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Frequently Asked Questions about Studying in the USA

In this section, we will try to answer all kinds of questions that there might be for potential international students who wish to study in the USA.

If there are any more questions, please do not hesitate to contact us

Why study in the USA?
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1) How do I become an Academic Student in the USA?
Who is Allowed to Study in the United States?
  What Happens when I Arrive in the USA?
  I-20, IAP-66 and the I-94
2) Visa-related Questions
  Visas in General, F-1, J-1, M-1
  The Visa Interview
  What is the SEVIS fee?
  More Information on Visas
3) The Application Process
  How Do I Apply if I am Outside of the United States?
  How Can I Get USCIS Forms?
4) Admission Tests
5) Grading of Credits
6) Evaluation of Credentials
7) What Levels of Education are there in the USA?
8) Life in the USA
  How Can I Change My Nonimmigrant Status to Become a Student if I Am Already in the United States?
  How Do I Apply for Permission to Transfer Schools?
  Can I Bring My Spouse and Children with Me to the United States?
  How Long Can I Stay in the United States?
  Can I Stay in The United States after my Studies?
  How Can I Extend my Stay as a Student in the United States?
  Will I Be Able to Work?
  Can I Travel outside the United States?
  Will I have Vacation Time?
  Where Will I Live when I Get to the United States?
  How Close Should I Live?
  About Owning a Car
  Will I Need Health Insurance?
9) List of Important Terms / What does it mean?
10) Types of schools in the USA
11) Where to go for more help
12) More Links

How do I become an Academic Student in the USA?

Who is Allowed to Study in the United States?

A nonimmigrant is someone admitted to the U.S. temporarily for a specific purpose. People who are coming to the United States to pursue full-time academic or vocational studies are usually admitted in one of two nonimmigrant categories.

The F-1 category includes academic students in colleges, universities, seminaries, conservatories, academic high schools, other academic institutions, and in language training.

The M-1 category includes vocational students.

Please note: If you wish to attend public high school (grades 9-12) in the United States in student (F-1) status, you must submit evidence that the local school district has been reimbursed in advance for the unsubsidized per capita cost of the education. Also, attendance at U.S. public high schools cannot exceed a total of 12 months. F-1 students are prohibited from attending public elementary schools and publicly-funded adult education programs in the United States.

Please find more information in the Visa-related questions section

What Happens when I Arrive in the USA?

Wherever you enter the United States, you should be ready for inspection by customs and immigration officials. Customs will often ask many questions, and may examine your luggage. The embassy or consulate will have placed your Form I-20 or IAP-66 in a sealed envelope for presentation to an immigration officer.

I-20, IAP-66 and the I-94

On arrival, you should receive a Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) that will include your admission number to the United States and your immigration status (F1, J1, M2...). An Immigration inspector will write this admission number on your Form I-20 M-N/ID. The Inspector will then take pages one and two of this form, known as I-20 M-N. The USCIS will receive the first page (I-20M) and your school will receive the second page (I-20 N) as a record of your legal admission to the United States. You are expected to keep pages three and four, known as the I-20 ID. This document is your proof that you are allowed to study at the indicated institution in the United States. You should see a school representative if you need a replacement copy of your I-20 ID. You should also keep safe your Form I-94, because it proves that you legally entered the United States.

  If you are on medication, be sure to bring a letter from your doctor describing the medication and what it is for.
As a Visa holder, you do not need a return ticket. Be prepared, however, to prove that you have sufficient funds to finance your studies and that you intent to return to your home country at the end of your studies.


Visa-related Questions

First of all, your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the end of your intended stay in the US.

Before leaving for the US, make a photocopy of the page containing your photograph and passport number. If your passport is lost or stolen, this will make it easier to replace the passport. Keep the photocopy in a safe place, but do not carry it with your passport.

If your passport is lost or stolen, notify your embassy and the police immediately.

Visas in General:

A visa is the permission to enter a country. Visas get issued by the U.S. embassy or the consulate in your home country.

