Student life has a language all its own. If you’re planning to attend an American university, learning the slang might help you adjust faster.

“Like newcomers to any group, college students want to show that they belong,” said Deborah Healey, who teaches linguistics at the University of Oregon. “They pick up on shared slang and other expressions that allow them to feel like part of the group. Also, many college students discover new ideas and phrases in their studies, which breeds more linguistic creativity.”

You’ll hear these phrases used on many U.S. campuses:

GPA killer


What it means: A very hard class. A grade point average (GPA) is the total of all the numerical grades a student receives divided by the number of courses or credits the student took. So it’s one number that represents a student’s overall performance.

In conversation: “I know I should take that class, but it’s going to be a GPA killer.”


What it means: To get the best grade possible. This term comes from tennis, in which an ace is a serve an opponent can’t return.

In conversation: “All that studying I did paid off. I aced that exam!”



What it means: A session of studying for a test or writing a research paper that lasts until the sun rises.

In conversation: “There was so much reading I hadn’t done. I had to pull an all-nighter to study for the exam.”


What it means: To go to a small party before a bigger party.

In conversation: “Our dorm’s hall party is at nine, but we’re going to pregame at Julie’s at seven.”

Underwater basket weaving


What it means:  An insulting name for an elective class that doesn’t count toward a graduation requirement or for a class that is particularly easy.

In conversation: “You need to challenge yourself more, instead of signing up for underwater basket weaving again.”


What it means: Resident adviser or resident assistant. RAs are the students in a dormitory — usually upperclassmen — who enforce dorm rules and who help the other students living there.

In conversation: “If you lost your room key, you should go talk to the RA. She’ll tell you how to get a new one.”

Learn more

ShareAmerica features materials on learning American English. Explore everyday conversations or learn sports and business idioms. There’s more information on campus life in the U.S. at Education USA.