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Academic Year
The period during which school is in session, consisting of at least 30 weeks of instructional time. The school year typically runs from the beginning of September through the end of May at most colleges and universities.

The US government does not monitor the quality of US colleges and universities, as does the ministry of education in other countries. Instead, the US Department of Education approves accrediting agencies. These accrediting agencies review a school's educational program for quality, and certify that the school meets a minimal set of standards. So it is important to be sure that the schools to which you are applying are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, since schools without accreditation are likely to be of lesser quality.

American College Test. A standardized test offered by
American College Testing to assess preparation for college. Similar in nature to the SAT. Required primarily by schools in the Western and Midwestern United States.

Alumnus, Alumna, Alumni, Alumnae
Latin terms for graduates of a college or university. Alumnus is singular male, alumna is singular female, alumni is plural male, and alumnae is plural female. Alumnus and alumni are often used in a gender neutral fashion.

A US citizen, national, or permanent resident. Used interchangeably with "United States", "US", and "United States of America".

An asset is an item of value, such as a family's home, business, and farm equity, real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, cash, certificates of deposit (CDs), bank accounts, trust funds, and other property and investments.

Associate's Degree
The degree awarded for completion of a two-year program at a community college, trade, or vocational school.


B-2 Visa
Tourist visa. May not be used for studying in the US.

Bachelor's Degree, Baccalaureate
The degree awarded for completion of a four-year undergraduate program at a college or university.

The bursar is the office where you pay the tuition bill. The office responsible for bursaries (scholarships) is the financial aid office.


A school's buildings, grounds, and other facilities collectively comprise its "campus".

Class Rank
In addition to reporting their secondary school
GPA, international students may be asked to report their class rank. This is their standing relative to their classmates. It is reported on either an absolute (2nd in a class of 105) or percentage basis (top 5%).

An institution of higher education that awards primarily undergraduate degrees. Often used interchangeably with "University".

College Board
The College Board is a nonprofit educational association of colleges, universities, educational systems, and other educational institutions. For more information, see
College Board Online (CBO).

Conditional Admission
Admission to the school with the condition that you meet their requirements for English proficiency after arrival. The school may require you to enroll in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes when you arrive.

Cooperative Education
In a cooperative education program, the student spends some time engaged in employment related to their major in addition to regular classroom study.

A cosigner on a loan assumes responsibility for the loan if the borrower should fail to repay it.

A US government division that is larger than a single city but smaller than a state.

Curriculum Vitae (c.v.)
A resume of a student's education, employment, publications, and other activities. This term is usually used in connection with graduate students and faculty, not undergraduate students.


The date when an activity must be completed. Failing to submit an application by the deadline will disqualify you from the selection process.

A person who receives more than half their financial support from another, usually a parent or legal guardian. Most often a child or spouse, but occasionally includes other relatives.

One of several degrees granted by graduate schools.


Early Admission
US colleges and universities have two early admission programs, early action and early decision. Early decision commits the student to attending the school if admitted, early action doesn't. International students are generally not permitted to apply under early admission programs.

Elementary School
Grades K through 6.

Eligible Non-Citizen
Someone who is not a US citizen but is nevertheless eligible for Federal student aid. Eligible non-citizens include US permanent residents who are holders of valid green cards, US nationals, holders of form I-94 who have been granted refugee or asylum status, and certain other non-citizens. Non-citizens who hold a student visa or an exchange visitor visa are not eligible for Federal student aid.

English as a Second Language. 

Educational Testing Service, the organization produces and administers the SAT and other educational achievement tests.


F-1 Visa
Student visa for full-time study. 

In the US, the word "faculty" refers to a school's professors, lecturers, and instructors, not a division or department of the university.

FastWeb (
www.fastweb.com) is the largest, most popular and most frequently updated free scholarship database on the World Wide Web.

A form of financial aid given to graduate students to help support their education. Some fellowships include a tuition waiver or a payment to the university in lieu of tuition. Most fellowships include a stipend to cover reasonable living expenses (e.g., just above the poverty line). Fellowships are a form of gift aid and do not have to be repaid.

FICA stands for "Federal Insurance Contribution Act", the name of the piece of federal legislation that established the Social Security payroll tax. The current FICA tax rate is 15%, half of which is paid by the employer and half by the employee. International students on a F-1 or J-1 visa who are non-resident aliens for tax purposes (have been in the US for less than 5 years) are exempt from FICA if their employment is directly related to their purpose for being in the US (e.g., practical training or academic training). Money earned by a J-2 dependent, however, is subject to FICA taxes. 