Prerequisites are health, no criminal record, ability to be financially independent and the intention to leave the USA after completion of your studies.

Medical requirements contain vaccinations, an HIV test and an x-ray of the chest.

There are three types of student visas:

F1 - Student Visa: The F1 visa is for full-time students enrolled in an academic or language program. A full-time course load must be maintained and the studies must be completed by the expiration date listed on the I-20 form. Students get an extra 60 days at the end of their stay.

J1 – Exchange Visitor Visa: J-1 visas get issued to individuals who take part in a wide range of a exchange visitor programs sponsored by schools, businesses, and a variety of organizations and institutions. These programs are envisioned for business and industrial trainees, scholars, students, international visitors, teachers, research assistants and on cultural missions. In addition, there are several exchange visitor programs for young people, including summer employment programs, internship programs for university students, and au-pair programs.

M1 – Vocational Student Visa: The M1 visa is issued for students attending non-academic trade and vocational schools. It is valid for one year. Students may not change their field of study or switch to a F1 visa.

In most circumstances, you will succeed in getting an F, M, or J visa only if you apply in your home country and only if you apply at the visa post (embassy or consulate) nearest your home. Exceptions are made for students who actually reside in countries other than their own, or who have permission to stay in another country for an extended period of time; also students who have no U. S. consular office in their home country.

You must complete a visa application form and present both your Form I-20 or IAP-66 and the same financial documentation you provided to your school. The consul may ask you for other documents. The I 20 is issued by the institution that you plan to attend, if this institution is convinced that you have the academic and financial resources to study in the USA. You will also need form OF-156, a valid passport, a 1 ½ inch square color photograph showing full face and one ear (no earrings or glasses) against a light background, and the visa processing fee.

Be aware that visas get denied if the application was presented in a poor manner. Prepare carefully and know what you want to talk about to the consul.

The Visa Interview

It is crucial that you convince the consul that you intend to return to your home country, otherwise you will be found legally ineligible for an F-1, J-1, or M-1 visa. In any way you can, show ties to your home country. A written offer of a job in your home country after your U.S. studies is very helpful. If you have a sibling who studied in the U.S. and returned home, take their passports to show to the counsel. If your family owns property or a business in your home country, take deeds or other records (do not simply tell the consul about these facts). If you have family members both in the U.S. and at home, emphasize those who are at home. If your family has social prominence or positions of leadership or honor in your home country, take evidence of these facts. It helps if at least part of your financial sponsorship comes from your home country, even if most of it comes from the U.S. If you, or your immediate family, have money in a bank in your home country, take your bank statement, even if this money is not going to be used for your education and was not used to provide financial ability to obtain Form I-20 or Form IAP-66.

Be definite about your study plans. Be prepared to say why you picked the school for which you are destined. Be ready to describe your academic program and the kind of career or job it will help you get in your home country. Explain, if asked, why it is better to study in the U.S. than at home. Be prepared to offer facts and evidence on paper rather than to discuss your personal needs or desires.

What is the SEVIS Fee?

This SEVIS fee is required of all foreign nationals who come to the United States for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study in institutions such as colleges, universities, and language training programs. It is payable one time for each single educational program in which an F-1 or F-3 student participates, extending from the time the student is granted F-1 or F-3 status to the time the student falls out of status, changes status, or departs the U.S. for an extended period of time.

This fee is new and goes into effect September 1, 2004. SEVIS fee payments will be used by the United States Department of Homeland Security to fund the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. This program makes it possible for international students and exchange visitors to attend schools in the United States. The fee also funds the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a computer system employed to track international students and exchange visitors during their stays in the United States.

Who Must Pay the SEVIS Fee and when?

