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University Terms All International Students Should Know


Stepping onto foreign soil, even if for a small vacation, and adjusting to the living conditions can be a challenging task. Imagine what it’s like to study in a foreign place in a foreign educational community where you find every phrase thrown around alien!?

It is a common issue faced by international students and easily rectified too. All you need to do is keep our university terminology guide handy till you adapt to the new environment and the rest will sort itself out in time.

You won’t have to feel like a stranger when other’s around you indulge in their everyday parlance while you’re struggling to make sense of it all. In this article, you’ll find all the help you need to get accustomed to foreign jargon and make the most of your time in a new and exciting place!

Understanding The Educational System Lingo

A lot of confusion can be avoided beforehand with a little language familiarity. The terms used abroad and those used in your native might have the exact same meaning but get addressed differently.

Here is a quick look at all university terminologies so you can make your way around the campus, catching up on the basics and making life internationally exciting.


Admission-related University Terminology

Academic Year 

The way a university addresses its educational years varies from one college to another. There could be semesters, quarters, and trimesters with the year being divided accordingly. An educational year begins around the month of August/September and ends in May/June.

Admission Average

This term finds its use during college admission, referring to the complete average of your high school grades. Every college has its grade admittance cut-off point that you’ll need to be aware of when applying for admission.


Not to be confused with the name of a person, Dean is a fairly common term used to address the head of an educational institution. A few other colleges use the Vice-Chancellor as an alternate.

Advising Agreement

During admission, you will present an Advising Agreement wherein you state or request for admittance by showcasing how your admission to the specific university will benefit the institution. 

Independent Schools

There are non-government funded schools that are administered privately, either by an individual or an agency. Independent Schools fall in this category and are funded completely by the student’s fee.

Signature Document

There is an admission form in your college application that is to be signed digitally. The Signature Document is just that, stating you understand and accept all terms and conditions for the specific program you’re applying for. 


Known as a Social Security Number, SSN is a government-issued number generally used by educational institutions as the identity number for students or the student ID number.


A Transcript is a small version of all your college achievements, from study hours, attended and grade average to credit scores and hours and even the date of issue of your final degree. It is singularly an important document stating your entire life in a campus concerning your educational grades.


A commonly known university terminology, Transfer refers to the document that should be presented when a student applies to a new college or university during admission from the old college when applying for a program/course.



UG or Under Graduate is a term used for students pursuing further studies after high school. UG studies could be anywhere from three to four years depending on the complexity of the curriculum. PG or Post Graduate is a term used for students pursuing further studies after the UG course. It is a specialization course where you focus on one aspect of education in a specific field. A student can be referred to as a Graduate either after completion of the UG or PG course.


A few Master’s programs and Doctorate programs require a Dissertation at the end of the course. A Dissertation is a presentation, an original thesis curated on a course-related topic that serves as the final step to complete the Master/Doctorate program. 


Fully abbreviated as Graduate Management Admission Test, the GMAT is a highly regarded admission test for MBA applicants. It tests the students’ basic mathematical, reasoning, verbal, and analytical skills acquired over their educational life and general work experience if any. 


Its full abbreviation is Graduate Record Examination and as the name suggests, it is a standard admission exam that tests any student’s readiness to enter graduate-level studies. As with any other non-syllabus exam, the GRE tests your verbal reasoning, analytical writing, and quantitative reasoning skills. 

Language Requirement

A few graduate programs require a student to have basic written and spoken proficiency in a specific language to receive the degree. 

Campus-related University Terminology


Widely used in American colleges, Audit is a term for special classes that serve to impart education and are not taken up for credits, certification or diploma. 

International Student Adviser

Donning the role of an educational counselor, an International Student Adviser is a faculty member whose duty is to guide and help students concerning all academic matters, available internships, and course information. The Adviser also guides international students with doubts regarding financial/housing issues, legal matters, academic regulations, and such.

Community College

A Community college is a secondary educational institution that offers more flexibility and variety in courses you can attend. While there are plenty of associate degree programs to choose from, the focus is not purely educational, with there being numerous vocational and technical programs to pursue and attempt. 


There are special areas in the library that can be reserved for Graduate students. These areas can either be charged a small fee or be available on a first-come basis.


