Uni lingo 101: a first-year's guide

March 03, 2016
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You've managed to apply, accept and enrol in uni. So far so good? While you've got the most important things under control, it's time to learn some of the lingo that’ll be used around campus. Even if you're not a fresher, it might come in handy.

Side note: keep in mind that while most unis are on the same page, each one might have slightly different interpretations or names for things, so it's worth double-checking with if you're unsure about anything.

Academic transcripts

A record of all your scores from every subject you've done. Academic transcripts are mainly used for applying for jobs or scholarships. Organisation is key, because it can take weeks for the uni to prepare them.

Census date

The date usually falls around week two or three of semester one so you can get a feel for a course before deciding if you want to drop it or change into a different one. If you’re still enrolled in a course after the census date, you have to pay for it. If you drop out beforehand, you won’t be charged.


More associated with residential colleges than campus, but it refers to anyone in their first year of uni.


A score made up of all your grades from uni, but this one differs to an academic transcript as it’s just a single number. Generally, a High Distinction is a seven, a Distinction is a six, a Credit is a five, a Pass is a four, a Fail is a 1.5, and a Withdraw Fail is a zero. You add up your grades from each course and work out the average, and that’s your GPA. It's useful to know because you might need it when applying for jobs, transferring degrees, or applying for postgraduate courses.

Hurdle assignment

While you have to get 50 per cent overall to pass the course, some subjects will have certain assessments that you have to nail in order to get through the course, regardless of how well you do in everything else. So even if you get 90 per cent overall for a subject, if you don't pass a hurdle assignment, you won’t pass the course.


Any class that’s considered pretty easy. So easy that you can watch Netflix through the whole thing rather than pay full attention.

No sun Sunday

It's basically when you go out on a Saturday night and then stay hungover in bed all day on Sunday, only getting out once the sun goes down.


While they do have some similarities, each one is different. However, they’re all smaller than a lecture, and allow you to ask questions and have them answered. There's also a good chance you have to contribute by saying something and interact with everyone else.

Seminar. This tends to be group problem-solving in small teams. It's also common to do small presentations about course material.

Tutorial. These are group discussions led by a seminar leader, and are commonly used to reflect on the weekly lecture presentation.

Workshop. This is an opportunity to do the practical stuff in your course. For example, in media, you’d get to use a camera and take pictures.


A lot of courses will require you to submit assignments through Turnitin.  When you submit an assignment to Turnitin you get a score, which reflects how similar it is to other texts. The score is calculated by using current and past assignments to check yours for plagiarism. Sometimes it’s hard to interpret what a good or bad score is, because quotes and direct references will often come up as being similar to other texts. The golden rule here is to avoid plagiarism at all costs – that way you know you’ll be safe.

Withdraw without failure date

If you withdraw from a subject before this date, you’ll still have to pay for the course but you won't receive a grade for it. For example, if you’re really struggling with a subject or uni in general, you might just drop it now rather than risk ruining your GPA with a fail. This usually falls well after census date.

Sam Talbot

Sam Talbot is a law and media student at the University of Adelaide. He highly values all-day breakfasts. Twitter with him @SamTalbot5.

Image: Francisco OsorioFlickr Creative Commons license