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Use the Study in the States glossary to define key terms throughout the F and M student process in the United States. If you are a current or prospective student, select “students” to see terms that specifically relate to you—from visas, to forms, benefits, and more. School officials should select “schools” to find more information on certification, responsibilities, and how to help their F and M students. You can also sort terms by selecting the letter of the alphabet a term begins with.


An assurance from a Department of Education‑recognized regional or national organization that a school’s education meets an acceptable level of quality.


The process that SEVP uses to decide the outcome for schools petitioning for certification, submitting their recertification package or making updates to the Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Students.”

Annual Vacation

The period of time, the equivalent of one academic term, which an F student is eligible to take off from school. F students become eligible after completing one academic year and may then take one term of vacation each following year.

Associate's Degree

A degree typically offered at community or junior colleges that usually takes at least two but less than four years of full-time college work to complete.

Authorized Early Withdrawal

A designated school official-authorized temporary absence for F-1 students. Students with records placed in Terminated status for authorized early withdrawal have 15 days to depart the United States.