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The “ACT” is a standardized test that high school students may choose to take. It is not administered at the local high school facilities, so if a student would like to take the ACT, the student has to schedule it themselves with a testing company. The test is not frequently a required element of undergraduate applications, but the ACT score is frequently accepted by universities if students have it. Certain students may feel that the ACT layout will better reflect their skills than the SAT, which is the necessary test for undergraduate applications. Students who take the ACT must still take the SAT, however. The ACT tests students in 5 areas: English, Math, Reading, Science, and, if the student chooses, Writing.

AP Classes (Advanced Placement Classes)

“AP Classes” are classes a student may qualify to take while in a U.S. high school. AP Classes give students advanced lessons with a higher level of work, so a student must have high grades to qualify to take AP Classes. These classes give students a test at the end of the school year, and if students pass the test with a certain grade, they will earn “AP Credit,” which means that the class credit can count toward their college degree, not just their high school diploma. The most important reason to take AP Classes is not the AP credit however, and students should take as many AP Classes as they can, even if they never take the AP test or earn AP credit. This is because, when universities look at applications, they want to see that students have taken the most rigorous classes available to them, and that the students performed well in those rigorous classes. If the universities find out that the student did not take rigorous classes, they will automatically wonder if the student was not smart enough or motivated enough to take them, and it will greatly lessen the student’s chances of earning admission.

AP Credit (Advanced Placement Credit)

“AP Credit” is something that High School students in the U.S. can earn when they successfully pass the test at the end of an AP Class. Most universities will accept this credit, and will let it cover the requirement for the comparable university class (thus giving the student university class credit for a class the student did not have to take at the university).


The term “Academia” Refers to the entire realm of academics and education within colleges and universities, and to the customs or thoughts or tenants upheld by professors or faculty within these realms.

Admissions Counselor (or Admissions Officer)

An “Admissions Counselor” works in a university’s or college’s Admissions Office, and facilitates students’ transition from high school to undergraduate school. An Admissions Counselor works with marketing, advertising events, paperwork, assessing applications, updating potential students’ contact information, and getting in touch with students personally.

Admissions Office (Office of Admissions)

An “Admissions Office” coordinates the recruitment and admission of students into a university, and then transfers all records to the university’s “Registrar’s Office” once applicants are accepted.

Admissions Process

The term “Admissions Process” is generally used to refer to the process by which students become either rejected or accepted to study at a university. The Admissions Process involves any paperwork, interviews, and acceptance decisions made by the university.


An “Advisor” is an academic counselor assigned to one student for the student’s entire stay at a university or college. An advisor is usually a Professor from the student’s intended field, and the advisor often meets personally with the student at least once every school term. The advisor guides the student as the student chooses classes and performs other administrative tasks, like filing for graduation.

Application Fee

An “Application Fee” is what some universities charge when students submit an application. It is not required for many undergraduate applications, but it is required for almost all graduate applications. The fee is generally between $50 and $200.


Bachelor’s Degree (B.A., B.S.)

A “Bachelor’s degree” is the degree a university awards to an undergraduate student who has completed the undergraduate program, including the entire set of coursework required by the student’s major. There are two main types of Bachelor’s degrees. A “B.A.” is a Bachelor of Arts, the degree awarded to a student whose major is in the arts and humanities; a “B.S.” is a Bachelor of Science, the degree awarded to a student whose major is in the sciences.

The Bar

“The Bar” is the rigorous exam that students who have graduated from Law School must pass if they want to become officially licensed to practice law. In the USA, there are many different versions of the Bar exam, and each is associated to a different geographical jurisdiction (usually, it is to an individual State). Each Bar is offered, mostly, by different agencies of the States, and each is only able to grant the student jurisdiction to practice law within the one State. Thus, if a student takes the Bar in New York, he will become licensed to practice law State (or local) law in New York; however, if he also wants to practice State (or local) law in California, he must also take the Bar in California. If the student wishes to practice federal law, the rules are different, and a student may have the ability to practice in other states than the one in which he took the Bar (an example is immigration law). The purpose of the Bar is for the students to prove that they are qualified to practice law.

Bilingual Classes

“Bilingual Classes” are uniquely structured classes used at some Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. In the US, there are specific geographical areas that have a high percentage of families who are native speakers of a language other than English, especially of Spanish and French. This means that many students who attend the public schools in those districts know so little English that they often perform very poorly in regular classes. Because of this, many public schools have “Bilingual Classes,” which use both English and the most common native language (most frequently, either Spanish or French). The two most unique aspect of these classis is that the teacher must be able to speak both English and the other language, and the students all have the same cultural and linguistic background (in a Spanish Bilingual Class, only Spanish-speaking students would be in the class, not French-speaking students). This allows the schools to teach the students the classwork and English in a way that students advance at a normal pace without falling behind because of the language difficulty. Bilingual classes are not offered for many languages, and even when they are offered, they are generally only offered for one language per school. This is very similar, in theory, to ESL Classes.

