Is there a single-word category for the status Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors? I've heard it called as "batch status" but can't seem to find the right single-word category for it.

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    @pageman: Don't take this the wrong way, but I really do think it's only fair to flag up in the original question if you're looking for a 'set name' word to be used in a 'programming' design context. If you were actually looking to name a C++ class, as opposed to just a database fieldname, @Robusto wouldn't have needed to waste time proposing the actual word class (although the mind boggles at whether one could actually successfully implement a class called "class"). Jun 5, 2011 at 22:20
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    @FumbleFingers: '... the mind boggles at whether one could actually successfully implement a class called "class"'. Completely legal to do so in Java as long as the name of the class is "Class" (upper-case 'C'). Not sure about C++ however. Jun 5, 2011 at 22:53
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    @MisterSquonk: I was careful not to capitalise it when I wrote the (potential?) classname "class". And again lol. You could probably recompile an open-source C++ compiler after replacing all occurences of the literal "class" with, say "clAss". Then code the freaky implementation program with that. My mind continues to boggle, but that way madness lies... Jun 5, 2011 at 23:01
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    Hopefully no-one. But I didn't intend any association with EL&U's support for 'flagging'. I just thought since we often find ourselves asking OP for more 'context' on a question, you might consider your intended use of any answer you get here to be a useful bit of context that could have been supplied. No biggie. Jun 6, 2011 at 16:04
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    @pageman: Fair enough. In the circumstances my point becomes somewhat less meaningful. But you will appreciate we have had questions here which are effectively asking "What should I call this programming class?", without explicitly acknowledging that highly restricted context. My apologies for misclassifying yours. Jun 7, 2011 at 14:12

6 Answers 6


You might consider class as a generic noun that covers these terms.

All members of the junior class will become seniors next year.

David is an upperclassman now that he's in his third year at Brandeis.

But despite what others have stated, I believe the term "cohort" has a slightly different connotation. It means

Cohort (educational group) A cohort is a group of students who work through a curriculum together to achieve the same academic degree together. A cohort forms when the students begin the curriculum and typically does not admit new members afterward. [Wikipedia]

Here's another reference for cohort:

Cohort study is when a group of students, 12-25 (this is a general number that may vary by college), start and finish their degree together. They are accepted into the same program, take their classes together, and graduate together, building relationships with one another as they do.

This would seem to invalidate the notion that cohort could be used. Typically juniors, seniors and the rest do admit new members (transfers, etc.) and they don't all pursue the same academic degree.

  • point taken - need the single-word for a database - "class" might not work but you've made a compelling argument for it :) Jun 5, 2011 at 16:08



or you could say that students are grouped by their "Expected graduation date".

  • Cohort seems to be the right word! I'll wait for more answers but that feels right! :) Jun 5, 2011 at 14:21
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    @pageman: As per @Robusto's answer, I'm not sure cohort is exactly right (though it's clearly closely related). My vote is for the first option in this answer, namely year :)
    – psmears
    Jun 5, 2011 at 20:51

We don't really use any of these terms in the UK, so maybe I'm not qualified to answer. But I think in general the only significant subcategories within tertiary education are first-year and final year students.

Most courses tend to be 2-4 years, within which it often makes a difference if someone's just starting or about to finish, but there's little reason for most of us to distinguish any particular year-group somewhere between those limits.

One group who are likely to need to refer to specific year-groups are the staff at the educational establishment. In the UK they probably normally do this by referring to the 2009 intake, for example.


I'm a prof at a US university. We (I and people I hear from on this topic) call these classifications (freshman, etc.) "rank."

We don't use "cohort," because that denotes a group that takes limited-availability classes together.

We don't use "class," because that denotes the year of graduation, not the current progress toward that year: "class of 2020."

We don't use "grade"; that works in the US up through 12th grade, in high school, but colleges don't use it.

We may say "year": "What year are you in?" maybe answered "I'm a junior." I think this is informal, and "rank" is the usual term I hear, but "year" can work too.


Cohort. These words describe cohorts of students.

A better question is why American institutions aren't content to simply use ordinals (or cardinals) to describe their cohorts.

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    Probably for the same reason that, say, all dialects of English have names for days of the week instead of simply numbering them (like many other languages do): because why not?
    – Kosmonaut
    Jun 5, 2011 at 14:15
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    @Kosmonaut: Yes, but all European languages have names for days of the week, but I'm not aware of any other dialect of any language where there are words for all university cohorts.
    – Marcin
    Jun 5, 2011 at 14:23
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    @Marcin: The use of freshman, etc came directly over from England in the mid 1700's. straightdope.com/columns/read/1982/… sigh, someday I'll remember to hit shift + enter when typing a comment here, but apparently not today They're one of those 'English peculiarities' that we've kept. For high school students, however, they're still commonly referred to as '9th graders, 10th graders, etc' and not just 'freshmen, etc'.
    – Darwy
    Jun 5, 2011 at 14:28
  • @Darwy: Reading the article closely you will see that these are not "English" words, but words only used at Cambridge, and apparently Trinity, Dublin.
    – Marcin
    Jun 5, 2011 at 14:39
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    They are English peculiarities. They are Greek in origin (as many English words are), however their usage in that manner (the description of academic levels) is most definitely English. The same could be said about the Imperial Units still in use in the US: it was brought over from England and it's still in use. To use a Southern vernacular, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
    – Darwy
    Jun 5, 2011 at 14:53

1.) Grade

2.) Year

3.) Class (ex. Class of '19)

4.) Cohort

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