Dorms are what are referred to as the rooms provided by the University for students to reside in and carry on their education from. You can also hear students call them the Halls of Residence more formally.

Ivy League

The term Ivy League originated in association with eight distinguished universities spread across the US. The esteemed few that have the reputation of being highly, educationally competitive in nature are: Harvard, Yale University, Princeton University, Dartmouth, Columbia, Cornell University, Brown University, and University of Pennsylvania.


Similar to community or groups or societies, Sororities and Fraternities are societies of females and males within the campus, sharing the same set of ideals or principles. Their sense of community extends beyond educational bounds, with the students helping and guiding each other through the ups and downs of university life.

Day Student

If you prefer living in pre-prepared living accommodations, like with your extended family, internationally, then you have the option of doing so. You would be termed a day student, meaning you live off-campus in a residence not administered by the university. 

Designated School Official (DSO)

A DSO is an on-campus official who has the duty to record information on international students in the university. Everything from gathering information to reporting to the SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, while also helping international students through the whole Visa attainment and employment authorization procedures. If you want to know the details of your DSO, you can find the number listed on your DS 2021, depending on whichever year you gain admission. 

Grading-related University Terminology

Grade-Point Average

Grade-Point Average, or what you may have heard as GPA, is the average grade of your university scores and credits. International universities multiply the number of hours of credits you’ve accumulated throughout the year with your subject grades to get a value that represents your average grade at the end of the educational year – your GPA. In the US, you’ll find your GPA calculated on a scale of 1.0 through 4.0.

  • 0.0 – Grade F – Fail
  • 1.0 – Grade D – Needs Improvement
  • 2.0 – Grade C – Satisfactory
  • 3.0 – Grade B – Good
  • 4.0 – Grade A – Excellent


You’ll come across the term Adjustment not simply during your initial years at the new college but also when you’ve completed a course with extra marks. Adjustment is an opportunity you earn where you have the choice to swap to a better course once you’ve surpassed the standard grade requirement for the current course you’re pursuing. The mobility of this opportunity allows adjustment of grades so you can select a new and better course even in the middle of the academic year.


Modules are more along the lines of lectures on specific topics that cover detailed information on that specific subject. A course is broad in terms of understanding, in that it is the study of a single subject throughout the year. So, a course consists of as many modules as is necessary to cover the syllabus.


Credits are a measuring unit that most educational institutions use to signify and record course completion against the minimum passing marks to be eligible for the academic degree. A few colleges award extra credits for completing non-curricular courses to meet the eligibility criteria.


Finance-related University Terminology


A shorter form for Internal Revenue Service, IRS is a government body that carries out the task of collecting income tax from all international students studying abroad, having received tax-payable scholarships.  


Earning a Fellowship during your graduate years is a great opportunity to boost your resume. A Fellowship is an award-cum-financial assistance granted either by the university/college itself or the government as a reward for being an exceptional scholar. You can carry on further studies where no service will be expected from you in return.


Almost all universities internationally offer admission into their midst by means of a Scholarship depending on your academic achievements. Scholarships can also be earned as an award for being a high scorer in academics and personal achievements during your studies. You are not expected to pay back anything and can use the extra income for furthering your learning accordingly.


Internships are practical hands-on training for real-world services alongside your academic years. These internships can be availed only after the first year of college and help you get familiar with what to expect in the specific field of work. 


Students who require additional income to fund their international educational stay avail of the Work-Study service. This program allows them to work part-time on campus, conveniently befitting their schedule to earn as much as is required to cover the extra costs.


If you want to keep yourself involved with on-campus happenings and help out the faculty with anything that piques your interest, Assistantship is the job you need. Although a financial aid, donning the role of Assistantship requires you to render your services as a teaching assistant, research, and even laboratory assistant.

Final Thoughts

Finding the right educational resources couldn’t have been made easier than with University HUB, your one-stop solution to all things education. Moreover, coming from different cultures and experiencing a huge shift, academically and socially, might seem intimidating at first. 

However, being prepared, even to some degree, and being adaptable goes a long way in making your overseas educational tryst much more enjoyable. 

That said, you can always keep this university terminology guide handy to get you safely through the initial days of cultural confusion. Simply give it some time and effort, and you’ll begin enjoying your new international academic life in no time!


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