EDUCATION SYSTEM IN USA
Although some of the following definitions may be useful to professionals working in the U.S., this section is designed especially for overseas staff and faculty who work with U.S. students. A comprehensive list would be many times as long; nonetheless, this short compendium is designed to include many of the terms that host country educators working with U.S. students are most likely to encounter
1. Types of Educational Institutions
The following definitions are based on U.S. usages. Some terms have different meanings in other Anglophone countries.
Carnegie Classification: A categorization of U.S. higher education institutions maintained by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and widely used within U.S. academia. Basic categories include: Associate’s Colleges; Doctorate Granting Universities; Master’s Colleges and Universities; Baccalaureate Colleges; Special Focus Institutions; and Tribal Colleges.
College: 1) A type of institution of higher education. The distinction between a college and a university is not sharply defined; however in general a college tends to be smaller and offer fewer fields of study than a university, and awards few or no graduate degrees. 2) Within a university, a curricular subdivision that groups related disciplines such as a College of Arts and Sciences, a College of Business, or a College of Engineering. 3) In some Anglophone countries, and with somewhat increasing frequency in the U.S., a student housing and social unit. 4) In some large universities, the undergraduate divisions of subject areas.
Community College: A two-year, public institution of higher education. Community colleges are designed to offer the first two years of a four-year college degree, as well as terminal two-year associate’s degrees. Four-year institutions typically accept community college credits for transfer. Many community colleges also offer associates degrees or vocational certificates in technical fields. Some community colleges are now offering four-year bachelor’s degrees. Formerly referred to as a Junior College, a term now used only for private two-year institutions.
Degree-Granting Institution: Postsecondary educational institutions that award accredited associate’s, baccalaureate, or graduate degrees.
HBCU (Historically Black College or University): A set of higher education institutions, mostly in the southern and eastern sections of the U.S., that were originally aimed at, or restricted to, African-American students. These tend still to have predominantly African-American student bodies.
Higher Education: A subcategory of postsecondary education that generally leads to a college or university degree.
Hispanic-Serving Institution: : A college, university, or other educational institution that includes a significant proportion of Hispanic students (at least 25% by the definition used by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities).
K-12 Education: Term used widely in the U.S. to describe collectively primary and secondary education. (“K” refers to kindergarten and “12” to twelfth grade, normally the last year in a U.S. high school education.)
Land Grant Institution: A college or university whose state legislature has designated it to receive benefits under the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, which awarded public lands to the recipient universities. Originally these benefits came in the form of federal lands to be used by each state to establish a public institution that would focus on, or at least complement traditional classical studies, with the study of such practical fields as agriculture and engineering. Although the federal support targeted specifically to land grant institutions has diminished greatly over the years and no longer comes in the form of land land grant institutions still retain a strong identity as such.
Liberal Arts College: A college whose curriculum consists mostly or entirely of courses and degree programs in the natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences, humanities, and fine and performing arts. Although the majority of liberal arts colleges in the U.S. are private, they may be public as well.
Postsecondary Education (or Tertiary Education): Education beyond the high school level.
Private Institution: : An institution runs by a nonprofit organization or a for-profit corporation. In the U.S. a private institution may be secular or may be associated, to varying degrees, with a religious organization.
Public Institution: An institution that is chartered, regulated, and at least partially, funded by a unit of government, most often a state, and overseen by publicly appointed or elected officials.
Tribal College:A college, usually two-year that is overseen by, and typically located on, a Native American reservation.
University:A type of institution of higher education that typically offers a varied curriculum, including one or more professional fields and at least some graduate degrees.
Vocational/Technical Education: A subcategory of post secondary education focused on preparation for a specific occupation or trade and not leading to an academic degree. Examples include beauty schools, electronics schools, or secretarial schools. Credits earned at vocational or technical institutions are typically not accepted for transfer by institutions of higher education.
2. Degrees and Educational Levels
Many of the terms below have fairly standard meanings from one country to another; however, some tend to be little used outside the U.S.
