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American Education Terms - What Do They Mean?

Academic Standards:   Measures of scholastic excellence held by a university; most require that students maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) to continue their studies.

ACT:   A university entrance examination generally taken during the high school junior and/or senior year that assesses a student's general educational development and his/her ability to complete college-level work. The ACT is comprised of four subject tests - English, mathematics, reading, and science and an optional writing test (essay).

FAST FACT

Did you know in the U.S. that the terms "college" and "university" are used interchangeably? Sometimes we even refer to colleges and universities as schools.

Academic Year:   The period of formal instruction. At SUNY this consists of two 15-week semesters - late August through mid-December and mid-January through mid-May. Summer sessions are available at most SUNY campuses.

Accreditation:   Approval of colleges and universities by nationally recognized professional associations or regional accrediting bodies.

Affidavit of Support:   An official document proving a promise of funding from an individual or organization.

Associate Degree:   The associate degree is awarded to students who complete a minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.0 GPA and is typically offered at two-year community colleges.

Bachelor's Degree   (also called Baccalaureate Degree): The bachelor's degree is awarded to students who complete a minimum of 120 college credits and is found at four-year colleges and universities. It is a prerequisite to study in a graduate program. The degree usually takes four full-time years to complete.

Certificate Programs:   Certificate programs provide specific job skills, require a minimum of 30 college credits and are generally offered at community colleges.

Community/Junior College:   A community/junior college is also known as a two-year school. Courses offered include a transfer curriculum with credits transferable toward a bachelor's degree at a four-year college and an occupational or technical curriculum with courses of study designed to prepare students for employment in two years.

Credit:   College courses are measured in credit hours and typical college classes are 3 credit hours. A full-time student will generally take 15 college credits, or 4 to 5 classes, per semester.

College:   A postsecondary institution that provides undergraduate education and, in some cases, master's level degrees. College, in a separate sense, is a division of a university; for example, College of Business.

College Catalog:   An official publication (usually found online) which provides information about a university's academic programs, facilities, entrance requirements and student life.

Conditional Admission:   An acceptance to a college or university that is dependent upon the individual completing coursework or meeting specified criteria prior to enrollment, such as English language proficiency.

Course:   Regularly scheduled class sessions of one to five hours (or more) per week during a term. A degree program is comprised of a specified number of required and elective courses and varies from institution to institution.

Department:   Administrative subdivision of a school, college, or university through which instruction in a certain field of study is given (such as English department or History department).

Early Action:   An admission program under which students apply early to one or more colleges and receive a decision prior to regular notification dates, without an obligation to attend. Admission is non-binding.  Students typically have until May 1 to declare their intent to enroll and may apply to as many Early Action schools as they wish.

Early Decision:   An admission program under which students apply early and receive a decision prior to regular notification dates.  Admission is binding. If they are offered admission, they must commit to attending the college.  As a result, students may not apply to more than one Early Decision college.

Fees:   An amount charged by universities, in addition to tuition, to cover costs of institutional services, such as library services or recreational facilities.

Financial Aid:   A general term that includes all types of money, loans, and work-study programs offered to a student to help pay tuition, fees, and living expenses.

Freshman:    A first-year student.

GPA (Grade Point Average):   Grade point average reflects the average of a student's semester (or end of term) grades, starting with the freshman year. A variety of methods are used to determine GPA. Regardless of the method used, the higher the grades, the higher the GPA, and the higher the GPA, the greater the college and scholarship opportunities.

Graduate:   A student who has completed a course of study, either at the secondary or university level. A graduate program at a university is a study course for students who already hold a bachelor's degree.

IB (International Baccalaureate):   High school IB programs promote the education of the whole person, emphasizing intellectual, personal, emotional, and social growth. Diploma students take six subjects, write a 4,000-word extended essay, complete a course in theory of knowledge, as well as complete a number of creativity, action, and service projects. IB diplomas are recognized by the world's leading universities and may result in awarding of college credit and/or scholarships.

International Student:   An international applicant is a prospective student who is neither a U.S. citizen nor permanent resident of the United States and will require a non-immigrant visa for study in the U.S.