You will need to pay the SEVIS fee if you were issued a Form I-20 on or after September 1, 2004 AND one of the following conditions applies:

  You are seeking an F-1 or F-3 visa from a United States embassy or consulate for first-time attendance in a language training program. In this case, the SEVIS fee must be paid BEFORE visa issuance.
  You hold a valid F-1 or F-3 visa, have been absent from the United States for a period of more than 5 months (not working on your studies during this time with the prior approval of your school), and will re-enter the U.S. for a new program of study. In this case, the SEVIS fee must be paid BEFORE re-entry to the U.S.
As a resident of a contiguous territory or adjacent island, you are exempt from the visa requirement (for example, you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda), and will apply for admission at port-of-entry to begin initial attendance at a U.S. school. In this case, the SEVIS fee must be paid BEFORE entry to the U.S.

F-2 visa holders, the spouse and dependents of the F-1 visa holder, are not required to pay the SEVIS fee. See the section entitled “A Note About Processing Times” for further important fee payment considerations.

How Much is the SEVIS Fee and how Do I Pay it?

The SEVIS fee is US $100. This fee is separate from and in addition to the visa application fee. The SEVIS fee must be paid by the Internet or by mail. It cannot be paid at a U.S. embassy or consulate and it cannot be paid at port of entry.

The fee can be paid by one of two means:
  Electronically, by completing a form I-901 through the Internet and using a Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit card.
By mail, by submitting Form I-901, Fee remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants, together with a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank and payable in U.S. currency. Sources for such checks and money orders include banks chartered or operated in the U.S., foreign subsidiaries of U.S. banks, or foreign banks that have an arrangement with a U.S. bank to issue a check, money order, or foreign draft that is drawn on a U.S. bank.

A third party such as a friend, family member, or other interested party can pay the fee on your behalf through the same means described above.

If I have already Paid the SEVIS Fee for one School, and then Decide to Attend Another, Do I Have to Pay the Fee Again?

If you have been accepted to more than one institution and paid the fee using the SEVIS ID number of an institution you will not be attending, you will not have to pay the fee again. Bring the I-20s of both the school for which you paid the fee and the school you will be attending, as well as your SEVIS fee payment receipt, to the consulate or port-of-entry (if you are applying for a visa, you should bring both of the I-20s back to the consulate)

Is the SEVIS Fee Refundable if I am Denied a Visa?

Once paid, the SEVIS fee is non-refundable, unless paid by mistake, even if your visa is denied or, subsequent to issuance of the visa, you choose not to come to the United States.

If you applied for an F-1 or F-3 visa and paid the SEVIS fee within the last year but were denied a visa, you do not have to pay the SEVIS fee again as long as you re-apply for the same kind of program with 12 months of the initial denial.

Need more Information on Visas?
For the F1 go to
For the J1 go to
For the M1 go to
Get all the forms at


The Application Process

How Do I Apply if I am Outside of the United States?

You first must apply to study at a USCIS-approved school in the United States. When you contact a school that you are interested in attending, you should be told immediately if the school accepts foreign national students. If you are accepted, the school should send you USCIS Form I-20 M-N/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status – for Academic and Language Students). If you require a visa, then you should take the USCIS Form I-20 to the nearest U.S consulate to obtain a student visa. Only bring the USCIS Form I-20 from the school you plan on attending for visa processing at the U.S. consulate. You must also prove to the consulate that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the U.S.

How Can I Get USCIS Forms?

You should be able to pick up immigration-related forms from your designated school official (DSO). Only your designated school official (DSO) can give you a USCIS Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Vocational Students) or a USCIS Form I-538 (Certification By Designated School Official). If you need other immigration forms, you may call 1-800-870-3676, or submit a request through our forms by mail system.

You can also get the forms online:


Admission Tests

Many institutions in the USA require one or more admission test from prospective students. The most important one are


The TOEFL test (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is required for admission by more that 4400 institutions in the USA.

For more information on the TOEFL, visit the TOEFL website at


The SATs are standardized tests, frequently used by colleges and universities in the United States to aid in the selection of incoming freshmen. Check with for more information on the SATs and test dates and fees.


