Academic terms you need to know

Blog Header: 6 Academic Terms You Need to Know

There’s a lot to keep track of as you choose your university. Struggling through new terms specific to higher education shouldn’t be one of them.


The university is the entire institution. While there are a lot of different offices, colleges and people on campus, we all belong to Colorado State University.


This is an easy one. After all, CSU is a college, right? Well, not quite.

A college is a collection of academic programs and departments. There are actually eight colleges at Colorado State that specialize in specific academic areas. While many people use the word “college” to refer to an entire university, that word also can mean something different on campus.


Now we’re getting more specific. A department is a collection of faculty members with similar areas of expertise. Departments might also house multiple academic majors depending on how it’s organized. A department lives under the umbrella of the academic college.


Simply put, your major will be on your diploma when you graduate. Each major has a specific set of criteria and courses you must meet before graduation, even though there is a lot of room to explore other interests at CSU as well.

There are more than 70 unique majors you can choose from at Colorado State.

Double major

In order to graduate with an undergraduate degree, every student must choose at least one major. A double major is when a student declares two majors, and double majoring can be a great way to both broaden your academic path and give you an edge in the career field.

Meet some CSU double majors and get their tips.


A minor is a secondary area of study that can be related to your major, or be totally unrelated. Some majors require minors, and some minors can enhance your skills and complement your major, but you aren’t required to do them. There are a lot of benefits to declaring a minor, including making you more competitive in the job field, or offering you opportunities for internships and field studies you may not get within your major.

There are currently more than 80 minors to choose from at Colorado State.


A concentration is a specific area of interest within a major. All students will have a major, but not all students will have a concentration. Concentrations are opportunities for specialization.

For example, students in the College of Business can’t major in Accounting, but they can choose the Accounting concentration in the Business Administration major.

Pre-professional advising tracks

Pre-professional advising tracks are not academic programs or majors, but instead provide guidance for students intending to pursue a specific profession or educational goal. Majors and class selections may vary, but you’ll get advising geared toward health professions, veterinary medicine, law, or teaching.

Pre-health advising
Pre-veterinary advising
Pre-law advising
Teaching licensure

Accelerated program

Accelerated programs allow students to graduate earlier than usual — by the end of their third spring or summer term. They typically include 15-16 credits each fall and spring semester for three years, plus 6-9 credits over two or three summer sessions. Students who enter CSU with prior credit (AP, IB, transfer, etc.) may use applicable courses to further accelerate their graduation. Please note that the accelerated version of a program is only available in certain majors and concentrations.

Interdisciplinary studies

At CSU, studying within an interdisciplinary program means you’ll be learning from two different academic areas within CSU. This can mean you’ll be either 1) studying two or more academic areas within your college, or 2) studying two or more academic areas within the university (across colleges).

Conditional admission

Conditional admission applies to international students who plan to come to CSU. It means you have a strong academic foundation for success at CSU, but you need to demonstrate English proficiency or improve your English skills before you can enroll in academic courses toward your degree program.

Direct admission

Direct admission means that you’ve been admitted to CSU in your first-choice major. If you have applied to a competitive major, you’ll either be notified of your admission to that major, or notified if you’ve been admitted to a secondary major. Learn more about competitive majors and what it means if you are not admitted to a competitive major directly.

International students who have been given direct admission means they are admitted to CSU without needing additional English proficiency preparation to begin their academic program.

First-generation student

At CSU, a first-generation student (often shortened to “first gen”) is a student whose primary caregiver(s) have not completed a four-year college degree. The definition of “first generation” can vary by university.


The Honors program at CSU is a learning community geared toward high academic achievement. Students accepted into the Honors program can look forward to small classes and interdisciplinary seminars, individualized academic advising, faculty-mentored research and other creative activities, an optional residential learning community in the Academic Village, early registration for classes, co-curricular activities, a scholarship for students who enter the program in the freshman year, and assistance with applications for prestigious post-graduate awards.

Discover what it’s like to be a CSU Honors student.

AUCC (All-University Core Curriculum)

The All-University Core Curriculum (AUCC) at CSU helps students refine their academic skills and introduces them to areas of knowledge, methodologies, and ways of knowing in various fields of study. The AUCC is integral to the entire undergraduate educational experience.

Put simply, AUCC courses are taken by almost every student, and they’re designed to broaden and fill your educational background, provide foundations for future coursework, and allow you to explore outside your major early on.

Dual enrollment

Dual enrollment (sometimes called concurrent enrollment) is a program that allows high-school students to take college-credit-bearing courses. Depending upon the arrangement between the high school and the college, dual-enrollment classes may be taught within the high school, on the college campus, or online/at a distance.


While it may seem simple to define, transfer students come in as transfers in many ways. Technically, a transfer student at CSU is someone who has enrolled in college-level coursework after the date of graduation on their high-school transcript.

Exploratory Studies (Undeclared)

Some students don’t know exactly what they want to study and that’s normal. Those students will be place in our Exploratory Studies, or undeclared, program until they find the right academic path.

Did you know that about two-thirds of CSU students will either start without a major or change their major while at CSU? It’s all part of the learning process.

Are those the only terms you’re going to hear when you’re applying for admission that might be confusing? Probably not, but we hope they give you a solid foundation while you’re comparing programs and universities.

Still have questions?

That’s what your admissions counselor is for. Contact your counselor today for more help navigating the admissions process.

Meet Your Counselor

Prairie Smallwood

Prairie Smallwood is a writer and content creator for the Office of Admissions at Colorado State University. She is passionate about education and exploration, and knows that going to college can be both an adventure and an overwhelming experience. She aims to create content that helps students through that journey — the wonderful, the scary, and everything in between.