The American Academic System & Common Phrases | University of Portland

The American Academic System & Common Phrases

The American Academic System

Communicate with your professors! Make appointments to meet with your professors early in the semesters to ask questions. Professors have weekly office hours and are very happy to meet with students. This is a very important part of academic success at UP. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

  • Participate in class. In many classes at UP, classroom participation is very important and part of your grade may even depend on it. This can be challenging for some international students. Many students come from educational systems where speaking in class is not valued and may have little experience in this area. International students may also be concerned about their English abilities. Prepare two or three questions or comments before class based on your reading or on previous class discussion. Working with other students and speaking with your professors will also help you feel more comfortable participating in class.

  • Make sure you understand what the requirements are for academic work. It is very important that you understand what your professors expect from you. Read your syllabi carefully and if you have questions, ask your professors.

  • Don't overload your schedule. Select courses wisely and give yourself time to adjust to a new educational system.

  • Ask classmates for help. Many students are happy to be study partners or to answer questions if you ask.

  • Have realistic expectations. Remember that it may take some time for you to perform to the best of your ability.

PSU International Student Handbook

Common Academic Terms and Phrases

Academic year : August to May ( 8 months)
Semester: A division of the academic year. Each semester lasts sixteen weeks.
Course load: The number of courses taken.
Credit hour: Credit awarded for participation and completion of a course.
Credit load: Total number of credits for which a student is enrolled. A full time credit load is at least 12 credit hours for undergraduates and at least 9 credit hours for graduates.
Major: The main subject of interest for a student studying for degree. A major usually requires approximately 40-60 credit hours of work.
MinorA secondary field of interest not required for a degree.
Required & Core Course: A necessary course which fulfills a student’s major requirements.
Prerequisite Course: A basic course necessary before admission can be granted into a higher level course.
Elective: A course selected by the student which is not a requirement for a program but still fulfills graduation requirements.
Registration & Enrollment: Official procedure of arranging a class schedule, paying tuition and fees. You are formally enrolled after satisfying the payment requirements for the applicable tuition and fees.
Incomplete: A temporary mark granted when the student has been unable to complete the required coursework by the end of the term. Work must be completed within a specific time.
Academic Probation: An enrollment restriction as a result of poor grades. If you are placed on academic probation, be certain to consult the International Office.
Academic Warning: A notice that your grades are below the academic requirements. The minimum university grade point average is 2.0 (higher for some majors) for graduation.


Office of International Student Services is open Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.