GRE stands for Graduate Record Examinations. For more information on the GRE including how to prepare, go to


GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test. The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test that is available year round at test centers around the world. For more information and a list of schools that require the GMAT, go to


Grading of Credits

How Do Grading and Credits Work in the USA?

During your studies in the United States you will be graded on all your examinations and you will receive a final grade for performance during the entire semester, trimester or quarter. The most common method of grading is by letter or number in the following way:

A = 4 = Superior (90 – 100%)
B = 3 = Good (80 – 89%)
C = 2 = Average (70 – 79%)
D = 1 = Below average (60 – 69%)
F = Failing (40 – 59%)
I = Incomplete

The student will receive a failing grade if the work is not completed within a specified time.

Pass/Fail: Some schools use only the Pass/Fail method in which a student either passes (and receives credit for the courses) or fails (and does not receive credit).

How They Test You

Examinations in the United States are almost all in writing. You will be tested either with an essay test where you will have to write down your own thoughts on a subject, or you may be tested with a “multiple-choice” test where you will have to choose the correct answer from a number of choices given. Oral examinations are used only in the defense of a graduate thesis.

While studying at an undergraduate level in the US, students are called Freshman in their first year, sophomore in their second year, junior in their third year and senior in their fourth year.

About Credits

American undergraduate and Master’s degree programs are completed by accumulating credits. Credits are best understood if you think of them as building blocks. Most Associate degrees require 64 to 68 credits; bachelor’s degrees, 120 to 136 credits, and master’s degrees, 24 to 60 credits, depending upon the major. Each successfully completed course contributes credits to the total. A typical lecture course will meet for one hour, three times each week during a semester, trimester or quarter. By completing and passing the course, you earn three credits. Students usually enroll for between 12 and 16 credits each term as undergraduates, but for fewer credits as graduate students.


Evaluation of Credentials

Do I Need my Credentials Evaluated?

When applying for admission to higher education institutions in the U.S. it may be necessary to have an independent firm review your educational credentials (Transcripts, diploma, etc.) to provide equivalence in US higher education terminology. Some institutions will provide this service for their applicants; while others will refer you to have the evaluation done by a recognized, independent evaluation organization.

You should have your credentials evaluated as early as possible. Be sure to check whether the university you are applying for needs a document-by-document or a course-by-course evaluation.

When choosing an evaluation organization, there are several things to look for:

Experience – do the evaluators have experience in higher education reviewing foreign educational documents?

Turn-around time – Typically two to three weeks

Pricing – average price for evaluating your education is $125 to $200.U.S.).

Acceptance – Will the institution to which you are applying accept evaluations from this evaluation company?

When submitting an application to the evaluator, be sure to include copies of all relevant documents in the original language with English translations. Typically, copies of mark sheets or transcripts and diplomas are required, sometimes these documents have to be notarized or be sent directly from the institution that had issued them. Many evaluators contact the institutions that had sent documents to verify the information given.


What Levels of Education are there in the USA?

Education in the United States and Canada is divided into the following levels at the indicated ages:

Primary Education

Pre-school, ages, 2 – 6
Elementary school, ages 6 – 12

Secondary Education

Junior high school, average ages 12 – 14
High school, average ages 14 – 18

Higher Education

  Undergraduate education: Undergraduate education leads to a Bachelor’s degree.

Two-year colleges award Associate’s Degrees. Two-year college or junior college graduates usually transfer to four-year colleges or universities to complete their Bachelor’s degree. American students usually do not specialize in one specific field before they go to graduate school.

Graduate school: In graduate school students can acquire graduate degrees, such as an MBA, MA or Ph.D. Many graduate schools consider the Master’s Degree as the first step towards participating in a doctorate program (Ph.D.)


Life in The USA

How Can I Change My Nonimmigrant Status to Become a Student if I Am Already in the United States?