Boarding School

“Boarding School” is for students in Elementary, Middle, or High School, and it is a place to which families sent their students to live, eat, sleep, and study for an entire school year or longer. It functions like a university, with everything the student needs for a healthy life, schooling, and even extracurricular activities; however, unlike a university, boarding school staff members serve almost like guardians for the students, instead of just teachers. Boarding schools often have very high scholastic standards as well, and some are so prestigious, that attendance looks very good on an undergraduate university application. Boarding schools are also similar to universities in the sense that they are privately funded and have very selective admission. A boarding school also frequently has an overarching vision to foster excellence in students in a certain area, whether that area is academics, extracurricular activities, etc. One school may emphasize that they have added an outdoors program to their curriculum, and another may emphasize that they have an especially rigorous academic program.



A “Campus” is the physical, geographical land mass on which a school or university is located. Several universities consist of more than one campus.

Candidacy Exam

The “Candidacy Exam” is an exam that is given to graduate students who have satisfied the initial requirements of their doctoral graduate work. Most frequently, the test is designed to confirm that the student has extensive knowledge of the subject, and is ready to progress to the final stage of graduate school.


The term “Class” can mean many things, but the two definitions that are the most pertinent to the educational sphere; these two definitions are, however, similar enough that they can cause confusion if a student does not know them both. First, a Class is, of course, the title of the segment of time allotted by a school to the formal group study of a single subject during the course of a day at school. This is when all of the students sit before a teacher to learn the day’s curriculum for a single subject, such as, in a Biology class, or an Art class. In Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, this is called a class period; in a university or college, it is simply called a class. Second, a Class can refer to the sum total of all class periods in the school term (for a single subject). Thus, if a student is asked what subjects he is currently studying, he would say, “I am taking a class in Biology, English, Communications, Chemistry, and History.” The word Class, in this sense, can also be substituted for the word “Course,” which is the way most universities and colleges officially identify the sum total of all class periods in a school term. The following sentence gives an example of both versions of the word: During a college semester, a student normally takes 5 Classes (Biology, English, Communications, Chemistry, and History, for example); however, during each week, the student normally attends 2-3 Classes for each “course” (Biology, for example, would meet once on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and History would meet once on Tuesday and Thursday).

Class Period

A “Class Period” is the segment of time allotted to a single class during the school day at an Elementary, Middle, or High School. Generally, a school will divide the day up into a certain number of “Periods” (usually 6 or 7 total), and each student will have a different class or activity (like a lunch break) assigned to each period.

Classical Education

A “Classical Education” is a type of education theory or curriculum that focuses very heavily on “the classics,” which include the study of literature, art, history, philosophy, architecture, archaeology, languages, politics, etc., of the ancient world (mostly of Greece and Rome).


A “College” can be several things. First, a university’s undergraduate program is generally divided up into many different colleges. There is an introductory College, into which every freshman student is admitted. Next, every main undergraduate discipline within a university is unified under the name “College.” Thus, there might be a College of Arts and Humanities, or a College of Nursing; and a student joins one or more of these colleges after choosing a major and degree plan. Second, the title “College” refers to an institution that only has an undergraduate program. This means that if an institution does not have a graduate school as well as undergraduate colleges, it cannot be called a “university.” Such an institution must, instead, be a College, such as “Rayburne Central College” or “New York International College” (these are fictional names used for the purpose of explanation).


A “Course” is a term that refers to the way or path to a goal or end; and, when used in reference to a college or university, a Course refers to the sum total of all class periods in one specific subject for a school term. Thus, if a university student is taking a “course” in college algebra, the “course” includes something like three classes per week, for sixteen weeks (according to an average semester-based calendar).


The term “Coursework” refers to all the projects, tests, assignments, etc. that are required by one specific college or university course.

Credits, or Credit Hours

The term “Credit Hours” are the unit by which a university or college tallies a student’s progress or level during the student’s time at the institution. The completion of a regular course earns a student 3 credit hours. A full-time student generally takes 5 courses per semester, earning a grand total of 15 credit hours per semester. In 2 semesters (the normal school year), a student earns, thus, 30 credit hours. This is the common equivalent of one full year, and a student is considered a “Freshman” until he has earned more than 30 credit hours (no matter how long the student has been taking courses). A student with 30-60 credit hours is a “Sophomore,” with 60-90 or more is a “Junior,” and with 90+ credit hours is a Senior. The total number of credit hours that a student needs to graduate depends upon the institution, and even sometimes upon the student’s major. Generally, it is more than 130 hours.

