New in the Glossary of Confusing Words: Academic Titles and Ranks

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

dictionary and thesaurusWe received this request to our Glossary of Confusing Words:

I need to know about the academic title in a University, from bottom to top

Academic titles are truly some of the most confusing things out there.  Trying to define the difference between, say, an associate professor and a full professor can get fairly technical and can differ at different universities.  But here’s a general guide to the most common academic titles you will encounter.

And as requested, I’ll go roughly from bottom to top.


Teaching Assistant, Preceptor – A student (usually a graduate or Ph.D. student) who assists the professor of a class, often conducting tutorial or discussion sections

Part-time or Non-permanent Faculty:

Adjunct (or Adjunct Professor) – Someone who teaches at a university but is not employed full-time by the institution; often a scholar/practitioner who is contracted to teach a course

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Why a School-full of Americans Now Know About Nepal (SHARING is CARING!)

by Abhushan Gautam - Posts (2). Posted Sunday, October 23rd, 2011 at 3:05 pm

International Education Week - abhushan

Introducing myself always felt awkward at first

“Namaste! I am Abhushan and I am from Nepal.”

“Really? Have you ever climbed Mt. Everest?” “Do you live in the mountains?” “Do you pet Yetis back in Nepal?”

“Yes, I am from Nepal.” “No I haven’t climbed Mt. Everest because it is at a whopping altitude of 8850 meters.” “I live in a big sprawling city with a population of almost 1 million people.” “I definitely do not have a pet Yeti. I have a little yipper named “Sheru” who likes to stun and catch birds.”

A year back, these were typical questions that people in the U.S. would fire back at me when I introduced myself and my country to them. Whether it was a normal conversation or an email, such questions almost became inevitable. It was annoying at first, seeing people who have no idea about my country and my culture talk to me so stereotypically. Sometimes, out of rage, I wondered how these people who have no idea about geography are ruling the world right now!

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Your Plan Next Week

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Friday, October 21st, 2011 at 12:43 pm

There have been more and more free online webinars and college fairs popping up on the internet recently.  We’ve shared a few on the Facebook page, but I want to try out sharing them here as well.

The idea: To post each Friday about the online events we know of coming up the next week.  We’ll collect from all the sources we know of and share webinars and virtual events about topics of interest to prospective international students.

Your end of the bargain? If you go, report back and let us know what you learned!  (Use the comments, the Facebook page or just email me –

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Turning Winter to Summer in Ithaca

by Summer - Posts (3). Posted Thursday, October 20th, 2011 at 8:52 am

I was told an anecdote about Cornell when I first came here. People say there are four seasons in Ithaca: Orientation week, pre-winter, winter, and post-winter. By now I think I understand what they mean. Ithaca is gorgeous, and Cornell is definitely the most beautiful school that I have ever seen. The days before school started were relaxed and fun, filled with furniture shopping, campus walking, pictures taking and of course, food tasting.

summer in ithacaFor that week of orientation we enjoyed a beautiful Ithaca summer.

Then school started. And no matter how you wish you could just enjoy the weather and have fun, times flies. And I can’t believe right now 1/3 of the semester has already passed.

For most Chinese students who take undergraduate study in China, graduate study in America will be a challenge. You can no longer be fine skipping classes, partying or dating and cramming the night before finals. And college life here in the U.S. is not about Justin Bieber and ice cream as you might think.

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Is Occupy Wall Street Reviving Political Engagement?

by Sebastian - Posts (17). Posted Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 at 9:29 am

Monday, Oct. 3, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

We are the 99% (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

In a college town where around a third of the population is university students, the weekend of fall break was probably not the best time to start the spark of protest in Lawrence, Kansas.

But on Saturday October 8, Occupy Lawrence , a local group of people imitating and supporting the movement in New York known as Occupy Wall Street, gathered on Lawrence’s main downtown street.

Luckily, the weather in that first weekend of October was perfect, and town residents were out enjoying what threatened to be the last summery weekend of the year. So the protest found enough success in starting the “conversation” they desired to serve as the jumping off point for more demonstrations.  And the Occupy Lawrence protests have continued driving discussion and debate among people – students and townspeople alike – since then. [See photos from the first Occupy Lawrence protest]

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Top 5 Ways Academics in the US are Different

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Mohammed’s post yesterday about the amount of coursework assigned in American classes got me thinking about some other differences about studying in the States. Here are 5 of the biggest academic adjustments you might face, based on what I’ve heard students talk about:

1) Assignments are due throughout the semester

As Mohammed warned, course grades usually don’t depend on one final examination, but on a number of pieces of work submitted over an entire semester.

Some have papers that you have to write every week, others have group projects you have to work on with your classmates, presentations you do in the class, or research you do by yourself to prove a thesis you come up with.

So, instead of being stressed out all at once at the end of the semester, you get to be stressed out in little bits all the way through. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, as they say.

2) Participation matters

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Are you Competitive Enough to Make it in America?

by Mohammed Al-Suraih - Posts (5). Posted Monday, October 17th, 2011 at 8:47 am

There is an undeniable excitement about coming to study in the States – one reason why some international students do it – but it’s not all excitement.