You first must apply to study at a USCIS-approved school in the United States. When you contact a school that you are interested in attending, you should be told immediately if the school accepts foreign national students. If you are accepted, the school should send you USCIS Form I-20 M-N/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status - For Vocational Students). You must submit this form, your I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record), and a completed USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) to the USCIS. You must also prove that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States.

How Do I Apply for Permission to Transfer Schools?

You must file USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) with the USCIS. You should also submit your current USCIS Form I-20 ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status - For Vocational Students), a complete USCIS Form I-20 M-N/ID from your new school, and the Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Documents) of your spouse and children. You may transfer sixty days after filing this application. However, if your application is denied after you transfer, you will be considered to be out of status. This means you may be required to leave the country.

Please note: To be eligible to transfer to another school, you must currently be a full-time student, and you must intend to be a full-time student at the new school. You must also prove that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States. In addition, you may only transfer to another school within the first six months from the date you were admitted to the United States to begin your studies or from the date you changed your nonimmigrant status to become an M-1 student. You are not allowed to change your educational objective.

Can I Bring My Spouse and Children with Me to the United States?

Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may come with you to the United States in M-2 nonimmigrant status. They should go with you to the U.S. embassy or consulate when you apply for your student (M-1) visa. They should be prepared to prove their relationship to you. If your spouse or children are following to join you at a later date, they should provide the U.S. embassy staff with a copy of your USCIS Form I-20 ID and proof of their relationship to you. The M-2 status of your family will be dependent upon your status as the M-1 vocational student. This means that if you change your status, your family must change their status as well. If you lose your status, your family will also lose their status. For more information on changing status, please go to

How Long Can I Stay in the United States?

You are allowed to stay in the United States for one year or for as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student in a vocational program (plus thirty days to prepare to leave the country), whichever is shorter. You should be allowed to stay in the United States 30 days beyond the departure date on your Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) and USCIS Form I-20 ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status - For Vocational Students), as long as your stay does not exceed one year.

You may also apply to stay in the country after the completion of your studies to pursue practical training. If approved, you will be allowed to have one month of practical training for every four months of study you completed. You will be limited to six months total practical training time. Your designated school official (DSO) is able to assist you in the application process.

Can I stay in the US after my studies?

With an F type visa you may stay in the U.S. up to one year for practical training after completing your studies. With an M visa you may stay up to 6 months. You would require a recommendation from your school that such training would not be available in your home country. An Exchange Student may remain for an additional 18 months in the U.S. if your sponsor approves this training.

International student advisers on U.S. campuses know about changes in immigration and visa laws. It is a good idea to check in with them and ask about any problems or questions you may have

How Can I Extend My Stay as a Student in the United States?

You should apply to extend your stay in the United States if your studies will take longer than the date listed on your I-20 ID or your vocational program lasts longer than a year. You should complete USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) and send it to USCIS at least 15 (but not more than 60) days before your authorized stay in the country expires. You should also submit your USCIS Form I-20 ID to the USCIS at the same time.

For more information, please go to

Will I Be Able to Work?

You and your spouse and children may not accept employment. However, you may apply for practical training after you complete your studies. If approved, you will be allowed to have one month of practical training for every four months of study you have completed. You will be limited to six months total practical training time.

You should submit USCIS Form 538 (Certification By Designated School Official) to the USCIS. Your school official should certify on USCIS Form I-538 that 1) the proposed employment is for the purpose of practical training; 2) the training will be related to your studies; and 3) you can not receive the same type of training in your country of residence. You must also submit USCIS Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization), and your I-20 ID, signed by the designated school official (DSO). You should send your application to USCIS no more than 60 days before your student status expires and no later than 30 days after your studies are completed. For more information, please see the rules about practical training at 8 CFR § 214.2(m). You may also wish to discuss practical training with the appropriate officials at your school.

Can I Travel Outside of the United States?