Criticism (To Critique)

To “Critique” something means to evaluate it based on a set of academic or technical standards. This is not to be confused with the more common term, “criticize,” which means to judge or slander, but is done according to an individual’s own opinion, not according to a set of academic or technical standards. The formal “critique” or “criticism” is generally used in the Arts and Humanities.


The term “Curriculum” refers to two things. First, it refers to the set of materials (chosen by a professor or institution) that are to be used throughout a course. This includes the lecture material and textbook selections. A curriculum is flexible, and so different institutions (like universities) often have varying curriculums for courses that share the same name. Because high schools and middle schools have state-wide tests every year, their curriculum is often centered around the areas that the students will need to know before taking this test, and this may mean that the curriculums for these levels of education are more similar to each other than they are at the university level, for example. Second, the term “curriculum” refers to a university’s overall requirements for students’ classes, identifying both the number of classes and the type of classes a student has to take before graduating.



A “Degree” is a basic term for the title or award that is bestowed upon a student who graduates from any undergraduate or graduate program. Thee first level of education is a Bachelor degree, and this indicates that a student has completed the entire undergraduate level of education. After earning a Bachelor Degree, a student may progress to graduate school to earn a Master’s Degree, a Doctorate, or a Professional Degree.

Degree Plan

A student must file a “Degree Plan” with a college’s or university’s Registrar’s Office around the beginning of his Junior year as a student (each university has different timing and rules unique to itself, of course). The degree plan contains the student’s chosen major (or majors and minors). After the student files a degree plan, he has officially identified the type of degree he has chosen, and the university knows exactly how many more credit hours he must take before he can graduate, and exactly which classes. This finalizes the course of the student’s education.


The faculty of a college’s or university’s undergraduate program are generally divided up into many different “Departments.” First, every main undergraduate discipline within a university is unified under the name “college.” Thus, there might be a College of Arts and Humanities, or a College of Nursing; and a student joins one or more of these colleges after choosing a major and degree plan. A “department” is the official term for identifying the specialized affiliation of a professor or employee who works within a certain college. Thus, a Professor with a doctorate in English would belong to the Department of English within the College of Arts and Humanities, but a Professor with a doctorate in History would belong to the Department of History within the College of Arts and Humanities.


The term “Discipline” has several meanings in the English language, but in academia, it refers to a specific area of learning or instruction. It generally includes the meaning that the area of learning requires elevated level of dedication and formal training that, perhaps, should encompass a whole lifetime.


A “Dissertation” is a formal written document (a thesis) that presents a doctoral candidate’s research to a board of professors. If the professors approve of his dissertation’s topic, progress, and conclusions, then they will approve the candidate for graduation and he will earn his doctorate degree; however, if they find fault with his research and assertions, then they will not approve him for graduation, and he must re-work his dissertation before he may apply again at a later date.

District (School District)

See “School District.”


“Diversity” is an important issue to many schools, especially in the upper levels of education such as in colleges and universities. It refers to the racial and cultural balance within the student body and faculty. If everyone in a small town in Nebraska is Caucasian (white/European), then that town would not have diversity; in a city like Houston, however, there are more races and cultures reported than in almost any other city in the USA, which means that Houston has great diversity. Many schools believe that creating an atmosphere of diversity will enrich the learning experience, as students will come in contact with people from all over the world, preparing all students for a future within the global community in which we live today.


A “Doctorate,” otherwise called a “Ph.D.” or “Doctor of Philosophy,” is the highest academic degree awarded to a student. It is awarded after the student has completed graduate school and his graduate professors have approved his dissertation. The degree is labeled a “Doctor of Philosophy,” not because the degree is in the study of philosophy (such as, the theories of existence and the nature of things, as debated by thinkers like Plato and Aristotle), but because the degree is centered around the pursuit of knowledge and it prepares its graduates to contribute to the body of academic and theoretical knowledge in the graduate’s particular field or discipline. Thus, the graduate has been prepared for a philosophic career rather than a professional or physical career. A student generally is able to earn a Doctorate in 4-6 years.

Dorm (Dormitory)

A “Dorm” is the term for on-campus housing that a college, university, or boarding school provides for its students. It is often a small bedroom that shares a bathroom and common area with several other bedrooms. Each bedroom can fit one to two students. Usually, a dorm has many such rooms all together, like an apartment complex. Colleges and universities often go to great lengths to make dorms a place students love to call home, with a vibrant community, programs, events, and more. The term “dorm” is, of course, a shortened version of the rather antiquated word “dormitory.”

Double Major (and Triple Major, etc.)

