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Glossary of Terms

American academic terms may differ from those used in your country. Here are some common terms:

Academic Adviser - a person assigned by most colleges to students to help with issues relating to specific classes, changing majors, or curriculum requirements

Accreditation - the process by which colleges and universities are granted approval by an official review board, indicating that the institution has met certain requirements

Alumnus, Alumni, Alumna, Alumnae - Latin words referring to graduates of a college or university. A male is an alumnus. A female is an alumna. Multiple females are alumnae. Multiple males or a combination of both are alumni.

Associate Degree - awarded after completing a program of study at a two-year college

Bachelor's Degree - awarded after four years of study at a college or university; also referred to as an undergraduate degree

Campus - a college or university's buildings and grounds

College/University/School - These terms are often used interchangeably, as in "Where do you go to school?" or "Where do you go to college?" Differences among the terms do exist, however. Colleges primarily award bachelor's degrees and concentrate on providing a general, or liberal arts, education. Universities tend to be larger and award advanced degrees (master's and doctoral degrees) along with bachelor's degrees. In addition, portions of a university are also referred to as colleges (College of Arts and Sciences) or schools (School of Engineering).

Co-op - co-operative education, a partnership of education and industry that applies classroom theory to the work place. When taking part in a co-op, you usually work during the semester or quarter in order to gain valuable on-the-job experience, and typically fulfill a requirement in your program of study.

Credit Hour - a unit of study at a college or university usually represented by one hour of class per week per term. Most classes are worth three credit hours and meet for three hours per week.

Culture Shock - confusion or anxiety caused by sudden exposure to a new culture

Doctoral Degree - the most advanced degree, awarded after three to five years of additional study following completion of a master's degree

Dormitory - residence halls (called dorms, for short) in which students live on campus. Each room generally accommodates two students. Bathrooms can either be private or shared among a number of students. Students living in dorms eat their meals at a central location on campus or in on-campus restaurants. Some dormitories are single sex, which means all male or all female residents live in them.

Extracurricular - activities that take place outside the classroom, including athletic, social, and cultural events; sometimes called co-curricular

Faculty - teaching staff of a college or university. The term does not refer to a department within the university, as it does in some countries.

Final Exam - the test at the end of the term. Most courses also have midterm exams in the middle of the semester or quarter.

Financial Aid - money supplied by a source other than the family to help pay for education costs. Financial aid may be need-based - awarded based on your financial need. It also can be merit-based - awarded for special talents or achievements.

Fraternity - a social or honorary club of male students. Members often live in a fraternity house.

Freshman - the first year of undergraduate study

Grade Point Average (GPA) - a student's grade average for the semester or quarter. Letter grades (A, B, C, D, and F) are converted to points (A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1) and averaged to determine the GPA.

I-20 Immigration Form - the certificate of eligibility for the F-1 student visa. You will need this form to obtain your visa and to enter the United States.

Internships - practical work or training experience that allows students to apply what they have learned in class. Generally, you'll participate in an internship when you are not taking classes - perhaps during the summer.

Junior - the third year of undergraduate study

Major - chosen area of academic specialization

Master's Degree - an advanced degree awarded by a university following completion of studies beyond a bachelor's degree

Minor - a secondary area of academic specialization

Nonimmigrant - a person who has no intention of permanently staying in the U.S.

Professor - a teacher at a university or college

Public/Private - Public schools receive public funding and generally are less expensive than private schools for in-state students, which do not receive public funding. Public schools also are called state schools.

Semester - SIUE, like most colleges and universities, divides the school year into two semesters (fall and spring), with a shorter academic term in the summer.

Senior - the fourth year of undergraduate study

SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) - a U.S. government system that manages data and application processes for all nonimmigrants on F-1 or J-1 visas

Social Security Number - a nine-digit identification number, assigned by the U.S. government, that citizens provide to employers for tax purposes

Sophomore - the second year of undergraduate study

Sorority - a social or honorary club of female students

Study Abroad - a program in which students attend school in a country outside the United States and receive academic credit toward their major

Syllabus - an outline of topics to be covered in a course for the duration of the semester or quarter

Teaching Assistant - a graduate student who conducts classroom instruction for the professor

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) - a standardized test required by most schools. The test measures a student's proficiency in the English language.

Transcript - official record of a student's academic courses and grades received

Tuition - the cost of attending classes at a college or university; tuition does not include room and board or other living expenses

Visa - official designation on a passport that the holder is authorized to travel or live abroad

Thanks to EducationUSA for providing many of these definitions.

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