Students may leave the United States and be readmitted after temporary absences. When making your travel plans, please remember that you must be a full-time student to keep your M-1 student status. Upon your return to the United States, you should provide immigration inspectors with:

  A valid passport.
A valid M-1 entry visa stamped in the passport (if necessary).
A current USCIS Form I-20 ID signed by your designated school official (you should have the designated school official sign your USCIS Form I-20 each time you wish to temporarily travel outside the United States).
A new USCIS Form I-20 M-N/ID if there have been any substantive changes in your course of study or place of study.
Proof of your financial support

Will I have Vacation time?

Thanksgiving: The fourth Thursday in November and the following Friday. This holiday commemorates the Pilgrims’ good harvest of 1621 and is celebrated with prayers of thanks and feasting.

Winter Break: Two weeks in late December and early January. They include time off for Christmas holidays.

Spring Break: One week in March or April.

Other Vacation Time: Some schools and colleges may also close their doors for a variety of religious and national holidays. These holidays are short one or two day breaks. You may not be able to plan any trips for these mini-vacations, but many Americans do plan to enjoy some days off work. Generally if the holiday is close to a weekend, it will be added on to the weekend creating what is called a “long weekend” of three days or more.

Where will I live when I get to The USA?

Life on- or off campus
Some students prefer to live on campus, others prefer to live in their own apartments, or take a room with a family. Each college has its own policy regarding housing and many require first year students to live on campus. If you decide to stay on campus you will be asked to send a deposit upon your acceptance. You will be offered assistance in finding suitable accommodation if you prefer to live off campus. Remember that if you find private accommodation, you will be asked to sign a lease contract (usually for a year), and you will most often be required to pay:

• One month’s rent in advance
• One month’s rent as “last month’s rent”
• one month’s rent as a damage deposit

How close should I live/Transport?

If you are attending a technical or vocational school or a private English language program, you need to make sure that housing is available in the vicinity of the school. You may wish to find out if the school offers you help in finding proper housing, or if the school has its own housing. It is important to find out if you can be housed within walking distance from the school, or if you will have to take public transportation. In some cases buses are not available to transport you to the school. In this case you will have to secure your own transportation. Used or new cars or motorcycles can be purchased easily in the U.S., but you must add their cost to your expenses, and of course you will have to have a local or an international driver’s license.

About owning a car

Used or new cars or motorcycles can be purchased easily in the U.S., but you must add their cost to your expenses, and of course you will have to have a local or an international driver’s license and insurance.

More information about driver”s licences at

Will I need Health Insurance?

It is a firm legal requirement that all J-l students and their J-2 dependents carry a specified minimum amount of insurance to cover accident, illness, medical evacuation, or return of remains in case of death. Many schools require that F-1 students maintain the same amount of insurance required of J-1 students.

Health care is very good in the United States, but it is also very expensive and is not provided by the government. Even if your school does not require insurance, it is risky not to buy it. Your college may have a special insurance plan for you to join. If not, there are several special insurance programs for foreign students. Your foreign student office will have more information on these.

Be aware that dental and optical care are usually not covered by many health plans.

If you are free to choose among several plans, you should be aware of “ deductibles.” The deductible is the amount you pay from your own funds to the doctor or hospital. It is the part that is not covered by the insurance. The insurance company pays the remainder of the bill.

For more information, please go to


List of Important Terms / What does it mean?

Academic Year: Usually of 9 months duration. It will consist of either two terms (semesters), three terms (trimesters) or four terms (quarters). Schools on semester or trimester calendars usually offer optional summer terms for students who want to complete their programs more quickly.

ACT: An achievement test which measures subject ability and required by some colleges and universities for admission.

Accreditation: Only schools meeting a certain academic standard, get accredited.

Associate’s Degree: awarded at completion of a degree program at a two-year college..

Bachelor’s Degree: awarded at completion of an undergraduate program, usually after four years at a college or university.

Campus: The area where the university’s main buildings are located is called campus.

Cooperative education: Students enrolled in a cooperative program spend a part of their studying time in a professional environment outside the university.

Credit: A unit of academic work successfully completed. Depending on the particular course, the time spent in class, or the difficulty of the subject, a course might be worth 1, 2 or 3 credits.

