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I know it is something to do with universities, but as I have never come across the term before today (and have lived in England all my life including going to an English university), I am assuming it is only used by none native English speakers.

Senior common room is the common room that cannot be used by students doing their 1st degree, so I assume “rising senior” must in some way be related to students doing a 2nd degree.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Senior in the USA refers to the fourth year of a standard four-year college degree (an undergraduate degree or BA, for most Commonwealth English speakers). Students in the four years of a standard US college degree are known respectively as freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

(Confusingly, the last two years of high school — roughly, ages 17–19 — are also known as junior and senior year. This is usually disambiguated by context, though.)

Rising senior genrally means that the person in queston is in between designations, but that senior will be the next applicable one. If I was a junior in the 2010–2011 academic year and will be a senior in the 2011–2012 academic year, then right now (summer 2011), I am a rising senior. It’s similar to the usage of going on in a phrase like “Jessica is six and a half, going on seven.”

If I’m right in reading this as a US or possibly Canadian usage, then it’s quite unrelated to the use of senior in phrases like senior common room; this is just one of those times when transatlantic differences really start to get jarring. I’m sorry…

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I've encountered Americans to whom it never occurred that "sophomore" and "junior" would not be comprehensible in the UK. "Freshman" is known in the UK, but I don't think it would be used beyond the first few weeks of somebody's college career. –  Colin Fine Jul 22 '11 at 12:05
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In my experience, in addition to high school 11th and 12th graders being called juniors and seniors, high school 9th graders and 10th graders (14-16 years old) are also known as freshmen and sophomores. –  nohat Jul 22 '11 at 18:33
    
I guess one other thing to note is that students who haven't graduated after four years but continue attending the college/university as an undergraduate for a fifth year (or longer) are known as "super-seniors" –  nohat Jul 22 '11 at 18:35
    
@nohat - Never heard that one. I know when talking NCAA (College) atheletes, "redshirt" is sometimes used as an adjective to indicate that the person in question has actually attended school an extra year than otherwise indicated but has only participated in sports the indicated amount of years. Sometimes "true" is used to indicate the person did not redshirt –  T.E.D. Sep 21 '11 at 21:19
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For what it's worth: Some colleges in the US define fresman/sophomore/junior/senior by how many classes you have completed without failing, rather than how many years you have been on campus. So if someone failed half his classes his first year, he might begin his second year still a freshman, and become a sophomore part-way through the year. Or if someone takes an extra course-load, he might become a junior half-way through his second year. Etc. –  Jay May 10 '12 at 19:49

In the summer of an academic year, there are TWO "senior" classes. (These are fourth year college students in America.)

1) The class that just graduated, known as graduating seniors, and

2) The one that WILL BE seniors, when fall comes around. The term I use is "oncoming senior" but these are your "rising seniors."

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Someone who has completed his junior year and will be a Senior in the following year would more accurately be described as a Rising Junior. Or, at best, a senior in incubation.

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Welcome to EL&U. Rising refers to one who is entering a new year, thus a rising junior is starting junior year and a rising senior is starting senior year. If you understand it differently, please provide the context (region, institution, etc.) and link to examples of such usages if you could. I would also encourage you to take the site tour and peruse the help center for guidance on how to contribute to this site. –  choster Jun 2 at 3:13

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