Associate’s Degree: A degree granted for successfully completing at least two years of undergraduate study in a prescribed academic program. Associate’s degrees are awarded by community, technical, and tribal colleges and by some programs in four-year institutions.
Bachelor’s Degree (or Baccalaureate Degree): A degree awarded for completion of a prescribed academic program (generally four years or longer) of college or university study. In some academic fields at some institutions completion of the degree may require five years. In a number of other countries the counterpart undergraduate degree is based on three years of postsecondary study. (Typically in such countries, however, students must complete thirteen years of primary and secondary education before entering the university, as opposed to twelve in the U.S.) The two most common baccalaureate degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.). The former typically requires more breadth of course work and the latter more specialization.
Certificate:A non-degree recognition that a student has completed a prescribed program or set of requirements.
Class Standing:A student’s year in school or status (first-year student, sophomore, junior, or senior) based on the student’s progression (amount of time and/or number of credits) towards finishing degree requirements.
Degree:An academic title awarded by an institution to a student who successfully completes a prescribed program of studies
Degree-Seeking Student:A student who has been admitted to, and is enrolled at, an educational institution in a status designed to lead to a degree.
Doctoral Degree (or Doctorate):The highest level of graduate degree granted in certain academic fields in U.S. higher education. Typically requires four to six years or more of post-baccalaureate study with a dissertation as a capstone. The most common doctorate, called the “Doctor of Philosophy” (Ph.D.), is awarded in a large number of disciplines, not exclusively philosophy. Several fields of study, such as Doctor of Medicine (M.D.); Doctor of Law (Juris Doctorate or LL.D.); and Education (Ed.D) have their own doctoral degree designations.
Dual Degree:Two degrees awarded to a single student by two different institutions by way of a formal articulation program between the institutions. The curriculum of the dual-degree program may be under the direction of a joint program faculty, with equal representation from each participating institution, or curriculum may be the separate responsibility of each institution.
Fifth-Year Senior:A student who has completed more than four years of undergraduate studies but has not graduated. Some bachelor’s degree programs, for example, in engineering, may require five years of coursework to complete.
First-Year Student (synonymous with, and gaining currency over, Freshman):A first-year undergraduate student. Often defined operationally in terms of number of credits or courses the student has completed (for example, less than 1/4 of the credits needed to finish a four year program). Definitions vary slightly from institution to institution
Gap Year:An extra year that some students take between high school graduation and the beginning of higher education studies. Students sometimes use such a year for international work, internships, volunteering, or study.
Graduate Student:A student enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree beyond the baccalaureate level.
Graduate Study:Most often used broadly to describe any study leading to a degree beyond the baccalaureate level. Sometimes, however, it is defined more narrowly to include only those fields whose students are enrolled in an institution’s Graduate School and to exclude those students enrolled in separately organized professional schools, such as a law school or medical school.
Joint Degree:A degree jointly offered and jointly awarded by more than one institution. A joint degree program leads to a single credential or degree conferred by all participating institutions. All institutions share responsibility for all aspects of the program’s delivery and quality. The curriculum of the joint degree program is under the direction of a joint program faculty, with representation from each participating institution.
Junior:A third-year undergraduate student. Often defined in terms of credits completed (for example, between 1/2 and 3/4 of a four-year program).
Leave of Absence:A formally arranged period of time taken away from college or university as a break from studies. Institutions have requirements detailing how long a student may be gone and how to re-enroll.
Master’s Degree: A graduate degree designed to require one to two years of full-time (or equivalent) post-baccalaureate study. The M.A. (Master of Arts) is granted in the largest number of disciplines; different fields of study have their own degree designations, such as M.Ed. (Master of Education); M.S. (Master of Science); M.P.H. (Master of Public Health) or M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration).
Non-Degree Student (sometimes also referred to as Non-Matriculated Student): A student who is enrolled in classes but has not been admitted to the institution in a degree-seeking status. Degree-granting institutions that permit students from other institutions to participate in their study abroad programs typically choose to place visiting students in non-degree status. Students on reciprocal student exchange programs are also usually considered non-degree students at their host institutions.
