Do You Capitalize The Word “Undergraduate” When Writing?


do you capitalize undergraduate

Did you know that the hybrid word ‘undergraduate’ has been around for more than four centuries? It was formed in 1620, consisting of two words; under + graduate. Back then, it was only used as a noun to mean “a student at college or university studying for his or her first degree.” 

By the 1680s, it started being used as an adjective in the school sense, such as for, of, characteristic of, or pertaining to undergraduates.

undergraduate word on dictionary

The term undergraduate is not a proper noun, rather than a countable noun and an adjective that describes or modifies the term ‘graduate.’ Therefore, it can only be capitalized if used as a first word in a sentence as a title.

Examples:

  • Undergraduate majors mainly form the bulk of most student and professor workloads.
  •  Undergraduate and postgraduate students must recognize the value of primary care.

The Standard Definitions of Undergraduate

  • Of, pertaining to, or a characteristic of graduates
  • Of, for consisting of undergraduates
  • Having an understanding of an undergraduate
  • A university or college student who has not yet received a degree.

In titles, capitalization can be done whether ‘undergraduate’ appears at the beginning, middle, or the end of a title.

Examples:

  • How to Use Undergraduate in a Sentence?
  • Undergraduate Degree Programs in Michigan.

Since it is a noun and an adjective, ‘undergraduate’ can be used in various ways and can typically be placed anywhere in a sentence. It makes it simple for us to describe a student who has not yet received their degrees by simply referring to them as undergraduates.

Synonyms of “Undergraduate”

  • Upperclassman
  • Undergrad
  • Senior
  • Junior
  • Student

Can You Capitalize on “Undergraduate” When Used as a Noun?

Since we have already established that the word ‘undergraduate’ can be used in various sections of a sentence, it is easy to answer this question. Depending on how you want to use it, this word may not need to be capitalized unless it appears at the beginning of a sentence. It is also critical to note that ‘undergraduate’ is commonly used as an adjective and not a noun. Therefore, it is almost unlikely that you will need to capitalize on this word as a noun.

Examples:

  • What are you studying as an undergraduate? (Correct. No capitalization because it appears at the end of a sentence.)
  • Who is an undergraduate? (Correct. No capitalization because it appears at the end of a sentence.)

Can You Capitalize on “Undergraduate” When Used as an Adjective?

You will probably need to capitalize if the word appears at the beginning of a sentence, in a title or subtitle, or in a list. This word is commonly used in the middle of a sentence as an adjective, but it cannot be capitalized. While it is rarely used as the first word, always keep in mind that you don’t have to capitalize it if it appears anywhere between the second and the last place in a sentence.

Examples:

  • Undergraduate students in Dream College have to submit their assignments by next week. (Correct. Must be capitalized because it is used as the first word)
  •  All undergraduate courses arm students with valuable skills and experience to handle global challenges. (Correct. Not capitalized because it is the second word)

undergrad students holding notepads

Can “Undergraduate” Be Written as Two Words?

The simple answer to this question is ‘NO.’ Writing undergraduate as ‘under’ + ‘graduate’ completely changes the actual meaning of the word. Undergraduate belongs to the Closed Compound words category where these two words were at one point individual words but are currently accepted as real ‘one word’ in the English language. Closed compounds are typically made of two words and only become one word when they are frequently used together or close to one another.

For example, when we were first introduced to the internet, there was a tendency of people saying go on-line. Due to massive usage of the term, today, we refer to and spell on-line as one word instead of two. That was the same case for the undergraduate term, which was commonly used by the British.

Other examples of closed compounds include:

  • Superman
  • Baseball
  • Wildcat
  • Birthday
  • Sideline
  • Sailboat

It is also critical to understand why ‘undergraduate’ easily falls under the closed compound word category. When you separate ‘under’ and ‘graduate,’ you have a proposition and a noun. This completes the rule of compound words formed when the first word compliments or describes the second word. That also means that the second word must be a noun. In our case, ‘under’ compliments the noun ‘graduate.’

