List of US Higher Education Terms you should know

US Higher Education Terms

A master’s degree is known as “postgraduate” studies in India, but in the USA, it’s known as “graduate” studies. Higher secondary school (classes 9 – 12) is simply “high school” in the US. Indian students (or any international student) planning to pursue higher education from the US can get confused by these different terminologies used in the US higher education system. So we’ve compiled a glossary of important terms related to the US education system you should know to make your study abroad application process less confusing:

  1. Academic year: Typically, an academic year in the US starts in Aug/ Sep and ends by May/ June.
  2. Achievement Tests (ACH): Subject examinations, administered by the College Board.
  3. Advanced Placement Program (AP): AP is administered by the College Board (a non-profit organization) that lets students in high school pursue university-level courses – which will give them an edge during college applications. Learn more: AP exams
  4. Associate Degree: A a two year degree course. Click here to read more about it, and the difference between an AD and a BS/BA
  5. Bachelor of Science (BS): A four year degree course in engineering. Click here to read more about it.
  6. Bachelor of Arts (BA): A four year degree course. Click here to read more about it.
  7. College: Institutes that offer undergraduate degrees and in some cases even graduate (masters) degrees. Sometimes, a department of a university is also referred to as a “college.” For eg. Barnard college part of Columbia University.
  8. Community College: Also known as junior college, 2 year associate degrees & vocational programs are offered here.
  9. Credits: Every course is measured in terms of these units called “credits.” Only once you’ve achieved a certain number of credits, are you considered eligible to earn a degree.

    Also read: 7 reasons to choose USA to study abroad

  10. Dissertation: Also known as a “thesis”, this is a detailed & original study/ document that doctoral students need to write to explain the research they conducted on a topic of their choice. Only after this dissertation is accepted, can you be eligible to earn that Ph.D degree.
  11. Dual Degree: Program of study in which a student receives two degrees from the same institution.
  12. Elective: A course/ TOPIC of study freely chosen by a student from the institution’s offerings to earn the required credit needed for a degree. Electives are different from compulsory courses that you must take up to complete your degree.
  13. Freshman: First year college student
  14. Grade Point Average (GPA): Average of grades earned by a student during the course of study.
  15. High School: An educational institution offering grades (classes) 9th – 12th.
  16. Latin honors: Honor given at the the time of completion of a degree.
    Cum Laude – with honor/praise
    Magna Cum Laude – with great honor/praise
    Summa Cum Laude – with highest honor/praise
    Maxima Cum Laude – with maximal honor/praise
  17. Junior: Third year college student
  18. Major: By the sophomore (2nd) year of college (undergraduate studies), students need to decide the subject area they would want to “major” in i.e. specialize in. They will then accordingly choose courses in their junior (3rd) and senior (4th) years.
  19. Open-book examination: An examination where students are allowed to consult course materials while answering questions.
  20. Remedial Education: Instruction designed to bring students up to required basic skills or knowledge levels to allow them to attend programs which they would otherwise have been unable to follow.
  21. School: In the US, “school” not only refers to institutes that offer elementary, primary, secondary & higher secondary education, but also refers to “colleges” & “universities.”
  22. Semester: The two segments into which an academic year is divided. Each semester lasts for around 3.5 – 4.5 months.
  23. Senior: Fourth year college student
  24. Sophomore: Second year college student
  25. Upper-division: The part of the curriculum which is generally taught beyond the second year of a bachelor’s degree program and which constitutes its more advanced component.

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