A college registrar takes care of class schedules, enrollment, financial aid, and grades. This is the office that you may need to contact if you want to add or drop a class, ask for an official transcript, or learn more about future class schedules.
Financial Aid or Office of the Bursar
This is the office that assesses tuition and fees, creates tuition bills, and disburses financial aid. You may need to interact with this office if you receive financial aid from the university, loans, or ever need a refund.
Many universities have academic advisors who specialize in helping students navigate their degree plan. When you choose a college degree, you will be required to take a certain number of credit hours, enroll in specifically required classes, and often take courses in a particular order to successfully graduate. Academic advisors are available to help you plan your progress.
Student life is rarely a single office, but this is the broad category of offices and individuals who are responsible for helping students and planning activities outside of academic affairs. This includes housing, fitness and recreation, career connections, and more.
Technology Support and LMS
You will almost certainly need to interact with your campus technology support many times during your college experience. As university’s offer more online courses and rely more on online services, the technology support office is more valuable than ever. Many courses now rely on an LMS, or learning management system. This is an online platform like Blackboard or Canvas, which houses class pages. You will likely find syllabi, readings, and assignments on your LMS pages. When you have a glitch with your computer or LMS, having your IT Support on speed dial can help.
Writing Lab, Math Lab, and other labs
Most universities have a variety of “labs” that you may attend for help with various academic subjects. You may need to sign up for tutoring sessions at these labs, or they may have open hours. If these services are available to you then you should use them!
Graduate Assistants and Professors
These are the people you will interact with most frequently, and with some of whom you'll likely form lasting relationships. Getting to know them will improve your college experience and enhance your education, guaranteed.
Who are Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants?
Depending on the university you attend, you may find yourself regularly interacting with teaching assistants or graduate assistants. If you attend an undergraduate only institution, this section likely won’t apply to you, and you can skip ahead. However, universities with graduate programs often employ graduate students to help with undergraduate classes. These graduate students are often employed as Teaching Assistants (TAs) or Graduate Assistants (GAs), and may answer emails, hold office hours, labs, or study sessions for students, or complete all the grading for the course.
The degree to which you will interact with a TA will depend highly on the institution and the professor. Some professors delegate all of their student correspondence to the TA, while others largely use the TA as a grader. It is likely that the professor or TA will give you some indication of the expectations during the first few weeks of class. The professor may tell you outright that all questions should be directed to the TA or to themselves. Listen for those cues, and if you don’t get the information you need, don’t hesitate to ask.
What should you call a professor?
Contacting professors often feels intimidating or awkward for students, but it doesn’t need to feel that way. Most professors like their jobs, including teaching, and want to hear from their students. When you do reach out to your professor, it helps if you have solid expectations around the student-teacher relationship. The foundation of this is the syllabus. Having read the syllabus before you contact the professor ensures that you aren’t wasting their time or yours. When you are ready to reach out, it helps if you know how to start. College professors often expect students to know immediately how to appropriately address them (see also, Chapter 4. College 101 for advice on sending professional emails).
How should you address your professor? The short answer is that it is always acceptable to say "professor last-name." The long answer is that if they have a PhD, then they can be addressed as "Dr. last-name" or as "Professor last-name." In your professor does. not have a PhD then "Professor last-name" is still appropriate. You should not, however, address your professor as "Mrs. / Ms. /Miss" or "Mr." If you’re unsure, you can often look at how they sign their correspondence for a clue as to their preferred method of address. Some universities and some professors are more informal. In these settings, professors may go by their first names. If a professor says to address them on a first name basis, go right ahead.
Who cares? Why does it matter? The answer has everything to do with respect. First, your professor worked very hard for their degree, and in doing so, built up a wealth of expertise. Addressing your professor by their appropriate title shows acknowledgement of that effort and expertise. Second, for women, people of color, queer or LBGTQIA folks, and other marginalized people in the academy, their fight has often been an uphill battle in institutions that are not built for them or for people like them. These faculty members often face discrimination and bias that follows them throughout their careers and works against their promotion and tenure. Referring to these faculty members appropriately acknowledges their place in the academy and their hard-won position of expertise. And, again, if you're not sure about your professor’s degree, then "professor last-name," is always a good choice.