Working in the GWU library

You're about to hear the truth about schoolwork in the States...

Yes, it is America. Yes, it is the land of freedom. Yes, it’s the place where different cultures clash…and live together in peace. However, you guys might agree with me, it’s not easy to leave home, to leave the security of being surrounded by the family, friends and people who loves and care about us.  And doing it raises some questions:

Is it worth it? Can you rise up to the expectation? And are you competitive enough to survive America?

You might be sitting in front of your computer watching a show or a documentary about America, which tells you about the breathtaking view of skyscrapers in the Big Apple, New York City, the beautiful warm weather in San Diego, and the huge parties along the beaches of the Sunshine State, Florida.

Just so you know, it’s all true and they did not lie to you. I remember I had an adrenaline rush the first time I visited Times Square in NYC. I can’t find any words in the dictionary to describe how I felt at that moment. Someday, when you get lucky and go there, you will know what I mean.

Beaches are the best. We do party and we do have lots of fun with friends.

Unfortunately, TV and movies never show the other side of what students have to do to survive America.

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New in the Glossary of Confusing Words: Doctor, Ph.D.

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Friday, October 14th, 2011 at 1:09 pm

dictionary and thesaurusIf you’re new to the blog, the Glossary of Confusing Words is where we help de-mystify some of the odd or baffling words you’ll see when researching or applying to American schools. You submit words that you’ve come across and struggled with, and we define them on the blog. Today the Glossary returns with a particularly confusing word – “Doctor.”  The person who submitted it asked:

I’m confus[ed] what’s the difference between Doctor degree and PhD. Could you help me? Thanks a lot!

You probably learned the word “doctor” as the name for a person you see when you’re ill or hurt.  A medical doctor has graduated medical school with an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree, and is referred to formally as Dr. + last name (surname).

“I think I have the flu.  I’m going to make an appointment with Dr. Smith.”

However, the term “doctor” also describes a person who has received a Ph.D. (Doctorate), the highest academic degree awarded by universities.  These doctors are experts in a particular academic subject – any academic subject.  Most full-time professors hold Ph.D.s, and this is why you’ll often hear professors called Dr. + their last name.

“Are you taking English Literature with Dr. Jones this semester?”

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What Does it Mean to ‘Be American’ as a Chinese Student?

by Qian - Posts (7). Posted Thursday, October 13th, 2011 at 9:05 am

I’m Chinese, but kinda American.

Holding a Chinese flag in the Palestinian market located in the West Bank

Since August 16, 2008, the day I arrived in the United States, I have been asked thousands of times, “Where are you from?” For most Chinese students studying abroad, the automatic answer would be, “Yea, China of course!” However, for some, it is not as simple as the nationality presented on their red, Chinese passports.

This summer, a Chinese friend of mine from Syracuse University visited me in Beijing after spending a semester studying abroad in Europe with a few American students. “I enjoyed my stay in Spain so much last semester,” she told me, speaking in Mandarin Chinese interspersed with some English terms. She showed me pictures of various parties with other American students, and said, “The American culture I adopted last semester was more than what I had tried for the past three years. I feel I’m so American right now and I nearly forgot how to speak Chinese when I just came back to China from Spain.”

I felt happy for her for feeling comfortable “being so American.” However, her words left me in deep thought as well; do we, Chinese students studying in the US, have to “act like Americans” in order to live comfortably in this country?

My freshman year, I had a culture clash with my American roommate and felt very isolated from the American students in the dorm. The reason was simple: I didn’t party with them, nor did I talk to them often.

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New Websites Walk You Through Application Steps

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

If you’ve been looking on U.S. government websites for information about how to study in America, but finding it confusing, two new websites are trying to help.

1) Study in the States

The Department of Homeland Security launched its Study in the States website this summer to streamline information about the visa process, including forms and regulations.  The site is part of a broader “Study in the States Initiative” that the DHS says will “examine the existing student visa and exchange visitor programs, as well as related programs for students after they have completed their course of study, to identify problem areas, and to consider possible improvements.”

2) Your 5 Steps to U.S. Study

EducationUSA also launched a new section of its website that aims to break down the admissions process into a step-by-step guide for applicants to follow.  The site suggests a timeline for when you should complete each step, and gives guidance specific to the type of study you want to pursue – undergraduate, graduate, short-term exchange or non-degree English.

Two new additions to our ever-growing list of useful websites (also check out our Resources page to see more helpful sites).

From Zimbabwe to America: Learning to Adapt and Overcome

by Simbarashe - Posts (7). Posted Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 at 9:00 am

“Remember to keep warm when you get there. America is a cold place. And to call us daily. Don’t forget us.”

Silliman Dining Hall - by Flickr user superfem

Brunch at an American dining hall (Creative Commons photo by Flickr user superfem)

These very words were the ultimate installment in a long series of many, many snippets of well-meaning advice from aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, cousins, passers-by, cousins of those passers-by, and anyone else who had caught wind of the fact that I was, indeed, going to America.