The term “Double Major” refers to a college or university student’s choice to earn two separate majors at the same time instead of one (which is the normal expectation placed upon a student). The student will file a degree plan that commits him to this course of action, and then he must fulfill all of the basic university course requirements, as well as all of the course requirements for both majors. A “Triple Major” works the same way, including three separate majors. The more majors a student adds, however, the longer the student will be at the university. Graduation is not dependent upon the number of years the student attends the university, but is dependent upon when the student completes all of the required courses within his personal degree plan. This is one of the factors that contribute to the reason why students often take 5 to 6 years to earn a Bachelor’s Degree instead of 4 years, which was the length of time it was designed to take.

Dual Credit

The term “Dual Credit” is used to define the situation when high school students take a specific class that can earn both high school credit hours and college or university credit hours. This means that the class is counted by both institutions to advance the student’s graduation requirements. Some high school students do this by taking a night class at a local community college while they are still in high school, and then submitting proof of the class to their high school. This is only possible if both the high school and college agree to honor the situation.


ESL (English as a Second Language) Classes

The term “ESL Classes” stands for English as a Second Language Classes. These classes exist in public elementary, middle, and high schools. Students who are not proficient in English are placed in ESL classes to learn English (the actual language, not composition or rhetoric). Usually, these students are non-native English speakers. The students are often from a great variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds, so the same class might simultaneously have native Spanish speakers, French speakers, Mandarin speakers, and more. For this reason, the teacher is not expected to know any language other than English. An alternative some schools offer to ESL Classes are Bilingual Classes.

Early Action

See “Early Admission.”

Early Admission

The term “Early Admissions” refers to two types of undergraduate admissions. Regularly, applications are due in either December or January, but for Early Admissions, applications are due in either October or November. This enables the Admissions Office to respond earlier (In November or December) with the students’ admission status instead of in April, when the regular admissions responses are released. The two types of Early Admissions options are as follows:

  • Early Decision – This type of application is binding, which means that if the university accepts a student, then that student is committed to attending that university, and he must reject offers from all other universities to which he applied. The student must even reject offers from other universities that are tied to scholarships or grants. This means that a student may only send an Early Decision application to one school, and so, if he elects to use the Early Decision application, it is usually because the student has an absolute favorite university that he prefers to all others.
  • Early Action – This type of application is not binding, which means that if the university accepts a student, then that student is still free to choose between that university’s offer and the offers of any other universities to which he applied (unless one was an Early Decision, of course). This means that a student may decide to reject any Early Action offers. Additionally, there are two sub-classifications of Early Action options: restrictive and non-restrictive. If it is restrictive, the student can only apply to one Early Action program; if it is non-restrictive, the student may apply to as many Early Action programs as he wishes.

Early Decision

See “Early Admission.”

Education Consultant

An “Education Consultant” is a person who has been trained to guide a student through the process of achieving certain education goals. Here at LML Consulting, our consultants are trained to guide international students through the process of coming to the US from another nation by applying to US schools and universities for a high quality education.


An “Elective” is a class a student may take in high school. It is a flexible option, in which a student has great freedom to choose from a list of classes. Many students enjoy using this opportunity to take a class that is interesting, fun, or beneficial to their career or future education goals. A student might take an art class for fun, or an upper level science class for a challenge. In a college or university, the situation is slightly different. A student is required to take specific classes, and a student is also required to take a certain number of credit hours. If the number of specific classes are fewer in number than the required credit hours, the student still has to take those credit hours; however, in this case, because the way the hours are to be used is not specified, the student may choose almost any class. These are elective classes, then, for undergraduate students.

Elementary School

“Elementary School” is the first level of education for US children (after Pre-school for 1-4 year olds, which is not necessary). The school day often includes math, language arts, penmanship, science, social studies, music, art, and physical education classes. Elementary school lasts for 6 years, and is divided up into 6 year-long levels. The levels are as follows:

  • Kindergarten (5 year olds)
  • 1st Grade (6 year olds)
  • 2nd Grade (7 year olds)
  • 3rd Grade (8 year olds)
  • 4th Grade (9 year olds)
  • 5th Grade (10 year olds)


An “Exam” is a test. Generally only very official, significant tests are called exams, such as the General Record Examination, which students must take when they apply to graduate school.

Extracurricular Activities

“Extracurricular Activities” are activities that are not related to academic studies. Examples include outdoor activities like swimming, running, and horseback riding; and indoor activities like chess club, ballet, or music classes. Extracurricular activities are very highly important in the US, because the activities a student participates in during the lower levels of education (elementary, middle, and high school) can earn the student scholarships or awards in undergraduate school – sometimes, they even enable a student to get into graduate school if the student has enough skills in the extracurricular activity. For more information on this opportunity, students should research the individual university’s scholarship programs.