Frequently Used Terms for Foreign Students
Below is a list of commonly used terms for international students who attend U.S. universities and colleges. A few terms may vary from school to school, but their general meanings remain the same.
Professor:A faculty member of the highest academic rank at a college or university. May also be used to refer to any teacher (associate or assistant professor) at an institution of higher education
Associate Professor:A faculty member who ranks below a professor but above an assistant professor, at a college or university
Assistant Professor: A faculty member who ranks below an associate professor but above a lecturer or instructor, at a college or university
Lecturer or Instructor:A full-time teaching position at a college or university that typically is not on a tenure-track or involved in research
Faculty:The teaching or research staff with academic ranking
Staff:People who work in a department or college of an educational institution but are not faculty members, such as administrators, secretaries, engineers, lab technicians, etc.
Tenure:A status granted to a faculty member after a trial period who then maintains that position for life, i.e. cannot be dismissed without "just cause." This is to ensure that teachers and researcher have academic freedom, can openly disagree with authorities or prevailing theories, and are protected (to some degree) from external pressure.
Tenure Track:A position that may turn into tenured position after the trial period
Department Head:The chairperson overseeing a department of a college or university
Dean:The head of a college, school or division of a university
President:Head of a university
Chancellor:Head of a university or a university system
Advisor:A mentor who helps guide students in selecting majors and classes. Also being used to refer to faculty members who direct Masters or PhD students.
ISA, FSA:International Student Advisor or Foreign Student Advisor. A school position that handles visa, employment, admission and other immigration matters for foreign students.
Emeritus:An honorable title for retired professors
Graduate Student:Post-Graduate or Grad Student, referring to students at graduate schools who have completed bachelor's degrees and are pursuing Masters or PhD degrees.
Undergraduate Student:College students pursuing bachelor's degrees
Research Assistant (RA):A graduate student involved in research, mostly for their thesis or dissertation project. Often earns a salary in the form of research assistantship.
Teaching Assistant (TA): A graduate student who helps teaching in classes, grading homework and exams. Often earns a salary in the form of teaching assistantship.
Senior:A forth-year student at a college or university
Junior:A third-year student at a college or university
Sophomore:A second-year student at a college or university
Freshman:A first-year student at a college or university
College:A division of a university consisting a group of specialized and related departments, i.e. College of Engineering
Department:A division of a college, school or university that offers education in a particular subject, i.e. Department of Mechanical Engineering
Major:Primary subject of study
Minor:Secondary subject of study
Semester:One of two periods (terms) of a school year
Trimester:One of three periods (terms) of a school year
Quarter:One of four periods (terms) of a school year
Grade:Score on a test or exam.
GPA:Grade Point Average
Final Exam:Last exam of a course
Mid-Term Exam:An exam approximately halfway through course study
Quiz:An unexpected short test or exam
Oral Exam:A group of faculty members (committee) questioning a Ph.D. student related to his/her dissertation area. The student must pass the oral exam before s/he can officially become a PhD candidate.
Presentation:Showing and explaining to the teacher and classmates what your findings are
Dissertation:A PhD student's formal documentation of his/her research and findings
Thesis:A Masters student's formal documentation of his/her research and findings
ESL:English as a Second Language
Registrar:An official who handles student records
Tuition:A fee charged by a college or university for educational instructions.
Scholarship:An award or financial aid
Fellowship:A merit-based scholarship
Grant:A fund awarded by a government department, corporation or foundation to support a research project.