Academic year: Annual school period that begins in August or September, and ends in May. It may be divided into terms of varying lengths, such as semesters, trimesters, or quarters.
ACT (American College Test): A standardized college entrance exam administered by the American College Testing Program. Four separate, multiple-choice tests measure knowledge of English, math, reading, and science, and one optional writing test measures essay planning and writing skills. Most students take the ACT during their junior or senior year of high school, and most colleges and universities accept scores from either the ACT or SAT. Some schools may recommend, but not require, international students to take the ACT or SAT.
Authentication: process to determine if a document is authentic or real. Incoming students are often required to provide a document of authentication for academic transcripts or previous degrees when applying to a program of study in the United States.
Bachelor’s degree: An undergraduate degree awarded by a college or university upon successful completion of a program of study, typically requiring at least four years (or the equivalent) of full-time study. Common degree types include bachelor of arts (B.A. or A.B.), which refers to the liberal arts, and bachelor of science (B.S.).
Commencement: Graduation day.
Conditional Admission: An acceptance to a college or university that is dependent on the student first completing coursework or meeting specific criteria before enrollment. For an international student, this can include a requirement to attain a certain level of English-language proficiency if the student's TOEFL score doesn't meet the minimum required.
Course load: number of credit hours that a student takes every semester.
Credits: Units that a school uses to indicate that a student has completed and passed courses that are required for a degree. Each school defines the total number and types of credits necessary for degree completion, with every course being assigned a value in terms of "credits," "credit hours," or "units."
Culture Shock: Feelings of uncertainty, confusion, or anxiety that can occur when adjusting to a new country and culture that may be very different from your own.
Curriculum: A program of study made up of a set of courses offered by a school.
Dean: The head of a division of a college or university.
Degree: A diploma or title awarded to students by a college or university after successful completion of a program of study.
Dormitories/ Dorms: school housing located on campus, where students, both international and domestic live. They offer rooms, bathrooms, common lounges, kitchen areas, etc.
Double Major: A program of study that allows a student to complete the course requirements for two majors at the same time.
Electives: Classes you choose and take during a semester, which are not directly related to your major.
Extracurricular activities: Optional activities, such as sports, organizations, that students can participate in outside of academic classes.
Fees: An amount charged by universities, in addition to tuition, to cover costs of institutional services.
Financial Aid: A general term that includes all types of money, loans, and work/study programs offered to a student to help pay tuition, fees, and living expenses.
Fraternity: Male social, academic, and philanthropic organizations found on many U.S. campuses.
Freshman: First- year student at secondary school or at a higher education institution.
Full-time enrollment: One who is enrolled in an institution taking a full load of courses; the number of credit hours is specified by the institution.
General Studies: Classes that give students basic knowledge of a variety of topics. Students often must take general education classes in order to graduate. This set of classes includes different courses and is called by different names at various colleges and universities.
Grade Point Average (GPA): The combined average of a student's grades for all academic coursework completed. In the United States, grades are usually assigned in letters and are based on a 4.0 GPA scale. Grade GPA A 4.0 (excellent) B 3.0 (good) C 2.0 (satisfactory) D 1.0 (needs improvement) F 0.0 (fail)
Graduate Assistant (GA): A student who serves in a support role (assistantship) at a university, usually while completing post-graduate education.
Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): A standardized graduate business school entrance exam administered by the nonprofit Graduate Management Admission Council, which measures verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills. Some business schools accept either the GMAT or GRE.
Graduate Record Examination (GRE): A standardized graduate school entrance exam administered by the nonprofit Educational Testing Service (ETS), which measures verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills. The exam is generally required by graduate schools, which use it to assess applicants of master's and Ph.D. programs.
Greek life: A college or university's collection of fraternities and sororities on campus, whose names originate from letters in the ancient Greek alphabet.
Higher education: Postsecondary education at colleges, universities, professional schools, technical institutes, etc.
Honors Program: Challenging program offered at colleges and universities to students with high grades.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS): An English language proficiency examination of applicants whose native language is not English.
International Student Advisor: A school official who assists international students, scholars, and faculty with matters including orientation, visas, language, culture, insurance, and academic and government rules, among other areas.
Internship: An experience that allows students to work in a professional environment to gain training and skills. Internships may be paid or unpaid and can be of varying lengths during or after the academic year.
Junior: A student in the third year of high school or college / university.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT): A standardized test that provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants.
Letter of Recommendation: A letter written by a student's teacher, counselor, coach, or mentor that assesses his or her qualifications and skills. Colleges, universities, and graduate schools generally require recommendation letters as part of the application process.
