Please study the glossary carefully. You’ll find them very useful in reading the rest of our resources and in months to come you’ll be flocking back to this page!

Stay tuned as we continue to expand our resources!

The academic year

  • Freshman: First-year student
  • Sophomore: Second-year student
  • Junior: Third-year student
  • Senior Fourth-year student
  • Rising <n-th-year student>: Student who will become a <n-th-year student> in the fall
  • Quarter System: System where the academic year is split into four quarters, each 10 weeks long. Only three are mandatorily instructional, and the fourth is a break.
  • Trimester System: System where the academic year is split into three trimesters, each 10–11 weeks long. It differs from the Quarter System as its breaks are evenly spaced out.
  • Semester System: System where the academic year is split into two semesters, each 15 weeks long. Its breaks are a month-long winter break and a really long summer break.

The education system

  • High School: School(s) in which a student studies for four years before they go to college. It is the equivalent of Malaysia’s SPM and Pre-U studies
  • College: Same as University and School. In the US, college is the school for undergraduate studies.
  • Liberal Arts Education: Educational philosophy that emphasizes the culturing of general intellectual capabilities instead of a technical, professional, or technical curriculum. Undergraduate Education – Four-year educational system that grants Bachelor’s Degrees upon completion. Undergraduate education in the United States is four-year-long, instead of the typical three years in Malaysia, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many other countries. Graduate School – Educational institution for the pursuit of a degree beyond a Bachelor’s Degree (e.g., Master’s Degrees, Doctorates).
  • Community College: Two-year educational institution that serves primarily local communities and only grants Associate’s Degrees. To obtain a full Bachelor’s Degree, one must then apply as a transfer student to a regular four-year college. Community colleges often lack the facilities and opportunities provided by four-year colleges. Never confuse them with what is called a College.
  • Ivy League: Sports league of eight colleges (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, UPenn, Princeton, and Yale) in the United States. The term does not bear any merit except for the connotation that these colleges are normally considered prestigious.
  • Ivy-Standard: Label to suggest that a certain college is good and is on par with the Ivy League colleges. The term is not used by anyone other than Malaysians.
  • Liberal Arts College: Educational institution that emphasizes undergraduate study in the liberal arts, utilizing Socratic methods.
  • State University: Education institution that is state-funded and generally large in population.

Money matters

  • Financial Aid: System where a college offers need-based grants, loans, or work plans to students.
  • Scholarship: System where a student receives merit-based monetary awards.
  • Need-aware: System where an applicant’s financial ability is taken into account when being considered for admission.
  • Need-blind: System where an applicant’s financial ability is not taken into account when being considered for admission.
  • Full-need: System where every admitted student is promised financial aid to the full extent of their demonstrated need, based on the college’s algorithm or need calculator.

College life

  • Greek System: System of usually single-sex Greek ‘houses’ that often cater to a particular social niche (based on common interest or heritage). Fraternities (male and occasionally co-ed) and Sororities (female) dominate social life at some schools, but don’t even exist at others. Most throw parties that require exclusive invitations to get in, but some schools like Dartmouth are known for more open Greek systems.
  • Varsity Sport: Athletic sport in which a college competes nationally with other colleges through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing body for varsity sports.
  • Club Sport: Athletic sport in which a college sponsors one team for recreational or competitive purposes (not through the NCAA but possibly through other leagues).
  • Intramural Sport: Athletic sport in which a college does not compete with other colleges, but has avenues for multiple teams to be sponsored within the same school, for recreational purposes.

Application details

  • CommonApp: College application system utilized by 414 (as of 2nd April 2011), but not all, colleges in the United States.
  • SAT: Common standardized testing option. There is the SAT Reasoning Test (Critical Reading, Writing, and Mathematics) and the SAT Subject Tests. Contrary to common belief, it is not an acronym for anything (anymore). SAT scores are valid for five years.
  • ACT: Common standardized testing option. There is only one test, with five parts (English, Mathematics, Reading, Science Reasoning, and Writing that is optional but very commonly required by colleges), and can sometimes be a substitute for either only the SAT Reasoning Test or both the SAT Reasoning Test and the Subject Tests.
  • TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language; almost across-the-board requirement for international applicants to colleges in the United States who have not studied in English-medium schools, but often waived. Waivers are usually obtainable with high SAT Reasoning Test scores for Critical Reading and Writing; email or call the relevant institution’s admissions office to find out what is necessary. TOEFL scores are only valid for two years.
  • IELTS: International English Language Testing System; similar to, but not as commonly accepted as the TOEFL in America.
  • Regular Decision (RD): System where an applicant applies to a college in a regular cycle, which usually ends by December, with no restrictions at all.
  • Early Decision (ED): System where an applicant applies to a college in an early cycle, which usually ends by October, with a legally binding pledge to attend the college should they be accepted. One cannot apply under Early Decision to more than one college.
  • Early Action (EA): System where an applicant applies to a college in an early cycle, which usually ends by October; the applicant retains the right to reject the offer should they be accepted by the college. Restrictive Early Action mandates that applicants not apply under any other form of Early Action or Early Decision. It is possible for one to apply under Non-restrictive Early Action to any number of colleges in addition to applying under Early Decision to one college.
  • Rolling Admission: System where an applicant applies to a college outside of any fixed cycle, with no restrictions at all. The college will admit students as applications filter in and close the admissions cycle once all spots are filled.

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