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.

Community College

A post-secondary, undergraduate educational institution offering lower-level (freshman and sophomore) classes. These schools gear their operations more toward commuting students and do not usually have on-campus living arrangements.

Related terms: Associate's Degree


To follow all Department of Homeland Security regulations as a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school to enroll nonimmigrant students.


Department of State offices headed by a Consul General who reports to the U.S. ambassador, which carry out many of the same functions in provincial or regional capitals as the embassies do in national capitals. F and M students can visit a consulate to apply for their visa to enter the United States.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Training that an F-1 student participates in during a program of study; including alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum offered by a sponsoring employer through cooperative agreement with a school.


An F or M student’s spouse and/or minor child (who is unmarried and under 21 years old). Dependents may legally accompany you to the United States or join you in the country while you study. They must apply for either an F-2 or M-2 visa.

Related terms: F-2 Status, M-2 Status

Designated School Official (DSO)

​A regularly-employed member of the school administration designated by the head of a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school to provide recommendations to F and/or M students enrolled at the school regarding maintenance of nonimmigrant status, and to support timely and complete record keeping and reporting to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Doctorate Degree

The highest form of post-graduate degree that students can earn in the United States.

Related terms: Graduate Degree


A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services web-based system that helps employers to determine whether their newly hired employees are authorized to work in the United States.


A Department of State-supported network with over 400 advising centers in 170 countries that provide students with information to help them select a school in the United States.


A Department of State office, usually located in a country’s capital city. F and M students visit embassies to apply for a visa to enter the United States.