Postgraduate Education: Education beyond the terminal degree (for example, Ph.D., J.D., or M.D.). Although this is the most common definition in the U.S., in some other systems (for example, British) the term means education beyond the undergraduate degree.
Professional Degree:A post-baccalaureate degree in a field such as medicine, business, law, the fine and performing arts.
Professional Student:1) A student pursuing professional study specifically at the post-baccalaureate level (as in “graduate and professional students”; see Professional Study). 2) A student pursuing professional study at any level, including undergraduate. 3) A colloquial term describing a student at any level who has been a student for much longer than is typically required for his/her desired degree.
Professional Study: A program of university-level study designed to train students for a specific profession such as engineering, teaching, law, medicine, or architecture.
Retention Rate:1) Percentage of students who remain enrolled (or who earn a degree) at the end of a defined period of time. 2) In the field of education abroad, there are two additional usages of the term: a) the number of students who participate in an education abroad program as a percentage of those who originally inquired about it, or who applied, or who were accepted for participation; or b) the percentage of students who remain at their home institution and complete their degree after their education abroad experience
Senior:An undergraduate student in the fourth year or later, often defined in terms of credits completed (for example, at least 3/4 of a four-year program).
Sophomore:A second-year undergraduate student, often defined in terms of credits completed (for example, between 1/4 and 1/2 of a four-year program).
Stop Out:To take a leave of absence with the intent to resume studies shortly.
Terminal Degree:The highest degree offered in a particular field of study.
Time to Graduation:Number of semesters, trimesters, quarters, or years it takes a student to finish his/her degree requirements.
Transfer Student:A student enrolled at an institution who has previously pursued study at the same level (for example, undergraduate) at one or more other institutions of higher education. The term applies regardless of whether the current institution accepts any degree credit from the previous institution(s).
Undergraduate Student:A student enrolled in a baccalaureate or associate degree program.
Undergraduate Study:Study toward a baccalaureate or associate’s degree.
3. Credit and Instruction
The terms below include those related to the administrative aspects of coursework offered by U.S. institutions of higher education.
Academic Credit:A defined measure of academic accomplishment that is used to determine a student’s progress toward a degree, a certificate, or other formal academic recognition. In the U.S., credit is most commonly counted as credit hours (or credits or units at some institutions) that are assigned to each course. Some institutions count courses rather than credit.
Accreditation:A process of reviewing a school’s programs and academics to ensure that quality programs are delivered and meet established standards. The accreditation process, conducted by external reviewers, may include reviews of a school’s mission, faculty qualifications, curricula, institutional self-evaluations, peer reviews, committee reviews, and suggestions for improvement. External reviewers and processes are determined through evaluation by recognized agencies (in the U.S.) or the Ministry of Education (in many other countries).
Accredited:An adjective applied to institutions, schools, departments, or programs that have completed an accreditation process as determined by an accrediting board, organization, or ministry.
A-F Grading:The most common U.S. grading scale, in which A is the highest grade and F is a failing grade. Some institutions add +’s and â€”‘s to the grades of A, B, C, D, and/or F, and a few grant intermediate grades (for example, AB to indicate a grade half-way between A and B). There is no E in most U.S. grading systems.
Audit:To take a course without the possibility of academic credit. Also used as a noun (“I took the course as an audit”).
Capstone:A culminating scholarly activity or course designed to integrate the student’s learning and activities within a particular field or major department. In U.S. higher education, students are often required to produce a capstone project or thesis in their final year of study.
Co-Curricular:Activities, programs or events that complement or enhance curricular programming or goals. Co-curricular activities and programs are typically non-academic in nature, but relate other activities and experiences to the established curriculum or pedagogy. These can be either intentionally offered by the program or institution, or can be student-initiated and driven.
Course Description:A brief narrative description of the subject content of an academic course (“course” in the U.S. sense of the term).
Course Load:The number of courses for which a student is registered during a specified period of time. At some U.S. institutions all courses have the same weight (or number of credit hours), and a student’s load is measured by courses rather than credits.
Credit by Evaluation:Academic credit that is assessed and awarded for students’ experiences (academic, work, life experiences, or other). May be used by some institutions to award credit for learning achieved on non-accredited study abroad programs, or other overseas living experiences, for which the home institution will not grant transfer credit.
