The United States is a country that has been known for its educational system and the quality of education it provides to its domestic students and international students. Understanding how this system works will help you understand why American students are ranked as one of the best in the world. Let’s get into more details.
US Education Structure
When we talk about the US education system, there are three main parts: primary school, secondary school, and post-secondary schools.
- Primary School (K-8) – K-8 Primary School or Grade K-8 is usually referred to as elementary school. Students can be found at this age level if they live in public schools or charter schools. Charter schools are independent of local government while public schools are funded by the state and locally controlled. In most cases, the school day starts at 8 am and ends at 3 pm. Students have classes ranging from two hours up to four hours. Most parents choose to send their children to private schools because of the better curriculum which often includes advanced courses such as Latin and Greek. Schools offer subjects like English, math, science, social studies, art, music, physical education, and sometimes foreign languages. Pupils may also take electives called “accelerated” classes taken instead of core classes. These classes include technical training, business training, and other career-oriented classes. Core classes cover basic knowledge such as reading, writing, math, and science. Some schools even offer classes on computers.
- Secondary School (9-12) – Secondary School or Grade 9 through 12 is usually referred to as middle school. This stage of schooling is divided into junior high school and senior high school. Junior High School usually begins around grade 7 or 8. It prepares students for high school. High school students must complete specific requirements before graduating. They must pass courses like Algebra I, Geometry, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and History. Many students attend community colleges after high school where they can earn credits towards a bachelor’s degree. Some students go directly to college after completing high school.
- Post-secondary schools prepare students for higher learning degrees. There are many options available for these programs including universities, vocational schools, trade schools, community colleges, and military academies.
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Higher Learning Degrees
A bachelor’s degree is awarded to those who successfully finish all coursework required to graduate with an undergraduate degree. Undergraduate degrees are typically 4 years long. They consist of general education courses, major classes, minor classes, and electives.
Way to complete Undergraduate degree
- Community College: Those who want to become professionals should consider attending a 2-year college. These institutions provide students with a strong foundation in general education courses with cheaper tuition fees compare to Four years Universities. Afterward, students can transfer (maximum of 60 credits depending upon university) to a 4-year university to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
- Four-Year University: The majority of people who obtain bachelor’s degrees do so at 4-year universities. These are accredited institutions that award bachelor’s degrees. These universities usually require applicants to have a minimum GPA of 2.5. Courses vary from one institution to another but generally consist of general education courses and major classes. Electives are also offered.
A master’s degree is earned when a student completes a program that takes 2 to 5 years to complete. Students generally study specialized areas within their field. For example, a student studying biology might specialize in genetics or zoology. Students may need to do research, write papers, and present their findings in front of peers and professors. Master’s degrees require more time than bachelor’s degrees but allow students to focus on one area of interest.
A doctorate degree is earned when a person has completed a doctoral program. The process normally takes between five and seven years. Students must first obtain a master’s degree then apply to a doctoral program. Doctoral programs are highly competitive and only about 1% of applicants are accepted. Doctoral programs are designed to train individuals to become experts in their fields. Doctors may work in academia, teaching others, or conducting research.
Education in the United States is provided free at the primary and secondary levels. However, some states charge tuition fees for post-secondary education. Tuition varies depending on the type of institution attended; however, it averages $10,000 per year. Some institutions provide scholarships to help offset costs.
US Academic Year
The academic program year consists of the fall and spring semesters. Fall Semester runs from September to December and Spring Semester runs from January to May. During the summer months, students can participate in internships and apprenticeships.
The fall semester starts in September and ends in December. In the fall, most students begin taking classes. Classes start earlier each week so that students have enough time to get ready for the upcoming weeks.
During winter break, students take vacation days off from school. Most students return to class in mid January.
The spring semester starts in January and ends in May. In the spring, most students are preparing for midterms and finals.
In the summer, students can participate in internship opportunities. International students who are in the US with an F-1 visa for more than 1 year can get Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and work for any E-verify company. But the job should be related to the field of studies. Many employers offer paid internships during this time. Students can also attend camps and workshops offered by organizations like the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).
US Grading System
GPA: Grade Point Average: The GPA system might be confusing for international students because there is no GPA equivalent in other countries. In the US, grades are based on letter grades from A to F. These letters represent different numbers. An A represents 4 points, a B: 3 points, C: 2 points, D: 1 point, and F: 0 points. To calculate your GPA, simply add up all of your grades and divide by the total number of credit hours you have taken. If you took 10 credit hours, then your GPA would be calculated using this formula: GPA [(4 + 3 + 2 + 1 + 0)/(10)] .
Types of U.S. Universities
- Public universities – public universities are funded by state governments and are open to anyone who meets admission requirements. They usually require lower GPAs than private universities.
- Private universities – private universities are owned and operated by religious groups, corporations, foundations, or wealthy people. They tend to have higher GPAs than public universities.
- For-profit universities – for-profit universities are run by investors looking to make money. They often have high tuition rates and low graduation rates.
- Community colleges – community colleges are not accredited, but they do allow transfer credits from accredited schools. They are typically cheaper than four-year universities.
There are many things to consider when choosing a university. You need to think about what type of environment you want to live in, whether it’s close to home, how much financial aid you will receive, and if the school has an online program. When deciding where to go to college, remember that you don’t have to choose between affordability and quality. There are affordable options out there that provide excellent academic programs and resources. Good luck!