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Glossary of USA Educational Terms


USAeducation.info has compiled a glossary of educational terms which will help you understand the commonly used terms and language to describe education in the U.S.A.

Academic Counseling/Advising: Students at U.S. universities and colleges are usually required to converse with an academic counselor or advisor one on one on a regular basis. The counselor / advisor is generally a member of a college faculty who helps and advises students solely on academic matters. These counselors / advisor helps the students to plan their academic calendars, and ensure that the students are taking the classes they need to graduate.

Academic Year: The period of formal instruction, usually September to May. This may be divided into terms of varying lengths like -  semesters, trimesters, or quarters.

Accreditation: Certification that a school or program meets prescribed academic standards. Approval of colleges and universities by nationally recognized professional associations or regional accrediting bodies. It is very important to know that a college or university is accredited.

Add/Drop:
A process at the beginning of the term whereby students can delete or add classes with an instructor's / institute’s permission.

Advanced Placement (AP): A process of choosing classes in advance. Some universities/colleges give credit for class work done in high school or to students who prove via examination that they have achieved university- level proficiency in a certain subject.

Affidavit of Support:
An official document proving the promise of funding from an individual or organization for supporting the studies.

Assistantship: Grant of financial assistance to a graduate student that is offered in return for certain services in teaching or laboratory supervision as a teaching assistant, or for services in research as a research assistant.

Associate Degree: A degree earned upon completion of a degree program at a 2-year college.

Audit: To take a class without receiving credit towards a degree.

Bachelor Degree: Degree earned upon completion of an undergraduate program, typically four years, at a college or university.

Baccalaureate Degree:
The degree of "Bachelor" conferred upon graduates of most U.S. colleges and universities.

Bulletin: A publication by a university or college that contains the details of academic majors offered and the requirements for completing them. This usually includes information, listing and description of every class the institution offers.

Campus: The land on which the buildings of a college or university are located. U.S. campuses are known for their ample size, architecture, landscaping, and numerous student locals.

Class Rank: The number or ratio indicating a student's academic standing in his or her class. Student who ranks first in a class with 100 students will have a class rank of 1/100, and the one ranking last would have 100/100. Some times class rank is expressed in percentiles also.

Co-educational or Coed: A college or university that admits both men and women. Also refers to a dormitory that houses both men and women.

College: A post secondary institution that provides undergraduate education and, in some cases, master's level degrees. College, in a separate sense, is also a division of a university for example, College of Journalism.

Cooperative Education: A program in which students spend a portion of their time in a professional environment outside of the university. The duration of a bachelor’s program is usually five years.

College Catalog:
An official publication giving information about a university's academic programs, facilities, entrance requirements, student life and other relevant information.

Core Requirements: Mandatory courses required for completion of a degree.

Course: Regularly scheduled class sessions of one to five hours (or more) per week during a term. A degree program is made up of a specified number of required and elective courses. This varies from institution to institution.

Course Load: The total number of courses or credits taken in a specific term by the student.

Credits: Universities and colleges in general assign every course a given number of credits. The catalog of a college or university defines the number and types of credits that are required for the university's degrees and states the value of each course offered in terms of "credit hours" or "units." It is generally equivalent to the number of hours spent in class in a week.

Conditional Admission: A conditional admission of the student to a college or university that is dependent upon the individual completing coursework or meeting specified criteria which is set prior to his/her enrollment.

Culture shock: The changed environment and difference faced by the student of adjusting to a new country and a new culture, which may be dramatically different from the one where the student comes from.

Carrel: Individual study area usually reserved for graduate students in a library, available on a first-come first-served basis. A fee may be charged sometimes.

CGFNS: Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools.

Cut: Unauthorized absence from a class.

DAT: Dental Admission Test required of applicants to dental schools.

Dean: Director or highest authority of a professional school or college of a university.

Degree: Diploma or title conferred on the student by a college, university, or professional school upon completion of a program of studies.

Department: Subdivision of a school, college, or university which provides education in a particular field of study such as English Department or Science Department.

Dissertation: Thesis written on an original topic of research. A Thesis is usually presented as one of the final requirements for a Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.).

Doctorate (Ph.D.): The uppermost academic degree conferred by a university to the students who have completed at least three years of graduate study beyond the bachelor's and/or master's degree and who have established their academic capability in various oral and written exams and through original research presented in the form of a thesis.