Credit by Exam:Credit awarded by an institution on the basis of an exam that evaluates a student’s proficiency in the subject matter (for example, language proficiency). Some institutions allow students to use this mechanism to earn credit for learning on non-accredited study abroad programs.
Credit Conversion:The process of determining the number of credits an institution should award to a student for courses taken abroad or at another U.S. institution with a different credit system (for example, quarter credits can be converted to semester credits, or European credits to U.S. credits).
Credit Load:The number of credit hours for which a student is registered in a specified period of time. At some U.S. institutions all courses have the same weight (or number of credit hours), and a student’s load is measured by courses rather than credits.
Curricular:Pertaining to the academic programming offered by an educational institution or program. In the education abroad context, curricular activities are those that are directly associated with academic work.
Curriculum:1) A set of expectations and requirements for an overall program of study. 2) A collection of course offerings for a specific program of study (such as a degree program or a study abroad program).
Distance Education:A mode of delivering academic programming away from the campus, or at least away from the classroom, through such means as television, Internet, correspondence courses, CD-ROMs, etc.
Extracurricular:Activities outside the regular academic curriculum of the program or institution. Includes co-curricular activities as well as activities unrelated to the educational mission of the program or institution.
Full Load:1) The number of courses or credits a student must take in order to graduate within the expected number of years (four years in most undergraduate programs, which would typically require 15 credits per semester or quarter). 2) The minimum number of courses or credits a student must carry in order to be eligible for full financial aid and other benefits allowed only to full-time students. At many institutions a full load for financial aid purposes is smaller (typically, 12 credits per semester) than a full load by the first definition.
Full-Time Status:Status of a student enrolled in a full load of courses as identified by a particular institution.
Grade Conversion:The process by which an institution translates a grade earned abroad, or at another U.S. institution with a different grading system, to an equivalent grade of its own.
Grade Point Average (or GPA):A value given to the average grade a student achieved for a particular period of time (for example, term or degree program). The most common system of calculating GPA in the U.S. uses a four-point scale in which 4, 3, 2, 1, and 0 points are assigned to each credit of A, B, C, D, and F, respectively. Pluses or minuses (for example, A+ or Bâ€”) are generally assigned intermediate values (for example, 3.67 for an Aâ€”, 3.33 for a B+). A smaller number of institutions use other scales for calculating a student’s GPA; in the U.S. a small minority of institutions do not calculate the GPA.
Grade Report:1) List of students and their grades prepared by a course instructor and turned in to the responsible authority for posting on the students’ transcripts. 2) Document produced by an educational institution or agency showing the courses, credits, and grades earned by a student at that institution/agency, usually for a brief period of study, such as a quarter or semester. It may be a semiofficial document, but it is only for the personal use of the student and/or internal use at an institution of higher education. The only truly official academic record at a college or university is the transcript. Some institutions do award resident credit for study abroad on an affiliated program based on a grade report from the provider, however.
Graduate Credit:Academic credit that is potentially applicable to a graduate-level degree. In most course numbering systems graduate courses bear numbers above 500 or above 5000.
Incomplete:Grade indicating the student has not completed requirements for a course, but still has the opportunity to do so. Usually indicated on a transcript as a grade of “I.” At some institutions an “I” automatically becomes an F after a specified period of time if the student does not complete the missing coursework.
Independent Study (or Directed Study):Academic work carried out by a student, on his or her own, outside of a class setting. Normally, contact hours for such courses take the form of individual consultation between student and faculty, and the student work is most often research.
Lower Division Credit:Credit awarded for a course designed primarily for first- and second-year undergraduates. In most course numbering systems such courses bear numbers between 100 and 299 or between 1000 and 2999.
Non-accredited:Either not evaluated by a recognized higher education accrediting agency or not meeting an agency’s standards. See Accredited.
