LatestYour Higher Education Glossary

Your Higher Education Glossary

Content Team
Content Team
Get essential news and information about international higher education from the i-STUDENTglobal content team.

Of course, you know what a bachelor’s degree means or what school counsellors are supposed to help you with. But just in case you are not pretty sure what’s the difference between a college and a university, or what a GPA entails, this article aims to elucidate that for it.


Higher education glossary:
the most important education terms


An institution that accepts people who have finished their high school studies. Usually, colleges offer undergraduate degrees, but some have also graduate ones. It’s important to know that, sometimes, the terms of “college”, “university” and “school” have the same meaning.

Distance learning

At some universities, you will see that you can even opt for distance learning courses, which are a combination of web-learning and traditional learning. The best thing about distance learning is that you can study anywhere, anytime.

Double major

This is a study programme that gives students the possibility to study two majors simultaneously.

Financial aid

Everything that’s meant to help students through their educational adventure. A financial aid can be anything from loans, grants to work-study jobs and fellowships.

Grade point average (GPA)

A standard measurement of the academic achievements of a student in the US. Each course gets a certain number of units/credits. After graduation, students will get an overall GPA for their academic performance.

Independent study

A course through which students can earn credit for work or projects done outside of the normal classroom curriculum. Usually, a faculty member will be monitoring the students’ progress.

Letter of recommendation

A letter meant to maximise the students’ chances of getting accepted by the university they apply for. The academic letter of recommendation should be written by a counsellor, teacher, coach or mentor.

Midterm exam

Although not all courses have midterm exams, some universities might organise these in order to test all material studied after half of the academic term.


Open admissions

A policy set by certain universities to let people know that they accept students regardless of their test scores until all spaces are filled. You will find institutions with an “open admissions” policy for international students as well.

Ivy League

An association consisting of 8 private universities that are located in the N-E of the United States: Brown University, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth University, Columbia University, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University. Today, an Ivy League university is considered to be highly prestigious and reputable.


The official process of welcoming freshmen to a university’s campus. With this occasion (that can last for up to one day), institutions offer students all the information they need to get started. International students might enjoy a separate orientation – depending on which university they’ve applied for; this event is dedicated to helping them get acquainted with all things related to immigration and visa regulations, cultural differences and such.


When students have very a very low GPA score they are considered to be in a probation period until their academic performance improves. If this situation doesn’t change, students can be expelled from the school. Alongside this term, we also mention the “disciplinary probation”, which is given due to negative, non-academic reasons.


A year off your studies. A sabbatical can last for up to one year. You need to check with your university if they are open to sabbatical programmes for international students.


A standardised exam that tests English language proficiency. Many colleges around the world require students to take the exam if courses are to be taught in English. Read more about TOEFL and discover what is the overall requirement score set by universities worldwide.

Waiting list

A list containing the name of all qualified students who can get officially accepted by a university in case there are any vacancies left after all students have enrolled. Having your name on the list won’t guarantee admission though.