Glossary of U.S. Education and Academic Terms

A member of a college faculty or staff who helps and advises students in matters related solely to the academic program of study or major. They help you choose a major and decide the best classes for you to schedule each semester.

The period of formal instruction from early September to mid-May, divided into semesters; fall and spring.

Approval of colleges or universities by nationally recognized professional associations or regional organizations. They confirm that the college is doing everything they promise to do to educate their students.

A standardized college entrance examination including four separate multiple-choice tests that measure knowledge in English, mathematics, reading, and science. An optional writing test measures planning and writing skills. Most students take this examination during their junior or senior (third or fourth) year of high school (secondary school). MVCC accepts but does not require ACT scores.

A process within the first weeks of classes whereby students can delete and add classes with an instructor’s permission and usually without financial penalty.

A professor or instructor who does not hold a permanent or full-time position at an academic institution. This may be someone with a job outside the academic institution teaching courses in a specialized field, or it may refer to persons hired to teach courses on a contractual basis. MVCC has both full-time and adjunct professors.

An official document proving a promise of funding from an individual or organization.

A degree awarded after a two-year period of study; the degree can be used to enter the workforce or used to transfer to be the first two years of a bachelor's degree. MVCC offers mostly associate degrees.
To take a class without receiving credit toward a degree.
Process of determining whether something is, in fact, what it is declared to be. Incoming students are often required to provide a document of authentication for academic transcripts or previous degrees when applying to a program of study in the United States.
An undergraduate degree awarded by a college or university upon successful completion of a program of study, typically requiring at least four years (or the equivalent) of full-time study. Common degree types include bachelor of arts (B.A. or A.B.), which refers to the liberal arts, and bachelor of science (B.S.). A bachelor's is required before starting graduate studies. MVCC does not award bachelor’s degrees but they may be earned through our partnership with Bellevue University.

Behavioral Evaluation Response Team (an MVCC committee). 

The land or grounds on which the buildings of a college or university are located. MVCC has two campuses; one in Rome and one in Utica. 

A branch of the Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for protecting the U.S. borders.

A department of MVCC that provides non-credit classes and workshops for training. 

A number or ratio indicating a student's academic standing in his or her graduating class. A student who ranks first in a class of 100 students would report his or her class rank as 1/100, while a student ranking last would report 100/100. Class rank may also be expressed in percentiles (for example, the top 25%, the lower 50%). MVCC does not calculate class ranking nor does it use class ranking in admission decisions.

A college or university that admits both men and women; also refers to a dormitory that houses both men and women. MVCC has co-ed residence halls with single-sex suites.

 A postsecondary institution that provides an associate or undergraduate education and, in some cases, master's and doctorate degrees. College, in a separate sense, is a division of a university; for example, College of Business.
 An official publication giving information about a college's academic programs, facilities, entrance requirements, and student life. MVCC college catalog.
 A postsecondary institution that offers associate degree programs, as well as technical and vocational programs. MVCC is a community college.

A student who lives in accommodations that are not administered by the College and are off the campus grounds. He or she travels to campus every day for classes. A student who lives with a host family or in a house or apartment of their own is considered a “commuter student.”

Courses that provide the foundation of the degree program and are required of all students seeking that degree.

Regularly scheduled class sessions of one to five hours (or more) 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. A description of all the courses MVCC offers can be found here.

Units that most colleges and universities use to record the completion of courses (with passing grades) that are required for a degree. 

Training or an internship required for a student’s class which relates to their major area of study. This must be authorized by a DSO and added to the SEVIS record.

This is generally written on your visa and means you may remain in the United States so long as you maintain your nonimmigrant student status.

Diploma or title conferred by a college, university, or professional school upon completion of a prescribed program of studies. MVCC offers associate degrees in more than 90 different program areas.

Administrative subdivision of a school, college, or university through which instruction in a certain field of study is given (such as English department or history department). A list of MVCC departments can be found here.
 Spouse or children (EX: F-2, J-2) of the primary visa holder (EX: F-1 or J1).