Can “Undergraduate” Be Hyphenated?

When it comes to hyphenation in grammar, a lot of rules have to be considered. An important rule of thumb is that a compound adjective can only be hyphenated if it comes before the noun it is modifying.

Examples:

  • That is a very good solution for the long term- A good long-term solution.
  • The user guide is up to date- Up-to-date user guide.

The word undergraduate does not fall under this category because ‘graduate’ is not a compound adjective. Therefore, we cannot write “undergraduate” as “under-graduate.”

Examples of “Undergraduate” in a Sentence

Like we have already discussed, the word ‘undergraduate’ can appear in different places in a sentence. Where it is placed determines whether it should be capitalized or not. Here are a few examples of how the word can be used in various parts of a sentence.

In the Beginning

When the word undergraduate appears at the beginning of a sentence, it must be capitalized. It also appears as an adjective every time it is used at the beginning of the sentence as most nouns require articles before them.

Examples:

  • Undergraduate and postgraduate students have to read lots of materials.
  • Undergraduate education is critical in shaping one’s career.
  • Undergraduate students have to master all the taught concepts to apply in their careers.
  • Undergraduate degrees are academic degrees.

In the Middle

Undergraduate is most commonly used in the middle of a sentence for obvious reasons—it is a noun and an adjective. It doesn’t matter whether it is used as a noun or an adjective, ‘undergraduate’ can fit in both. Let’s look at how the word has been used in the following sentences.

  • During World War II, my grandmother was an undergraduate at the University of California-(Noun)
  • There are more than 200 cases that will go before the undergraduate administrative review committee today-(adjective)
  • There is a major drop in the number of undergraduates taking Accounting majors-(noun)
  • He was named the best undergraduate physics major at the University of Lemma-(adjective)
  • If you take your undergraduate curriculum seriously, you are likely to land a good job in the future- (adjective)
  • Being an undergraduate at the age of 40 is no longer surprising like it used to be in the olden days- (noun)
  • It is the only university that teaches undergraduate students how to make money without working hard- (adjective)

At the End

When used at the end of a sentence, the word ‘undergraduate’ automatically becomes a noun as we only use adjectives before nouns. Note that we cannot capitalize on the word if it appears at the end of a sentence. The sentences below show how this word appears at the end of a sentence.

  •  I went through many academic challenges as an undergraduate.
  • The struggle and pressure of getting a good job is more prevalent for an undergraduate.
  •  Harry started his music career while still an undergraduate.
  • You don’t need to stress yourself about jobs when you are still an undergraduate.
  • Jackie knew very well what she wanted to study as an undergraduate.

Other Undergraduate Sentence Examples

  •  Mr. Joe has an undergraduate degree in Entrepreneurship.
  • Going by what happens to my undergraduate papers, this was a rip-snorter.
  • The professor teaches two undergraduate reporting classes.
  • Upon completing his undergraduate course, Jack landed an excellent paying job with Delloitte and got promoted a year after.
  •  When she was still an undergraduate, she helped other students with study materials and discussion lessons to help them improve their grades.
  • In most educational systems, undergraduate education is simply post-secondary education up to the master’s degree level.
  • The most common undergraduate degree in America is the Bachelor’s degree and associate’s degree.
  •  Our four-year undergraduate course begins this September.
  • My dad spent most of his undergraduate days at the university, majoring in Engineering.
  • How long have you been an undergraduate?

Final Thoughts

reading glasses on top of dictionary

Mastering good use of words and using them appropriately is one of the biggest steps one can take to perfect the English language. While it’s vast, learning simple sentence formation, grammar and punctuation go a long way towards making English easier to read and write.

The word ‘undergraduate’ has come a long way as it is more commonly used today than ever before. Many people, however, still don’t know when to capitalize and when not to. Others tend to write it as two words or hyphenate it, which is equally wrong. All these mistakes can be avoided if you can spare a few minutes to conduct research, read and practice proper punctuation. We hope this guide helped you get a better understanding of the word ‘undergraduate.’

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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