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Education Glossary

Check this glossary for commonly used education terms.

Don't see what you're looking for? See a complete list of common college terms from EducationUSA.

Academic year
The period of formal academic instruction, usually extending from September to May. Depending on the institution, it may be divided into terms of varying lengths: semesters, trimesters, or quarters.

Accreditation
Approval of colleges, universities, and secondary schools by nationally recognized professional associations. Institutional accreditation affects the transferability of credits from one institution to another before a degree program is completed and the continuation from one degree level to the next level.

Baccalaureate degree
The degree of "bachelor" conferred upon graduates of most U.S. colleges and universities.

Bachelor's degree
Degree conferred by a college or university after the student has completed a certain number of undergraduate credits. Usually a bachelor's degree takes four years to earn, and it is a prerequisite for graduate studies.

Campus
Where the buildings of a college or university are located.

College catalog
An official publication of a college or university giving information about academic programs, facilities (such as laboratories, dormitories, etc.), entrance requirements, and student life.

Core requirements
Courses required for completion of the degree.

Course
Regularly scheduled class sessions of one to or more hours per week during a term. A degree program is made up of a specified number of required and elective courses and varies from institution to institution. The courses offered by an institution are usually assigned a name and a number (such as Mathematics 101) for identification purposes.

Credits
Units used by institutions to record the completion of courses required for an academic degree. The catalog of a college or university defines the number and the kinds of credits that are required for its degrees and states the value in terms of degree credit— "credit hours" or "credit units"— of each course offered.

Degree
Diploma or title conferred by a college, university, or professional school upon completion of a prescribed program of studies.

Doctorate (Ph.D.)
The highest academic degree conferred by a university on students who have completed at least three years of graduate study beyond the bachelor's and/or master's degree and who have demonstrated their academic ability in oral and written examinations and through original research presented in the form of a dissertation.

Fees
An amount charged by schools, in addition to tuition, to cover costs of institutional services.

Freshman
A first-year student at a high school, college, or university.

Grade point average (GPA)
A system of recording academic achievement based on an average, calculated by multiplying the numerical grade received in each course by the number of credit hours studied.

Graduate
A student who has completed a course of study, either at the high school or college level. A graduate program at a university is a study course for students who hold bachelor's degrees.

GRE
Graduate Record Examination, often required of applicants to graduate schools in fields other than professional programs such as medicine, dentistry, or law. Both a GRE general test and subject tests for specific fields are offered.

Higher education
Postsecondary education at colleges, universities, junior or community colleges, professional schools, technical institutes, and teacher-training schools.

Junior
A third-year student at a high school, college, or university.

Liberal arts (or "liberal arts and sciences," or "arts and sciences")
A term referring to academic studies in the humanities (language, literature, philosophy, the arts), the social sciences (economics, sociology, anthropology, history, political science), and the physical sciences (mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry).

Major
The subject or area of studies in which a student concentrates. Undergraduates usually choose a major after the first two years of general courses in the arts and sciences.

Master's degree
Degree conferred by a college or university after students complete a minimum of one year's study beyond the bachelor's degree.

Placement test
An exam used to test a student's academic ability so that he or she may be placed in the appropriate courses in that field. In some cases, a student may be given academic credit based on the results of a placement test.

Postdoctorate
Studies designed for those who have completed their doctorate.

Postgraduate
Usually refers to studies for individuals who have completed a graduate degree. May also be used to refer to graduate education.

Prerequisite
Program or course that a student is required to complete before being permitted to enroll in a more advanced program or course.

Professional degree
Usually obtained after a bachelor's degree in fields such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or law.

Semester
Period of study of approximately 15 to 16 weeks' duration, usually half of an academic year.

Senior
A fourth-year student at a high school, college, or university.

Sophomore
A second-year student at a high school, college, or university.

Transcript
A certified copy of a student's educational record containing titles of courses, the number of credits, and the final grades in each course. An official transcript also states the date a degree has been conferred.

Tuition
The money an institution charges for instruction and training (does not include the cost of books and supplies, housing, or meals).

Undergraduate studies
Two– or four–year programs in a college or university after high school graduation, leading to the associate or bachelor's degree.

Source: EducationUSA