Dormitory: Also called “dorms,” are housing facilities on the campus of a college or university for students. This may include student rooms, bathrooms, common rooms, dining area and a cafeteria.

Drop: The procedure of dropping a course or leaving a university (also see "Withdrawal.")

Distance Learning: Many universities/colleges offer courses which students can take off-campus, via a variety of means. These means could be Internet, VPN, CD Rom, videotapes, or cable television etc.

ECFMG: Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.

ECFVG: Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates.

Electives: Courses that students choose to take for earning credits toward their planned degree. These can be distinguished as courses that the students are compulsorily required to take.

English as a Second Language (ESL):
A course used to teach English to students whose first language is not English.

ERAS: Electronic Residency Application System for obtaining a residency position in the field of medicine in the United States.

Extracurricular Activities: Non-academic activities beyond academic courses. These could be sports, creative arts, performing arts and so on.

Faculty: The professors, teachers and lecturers of a university/college. The faculty is responsible for designing and disseminating the plans of study offered by the institution.

Fees: The amount charged by universities, colleges or institutes in addition to tuition fee, to cover costs of all institutional services.

Fellowship:
A form of financial assistance awarded to a graduate student who meets certain given eligibility criteria for the particular assistance. Generally, no service is required of the student in return.

Financial Aid: A general term which includes all types of financial assistance, loans, and work-study related programs etc. offered to the students to help them in paying fees, and living expenses etc.

Freshman: A first-year student at secondary schools, universities and colleges.

Full-Time Student: Student who is enrolled at a college or a university and is taking the minimum number of credits (often 12) to meet the requirement for a full course load.

GMAT: Graduate Management Admission Test, usually required for applicants to business or management programs.

Grade Point Average (GPA): A system of recording achievement based on a numerical average of the grades attained by the student in each course.

Graduate: A student who has passed a course of study, either at the secondary or university level.

Graduate Program:
A graduate program at a university is a study course for students who already hold a bachelor's degree.

Grant: A form of financial aid provided to a student who meets certain eligibility criteria set for the particular grant source.

GRE: Graduate Record Examination, often required of applicants to graduate schools in fields other than professional programs such as medicine, dentistry, or law. Both a GRE general test and subject tests for specific fields are offered.

High School Diploma: A formal document regulated by the state certifying the successful completion of a prescribed secondary school program of studies.

Home Stay:
Living arrangement of staying with an American family.

Honors College/Classes: Some universities may have an entire college or program dedicated to academically accomplished students, who wish to take more challenging and/or advanced courses. Similarly some colleges may offer similar advanced programs.

Incomplete: A label given in lieu of a grade for a course which the student has not been able to complete (with permission). The student is usually given a specified period for completion of the program, after which an "F" (a failing grade) results.

Independent Study: Officially assigned coursework undertaken outside a classroom that is monitored by an instructor.

International Student Advisor (ISA): The in-charge person at a university who provides information and guidance to international students about government regulations, visas, academic regulations, social issues, languages, finance, housing, travel, insurance, legal matters and all other related issues with studies etc.

Internship: Placement of students in a work environment in order to enable them to acquire professional experience. This is usually done under an arrangement by which a student works in a company/organization for a limited period of time.

Junior: A third-year student at a secondary school, college, or university.

Language Requirement: A requirement of some graduate programs towards basic reading and writing proficiency on the particular language besides their own to receive their degree.

Lecture: The method of instruction in college and university courses by the professor.

Liberal Arts: A term referring to academic studies of subjects like humanities, social sciences, arts, literature, languages etc. Some schools and colleges may be dedicated solely to the liberal arts. Most U.S. universities and colleges offer ample liberal arts programs.

Liberal Arts and Sciences: The term used for academic studies of sciences in addition to liberal arts.

LSAT: Law School Admission Test required of applicants to professional law programs and some postgraduate law programs in American law schools.

Maintenance: Expenses related with attending a college/university, including accommodation, food, books, clothing, laundry, local transportation, and incidentals.

Major: The subject in which a student wishes to study / concentrate. Students usually declare their major at the end of their second (sophomore) year.

Major Professor/Thesis Advisor: For research students, the professor who works closely with a student in planning and choosing a research plan, conducting the research, and in presenting its results. The major professor serves as the head of a group of faculty members who review programs, their progress and results.