FAST FACT

The top 5 countries where SUNY students come from are Korea, China, Singapore, Canada and India, but SUNY hosts students from 160 countries so there is a lot of diversity on our campuses!

International Student Adviser (ISA):   The person at a university who is in charge of providing information and guidance to international students in such areas as government regulations, visas, academic regulations, social customs, language, financial or housing problems, travel plans, insurance and legal matters.

Language Requirement:   A requirement of some undergraduate programs that students must show basic reading and writing proficiency in one other language besides their own to receive their degree.

Maintenance:   Refers to the expenses of attending a university, including room (living quarters) and board (meals), books, clothing, laundry, local transportation and incidentals.

Major:   The primary field of study in which an individual wishes to receive a degree.

Master's Degree:   Degree awarded upon completion of academic requirements that usually include a minimum of one year's study beyond the bachelor's degree.

Matriculation:   The formal process of enrolling and entering a college/university.

Minor:   A second field of undergraduate study requiring fewer credit hours than a major.

Non-Matriculated:   An admission category designed for students who wish to take a few courses for personal enrichment without earning a degree.

Nonresident:   A student who does not meet the residence requirements of the state. Tuition fees and admission policies may differ for residents and nonresidents. International students are usually classified as nonresidents, and there is little possibility of changing to resident status at a later date for tuition purposes.

Placement Test:   An examination used to test a student's academic ability in a certain field so that he or she may be placed in the appropriate courses in that field. In some cases, a student may be given academic credit based on the results of a placement test.

PLAN:   A pre-ACT test that also assists students with their career and college planning. Typically PLAN is administered in the fall of the sophomore year in high school.

PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test):   A practice test for the SAT that is also used to determine National Merit finalists. The PSAT/NMSQT is given in October, primarily to high school juniors, and measures critical reading, math problem-solving and writing skills.

Prerequisite:   Program or course that a student is required to complete before being permitted to enroll in a more advanced program or course.

Recommendation:   Most colleges request two or three letters of recommendation when submitting an application for admission. These are generally written by people who know you inside and outside of the classroom (usually an academic teacher and a college advisor/school counselor).

Registration:   Process through which enrolled students select courses to be taken during a quarter, semester, or trimester.

SAT Reasoning Test:   A college entrance examination generally taken during the junior and/or senior year that measures the critical thinking skills needed for academic success in college. The SAT includes critical reading, mathematics and writing sections.

SAT II Subject Tests:   One-hour tests that measure a student's knowledge in specific subject areas that should be taken as the high school subjects are completed. These tests are required by some of the more competitive colleges.

Scholarship:   A study grant of financial aid, usually given at the undergraduate level that may take the form of a waiver of tuition and/or fees.

Semester:   The SUNY academic year is divided into two 15-week terms: Fall (September to December) and Spring (January to May). Courses may also be available during summer (June to August) and winter (December to January) sessions.

TOEFL:   The Test of English as a Foreign Language. An exam administered by ETS (Educational Testing Services). Scores are often required in order to determine admission status.

Transcript:   A student's educational record. In the U.S. these documents detail a student's academic achievement in high school. Although the appearance of the transcript varies from school to school, all high school transcripts generally contain the following information: courses, grades, and credits for each grade completed, beginning with grade nine; current cumulative GPA and class rank; and anticipated graduation date. An unofficial transcript is exactly the same as an official transcript except that there is no signature, stamp, or seal.

Transfer:   A student who has attended a college or university in the United States or another country.

Tuition:   The money an institution charges for instruction and training (does not include the cost of additional fees, books, room or board).

Undergraduate:   Incoming freshman and transfer students. Freshman students come to SUNY right after high school with no college credits. Transfer students come to SUNY with college credits as a result of having attended another postsecondary institution. Undergraduate students have not yet completed a Bachelor's degree or a program that leads to a Bachelor's degree.

Undergraduate Studies:   Two-year or four-year programs at a college or university, undertaken after secondary school graduation and leading to the associate or bachelor's degree.

Withdrawal:   The administrative procedure of dropping a course or leaving a university.


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