A Designated School Official (DSO) is the person on campus who gathers and reports information on international students to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and assists international students in the visa and employment authorization process. Your DSO's name will be listed on your I-20. DSOs for MVCC are:

Students who do not earn a minimum GPA of 1.5 for their probation semester GPA are academically dismissed from MVCC. Dismissed students may not attend MVCC for one semester. Students who wish to appeal the dismissal decision may submit a written statement with supporting documentation such as verifiable written statements to confirm the issues supporting the appeal. 

Housing facilities on the campus of a college or university reserved for students. A typical dormitory would include student rooms, bathrooms, common areas, and a kitchen or microwave. Rooms are typically furnished with basic items such as a bed, desk, chair, and closet or armoire. More about MVCC’s residence halls can be found here

 This is a card that international students working on OPT receive to show that they are authorized to work in the U.S.
Courses that may be chosen from any field of study. Electives give students an opportunity to explore other topics or subjects of interest.
Nonacademic activities undertaken outside university courses; like clubs, events and sports.

People who teach courses. Faculty members may include professors, associate professors, assistant professors, and instructors.

An amount charged by universities, in addition to tuition, to cover costs of institutional services. A complete list of fees charged by MVCC can be found here.

Often referred to as a “final,” a final exam is a cumulative exam on a particular course subject encompassing all material covered throughout the duration of the course.
A general term that includes all types of money, loans, and work/study programs offered to a student to help pay tuition, fees, and living expenses. International students are not entitled to Federal Financial Aid.

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

One who is enrolled in an institution taking a full load of courses or at least 12 credit hours.

Also called “gen eds,” these are courses that all MVCC students are required to take, no matter what your academic major is.

The combined average of a student's grades for all academic coursework completed. In the United States, grades are usually assigned in letters and are based on a 4.0 GPA scale.


  • A — 4.0 (excellent)
  • B — 3.0 (good)
  • C — 2.0 (satisfactory)
  • D — 1.0 (needs improvement)
  • F — 0.0 (fail)

The evaluation of a student's academic work.


 A student who has completed a course of study. A graduate program at a university is a study course for students who already hold a bachelor's degree. 
 The U.S. term for secondary school. 
 Postsecondary education at colleges, universities, professional schools, technical institutes, etc. 

A challenging program for students with high grades. MVCC has an Honors Program for students who wish to challenge themselves academically. MVCC also has an honor society, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK)

Academic courses focused on human life and ideas, including history, philosophy, foreign languages, religion, art, music, and literature. 

A multi-purpose government form used in connection with F-1 procedures. This document must be maintained and updated in order to be in legal status in the U.S. during the course of the student’s studies. 

Form I-94 is the Department of Homeland Security’s arrival/departure record issued to international students who are admitted to the U.S. It is an electronic form which can be printed online. 

An English language proficiency examination of applicants whose native language is not English. MVCC accepts IELTS scores of 5.5 and higher for English Proficiency.

A student who was not born in the U.S., who is not a U.S. citizen, who has not been granted permanent residence in the US, and who has an F1, J1, or M1 student visa allowing them to be in the U.S. for educational purposes. 

The department at a college in charge of providing information and guidance to international students in areas of government regulation, visas, academic regulations, social customs, language, financial or housing problems, travel plans, insurance, and legal matters.  

A third-year student at a secondary school, college, or university. Junior status is only awarded for students seeking a bachelor’s degree. 

A requirement of some graduate programs that students must show basic reading and writing proficiency in a language other than their own to receive a degree. 
Common method of instruction in college and university courses; a professor lectures in classes of 20 to several hundred students. 
 A letter written by a student's teacher, counselor, coach, or mentor that assesses his or her qualifications and skills. 

Academic studies of subjects in the humanities, the social sciences, and the physical sciences with the goal of developing students' verbal, written, and reasoning skills. 

Expenses such as housing and meals, books and supplies, transportation, personal expenses, health insurance, etc. A breakdown of all costs associated with attending MVCC can be found here

A type of financial aid that consists of an amount of money that is given to someone for a period of time, with an agreement that it will be repaid later. International students are generally not eligible for U.S. federal government loans and will typically require an American cosigner to apply for a private bank loan. 

Your MVCC identifying number. This is your student number for your entire time at MVCC. 

The academic subject area that a student chooses to focus their studies. Students typically must officially choose their major by the end of their second semester, allowing them to take a number of courses in the chosen area during the last year. 

To enroll in a program of study at a college or university, with the intention of earning a degree. 