Master’s Degree: Earned upon completion of a graduate degree program this usually includes a minimum of one year's study beyond the bachelor's degree.

MCAT:
Medical College Admission Test required of applicants to U.S. medical schools.

Midterm Exam: An exam administered after a certain academic term has passed. This covers all class material studied until that point of time.

Minor: Subject which the student takes as the second greatest concentration of courses.

NCLEX-RN: A licensing examination for registered nurses. It is required by each state and must be passed before a nurse can practice in that state.

Non-resident: A student who does not meet the domicile requirements of a state. International students are usually classified as non-residents. Possibilities of getting resident status at a later date for tuition purposes are very seldom. Tuition fees and admission policies may at times differ for a resident and a non-resident.

Notarization: Certification of a document (or a statement or signature) as authentic and true by a public official (known as a "notary public") or a Lawyer who is also a commissioner of oaths.

NRMP: National Resident Matching Program for applicants to U.S. medical schools.

Part-Time Student: A student who is enrolled at a university or college but is not taking the minimum number of credits (often 12) to meet the university's requirement for a full term course.

Placement Test: An examination conducted to test a student's academic ability in a certain field to evaluate that he or she can be placed in the appropriate courses in that field. A student may be given academic credit based on the results of a placement test also.

Post-doctorate: Further studies designed for those who have completed a doctoral degree (Ph.D.).

Prerequisite:
A program or course which the student is required to complete before being enrolled in a more particular program or course.

Registration: The process through which students select courses to be taken during a session like - quarter, semester, or trimester. The registration process is also used for participation in seminars, competitions,taking standardized tests and other events etc.

Resident Assistant (RA): A person who assists the residence hall director in campus dormitories and is usually the first point of contact for students with problems or queries regarding dorm life. RAs are usually students at the college who receive free accommodation and other benefits in return for their services.

Reverse Culture Shock: The culture shock an individual experiences upon returning to their home country after living abroad (also see Culture shock).

Room and Board:
Living and food facilities available to the students.

Sabbatical: Leave with pay granted to a teacher or professor after serving for six or seven years on the same faculty with the purpose to give the faculty member an extended period of time for concentrated study.

Scholarship: A study grant or financial aid, that may take the form of a partial/full waiver of tuition and/or fees.

Semester: Period of study – usually 15 to 16 weeks or one-half the academic year.

Senior: A fourth-year student at a secondary school, college or a university.

Social Security Number:
A number issued usually to the residents by the U.S. government for payroll deductions for old age, survivors, and disability insurance. Anyone who works regularly must obtain a Social Security Number. Many institutions use this number as the student identification number also.

Sophomore:
A second-year student at a secondary school, college, or university.

Special Student: A non-degree, non-matriculating, or visiting student who is not enrolled as a candidate for a degree.

Teaching Assistant (TA): A graduate student who also acts as instructor for an undergraduate course in his or her field. This may or may not be in return for some form of financial aid from the college or the university.

Thesis: Document consisting of the results of research on a specific topic prepared by a candidate for a bachelor's or master's degree. (also see Dissertation )

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language, required of graduate school applicants whose native language is not English.

Transcript: A certified copy of a student's educational records. (also see "Notarization")

Trimester: Period of study that usually covers three equal terms of 16 weeks during an academic year.

Tuition fee:
The money charged by an institution for instruction and training. This does not include the cost of books and other expenses related with accommodation, travel, food and any other expenses. Tuition payments are normally required to be made each quarter or semester and may depend on the number of credits for which a student is enrolled. This also depends on one’s status as a resident or non-resident.

Undergraduate Studies: A two-year or four-year program at a college or university, undertaken after secondary school graduation. This leads to a associate or bachelor's degree.

University:
A large post-secondary institution that offers both undergraduate and graduate degree and Doctoral programs.

USMLE: U.S. Medical Licensing Examination.

VAT: Veterinary Aptitude Test, required of applicants to most U.S. veterinary schools.

VMCAS : Veterinary Medical College Application Service; a comprehensive service collecting data for veterinary medical schools.

Vocational College : An institution dedicated to teaching the skills necessary for a particular trade or line of work like secretarial works, electronics and so on.

Withdrawal: The process of dropping a course or leaving a university. (also see “Drop”)

Work-Study: Some students work part-time on campus and earn money for meeting their tuition costs. Don’t be surprised to see your classmates working in campus facilities for earning this.
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