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Cornell Vocabulary

Often colleges and universities seem to operate by using their own language. Words, phrases or abbreviations are used in conversation or descriptions that might be challenging to understand for anyone not already immersed in the university culture. To help aid in that understanding, we have compiled a comprehensive list of college language and our own unique Cornell lingo, listed in alphabetical order.

A3C: Asian & Asian American Center, which brings together and provides support for Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi Americans (APIDA)

AAP: College of Architecture, Art, and Planning

A&S: College of Arts & Sciences

Big Red: Another term for Cornell’s athletic teams. Did you know that Cornell’s red and white colors inspired the iconic Campbell’s Soup cans?

Bursar: The Office of the Bursar is the university’s central billing service center for tuition, fees, and other charges incurred by students.

Canvas: Cornell’s learning management system. It supports learning and teaching by allowing professors to post grades, information, and assignments online.

CALS: College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

CHE: College of Human Ecology

Chimes: The Cornell Chimes are the 21 bells at the top of McGraw Tower. Student chimesmasters play three concerts daily during the semester.

CIS: Cornell Bowers College of Computing and Information Science

Collegetown: An off-campus area commonly populated by students, offers a special gathering place outside of campus for dining, hanging out, and shopping.

Commencement: Graduation ceremony that honors graduating students in all schools and colleges.

Cornelliana: Anything related to Cornell University’s traditions, legends, and lore

Cost of Attendance: The amount it will cost a student to go to school. This number factors into both budgeting and financial aid.

Course Catalog: Each academic year has its own listing of course offerings and academic requirements. Whichever course catalog a student enters into the University with will be their academic requirements for college completion.

Dean of Students (DOS): This individual and their staff members support students by leading the Care and Crisis and Identity Resource teams. The centers include the Asian and Asian American Center, First Generation and Low Income Support, LGBT Resource Center, Multicultural Student Leadership and Empowerment, Office of Spirituality and Meaning Making, Undocumented and DACA Support, and the Women’s Resource Center.

Dyson: Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management in the Johnson College of Business

ENG or COE: College of Engineering

Elective: A course that is not required for a major or minor. For example, if your student is majoring in history, they may take an art class as an elective.

FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA must be filled out each year to be awarded grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study jobs.

Graduate Student: Student who has completed a bachelor's degree and is working on completing a master's or doctoral degree.

HEC: Hotel Ezra Cornell, a three-day business conference for hospitality leaders run by current Hotel students

Hotelie: A student who attends the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration in the SC Johnson College of Business

Incomplete: A temporary grade given to a student who has to leave a class with the intention of completing it within the next semester. An "I" will appear on the student's transcript until all requirements have been fulfilled.

Internship: A part-time or full-time temporary job in a real-world setting closely related to a student's study area. It may be done for college credit or a paid or unpaid position.

ILR: The ILR School, founded in 1945 as the School of Industrial and Labor Relations

LGBTRC: Cornell Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, which offers resources, information, and ways for LGBTQ+ students and allies to get involved

Major: The area that a student chooses to specialize in for their studies.

Minor: Academic area that a student chooses to specialize in that requires fewer courses than a major.

NetID: A personal, unique identifier consisting of a student’s initials followed by one or more numbers. It is used to obtain secure access to online services at Cornell.

Nolan: Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration in the SC Johnson College of Business

OADI: The Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives focuses on inclusion and achievement so that students of all backgrounds excel at their academic goals.

Office Hours: Times each week that professors and instructors are in their office to speak with students. Professors usually announce their office hours on the first day of class and on their print or web-based course material.

OSMM: The Office of Spirituality and Meaning-Making supports students—regardless of their religious or ethical background—in deepening their beliefs and discovering a sense of meaning and purpose.

Prelim: Cornell word for exams. Many courses have two or three prelims before the final exam.

Prerequisite: A course that must be completed before a student can enroll in a more advanced course.

Provost: Chief University officer who oversees all academic areas of the University.

RA: Resident advisor is a trained student staff member who lives in the residence halls and acts as a community leader and peer educator. They provide information about campus resources, support, and residential activities.

RHD: The residence hall director is a professional, live-in staff member responsible for long-range planning and day-to-day residence hall operations.

The Slope: Libe Slope is a popular hangout area for students on-campus with beautiful views. It is also the location of Slope Day, the annual music festival held at the end of the spring semester.

The Sun: The Cornell Daily Sun is the university’s independent student newspaper.

Syllabus: A course guide. It usually contains expectations, course policies, required texts, rules, and assignments.

Tatkon: The Tatkon Center for New Students provides programming and support for first-year students.

Undergraduate: A student who is working toward a bachelor's degree.

WSH or The Straight: Willard Straight Hall is a vibrant and well-loved student union, considered to be the central spoke of Cornell's wide-reaching campus activities.

Work-Study Job: A job that is awarded as part of a student's financial aid package. These jobs are financed through the federal government. Consideration for federal work-study is given to students who demonstrate financial need. Students should look at their financial aid award to determine if they have been awarded. Those not receiving this award can also find employment on campus as a regular student worker.