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Survival Slang for the University Campus

Survival Slang for the University Campus In any language, there are words that are not part of the “standard vocabulary” but that are used informally by certain groups—particularly young people. These words are called “slang” and often they do not make sense if directly translated. For example, think of the words or phrases in your native language that you just use among your friends in casual conversation. Someone learning your language would probably have a hard time understanding those slang expressions! English is full of slang words, too, and when attending a U.S. university, you can expect to hear a lots of them. Since these are terms that you won’t learn in class, we’ve created a list of common American slang terms that you’ll hear, and hopefully learn to use, on a university campus. With this list, we hope you are less confused when someone suggests you “Hit the books, ASAP!” Read on to decode American slang.

Pull an All-Nighter:

What is means:If a college student says she had to “pull an all-nighter,” this means she did not sleep at all the night before because she was studying. This usually happens if a student has a big test and did not prepare ahead of time, so she pulls the all-nighter to study for it at the last minute. Though we don’t recommend depriving yourself of sleep as a college student, many would consider pulling at least one all-nighter to be an inevitable part of the college experience. In conversation:“I really didn’t study as much as I should have last week for this test so I had to pull an all-nighter last night.”


What it means:This is an abbreviation for As Soon As Possible. It is usually pronounced as a word: “ay-sap,” but some people say it with the letters, too: A-S-A-P. When someone uses this term, they are normally requesting something and there is urgency to the request. In conversation:“I need this content for our class presentation ASAP. Otherwise, I might be pulling an all-nighter to get the project done in time.”


What it means:Directly translated, you know the word broke as the past tense of the verb break. However, the slang meaning is totally different, and refers to finances. Used informally, if someone is “broke” they have little or no money. In conversation:“I really want to go to that concert this weekend, but I’m broke until payday.”


What it means:Literally, cram means to fit a lot of something into a small space (“I had to cram all my stuff into a small dorm room when I moved on campus”). When a college student uses this term as slang, however, they are referring to learning a lot of information in a short amount of time. Typically this last minute studying happens the night before a test, so this term is closely related to “all-nighter.” If a student crams for an exam, they might also have to “pull an all-nighter” to prepare for it. Not all “cramming” happens at night; some students will cram just hours before a test, instead. In conversation:“I’ve been too busy to study lately so I had to cram for today’s exam this morning.”

Cut Class:

What it means:This term refers to taking an absence from class, usually in a sneaky way and often to do something more fun. In conversation:“I really wanted to sleep in today, so I cut class this morning.”

Hit the Books:

What it means:When a student “hits the books” he is simply studying. Generally this term refers to an intense study session and may even involve “cramming.” In conversation:“I have not read this section yet. It’s time for me to really hit the books this weekend!”


What it means:This is a request for a response to an invitation. It is an abbreviation of a French term répondez s'il vous plait that translates in English to “reply if you please.” College is a very social time filled with lots of meetings, parties, and other events. Students receive a lot of invitations, and are expected to RSVP. A simple yes or no answer, either via email, phone or letter, is an adequate RSVP that courteously lets the event organizer if you are attending the event or not. In conversation:“I just gave my RVSP for the barbeque. I’ll think I’ll bring a desert along too.”
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