Living expenses: Expenses such as housing and meals, books and supplies, transportation, personal expenses, health insurance.
Major: The student’s primary field of study during the undergraduate career.
Master's: Graduate degree awarded by a college or university upon succesul completion of an advanced program of study, typically requiring one or two years of full-time study beyond the bachelor's degree. Common degree types include Master of Arts (M.A.), which refers to the liberal arts; Master of Science (M.S.); and Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.).
Minor: The student's secondary field of concentration. Unlike a major, a minor is typically not required, but it allows a student to take a few additional courses in a subject different from his or her major.
Non-Resident Status: A student who does not meet a state's residence requirements. A college or university may have different tuition costs and admissions policies for residents versus nonresidents. In most cases, international students are considered nonresidents. A "nonresident alien" is a person who is not a U.S. citizen and is in the country on a temporary basis.
Orientation: college or university's official process of welcoming new, accepted students to campus and providing them with information and policies before classes begin, usally in a half-day or full-day event. Many colleges and graduate schools offer a separate orientation just for international students to cover topics such as how to follow immigration and visa regulations, set up a U.S. bank account, and handle culture shock.
Part-time enrollment: student who is enrolled at a college or university but is not taking the minimum number of credits required for a full course load.
Pathway: various courses, programs, and learning opportunities offered by schools, community organizations, or local businesses that allow students to earn academic credit and satisfy graduation requirements and/or entrance requirements to a university program.
Pass-Fail: A grading system in which students receive either a "pass" or "fail" grade, rather than a specific score or letter grade. Certain college or university courses can be taken pass-fail, but these typically don't include ones taken to fulfill major or minor requirements.
Plagiarism: The use of another person's words or ideas as your own, without acknowledging that person. Schools have different policies and punishments for students caught plagiarizing, which tends to occur with research papers and other written assignments.
Pre-requisites: Programs or courses that a student is required to complete before being permitted to enroll in a more advanced program or course.
Probation: A status or period of time in which students with very low GPAs, or whose academic work is unsatisfactory according to the school, must improve their performance. If they are unable to do so, they may be dismissed from the school. Students may also face "disciplinary probation" for nonacademic reasons, such as behavioral problems in the dorms.
Registrar: The college or university official who is responsible for registering students and keeping their academic records, such as transcripts.
Resident Assistant (RA): A student leader who works in campus dormitories and supervises issues and activities related to dorm life. RAs often receive free housing in the dorm in return for their services.
Resident Status: A student who lives in and meets the residency requirements for the state where a public university is located. Tuition at public universities often is more expensive for non-residents.
Room and board: Housing and meals. "Room and board" is typically one of the costs that colleges and universities will list in their annual estimated cost of attendance, in addition to tuition, fees, and textbooks and supplies. If students choose to live in dormitories, they may be required to buy into a meal plan to use on-campus dining facilities.
SAT: A standardized college entrance exam administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) on behalf of the nonprofit College Board, which measures reading, writing, and math skills. Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year of high school, and most colleges and universities accept scores from either the SAT or ACT. In addition, students may choose to take the SAT Subject Tests in English, history, languages, math, and science to demonstrate their knowledge in specific academic areas. Some schools recommend, but not require, international students to take the SAT.
Semester: Periods of study that divide the academic year into two equal segments of approximately 15 to 18 weeks each. Some schools also offer a shorter summer semester, beyond the traditional academic year.
Senior: A student in the fourth year of high school or college, or university.
Sophomore: A second-year student at a secondary school, college, or university.
Sorority: Female social, academic, and philanthropic organizations found on many U.S. campuses.
Syllabus: An outline of topics covered in an academic course.
Teaching Assistant (TA): A graduate student who acts as an instructor for an undergraduate course in his or her field, in return for some form of financial aid from the university.
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): A standardized exam administered by the nonprofit Educational Testing Service (ETS), which measures English-language proficiency in reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Many U.S. colleges and universities require non-native English speakers to take the TOEFL and submit their scores as part of the admissions process.
Transcript: An official record of a student's coursework and grades at a high school, college, or university. A high school transcript is usually one of the required components of the college application process.
Transfer: The process of moving from one university to another to complete a degree.
Tuition fee: An amount of money charged by a school per term, per course, or per credit, in exchange for instruction and training. Tuition generally does not include the cost of textbooks, room and board, and other fees.
Undergraduate student / undergraduate studies: A student enrolled in a two-year or four-year study program at a college or university after graduation from high school, leading to an associate or bachelor's degree.
Withdraw: To formally stop participating in a course or attending a university.