (1 point)
BIO 101 Lab (1 credit hour) F (0 points)
SDV 100 (1 credit hour) A (4 points)

Okay, now let’s do math. Multiply credit hours times points to get 9 for English, 12 for history, 3 for biology, zero for biology lab, and 4 for student development. Add them up. You should get 28, which you will now divide by the number of credit hours you attempted (11). When you do that, you get a GPA of 2.5, which is a C average. Could be worse, but it could be a lot better, too. If you’d made a B in biology and a B in lab, your GPA would go up to a 3.4, which is a solid B, gets you on the Dean’s List, and looks much better on your transcript.

You will have two grade point average calculations on your transcript. One will be your semester average, and the other will be your “cumulative GPA,” which adds up every grade for every class you’ve taken. The cumulative GPA is what schools will look at when you transfer. W grades do not count in calculating your GPA, and neither do grades of S, P, U, X, and I (See Grades).

Grades: NRCC has a 10-point grading scale and does not award plus or minus grades on the final transcript. You know all about the usual A, B, C, D, F grades, but there are others. Some courses or labs are taught pass/fail, which means you get a P or a U (unsatisfactory) on your transcript. If you take developmental level courses, these are awarded S (satisfactory) or U (unsatisfactory) grades. These do not factor into your total GPA. Sometimes if you have extenuating circumstances like an illness, you may be given an “I” grade, which means “incomplete.” You have to finish the work for an I grade before the end of the following semester or it will become an F. A “W” grade means that you withdrew from the course. It will still show up on your transcript but does not affect your GPA (See Withdrawal). If you audit a course (see Audit), you will receive an "X" grade, which also does not affect your GPA. To get A-F credit for an audited class, you have to either switch to a credit option during Drop/Add or retake the course.

Major/Program of Study—You will be asked early in your career by your advisor (see Advisor) to decide on a program of study or major. This is just a concentration of courses that will help you in your career or as you transfer. Accounting, general studies, education, engineering—there are a lot of choices when it comes to programs of study, so think about what your interests are and what you want to do with your life before you settle on one. Don’t worry, though. If you find something you like better, your advisor can help you change majors.

My Accounts—You’ll find a red button on the far right side of the top of the NRCC webpage, and it says My Accounts. This is the shortcut to SIS (see SIS), Canvas (see Canvas), and your NRCC email account. You’ll use it a lot, and there are many ways to get to the right web address, but this one is easy. You can bookmark the My Accounts sign-in page to make it easier to get to all your important stuff.

No-Show—If you don’t attend a class, or don’t log on to or participate in an online class within the first two weeks, you can be dropped from the roster. If you are outside the Drop/Add period, you may lose your tuition money for the course, so be sure to show up or formally drop the class. Some students assume they do not need to participate in their online classes during the first two weeks and get dropped, so don’t let this be you. Participation in online classes is expected on the first day of the semester.

OER/OER Courses—This stands for “Online Educational Resources,” and an OER course is one that has an online textbook, which is often free or minimally expensive. Please note, however, that not ALL online resources are free, so sometimes you will have to pay for an access code that gives you information you’ll need for a class. (Don’t try to get by without the code, either; you NEED access.)

Online Learning/NRCC Online—NRCC offers many courses online, and these are designated in the class schedule as “ Online” courses. When you take an online course, you will probably do most of your work in Canvas. It’s important to log into your online courses as soon as you can in order to find the requirements for each course. While some do not have deadlines, most do, and you don’t want to miss a deadline. You can get a lot more information on the NRCC Online part of our website.

Part-Time Student—Any student taking fewer than 12 credit hours (See Credit Hours) a semester is considered part time. This may affect your financial aid, so be sure to check with your advisor if you’re taking fewer than 12 hours.

Placement Tests—All students entering a program of study which requires math or English courses must meet placement requirements for these courses. Placement may be determined by high school transcripts and GPA, SAT and/or ACT scores, and GED scores; all of which are valid for five years. Additionally, students who are enrolled at another higher education institution or four-year college may submit their college transcripts for placement determination. Students who do not satisfy the placement requirements based upon these multiple measures must take the Virginia Placement Test (VPT). Your placement scores are one indicator that you are ready for college level work, and if you’re not quite there, they will help your advisor place you in a class that helps you get there ASAP. Many students take developmental levels to get them ready for their main classes, so don’t let it worry you if your placement tests land you in one. You can get information about the placement tests and how to take them here. (There are great links to brush-up tips on this page, too.)