Non-credit:Coursework or co-curricular activities for which students do not earn academic credit
Pass-Fail Grading (or Pass/No Pass grading, or S/N grading for Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory):A grading scale that simply notes whether a student passed or failed the course. The requirements of a “pass” grade are determined by the awarding body. The manner in which the pass-fail grades are handled varies by institution and sometimes even by discipline. Some fully count the credit whereas others put limits on how it can be used.
Pedagogy:1) The science and theory behind the practice of teaching. 2) Teaching techniques/approaches used by an instructor.
Resident Credit: Academic credit earned at an institution by a student who is in a degree program at that institution. An institution may designate credit earned on approved study abroad programs to be resident credit. Some institutions allow grades earned on an approved study abroad program to count in the student’s GPA, although institutional policies vary in this respect.
Syllabus:detailed summary of the content and requirements of an academic course. A syllabus typically includes such things as course objectives, lecture or discussion topics, assigned and optional readings, writing assignments, and evaluation criteria.
Transcript (or Grade Transcript):Document produced by an educational institution showing the courses, credits, grades, and degrees earned by a specific student at that institution. Most institutions issue both official transcripts (produced on official paper and/or with official seals, and often mailed directly to another institution) and unofficial transcripts (often issued directly to the student on ordinary paper).
Transfer Credit: Academic credit earned at another institution and accepted in lieu of resident credit toward the degree at a student’s home institution. Grades earned usually do not count in the student’s GPA. Each institution sets its own limit on the number of transfer credit hours that can be accepted.
Undergraduate Credit: Academic credit that will apply toward a degree, certificate, or other formal academic recognition for a student completing a program that is at the baccalaureate level or lower.
Upper Division Credit:Credit awarded for a course designed primarily for juniors and seniors. In most course numbering systems such courses bear numbers between 300 and 499 or between 3000 and 4999.
Withdrawal:Grade indicating a student officially dropped a course and will earn no credit. Usually indicated on a transcript as a W. Does not affect the student’s GPA.
4. Classes and Courses
This section addresses terms that have multiple meanings in multiple countries. It aims to provide guidance to overseas professionals working with U.S. undergraduates.
Class: 1) All instances of a regularly scheduled meeting when a particular group of students are instructed in a designated subject or topic. Successful completion of the class based on faculty assessment results in the awarding of credit(s) toward a student’s graduation. 2) Any single meeting time of a regularly scheduled class as described in the first definition. 3) A student cohort that completed or is scheduled to complete degree requirements simultaneously (for example, “the Class of 2015”).
Contact Hour: An hour of scheduled instruction given to students. In many systems of accounting, a contact hour actually consists of 50 minutes. In typical U.S. systems, one semester credit requires 15 contact hours and one quarter credit requires 10 contact hours per week.
Course: 1) An individual class (see the first definition of class above; for example, “I need five courses in history to graduate”). This is the most common use of the term in the U.S. system. 2) The degree-seeking process as a whole (for example, “My course of study was history.”). This usage is secondary in the U.S. but primary in a number of other Anglophone countries.
Cross-Listing: Assigning the same offering of a course to more than one academic department or discipline, or to more than one level. For example, a student might have the option of registering for a course on History of Argentina for History credit or for Latin American Studies credit; or a course might be available at either the lower division or the upper division level (with some differences in course requirements between the two).
Discipline: An area of academic study or branch of knowledge that constitutes a field unto itself. Examples include accounting, agronomy, art history, electrical engineering, political science, and social work, etc. Disciplines in turn are often grouped under broader designations according to their subject, such as business, engineering, fine arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. “Multidisciplinary” or “interdisciplinary” courses or research combine the subject areas of more than one discipline.
Double Degree (or Dual Degree): 1) Pursuit of two different degrees simultaneously at the same institution (for example, a B.A. degree with an anthropology major and a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering). 2) Pursuit of degrees simultaneously from two cooperating institutions (sometimes in different countries), whether in the same or different fields. In either case the double degree typically takes less time than would the two if pursued entirely independently.
Double Major: Pursuit of two majors simultaneously (for example, “She has a double major in Spanish and international relations”). Also used as a verb (“He is double-majoring in agronomy and cell biology”).
