Alma Lingo

For parents and family of Alma College students, it can sometimes seem that your Scot is speaking a different language. Here are some common terms and acronyms that are used by Alma College students, faculty and staff:

DR: When it comes time to begin scheduling classes, the letters DR might come up quite often. These stand for distributive requirements, which are simply the classes that are required in order to graduate. Because Alma is a liberal arts college, students will be required to take a variety of different distributive requirements outside the major. The academic catalog can explain the specific requirements that will be needed by students.

FAFSA: Standing for the Free Application for Student Aid, FAFSA is a way to determine your Expected Family Contribution as determined by financial information, assets and various pieces of household information. The results are used to determine the amount of financial aid that a student will receive and to see if he/she will qualify for programs such as work-study. For more information about FAFSA go to

GPA, CPA, and honors points: Most students are familiar with the GPA—otherwise known as the grade point average—but the CPA is a bit different. The cumulative grade point average is like the GPA of your entire college career. When looking at your registration, you may also see the letters HP. This is an important calculation that stands for honors points. This assures that the grade for a four-credit course applies more to the CPA than a 1- or 2-credit course. These points sum up your college progress with a number that is calculated by multiplying the grade for the course by the number of credit hours.

Honors Day: On a day near the close of the Winter semester, classes are cancelled to celebrate Honors Day, where students can present their hard work to the entire campus. There are various sessions throughout the day at which students display the results of their research or creative activity.

ILL and MeLCat: ILL stands for Interlibrary Loan and can be used to get publications that the Alma library may not carry. MeLCat is the Michigan eLibrary and is another source where students can look up articles, books, films or other types of research materials.

IM sports: IM sports—“IM” standing for intramural—offer students a chance to play sports at a recreational level within the college. They do not require as much of a time commitment as being on an official team, but they give all students the opportunity to play sports that they enjoy.

IT or ITS: Information Technology Services, located in the basement of the library, is the go-to spot for computer, networking and other technology-related issues.

Liberal Arts: The purpose of a liberal arts education is not to train students to do a specific job or to do one particular thing; rather the focus of liberal arts is to prepare students to do anything and everything. This is what makes liberal arts graduates valuable to organizations and successful in post-graduate programs. Throughout their studies, students will acquire a broad knowledge base that will serve them throughout their lives and in the real world. They will graduate with an understanding of a wide range of subjects, solid thinking, writing, reasoning and analytical skills and, most importantly, a degree of self-understanding that could not have been achieved elsewhere.

Moodle: Many professors use the online academic tool called Moodle to post homework, grades and any other information for their classes. To get to Moodle, students must log in to Inside Alma (the portal), click the links tab and then click on Moodle in the dropdown menu. Classes are listed on the left hand side, and navigation is easy through the various tabs that the website provides.

P-Global: This program offers students the ability to truly make a difference in another country. P-Global offers students scholarships as well so that they can travel anywhere in the world to help the people that need aid most. The application process includes a proposal and an interview, as well as an examination of the student’s grades, experiences and ability to work independently.

PIG Book: Students refer to the campus directory on the Inside Alma portal as Pig Book. Before the online directory existed, a Personal Identification Guide (PIG) was published in hard copy format. Though it no longer is available as a book, and the term isn’t officially used on the website, the name is still used by many. The campus directory serves as a way to identify and contact staff and students around campus.

POE: Alma offers various academic opportunities to its students, but if a student has an interest that may combine various academic disciplines, he or she may work with a member of faculty to create his/her own Program of Emphasis.

PRISM: Positive Routes into Science and Mathematics is a program that allows science and math students to conduct hands-on research while giving them opportunities to take their education outside of the classroom. Even before students come to Alma, they can conduct research with the help of Alma College near their hometown. They can learn leadership skills and can become peer mentors to new students in math and science programs. For more information contact Dr. John Davis.

Q1 and Q2: The Q here stands for quill, and students will have to take a variety of quill courses to graduate. These are extensive writing courses in which 25% of the grade is based upon essays, journals, reports and other such assignments, done both in and outside of the classroom.

RA: Resident Assistants (RAs) are student peer leaders responsible for supporting the residential learning communities in the residence halls at Alma. The RA position assists with community building, conflict resolution, team building and many other aspects of residential living. RAs are located in every hallway of every residence hall. They work with residents in their halls to plan fun activities and to get the students more involved on campus. They are always available to talk and students may approach them with any questions or issues they may have.  The RAs are also responsible for assisting with conflict among residents and enforcement college policies.

Saga: Probably one of the most commonly used terms on campus, Saga, really is another name for Hamilton Commons—the dining hall on campus. Many years ago, the college purchased its food from Saga Food Services, which is where the name originates. Today we get our food from Sodexo Food Services, but the name Saga still stands strong!

Spring Term (S-course): Something unique about Alma is the requirement of Spring Term semesters. Spring Term is a four-week May semester in which students take one course that delves deep into a certain subject. There is also an S-Course Spring Term that is required, which crosses geographical, cultural or disciplinary boundaries. Many S-courses are offered each year that take students off campus to places such as Chicago, England, France, Ecuador, New York, New Zealand and many other locations.