Distance learning: Courses taken via internet, videotape or cable television.

Dormitory/Dorm: Living facilities for students.

ESL programs: Classes to learn English as a Foreign Language.

Faculty: The professors or teachers who are employed at an educational institution.

Freshman: First-year students at high schools, universities and colleges.

Graduate Student: A student who has entered studies for his master’s or doctorate degrees.

GMAT: Graduate Management Admission Test, a test required of students who wish to be considered for acceptance into a Master’s of Business (MBA) or other graduate business program.

GRE: Graduate Records Examination, a test required of students who wish to be considered for acceptance into graduate school.

For more information, please go to

High School: Generally this term refers to an educational institution which offers grades 9 to 12 and is attended by students from ages 14 to 18. It is the standard secondary school completed before applying to college, or any post-secondary school.

Liberal Arts: Arts, literature, humanities, languages and natural and physical sciences.

Major: The subject in which a student specializes and, usually, the area in which a student plans a career.

Minor: The subject studied at a less concentrated level and in order to round out an education.

MAT: (Miller Analogies Test) The MAT is given on an as-needed basis at most centers and is not required by all schools. It is a high-level mental ability test.

Placement Test: Most schools give these tests to new students in order to place them at a class level most suited to their needs.

Prerequisite: A requirement asked from a student before he or she can register or advance to a higher level. Some courses cannot be taken before the completion of a lower level course. For example: Business 101 may be a prerequisite for taking Business 102.

Quarter: A division of the academic year into four equal parts with brief vacations between each.

SAT: (Scholastic Aptitude Test). An Achievement test that is required by most colleges and universities.

Semester: A division of the academic year into two semesters, or terms, in the academic year (9 months).

Term: See “Quarter” and “Semester” and “Trimester.”

TOEFL: (Test of English as a Foreign Language) A test required of students whose native language is not English. Each school has its own scoring level for admission.

Get more information about the TOEFL test at

Trimester: A division of the academic year where the academic year of nine months is divided into three terms.

Tuition: The fee you have to pay to attend a college or university, to be paid every quarter or semester. Room and board costs are separate.

Undergraduate Degree: An associate or bachelor’s degree. A student must have these degrees before continuing in a graduate program for a master’s or doctorate degrees.

Vocational college: Students visiting a vocational school study for a particular type of work, such as electronics.


Types of Schools in the USA

What is a Two-Year College?

A two-year college, often called a "junior" college or a "community" college, is an institution of higher learning that offers at most two academic years of education. High school graduates can enroll in such colleges often without any other requirements and earn Certificates of Completion or Associate's Degrees. Some two-year colleges are state-supported, or public; others are private. Many four-year colleges will offer full credit for the first two years of education completed at a community college. Many two-year college graduates transfer to four-year colleges or universities to complete the Bachelor's Degree in two additional years. One benefit of doing so is typically lower tuition costs for the first two years of study. Others utilize the Associate Degree or certificate to gain greater expertise in their work.

What is an undergraduate program?

A program that offers course-work from the Freshman (1st) year of college to the completion of the Associate (two years) or a Bachelor’s (4 years) degree is an undergraduate program. A student enrolled in such a program is an undergraduate student.

What is a graduate school?

After the completion of the undergraduate education, a student may attend a graduate school (usually part of a university) to obtain a degree higher than a Bachelor's degree. A student can obtain a Master's degrees (M.A., M.S./M.Sc., M.Ed., etc.), or a Doctoral degree (Ph.D., Ed.D., D.A., D.D., D.Sc., D.M.A., Th.D., etc.) Medical and law schools are specialized graduate schools.

What is an ESL/English language program?

An English as a Second Language (ESL) program is dedicated to teaching English to students whose English is not sufficient to conduct a conversation or to enter an institution of higher learning. There are many ESL programs offered on college campuses in the US. At the same time a large number of private English language schools operate on or off-campus to offer one-to-one lessons, intensive programs and TOEFL preparation classes. Generally, a student on a student visa will have to attend an intensive English program of 20 – 25 hours a week.

