We know that preparing your applications as an international student can be challenging, especially with all the confusing terms. To help you get through this process, we've complied a short glossary of important terms you need to know for undergraduate admissions in the U.S.
Associate's Degree: A two-year undergraduate degree, typically awarded by community colleges and junior colleges.
Affidavit of Support: An official document proving adequate funding from an individual or organization to cover an international student's educational and living expenses while enrolled at a U.S. college or university.
Bachelor's Degree: This is the degree awarded by an undergraduate college or university. The most common type of bachelor’s degrees is a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts – sometimes abbreviated A.B.), which is the standard degree awarded by liberal arts colleges. Some schools also offer a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) for students in science and engineering fields.
College: A postsecondary institution that typically provides only an undergraduate education, but in some cases, also graduate degrees. "College" is often used interchangeably with "university" and "school." Separately, "college" can refer to an academic division of a university, such as College of Business.
Common Application: A standard application form that is accepted by more than 450 member colleges and universities for admissions. Students can complete the form online or in print and submit copies to any of the participating colleges, rather than filling out individual forms for each school. However, international students will typically need to submit additional application materials unique to each college.
Conditional admission: An acceptance to a college or university that is dependent on the student first completing coursework or meeting specific criteria before enrollment. For an international student, this can include a requirement to attain a certain level of English-language proficiency if the student's TOEFL score doesn't meet the minimum required.
Early action: A program offered by some colleges and universities that allows students to submit their applications early, typically in November or December, and receive decisions early, usually in mid- or late December. Students are not required to accept the admissions offer and have until May 1 to decide.
Early decision: A program offered by some colleges and universities that allows students to submit an application to their top-choice school early, typically in November or December, and receive the decision early, usually in mid- or late December. If accepted, students are required to enroll at that school and withdraw all applications to other schools.
Grade point average (GPA): A student's overall academic performance, which is calculated as a numerical average of grades earned in all courses. The GPA is determined after each term, typically on a 4.0 scale, and upon graduation, students receive an overall GPA for their studies.
International student adviser: A school official who assists international students, scholars, and faculty with matters including orientation, visas, income taxes, insurance, and academic and government rules, among other areas.
Letter of recommendation: A letter written by a student's teacher, counselor, coach, or mentor that assesses his or her qualifications and skills.
Liberal arts college: A “liberal arts college” refers specifically to a small school that only teaches undergraduates, emphasizes a well-rounded education and usually requires students to take courses in several major disciplines, and prefers to teach using discussion-based courses rather than lectures.
Major: The academic subject area that a student chooses to focus on during his or her undergraduate studies.
Merit aid / merit scholarships: A type of financial aid awarded by a college or university to students who have demonstrated special academic ability or talents, regardless of their financial need.
Need-based financial aid: Financial aid that is awarded to students due to their financial inability to pay the full cost of attending a specific college or university, rather than specifically because of their grades or other merit.
Need-blind admissions: A college or university's policy of accepting or declining applications without considering an applicant's financial circumstances.