Elective (or Elective Course): A course that counts toward the total number of credits needed for graduation but does not fulfill more specific degree requirements (such as major or minor or general education requirements). Sometimes used also within a major or minor to indicate a course that fills a general major requirement but not a specific one. (For example, a political science major might require one course in political philosophy, one course in American politics, one course in comparative politics, and one elective in political science.)
General Education (or Liberal Education or Liberal Arts Education): The academic tradition in U.S. undergraduate education that requires students not only to have a primary course of study, but also to take classes in a variety of different “core” disciplines (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, fine arts, etc.). The goal is to foster student learning earmarked by reflecting both “depth” and “breadth.”
Hour of Student Effort: An hour spent by a student on work designed to fulfill course requirements. Hours of student effort include not only contact hours, but also hours spent on such activities as course-related reading, research, and writing for term papers, as well as field work, field trips, and studying for exams, etc. In typical U.S. systems faculty are urged to design their courses so that an average student invests about 45 hours of effort per semester credit (normally consisting of 15 contact hours plus 30 hours out of class), or 30 hours per quarter credit (10 and 20, respectively).
Major: The field of study that comprises an undergraduate’s academic specialization while at university/college. In the U.S. system of higher education, students typically “declare” a major within the first two years of their undergraduate careers. Majors tend to require 10â€“12 courses in a specific discipline or area of knowledge. Used also as a verb (“I am majoring in psychology”).
Minor: A field of study that reflects an emphasis within a student’s academic career, but is not as comprehensive or encompassing as a major. Minors tend to require four to five courses in a specific discipline or area of knowledge. Used also as a verb (“I plan to minor in chemistry”).
Online Course: A course offered via the Internet, whether by a traditional physical institution with a campus or an entirely online, or virtual, institution.
Prerequisites: Those classes that must be taken by a student before admission into advanced classes is permitted.
Subject: Used interchangeably with either major (“Her subject at college was history”) or discipline (“The subject of the class was history”).
5. Academic Calendars
There is no national academic calendar in the U.S.; individual institutions usually determine their own calendars. The following are the calendar systems and elements most commonly used by U.S. higher education institutions.
4-1-4 System: Semester system that includes a fall semester, spring semester and a three- to five-week term between fall and spring semesters, so that spring semester begins later than in a typical semester system. In some 4-1-4 systems the extra term is required for graduation; in others it is optional or is required only for a specified number of years.
January Term (or J-Term, or Intersession): The shorter term between fall and spring semesters. Some institutions on this calendar require the J-term for graduation; at others it is optional or is required only for a specified number of years.
4-4-1 System: Semester system similar to the 4-1-4 system except that the three- to four-week term (sometimes called Maymester or May Term), almost always optional, comes after spring semester, typically in May.
Modular System (or Block System): A relatively uncommon academic calendar in which students take just one course at a time. One block, or term, usually lasts three or four weeks.
Quarter System: Academic calendar consisting of three periods during the regular academic year, each typically 10 to 11 weeks in duration, plus one or more summer periods that typically are optional and operate with reduced enrollments. In the most common variant, fall quarter runs from late September to mid-December, winter quarter from early January to mid-March, and spring quarter from late March to mid-June. Students normally must complete twelve quarters of full-time study or the equivalent to obtain a four-year undergraduate degree in the U.S.
Semester System: Academic calendar consisting of two terms during the regular academic year, typically 14 to 16 weeks each in duration. Usually fall semester begins in late August or early September and finishes in mid-December or later; spring semester typically begins in early to mid-January and ends in late April to mid-May. There may also be one or more summer sessions, which usually are optional and shorter than semesters. Students typically must complete eight semesters of full-time study or the equivalent to obtain a four-year undergraduate degree in the U.S. This is the most common academic calendar among U.S. institutions of higher education.
Summer Session (or Summer School): A period of study during the summer that is shorter than a semester and is not considered part of the regular academic year. Some institutions divide the summer into two or more sessions.
Trimester System: Academic calendar consisting of three terms during the regular academic year, each typically 10 to 11 weeks in duration. Unlike in the Quarter System, typically there is not a summer session. Students normally must complete twelve quarters of full-time study or the equivalent to obtain a four-year undergraduate degree in the U.S.