What is a Vocational School?

A vocational school teaches the skills necessary for a particular line of work, such as electronics, fashion design, etc. Vocational schools can be private or government supported. Many excellent schools are part of this very large category. They include fashion schools, art schools, culinary schools and many others.

What is a High School?

In the United States, a high school or a "secondary school" generally consists of grades 9, 10, 11, and 12, though this may vary slightly by school district. Students usually graduate from high school at the age of 17 or 18.

What is a military academy?

Military academies in the USA can be either private or have government sponsorship from the regional or national government. They teach various ages in a manner that includes military traditions and training in military subjects. Many military academies are also boarding schools, and most of them are privately-run institutions. Many have a long and distinguished history with solid college preparatory curriculums and schooling in the military arts.

What is Allied Health?

Any field of study that has to do with medicine belongs in the field of Allied Health.

Professionals in the healthcare industry are often referred to allied health professionals, which usually means that they have completed extensive training before they are hired. These professionals include medical assistants, dental hygienists and assistants, phlebotomists, physical therapists and physical therapy assistants, hemodialysis technicians, laboratory technicians, electrocardiographic technicians, x-ray technicians, medical secretaries, and medical coders and billers. All belong to the ever-growing field of allied health professionals.

What is a Business school?

In the USA a business school is a graduate school which offers a Masters of Business Administration.

What is a MBA program?

Masters of Business Administration (MBA) programs expose students to a variety of subjects, including economics, organizational behavior, marketing, accounting, finance, strategy, international business, information technology management, and government policy. In the traditional MBA model, students study a wide range of courses in the program's first year, then pursue specialization in the second year.

Many programs allow students to specialize in a particular area, such as organizational behavior, marketing, accounting, finance, technology management, strategy or international business.

What is a Film School?

A Film school is an educational institution dedicated to teaching aspects of moviemaking, including, but not limited to, film production, theory, and screen writing. Most schools generally incorporate hands-on technical training as part of the curriculum, such as learning how to use cameras and lights. Usually both undergraduate and graduate studies are offered, although some may only have graduate programs. Many schools are privately owned and not tied to universities or colleges.

What is distance learning?

This growing form of education is typically conducted on a college-level. Students work on their own at home and communicate with faculty and other students via e-mail, electronic forums, videoconferencing, chat rooms, bulletin boards, instant messaging and other forms of computer-based communication. Most distance learning programs include a computer-based training (CBT) system and communications tools to produce a virtual classroom. Because the Internet and World Wide Web are accessible from virtually all computer platforms, they serve as the foundation for many distance learning systems.

What is a Community College?

Community Colleges are state or public colleges. High school graduates study here for two years. Many of the students are commuters who live at home, or evening students who work during the day. Many Community Colleges offer special services to international students such as free tutoring and sometimes ESL or intensive English programs. Some of them even offer housing facilities for international students.

What is a Liberal Arts College?

At Liberal Art colleges students study humanities, arts, literature, language, and natural and physical sciences. Most U.S. universities and colleges offer ample liberal arts programs, but Liberal Arts colleges only offer these programs. Many students choose Liberal Arts colleges to obtain a more general and well-rounded education before going on to graduate school where they will concentrate on one particular area.


Where to go for more help

In most countries of the world, the U.S. and Canadian governments employ educational advisers who are trained and happy to help you with questions about your plans to study in North America. These advisers are generally at the embassy or consulate. However, the Institute for International Education (IIE) and the Fulbright Centers also offer counseling services for foreign students.

In the United States, the International Education Service located in Los Angeles (Santa Monica), California will assist you with any additional questions about any American institution, and will request application forms for you.

Please feel free to contact International Education Service anytime via email, phone or mail.
International Education Service
15332 Antioch Avenue
Suite 145
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
001 – 310 395 9393
Contact us


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