I had been warned about things such as the perceived perils of overeating when I got there, and it had been predicted that once I tasted that delicious American food, I would surely eat too much of it until I fell ill or exploded.

Would I cope with speaking in English all of the time? No, it was hypothesized that I would surely forget I was in North America and I would end up confusing my American friends by cracking jokes to them in my native language while still expecting them to laugh at those jokes.

And what of the cold? Would I survive? I would never cope with all that ice! After all, America is colder than the deep freezer! (an actual quote).

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How I Made Myself a Good Candidate for US Admissions (and Other Advice from a Successful Applicant)

by Anna Malinovskaya - Posts (17). Posted Monday, October 10th, 2011 at 9:10 am

In the summer of 2007 I, a high school graduate in Russia, spent hours on the Internet in search of a cheap summer school in the United States. I had been studying English for a couple of years, but I never had a chance to practice it with native speakers. Summer school seemed like a good opportunity, but the average cost was unimaginably high for my family.

I did not find a cheap summer school then, but I discovered something a hundred times more valuable. I learned about an exchange program called Global UGRAD, which offers students the chance to go to a university in the United States for one academic year, pursue an internship, and engage in community service – for free.

Preparing for Halloween at Southern Maine Community College

I applied in my first year of college, and after a few rounds of the competition, I was selected as one of the 20 finalists. I spent my year at Southern Maine Community College, located nicely on the beach.

The Global UGRAD Program also allows its applicants to choose any major, regardless of what they study at their home universities. I took advantage of this policy and picked something I was really passionate about but never had a chance to study – International Affairs.

When I came back to my home university, I knew I wanted to change my major from Marketing to International Affairs. Because of institutional bureaucracy it turned out to be practically impossible. Moreover, this exchange experience made me very sensitive to the differences in Russian and American education systems. I began to notice disadvantages of education in Russia that I didn’t notice before.

So I started to think about continuing my studies in the U.S.  But despite my academic experiences there, I still had very little knowledge about applying to American universities. I did not even know at that point in time that transferring from a university in Russia to a university in the United States was possible. I started my research from literally nothing.

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Battling with Language in the Far-Away Land of Minneapolis

by Promise Okeke - Posts (5). Posted Friday, October 7th, 2011 at 8:56 am

Am I the one? Am I the Promise who promised himself his Nigerian accent was not going to take a slip? I never would have believed I could so easily twist my tongue in an American twang.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

cat yawning


You might be asking, “How has the experience been so far?” I have been doing well – yawning like 50 times a day (not exaggerating). I haven’t slept for a total of 12 hours for the past three days I have been in Minneapolis. Could it be heat? The excitement? Maybe you can help me with that.

Tonight is one reason.

It’s 11:39 pm here, and I can picture you forming a question like, “Why is this dude not sleeping at this time?” Well, I have been asking myself that question too; but you’ll laugh when you find out why.

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Tips for Narrowing Down a School Search

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Thursday, October 6th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Sometimes you guys ask really useful questions on our Facebook page.  I wanted to share this one, because I think a lot of you may want to know the answer…

…because of the number of University are so high, it really make difficult for me to find the one which may best suit to my situation as an International student. … When I open the list of all Universities, community [colleges] or other private [colleges] in US, it makes me confuse[d], discouraged and don’t know at all which ones to choose.

Honestly, it’s difficult for everyone, including Americans. But there are some tools you can use to help narrow down your search, and some strategies that can help you make sense of all the information.

The Princeton Review is one that I know many American students use to find a good match. They have a thing called the “best fit school search,” where you can narrow down colleges based on characteristics like their location, characteristics of campus life, and your own credentials.  College Board and Peterson’s are two other sites that let you search and filter schools, and I’m sure there are many more out there as well.

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Take a Tour Around my Typical American Dorm Room

by Dandan - Posts (11). Posted Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 at 9:22 am

Niskanen Hall hallwayWelcome to Niskanen Hall!

This is our living hall (or dormitory), and here’s the hallway that leads to my room. It has only two floors and girls and boys live in this same building.

It really shocked me initially, because the dormitories in my country are very tall and there are usually separate dormitory buildings for girls and boys.

The first day I arrived, I even felt frustrated because my neighbors were a bunch of boys! lol

Hanging on our door are these cute pictures. Each picture has a name, representing one of the girls in our dorm room. Try to find my name!

Photos on the dorm room door

Each living hall here has a student union or a student government in charge of our residence life. They have the responsibilities to supervise our housing facilities and enrich our residence life by planning activities for us. They are also responsible for the decoration of our environment—these marvelous pictures are designed and hung by them! Applaud them for their work, folks!

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The Student Union is…

A place to hear stories about studying in the U.S. Our bloggers have come from all over the world to U.S. universities, and they'll be sharing their experiences, advice and more.

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Glossary of Confusing Words

Find definitions of confusing words and terms about studying in the U.S. in our Glossary of Confusing Words.

All the words were submitted by YOU, so visit the glossary to see the words that have been defined already and to suggest your own.