6. Selected Higher Education Organizations
The following are the higher education associations with which education abroad professionals are likely to have contact. Because they tend to be referred to by their acronyms more often than their full names, entries begin with, and are alphabetized by, the acronym or abbreviated name.
AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers): Individual membership association of higher education admissions and registration professionals in the U.S. and other countries around the world. Mission is to “serve and advance higher education by proving leadership in academic and enrollment services.” AACRAO also coordinates the International Education Services (IES), which provides training and guidance on credential evaluation services.
AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business): Association of educational institutions, businesses, and other organizations devoted to the advancement of higher education in management education. AACSB bills itself as the premier accrediting agency of collegiate business schools and accounting programs worldwide.
ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology): Federation of professional and technical societies representing the academic world and industry. ABET promotes quality and innovation, including through its role as the primary accrediting agency in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology.
ACE (American Council on Education): Organization representing higher education presidents and chancellors. Through advocacy, research, and innovative programs, ACE has become one of the strongest voices for higher education in the U.S. It is an advocate for the strengthening of international education.
ACPA (American College Personnel Association): Professional organization representing student affairs professionals in higher education. Provides outreach, advocacy, research, and professional development to foster college student learning. As of 2010 it is engaged in serious merger discussions with NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators).
ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages): Individual membership organization of foreign language educators and administrators from elementary through graduate education, as well as government and industry. ACTFL focuses on the improvement and expansion of teaching and learning of all languages at all levels of instruction.
AIEA (Association of International Education Administrators): Association of higher education senior international officers, dedicated to advancing the international dimensions of higher education.
AIRC (American International Recruitment Council): U.S.-based institutional membership association of accredited U.S. post-secondary institutions and student recruitment agencies for the purpose of establishing quality standards, including ethical guidelines, for U.S. institutions recruiting international students.
AMPEI (AsociaciÃ³n Mexicana para la EducaciÃ³n International): Individual membership association dedicated to improving the academic quality of Mexican educational institutions by means of international cooperation.
APAIE (Asian-Pacific Association of International Educators): Individual member organization promoting international education in higher education in the Asia-Pacific region. Open to members anywhere, although its membership core is in East and Southeast Asia and Australia.
APLU (Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities): Institutional membership association of public research universities, land-grant institutions, and state university systems. APLU provides a forum for the discussion and development of policies and programs affecting higher education and the public interest. Formerly known as National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC).
CBIE (Canadian Bureau for International Education): Institutional membership association dedicated to the advancement of international education from K-12 through graduate levels. Encourages study in Canada, and study abroad by Canadians, through exchanges, scholarships, training awards and internships. CBIE also coordinates research, professional development, and training for international educators in Canada.
EAIE (European Association for International Education): Europe-based individual member organization focused on international education in Europe at the post-secondary level.
Forum on Education Abroad: An institutional membership organization that promotes the advancement of the field of education abroad through standards of good practice, improving study abroad curricula, promoting data collection and outcomes assessment, and advocating for high quality education abroad programs.
HACU (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities): Institutional membership organization representing the interests of Hispanic students at colleges and universities in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Most members are U.S. institutions serving substantial numbers of Hispanic students.
IIE (Institute of International Education): U.S.-based organization that works closely with governments, foundations, and other sponsors to promote closer relations between the people of the U.S. and those of other countries, for study and training for students, educators and professionals. It administers a number of important programs with the U.S. Department of State, including the Fulbright Program and Gilman Scholarships. IIE also conducts policy research, provides resources on international exchange opportunities, offers support to scholars in danger, and compiles an annual statistical report on international educational exchange.
NACADA (National Academic Advising Association): A U.S.-based individual membership association of professional advisers, counselors, faculty, administrators, and students that promotes and supports quality academic advising in institutions of higher education to enhance the educational development of students.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators: A U.S.-based individual membership association for international education professionals that focuses especially on advocacy and professional development. The acronym originally stood for National Association of Foreign Student Advisers. NAFSA’s mission and membership have broadened through the years to include all aspects of international educational exchange.
