Studying in the United States can be one of the most enriching experiences as an International Student. It may also be a dream come true for many aspiring students. While you may secure admission and eventually enter college of your choice, it is imperative to understand how the Education System works while studying abroad and how the grassroots operate to manoeuvre your stay and be better accepted within the local student community and elsewhere.
We try to briefly explain the Education System on the United States in our article here to help you in your quest. Firstly the USA is a vast country and has many various laws and regulations that change from state to state. Unlike some European countries, USA does not have a uniform guideline that applies to all states. Each State has its own Department of Education that works on its own education policy and develops curriculum as well as sets standards. Each State is divided into multiple school districts which is in turn governed by a board ( a small committee of members locally appointed). It is important to understand this since as an International student you may encounter peers from different states who may have contrasting backgrounds.
Primarily, there are 2 types on Institutions. One being the Public Institutes that receive funding and aid from the state department. The other being the Private Institutes that are largely privately funded. The funds allotted to the public institutes are decided by the legislative in each state.
Elementary school starts at the age of 6 ( Grade 1) and ends at Grade 5. This is followed by middle school ( Grade 6- Grade 8 ) and high school ( Grade 9 –Grade 12). The cost of attending School is Free from Grade 1 to Grade 12: this is one of the prime factors for a fairly high literacy rate in the USA. It is also important to note that primary education is mandatory as per law.
Most students in High Schools opt to take a variety of courses including Languages, Math, Sciences or Arts and their choices normally set the path for future education. Students are also allowed and in most cases encouraged to take electives that appeal to their interests such as music, theatre or vocational courses. The course completion or graduation is depended on clearing the minimum required courses. The grading is standardized and rated as A (excellent), B (above average), C (average), D (below average), and F (failing). The grades are given at the end of the semester (6 Months) and failure would prompt the student to retake the course.
Once a Student clears his High-School he has an option of enrolling into College to pursue a Bachelors degree or alternatively the student may opt to join a Community College – also known as junior college – for a 2 year Associate Degree. The credits earned are transferable towards a 4 year degree if the student wishes to pursue it after the completion of the Associate Degree.
The Bachelors Programs are normally 4 Years long and the student can choose a specialization of his/her choice. SAT or ACT enables the entry to a Bachelors Program.
It is important to note those who complete the Bachelors degree are called “Undergraduates”.
After the completion of Bachelors course the student can opt to pursue a Masters Degree (Graduate Program). The most common entrance test is the GRE for a Masters Programs and the GMAT for a Management / MBA programs.
The duration of these Graduate programs are normally 4 Semesters and the choice specialization is determined by the student.
The credit system is one of the most common terms you may hear at school or college and it is used to evaluate your performance. Every course is assigned a number of credit hours which are based on the amount of time is spent in class. Most courses are for 3 credits but in some cases may vary; students need to complete a set number of hours to Graduate along with thesis.
One of the best concepts in the United States is the high acceptance and organized system of Standardized tests such as GRE, GMAT, SAT ,USMLE, ACT, NBDE. These tests ensure fairness in admission processes and enable students to plan their study options and prepare for the required tests, it is certainly a boon for International Students since it eliminates the need for multiple tests and preparation.