An MVCC student volunteer who supports new international students adjust to the U.S. and MVCC. They are expected to meet at least once a month with their paired international student. 

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. Most merit aid has specific requirements if students want to continue to receive it, such as maintaining a certain GPA. 

An exam given after half of the academic term has passed and that covers all material studied in a particular course until that point. Not all courses have midterm exams. 

A minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly wage that employers may legally pay to their workers. In the U.S. these wages are set by both the federal and state governments. As of 2023, New York State requires that employees be paid no less than $15 per hour. 

An academic subject area that a student chooses to have a secondary focus on during their studies. Unlike a major, a minor is typically not required, but it allows a student to take a few additional courses in a subject different from his or her major. 

Someone who seeks temporary entry to the U.S. for a specific purpose. An international student is a non-immigrant and must have a permanent residence abroad, with intention to return to their home country. An immigrant is someone who enters the U.S. planning to remain permanently. 

A student who does not meet a state's residence requirements. A college or university may have different tuition costs and admissions policies for residents versus nonresidents. In most cases, international students are considered nonresidents. A "nonresident alien" is a person who is not a U.S. citizen and is in the country on a temporary basis.  

Certified as authentic by a public official, lawyer, or bank. Colleges and universities often require international students to submit notarized documents, such as the Affidavit of Support or high school transcripts. 

A college or university's policy of accepting all students who have completed high school, regardless of their grades or test scores, until all spaces are filled. MVCC has an open admissions policy, including for international students. 

A period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status, who have completed or been pursuing their degree for more than 1 year, are permitted by USCIS to work for up to 12 months without needing to acquire an H-1B visa. MVCC will help all international students who have successfully completed their program of study or have been fully enrolled for at least one full year with their OPT application. 

The college’s official process of welcoming new, accepted students to campus and providing them with information and policies before classes begin, usually in a half-day or full-day event. There is a separate orientation just for international students to cover topics such as how to follow immigration and visa regulations, set up a U.S. bank account, and handle culture shock. 

A student who is enrolled at a college or university but is not taking the minimum number of credits required for a full course load. International students are not allowed to be part-time students unless they have applied and been approved for a Reduced Course Load. 

A grading system in which students receive either a "pass" or "fail" grade, rather than a specific score or letter grade. Certain courses can be taken pass-fail, but these typically don't include ones taken to fulfill major or minor requirements.

An English language proficiency examination that measures English ability. 

An assessment used to test a student's academic ability in a certain field so that he or she may be placed in the appropriate courses in that field. MVCC has placement tests in math and English. If you would like to take your placement test prior to coming to MVCC, please email More information about our placement tests can be found here

The use of another person's words or ideas as your own, without acknowledging that person. MVCC has a strict policy against plagiarism and more information about it can be found here

A detailed description of the course of study for which a candidate applies. This can be found in your Degree Works which can be accessed through your MyMV account. 

Programs or courses that a student is required to complete before being permitted to enroll in a more advanced program or course. MVCC lists course prerequisites under each course description which can be seen by hovering over the course name link on the Course Search. 
A status or period of time in which students with very low GPAs, or whose academic work is unsatisfactory according to the school, must improve their performance. If they are unable to do so, they may be dismissed from the school. Students may also face "disciplinary probation" for non-academic reasons, such as behavioral problems in the dorms. 
 A postsecondary institution that is supported mainly by public funds and whose programs are operated by publicly elected or appointed officials. MVCC is a public school. 
If an F-1 student is having specified initial academic difficulties, a temporary illness or medical condition, or needs fewer courses than a full course load in his/her last term to complete the program of study, DSOs may authorize a reduced course load (RCL). 
The college or university official who is responsible for registering students and keeping their academic records, such as transcripts.
The process in which students choose and enroll in courses to be taken during the academic year or in summer sessions. Registration dates and instructions for MVCC can be found here.
A student leader who works in campus dormitories and supervises issues and activities related to dorm life. RAs receive free housing in the dorm in return for their services.
An admissions process used by some colleges and universities in which each application is considered as soon as all the required materials have been received, rather than by a specific deadline. MVCC has rolling admissions.
Housing and meals. "Room and board" is typically one of the costs that colleges and universities will list in their annual estimated cost of attendance, in addition to tuition, fees, and textbooks and supplies. If students choose to live in dormitories, they may be required to buy into a meal plan to use on-campus dining facilities.
Leave with pay granted to give a faculty member an extended period of time for concentrated study.