Program of Study/Major - You will be asked early in your career by your advisor (see Advisor) to decide on a program of study or major. This is just a concentration of courses that will help you in your career or as you transfer. Accounting, general studies, education, engineering—there are a lot of choices when it comes to programs of study, so think about what your interests are and what you want to do with your life before you settle on one. Don’t worry, though. If you find something you like better, your advisor can help you change majors.

SIS/Student Information System—You will hear this a lot, because the Student Information System is an Oracle-based database that knows all about you. Really. Your transcripts, class schedules, emergency contact information, program of study, graduation requirements—pretty much every piece of data you can imagine is sitting right here in one easy-to-find spot. You will use this to register for classes, check your college accounts, review your degree completion, and much more, and you access it from My Accounts on the NRCC website.

Syllabus—Your professors (most of them, anyway) will give you a syllabus at the start of the semester, and it’s an important document that tells you just about everything you need to know about a particular class. The syllabus contains what the course is, what you’re supposed to be learning, what this particular professor’s policies are, and often, the sequence of assignments. Every class syllabus is different, even for different sections of the same course, and every professor’s policies are different, so be sure to read the syllabus early and often. Remember that the college has no “standard” policy for assigning grades, missing class, etc. All these things are individual for each professor and will be in the syllabus for your class. See also Course Plan.

Transfer—When your advisor talks about transfer, (s)he is talking about using your credits earned at NRCC to count toward your degree at another school. You can transfer credits to most four-year colleges and universities, and all of the other VCCS colleges (see VCCS), but not every course will count toward your major or your general education credits (see Major/Program of Study and GenEd). Your advisor will be able to help you select courses that do transfer, and the Transfer Resources website online is also very helpful (be sure to click on the menu in the upper left corner of the page for lots more options). If you’re planning to take your credits and go somewhere else, it’s important to know where you’re going and what courses will accompany you. Advisors are very much your friends here.

Transfer Agreement—You’ll hear this a lot if you’re in the transfer program. Every public college and university in Virginia, and many of the private ones, has an agreement with the Virginia Community College System (see VCCS) that if a student has taken the correct courses, gotten his or her Associate Degree, and gotten a specific GPA (see GPA), then he or she is GUARANTEED admission to that college or university. Yes, it’s a good deal. You can find details on the transfer agreements page.

Transcript—The college keeps a record of each class you’ve taken and how well you did. This list of courses is called your transcript, and it’s super important if you’re transferring to other colleges, applying for graduation, or sending records to an employer. You can look at yours any time in the Student Information System (see SIS), but you can also request that the registrar send a copy to the school/employer of your choice. Visit the Admissions site to see all available transcript options. (Most places won’t accept just a print-out, since they need to verify that the grades haven’t been tampered with.) Your transcript will include courses you’ve withdrawn from, developmental courses, and audits as well as courses that count toward your degree.

Tuition—Simply put, your tuition is the amount of money you pay the college per credit hour (see Credit Hour) in order to be enrolled in classes. Right now, that amount is $154.00 per credit hour (for in-state tuition), but you can always calculate your tuition and fees (see Fees) by using this handy web tool. Tuition rates are set at the state level, and they are higher if you are not a Virginia resident.

VCCS—Virginia Community College System. You are part of the largest college in Virginia. The VCCS has over 200,000 students, and for purposes of funding and governance, it’s considered one thing. There are 23 community colleges affiliated with the VCCS and while they each have presidents and separate campuses, budgets, policies, etc., they are also all part of the bigger system, with some centralized services (like Canvas). Taking a course at another Virginia community college is easy because they are all linked, so your advisor can help you find that Japanese class you always wanted to take.

Withdrawal—Things happen, and sometimes you just can’t complete a course. The withdrawal option allows you to back out without hurting your GPA. If you withdraw before the end of the Drop/Add period, you will get your money back. If you wait, you won’t get a refund, but you WILL avoid a bad grade IF you drop by the last date to withdraw and receive a W grade. It’s important to formally go to the Admissions and Records office and fill out a withdrawal form (or do it online through SIS); if you just disappear from class, you can get an F, which WILL hurt your GPA. Procedures for withdrawing from class can also be found on your course plans (see Course Plans). Withdrawing may impact your financial aid, so it’s also important to speak with someone in the Financial Aid Office before you withdraw from a course.

Z-Courses—When you see a “Z” after a course section number in the schedule of classes, it tells you that this course has no-cost or low-cost (under $40) materials. Z courses use online resources and other low-cost materials and can, therefore, save you a lot of money. Many required courses have Z course options, so be sure to look for them.



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