The Admin Panel is basically a collection of all the “backend” parts of your site. Depending on your role for the site and the theme you’re using, you may see more or less in the Admin Panel.
The parts of the Admin Panel an “editor” will see
The Dashboard is the first screen you see when you log into the administration area of your website. The main idea of the dashboard is to give you a place where you can get an at-a-glance overview of what’s happening with your website. From here, you can see some basic info about your site, and can get to the other sections of your site, using the menu on the left.
This will probably be the most important section of your site, where all the most important information is published. In a typical WordPress site, you will spend quite a bit of time with Pages. Pages are essentially web pages (though they can include fancy WordPress features your site administrator has added, too!)
Posts (blog entries) may be used more by some departments than others. Typically Posts (and News Items, described in the next section) are geared towards content that will be updated over time with new articles, and usually implies an ability to look through older, archived articles. On occasions, Posts may be used to organize content that’s not strictly a “blog post”, such as photos, recipes, status reports or anything else that might be better organized by date and added to over time. Posts also can be associated with different keywords, called Tags, and organized into different Categories. This allows for additional ways to group similar articles together to encourage exploration of your Post archives.
The Media Library is the repository for anything that you might attach to a Page, Post or News Item like pictures, PDFs, or Office documents. There is more detail on Media on the Media Management page.
If comments are allowed on the site, this is where you go to manage them. (Most academic websites will have comments turned off unless they are hosting a blog.)
You can edit certain aspects of your account for the WordPress site here. You may want to change “Display name publicly as” to a more natural name (instead of your username), but otherwise, this won’t come into play in most sites.
This section typically contains the Import and Export functions, and not much else, unless a plugin has added something.