A standardized college entrance exam administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) on behalf of the nonprofit College Board, which measures reading, writing, and math skills. Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year of high school, and most colleges and universities accept scores from either the SAT or ACT. In addition, students may choose to take the SAT Subject Tests in English, history, languages, math, and science to demonstrate their knowledge in specific academic areas. MVCC does not require international students to take the SATs.

A type of financial aid that consists of an amount of free money given to a student by a school, individual, organization, company, charity, or federal or state government. "Scholarship" is often used interchangeably with "grant."  Students who are involved in extracurricular activities are more likely to be awarded scholarships. 

Any educational institution, including those that provide elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education. In the latter case, "school" is often used interchangeably with "college" and "university." 

Periods of study that divide the academic year into two equal segments of approximately 15 to 18 weeks each. Some schools also offer a shorter summer semester, beyond the traditional academic year. 

A course offered to a small group of students who are typically more advanced and who meet with a professor to discuss specialized topics.

 A student in their last year or semester of study. 
A computerized U.S. government database used to track international students and scholars in the United States. Once an international student is accepted by MVCC, they are mailed a Form I-20, which is a paper record of the student's information in SEVIS. A student must pay a SEVIS fee and use the payment receipt and I-20 to apply for a visa.
 A nine-digit number issued by the U.S. government to people who are authorized to work in the United States and collect certain government benefits. Many colleges and universities use the Social Security number as the student identification number. International students who are in the United States and are authorized to work either on or off campus must apply for and obtain a Social Security number, which is then used to report their wages to the government. 
Exams, such as the SAT, ACT, and GRE, which measure knowledge and skills and are designed to be consistent in how they are administered and scored. Standardized tests are intended to help admissions officials compare students who come from different backgrounds.
A status offered to high-level faculty members at a college or university that allows them to stay permanently in their positions, after demonstrating a strong record of teaching.

Periods of study, which can include semesters, quarters, trimesters, or summer sessions. 

A formal piece of writing on a specific subject involving personal research. 

A standardized exam administered by the nonprofit Educational Testing Service (ETS), which measures English-language proficiency in reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Many U.S. colleges and universities require non-native English speakers to take the TOEFL and submit their scores as part of the admissions process. MVCC accepts the TOEFL as a measure of English proficiency. Students must earn a minimum of 61 on the internet based test (IBT).

An official record of a student's coursework and grades at a high school, college, or university. A high school transcript is usually one of the required components of the college application process. MVCC requires your official high school transcript as part of your application.
Credit granted toward a degree on the basis of studies completed at another college or university. For instance, students who transfer from MVCC to a four-year college may transfer their credits to the new school. If you have studied at a college or university before studying at MVCC and you want to receive credit for those courses as part of your MVCC degree, you must submit your transcript from that school. International college transcripts must be verified by World Education Services.
Associate degree program allowing the student to transfer into the third year of a four-year bachelor's degree program. MVCC offers all students the opportunity to transfer to a four-year program to complete a bachelor’s degree. For more information, meet with the transfer office. Learn more here.
 An amount of money charged by a school per term, per course, or per credit, in exchange for instruction and training. Tuition does not include the cost of textbooks, room and board, and other fees. A listing of current MVCC tuition rates can be found here.
A student enrolled in a two-year or four-year study program at a college or university after graduation from high school, leading to an associate or bachelor's degree.
A postsecondary institution that offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is the government agency responsible for enforcing the regulations that apply to foreign nationals within the U.S. The nearest immigration office is located at: 1086 Troy-Schenectady Road Latham, NY 12110.
A visa is a "key" for entry to the country upon arrival. International students and scholars may be in the U.S. with an expired visa, but they may not return to the United States until they present a valid visa, valid passport, and Form I-20 endorsed within the previous year. It is expected that F-1 and J-1 visa applicants understand and intend to abide by the temporary nature of their stay before a visa is issued.
The administrative procedure of dropping a course or leaving an institution.
A series of numbers in mailing addresses that designates postal delivery districts in the United States.