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What is the U.S. Education System?

Editorial Staff

What is the US Education System?

The US higher education system is considered one of the best in the world, and offers flexible study opportunities at over 4,000 colleges and universities. US degrees are recognized worldwide for their academic excellence and enhanced learning experiences. Below we have detailed a few key aspects of the US education system that you will want to consider as an international student/

Types of Higher Education Institutes in the USA

State School/college/University

The US comprises 50 states, each state has at least one university or college that provides quality higher education to students at low rates. These universities are funded by the respective state governments and are usually equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. E.g. The University of California or Texas A&M University. Different schools have different selection criteria and students need to have a certain minimum percentage for admission to their colleges.

Private university/college

These institutions are run privately and are considered costly as compared to state schools.

Community Colleges

Community colleges offer two-year certifications or associate degrees which are transferable. Generally, Community college graduates transfer to universities or four-year colleges in order to complete their degree. They are allowed to transfer the credits which they have earned in the community college. Community colleges offer ESL (English as a Second Language) courses or other programs which prepare students for studying university-level courses.

Technology Institutes

These are the institutes that provide four-year courses related to science and technology.

Liberal Arts College

Students pursuing a liberal arts degree focus on a subject of their choice, a ‘major’ but they are also required to take ‘General Education’ courses in almost all of the other subjects offered. Liberal arts schools usually offer one expansive area of study whereas universities offer the same major in two or more degree areas. A student can major in Mathematics but can still choose an engineering career.


At U.S. colleges and universities, grades are given on a universal letter system of A through F; a student’s cumulative grade is indicated as a grade-point average, or GPA, which is measured on a scale from 0.0 (F) to 4.0 (A).

Majors, Minors and Concentrations

Another feature of the American education system is that universities emphasize breadth, which means students can take a wide range of courses and typically have nearly two years to decide on a major or choose a double major, a minor or concentration.

Experts encourage having a road map of classes to ensure prerequisite requirements are met to graduate in four years. Students should be aware that some schools have had to cut majors and minors due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on American higher education, experts say.

Assignments, Midterms and Finals

Prospective international students should be prepared for continuous assessment at U.S. universities as well as regular homework, such as reading and writing assignments.

Many international students are already accustomed to taking multiple quizzes and exams in order to regurgitate memorized material. Therefore, they often have to adjust to showing subject matter and skill mastery at the higher levels through other means – research papers, individual projects, group projects, capstone projects, and research.

Another area of adjustment for international students is that courses typically include discussions, class participation and oral presentations, as well as midterm and final exams that make up only a percentage of a student’s grade.

Extra Credit

In the American education system, some university professors may offer extra credit during a class; this is where students can participate in extra lectures, write papers or take quizzes, for example, for extra points to improve their overall grade.

English requirements

No matter where or what you study, degrees in the United States are almost exclusively taught in English, unless you’re studying another language. Therefore, strong English-language skills are highly recommended. If you’re not a native English speaker, you may also be required to prove your proficiency through a standardized test. That being said, studying abroad in the United States is a great chance to improve your English skills which will be helpful during your studies and when you’re looking for a job after graduation.

As for how you actually study, it is the same as in most countries. It is a mix of lectures, readings and independent study. If you are studying a practical subject, like engineering or microbiology, then you will also spend time in a lab or workshop.

SEE ALSO: Preparation for your stay in the U.S.

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