FinAid (
www.finaid.org) is the most popular and most highly respected site on the World Wide Web for information about student financial aid.

Financial Aid
Money provided to the student and the family to help them pay for the student's education. Major forms of financial aid include gift aid (grants and scholarships) and self help aid (loans and work).

Foreign Student
Synonymous with International Student, a student from a country other than the United States.

A first-year undergraduate student.


Grade Point Average, a weighted sum of the student's grades. Each of a student's grades is converted to a number on a scale from 1.0 to 4.0, and weighted according to the number of credits received from the class. Typically, a 4.0 corresponds to an "A", a 3.0 to a "B", a 2.0 to a "C", a 1.0 to a "D", and 0.0 to an "E" or "F".

Graduate Student
A student pursuing a master's degree or doctoral degree.



Interest is an amount charged to the borrower for the privilege of using the lender's money. Interest is usually calculated as a percentage of the principal balance of the loan. The percentage rate may be fixed for the life of the loan, or it may be variable, depending on the terms of the loan.

International Student
A student who is a citizen of a country other than the United States.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing US tax laws and collecting taxes.


J-1 Visa
Exchange visitor visa.

A third-year undergraduate student.



Letter of Recommendation
A letter written by a teacher to evaluate a student's qualifications and abilities, often included as part of an application for admission to college or in support of an application for a scholarship or fellowship.

A loan is a type of financial aid which must be repaid, with interest.


M-1 Visa
Vocational student visa for students attending non-academic trade and vocational schools.

The academic area or field of study in which a student's studies are concentrated.

Master's Degree
One of several degrees granted by graduate schools.

Middle School
Grades 7 and 8, also known as Junior High.


Need Analysis
The process of determining an individual's ability to pay. When ability to pay is subtracted from the cost of education, the difference is the student's financial need. It is synonymous with "means test".

Under need-blind admissions, the school decides whether to make an offer of admission to a student without considering the student's financial situation. Most schools use a need-blind admissions process. A few schools will use financial need to decide whether to include marginal students in the wait list.

Under need-sensitive admissions, the school does take the student's financial situation into account when deciding whether to admit him or her. Some schools use need-sensitive admissions when deciding to accept a borderline student or to pull a student off of the waiting list.

Nonrenewable Award
An award that is offered only once. This is in contrast to renewable awards, which are provided to a student annually for as long as the student is making satisfactory progress to the degree.



Any education past grade 12 of the secondary school level.

The principal is the amount of money borrowed or remaining unpaid on a loan. Interest is charged as a percentage of the principal. Insurance and origination fees will be deducted from this amount before disbursement.

Professional Student
A student pursuing an advanced degree in law, business, or medicine.


A division of the academic year into fourths.


Renewable Award
A renewable scholarship is a scholarship that is awarded for more than one year. Usually the student must maintain certain academic standards to be eligible for subsequent years of the award. Some renewable scholarships will require the student to reapply for the scholarship each year; others will just require a report on the student's progress to a degree.

A one-page summary of an individual's education, employment history, awards, and other accomplishments.


Self-addressed stamped envelope. Included with a request as a courtesy or to encourage a response.

Scholastic Aptitude Test. A standardized test offered by the
Educational Testing Service to assess a student's preparation for college. Similar to the ACT.

In this site, used to refer to colleges and universities.

Secondary School
Also known as high school, grades 9 through 12.

A division of the academic year into spring and fall terms.

A fourth-year undergraduate student.

A second-year undergraduate student.


Teaching of English as a Foreign Language.

Refers to any division of the academic year. The default is into two terms. (In British English the default interpretation is three terms per academic year.)

Test Of English As A Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Most colleges and universities require international students to take the
TOEFL as part of their application for admission. The TOEFL evaluates a student's ability to communicate in and understand English.

An official record of a student's academic work, including a list of courses taken, grades received, and credits awarded.

To switch enrollment from one educational institution to another.

A division of the academic year into thirds, adding a summer term to the fall and spring terms.

The fees charged by a school to allow a student to register to take courses at the school.


Undergraduate Student
A student pursuing a bachelor's degree.

An institution of higher education that awards undergraduate and graduate degrees. Often used interchangeably with "College".






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