Some Unfamiliar Academic Terms for an Indian Student
Being unfamiliar with the academic glossary of foreign universities could make the transition from being a student in India to being a student in the U.S. cumbersome and frustrating. Thus, it would behoove a student aspiring to study in a foreign university especially an American university to be aware of certain common terms.
Academic adviser: A member of a school’s faculty who provides advice and guidance to students on academic matters, such as course selections.
Academic year: Annual period during which a student attends and receives formal instruction at a college or university, typically from August or September to May or June. The academic year may be divided into semesters, trimesters, quarters, or other calendars.
Accredited: Official recognition that a college or university meets the standards of a regional or national association. Although international students are not required to attend an accredited college or university in the United States, employers, other schools, and governments worldwide often only recognize degrees from accredited schools.
Affidavit of Support: An official document proving adequate funding from an individual or organization to cover an international student’s educational and living expenses while enrolled at a U.S. college or university.
AP (Advanced Placement program): A program offered by the College Board, a U.S.-based nonprofit educational organization, that allows students to take college-level courses while in high school. Students can then take standardized AP exams; those with qualifying scores can earn credit at certain colleges and universities.
Associate’s: An undergraduate degree awarded by a college or university upon successful completion of a program of study, usually requiring two years of full-time study. An associate’s is typically awarded by community colleges; it may be a career or technical degree, or it may be a transfer degree, allowing students to transfer those credits to a four-year bachelor’s degree-granting school.
Assistantship: A financial aid award granted to a graduate student to help pay for tuition that is offered in return for certain services, such as serving as a teaching assistant or research assistant.
Audit: To take a class to gain knowledge about a subject, but without receiving credit toward a degree.
Bachelor’s: 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.). A bachelor’s is required before starting graduate studies.
Campus: The grounds and buildings where a college or university is located.
Co-ed: Open to both men and women (often used to describe a school that admits both sexes and a dormitory that houses both genders).
College: A postsecondary institution that typically provides only an undergraduate education, but in some cases, also graduate degrees. “College” is often used interchangeably with “university” and “school.” Separately, “college” can refer to an academic division of a university, such as College of Business
Commencement: A graduation ceremony where students officially receive their degrees, typically held in May or June at the end of the academic year, though some colleges and universities also hold August and December ceremonies.
Community college: A public, two-year postsecondary institution that offers the associate degree. Also known as a “junior college.” Community colleges typically provide a transfer program, allowing students to transfer to a four-year school to complete their bachelor’s degree, and a career program, which provides students with a vocational degree.
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.
Core requirements: Mandatory courses that students are required to complete to earn a degree.
Course: A regularly scheduled class on a particular subject. Each college or university offers degree programs that consist of a specific number of required and elective courses.
Course load: The number of courses or credits a student takes during a specific term.
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. International students may also experience “reverse culture shock” upon returning to their home country, after they have become accustomed to the new country and culture.
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.
Deferral / Deferred admission: A school’s act of postponing a student’s application for early decision or early action, so that it will be considered along with the rest of the regular applicant group. A “deferral” can also refer to a student’s act of postponing enrollment for one year, if the school agrees.
Degree: A diploma or title awarded to students by a college or university after successful completion of a program of study.
Department: A division of a school, made up of faculty and support staff, that gives instruction in a particular field of study, such as the history department.
Discipline: An area of academic study.
Dissertation: An in-depth, formal writing requirement on an original topic of research that is typically submitted in the final stages before earning a doctorate (Ph.D.).
Doctorate (Ph.D.): The highest academic degree awarded by a university upon successful completion of an advanced program of study, typically requiring at least three years of graduate study beyond the master’s degree (which may have been earned at a different university). Ph.D. candidates must demonstrate their mastery of a subject through oral and written exams and original, scholarly research presented in a dissertation.
Dormitories (dorms): Student housing provided by a college or university, also known as “residence halls,” which typically includes rooms, bathrooms, common areas, and possibly a kitchen or cafeteria.
Double major: A program of study that allows a student to complete the course requirements for two majors at the same time.
Drop: To withdraw from a course. A college or university typically has a period of time at the beginning of a term during which students can add or drop courses.
Dual degree: Program of study that allows a student to receive two degrees from the same college or university.
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