A Glossary of Terms for International Students

21K School · Feb 8, 2023 · 4 min read

A Glossary of Terms for International Students

When you are an international student studying in a foreign country, there are bound to be many new terms and phrases that you come across. While some might be familiar to you, others might be completely new. 

To help you, we’ve put together a glossary of terms that international students commonly use.

AccreditationAccreditation is a process by which a school or program is evaluated to ensure that it meets specific standards.

Academic Probation: When a student’s GPA falls below a certain level, they may be placed on academic probation. This means they risk being expelled from the university if their grades do not improve.

Academic Year: The year a school, college, or university holds classes. In the United States, the academic year typically runs from late August or early September to May or June of the following year.

Academic Advisor: An academic advisor is a staff member at your university who helps you plan your studies and choose suitable courses. They can also guide careers, internships, and other opportunities.

Academic Transcript: A document that lists all the courses you have taken and the grades you have received during your time at university.

Bursary: A form of financial aid that is awarded based on need.

Bridge Program: This program helps students transition from one educational level to another. For example, bridge programs help students transition from high school to university or from two-year associate degrees to four-year bachelor’s degrees.

Credit: A unit of measurement that denotes the value of a course.

Credit hour: The number of hours that a course meets per week.

Career Counsellor: A career counsellor is a staff member at your university who can help you plan your future career. They can provide information on internships, jobs, and graduate programs.

Certificate: A certificate is a document that proves that you have completed a course or program. It is usually awarded after completing a shorter program than a degree.

Co-op Program: A co-op program is a program that combines academic study with paid work experience. Co-op programs are typically available for students in engineering, business, and some science programs.

Curriculum Vitae (CV): A curriculum vitae (CV) is a document that outlines your educational background and experience. It is usually required when applying for jobs, internships, and graduate programs.

Deferral: A deferral is when you delay the start of your studies by one semester or year. This is usually done if you are not ready to start university immediately after graduating high school.

Department: A school division that offers courses in a particular subject area.

Examination: A test to measure a student’s knowledge in a particular subject area. 

Elective: Electives are courses you can take as part of your degree program. They allow you to explore other areas of interest and tailor your studies to your specific needs and goals.

Financial Aid: Money available to help students pay for their education, which can come from grants, loans, or work-study.

Graduate school:  A graduate school is a higher education institution that offers advanced degrees such as master’s degrees and doctorates. Graduate schools are typically more research-focused than undergraduate colleges and universities.

GPA – Grade Point Average (GPA): The GPA measures your academic performance, calculated by taking the average of all your grades throughout your studies.

Independent School: A privately run school and not affiliated with the government.

IRS: The Internal Revenue Service is a government body that collects income tax from international students who receive a taxable scholarship.

Ivy League: A group of eight highly prestigious and competitive universities in the northeastern United States. This includes Harvard, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Columbia, Cornell University, Dartmouth, and Yale University.

Here is a detailed list of Ivy League schools.

SSN: Social security number issued by the US government and generally used by schools as the student identification number.

Sororities: A society for female students in colleges or universities.

Transcript: A certified statement of a student’s educational record, including the number of hours per credit and final grades in each honour and the date a degree was issued.

Transfer: A student moves from one university to another to complete a degree.

Undergraduate/Graduate/Postgraduate: Undergraduate refers to a program taken as a first degree (such as Bachelor’s) after high school and generally lasts three to four years. Postgraduate refers to a specialised higher education degree taken by students after they have completed an undergraduate degree. This is referred to as a “Graduate degree” in America.

We hope that this glossary of terms will help you navigate the US education system. Contact our experts in 21K School if you still haven’t decided which course and university to choose. 

Also, read, How to pick your dream university on the blog.


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