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.

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. 

Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student”

The form of a petition submitted and maintained by school officials electronically in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification of the school to enroll F-1 and/or M-1 students.

Related terms: SEVIS, Certification

Principal Designated School Official (PDSO)

A designated school official (DSO) with added responsibilities to:

  • Serve as the primary point of contact with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program on any issues that relate to school bona fides or compliance with regulations.
  • Administer the F/M program at the school, keeping the school information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) up-to-date, manage DSOs, oversee the management of student records and respond to SEVIS-generated alerts.
  • Submit school certification and recertification packages.

Private School

A school controlled by a private individual(s) or by a nongovernmental agency, usually supported primarily by other than public funds, and operated by other than publicly elected or appointed officials.

Public School

A school whose programs and activities are operated by publicly elected or appointed school officials and which is supported primarily by public funds.

Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified Schools

The only schools that are officially authorized to enroll F and M students.