Back to Basics: A crash course in basic terminology used at USA

Posted on September 11, 2017 by Alan Sells
Alan Sells

Sometimes the language used in a university can seem very strange. This quick guide will walk you through commonly used terms at South that may sound similar but have important differences.  


Gen. Ed. and Elective

Many students ask if general education requirements and electives are the same, but they are quite different. In order to graduate, the University requires all students to take general education classes in four areas: written composition, humanities and fine arts, natural sciences and mathematics, and social sciences. General education requirements vary by major. Although an art major and an engineering major are both required to take math and science courses, they do not have to take the same ones.  Electives are classes that students have a choice in taking. They typically help fulfill major requirements.


Void,  Withdraw, and Drop

All three of these terms mean a student is no longer registered for a course or courses. If a student is voided, or removed, from their classes, it is typically due to non-payment. Students whose schedules are voided may be able to re-register. Withdrawal is when the University removes you from your classes for non-financial reasons, such as a medical emergency or lacking prerequisites for a course. Dropping a class refers to students removing themselves from classes for any reason. If you drop a course after the add/drop period but before the drop deadline or withdraw from classes, you will receive a “W” on your transcript.


Financial Aid, Student Accounting, and Scholarship Services

While these office deal with very similar things, it is very important to know which office you should speak to for what service. Financial aid helps you get the money you need to pay for college and can answer questions have to do with the money you are receiving based on the FASFA or other sources outside the University. Student Accounting deals with the bill generated as you register for classes. Scholarship services deals with money coming from inside the University and can help you with any scholarship related questions or needs you may have.

See financial aid when you have questions about receiving external aid.

See scholarship services when you have questions about internal aid.

See student accounting when you have questions about your tuition statement.



These two acronyms describe totally different things but are easy to confuse because they sound so similar. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (or FERPA) is designed to protect your educational information. It basically states that no one can outside of the University can access your data without your express permission. FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.


Transient and Transfer

The main difference between transient and transfer students boils down to two things: time and permission. A transient student has the permission from their home university to attend another one for a short period of time (usually one semester) before returning. A transfer student moves to another institution with no intention of going back to their former school.


If you have questions about these or any other academic advising terms, be sure to ask your advisor!

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