Educational System

Colleges Universities and Institutes

Degree granting institutions in the United States can be called by any of these terms, and colleges and institutes are in no way inferior to universities. As a general rule, colleges tend to be smaller and usually offer only undergraduate degrees, while a university also offers graduate degrees. The words "school," "college," and "university" are used interchangeably

Bachelor's and associate degrees

The bachelor's degree typically takes four years to complete, though some students take slightly less time to finish, while others may take longer. The associate degree usually takes two years to complete. Associate degree programs may be "terminal" programs, which lead into specific careers upon graduation, or "transfer" programs, which correspond to the first two years of a bachelor's degree and tend to be more liberal arts based. Under the latter option you could then transfer into the third year of a four-year bachelor's degree program.The first year is called the freshman year; the second is called sophomore; the third, junior; and the fourth, senior.
Students in the United States often take longer than four years to complete their degrees. This may be because they change majors and need to accumulate enough credits in the new major field to earn the degree. Or it may be because they take less than a full-time course load per term for academic, personal, or financial reasons. International students, however, cannot study part-time and must maintain full-time status. Courses taken in the first two years are known as lower division courses, and courses taken in the final two years are called upper division courses. Associate degree programs are offered at two-year colleges known as junior or community colleges . Four-year colleges and universities offer bachelor's degree programs, with a small number also offering associate degree programs.


The Liberal Arts

It is a shortened form of the term "liberal arts and sciences," and the liberal arts philosophy is a unique feature of the U.S. higher education system. U.S. undergraduate education is based on this concept, which believes in providing a well-rounded academic education that develops the student's verbal, written, and reasoning skills. Students at a liberal arts college, or at a university with a strong liberal arts program, begin their degree study by taking classes in a wide variety of courses in the arts, humanities, languages, and the social and physical sciences. They then choose a subject in which to specialize (called a major) and take about 25 to 50 percent of their classes in the major area. Even those who do not follow a liberal arts program and instead plan to major in a specialized subject like engineering are usually required to take about 25 percent of their classes in humanities and social sciences to complement their studies. Similarly, a student who wants to complete a major in history is required to take some classes in mathematics and, possibly, the sciences. 


Professional education

It is included within the U.S. university system. Large universities tend to be comprised of a college of arts and sciences and several professional schools - usually business, agriculture, medicine, law, and journalism. Institutes of technology have a scientific emphasis in all the degrees they offer.his series,. 


State Universities

State Universities are founded and subsidized by U.S. state governments (for example, California, Michigan, or Texas) to provide low-cost education to residents of that state. They may also be called public universities to distinguish them from private institutions. Some include the words "state university" in their title or include a regional element such as "eastern" or "northern." State universities tend to be very large, with enrollments of 20,000 or more students, and generally admit a wider range of students than private universities. State university tuition costs are generally lower than those of private universities. Also, in-state residents (those who live and pay taxes in that particular state) pay much lower tuition than out-of-state residents. International students, as well as those from other states, are considered out-of-state residents and therefore do not benefit from reduced tuition at state institutions. In addition, international students may have to fulfill higher admission requirements than in-state residents.


Private universities

Private Universities are funded by a combination of endowments, tuition fees, research grants, and gifts from their alumni. Tuition fees tend to be higher at private universities than at state universities, but there is no distinction made between state and non-state residents. Colleges with a religious affiliation and single-sex colleges are private. In general, private universities have enrollments of fewer than 20,000 students, and private colleges may have 2,000 or fewer students on their campuses.


Community colleges

provide two-year associate degree programs, usually called the associate of arts (A.A.) or associate of science (A.S.) degrees, as well as excellent technical and vocational programs. Community colleges are community-based institutions with close links to secondary schools, community groups, and employers, and many U.S. students live close to campus with their families. Community colleges can be public or private institutions and are sometimes called junior colleges or two-year colleges. Increasingly, international students are looking at community colleges as their gateway to academic advancement. Like their American classmates, they are discovering that many of these unique schools have outstanding programs, transferable credits, reasonable fees, and supportive environments. These factors are so attractive that over 40 percent of the U.S. undergraduate population can be found in the classrooms of America's two-year colleges. The number of international students at community colleges has been rising rapidly in recent years. With high-quality courses, simplified application procedures, low costs, extensive student support systems, committed teachers, and smaller classes, community colleges offer a unique way to access many aspects of U.S. higher education - from technical and vocational education to continuing education to full degree programs. For many international students, the quest for a U.S. bachelor's degree will begin at a community college. 


Technical and vocational colleges

specialize in preparing students for entry into, or promotion within, the world of work. They offer certificate and other short-term programs that train students in the theory behind a specific vocation or technology, as well as in how to work with the technology. Programs usually last two years or less. There are several thousand technical and vocational colleges across the United States, and they may be private or public institutions.


The Credit System

Students at American universities complete their degrees when they have accumulated a certain number of "credits." It usually takes somewhere between 130 and 180 credits to graduate. Sometimes the terms "semester/quarter hours" or "units" are used instead of credits. Each individual course you take each semester earns a specified number (usually three or four) of credits/hours/units. Your academic adviser will help you plan your course schedule for the academic year.



American universities employ a system of continual assessment and assign grades for each course taken. Almost everything you do for a class will influence your final grade. Examinations and tests, essays or written assignments, laboratory reports, laboratory or studio work, class attendance, and class participation may all be used to determine your final grade. This means it is essential to keep up with the reading and course work and to attend classes on a regular basis. The following is a general percentage?letter grade scale for classes taken at U.S. colleges: 100 - 90% = A 89 - 80% = B 79 - 70% = C 69 - 60% = D 59 - 50% = E 49 - 0% = F WHAT IS A GPA? Each student completes his or her degree with a grade point average (GPA).
A cumulative grade point average is the GPA for all courses taken throughout the degree program. Most universities use a GPA scale of 4.0, but a few universities use a scale of 5.0. To work out your GPA, take the numerical value assigned to the letter grade you achieve for each course (typically 4 points for an "A," 3 points for a "B," and so on), then multiply this number by the number of credits each course is worth. Finally, add these numbers together and divide by the total number of credits for all courses. For example: Letter Grade Numerical Value Number of Credits Total A 4.0 3 12 B 3.0 3 9 C 2.0 3 6 Total 9 27 27 divided by 9 = 3.0 GPA Most universities will also offer some sort of honors degree. To qualify for an honors degree, you must fulfill additional credits or write an honors thesis; precise details depend upon the university and/or academic department.