NASFAA (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators): A U.S.-based institutional and individual membership organization that provides advocacy, training, and professional support to individuals and organizations involved in the administration of student financial aid at postsecondary education institutions.
NASPA: Student Personnel Administrators in Higher Education: An individual membership organization focused on student affairs administration. Provides guidance and support on policy, practice, and research on student life and learning in higher education. The acronym originally stood for National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.
7. The Field of International Education
The term “international education” is often applied to a myriad of professions, activities, and disciplines. The following definitions position education abroad within those activities and highlight those terms that are sometimes used interchangeably with “education abroad.”
Curriculum Enhancement: An institution’s use of education abroad to enhance its academic range by offering courses not available on the home campus.
Curriculum Integration: Incorporating coursework taken abroad into the academic context of the home campus. It involves weaving study abroad into the fabric of the on-campus curriculum through activities such as course matching, academic advising, departmental and collegiate informational and promotional materials, and the structuring of degree requirements. It often requires the review of coursework by the home institution’s academic departments.
International Education: 1) A field involved in facilitating and supporting the migration of students and scholars across geopolitical borders. Professionals involved in this field may be employees of educational institutions, government agencies, or independent program and service providers. This may include, but is not limited to (on U.S. campuses), support for matriculating and exchange students from countries outside the United States, instruction in English as a second language, international student recruitment, assessment of non-U.S. higher education credentials, student services for postgraduate research students and fellows, facilitation of education abroad for U.S. students, and (outside the U.S.) support and services for visiting U.S. students. 2) The knowledge and skills resulting from conducting a portion of one’s education in another country. As a more general term, this definition applies to international activity that occurs at any level of education (K-12, undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate).
International Educational Exchange: The migration of students (secondary, undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate) and scholars between educational institutions in different countries. A narrower usage of the term “exchange” refers to reciprocal agreements that allow students, faculty, or staff to spend a specified period of time at institutional partners of their home institutions.
International Experience: Any opportunity, credit-bearing or non-credit-bearing, undertaken by a student outside his or her home country.
International Program: 1) Any university/college activity, credit-bearing or non-credit-bearing, with an international dimension (for example, non-credit-bearing study tour, credit-bearing study abroad program). 2) An education abroad program. 3) An administrative and/or academic unit responsible for global efforts (for example, Office of International Programs).
International Relations (or International Studies or Global Studies): An interdisciplinary field of study (historically, often considered an extension of political science but more often embracing many disciplines) that studies foreign affairs, relations among state and non-state actors, and other transnational social phenomena (globalization, terrorism, environmental policy, etc.).
Internationalization at Home: Efforts to internationalize a university’s home campus so that its students are exposed to international learning without leaving the home campus.
Internationalizing the Curriculum: A movement to incorporate international content throughout an educational institution’s curriculum.
8. Grading System
Just like American students, you will have to submit your academic transcripts as part of your application for admission to university or college. Academic transcripts are official copies of your academic work. In the U.S. this includes your “grades” and “grade point average” (GPA), which are measurements of your academic achievement. Courses are commonly graded using percentages, which are converted into letter grades.
The grading system and GPA in the U.S. can be confusing, especially for international students. The interpretation of grades has a lot of variation. For example, two students who attended different schools both submit their transcripts to the same university. They both have 3.5 GPAs, but one student attended an average high school, while the other attended a prestigious school that was academically challenging. The university might interpret their GPAs differently because the two schools have dramatically different standards.
Therefore, there are some crucial things to keep in mind:
- You should find out the U.S. equivalent of the last level of education you completed in your home country.
- Pay close attention to the admission requirements of each university and college, as well as individual degree programs, which may have different requirements than the university.
- Regularly meet with an educational advisor or guidance counselor to make sure you are meeting the requirements.
Your educational advisor or guidance counselor will be able to advise you on whether or not you must spend an extra year or two preparing for U.S. university admission. If an international student entered a U.S. university or college prior to being eligible to attend university in their own country, some countries’ governments and employers may not recognize the students’ U.S. education.