An American EducationHow it Works and Why it's Great for Your Future
An American Education
If you are visiting our site then it’s likely that you are giving serious consideration to studying in the American University system and becoming an international student. That’s great. It shows that you are an ambitious, open-minded person who wants to expand your horizons and challenge yourself by living and studying in new environment.
If America is to be your destination, then we want to provide you with as much background as possible so you have all you will need to make an informed choice when the time comes to do so.
Let’s start with understanding the American Higher Education System.
With such an array of universities and colleges on offer, the American Higher Education system offers a rich field of choices for international students. The consideration of things like the diversity of campus sizes, locations, course choices and study programs can often overwhelm students, even those from the United States. As you begin your university search with us, it is important to familiarise yourself with the American Higher Education system. By doing so, it will help you narrow your choices and develop your education plan.
Admissions Requirements & Grading
Just like American students, you will have to submit your academic transcripts as part of your application for admission to university or college. Academic transcripts are official copies of your academic achievements. In the U.S. this includes your “grades” and “grade point average” (GPA), which are measurements of these academic achievements. In American High School, courses are commonly graded using percentages, which are then converted into letter grades.
The grading system and GPA in the U.S. can be confusing, especially for international students. The interpretation of grades has a lot of variation. Fortunately, for our clients, Sporting Futures USA are experts in converting qualifications from their country of origin and we will provide a full evaluation service, which pre-determines an international student’s GPA equivalency.
Academic YearInformation on the American University Academic Calendar
The academic calendar begins in late August or September and continues through until May or June. Student Athletes competing in the Fall Season will be expected to arrive in early August to take part in pre-season training camp.
The majority of normal day-to-day students begin arriving a little later, traditionally in a period known as ‘move in week’, just before the start of the academic year. There is a lot of excitement at the beginning of the school year with many social events organised on campus for incoming freshmen. Many opportunities exist to form great friendships during this time, as everyone tries to adjust to a new phase of academic life.
SemestersInformation on the American University Semester System
The academic year at many universities & colleges is composed of terms called “semesters.” The norm is two semesters – Fall & Spring.
Courses are designed for students to take them in sequence, starting in Fall (Autumn) and continuing through the year. Fall semester starts in late August and ends in late December or early January with the Spring semester beginning in January and ending in May or June.
Levels of Study - Undergraduate Studies in Pursuit of a Bachelor's Degree
A student who is attending a college or university and has not earned a bachelor’s degree will be known as an Undergraduate: they’ve graduated from high school and have been accepted to universities or college, but they haven’t graduated yet.
An undergraduate degree generally means a bachelor’s degree (B.S., B.A., etc): it typically takes about four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. You can either begin your studies in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree at a community college or at a four-year university or college.
Uniquely, during your first two years of study at an American university or college you will generally be required to take a wide variety of classes in different subjects (commonly known as general classes or prerequisite courses) with elements of literature, science, the social sciences, the arts, history, and so on.
This period of a student’s first two years at a college or university is devoted to rounding out their knowledge base and making them as educated as possible in many varying fields. Students are then able to completely focus on their major and chosen field during their remaining semesters.
What is meant by the term – Major?
A “major” is the specific field of study in which your degree is focused. For example, if your major is journalism, you will earn a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. You will be required to take a certain number of courses in this field in order to meet the degree requirements of your major. You must choose your major at the beginning of your third year of school.
A very unique characteristic of the American higher education system is that you can change your major multiple times if you choose. It is extremely common for American students to switch majors at some point in their undergraduate studies. Often, through those formative general studies in years one and two, students discover a different field that they excel in or enjoy.
The American education system is very flexible, as it promotes an understanding that you arrive in college with a growth mindset that is geared towards forming your own pathway in your career and in your life. Sometimes, learning provokes changes and takes us along different pathways and the system is set up to allow for this to happen.
Levels of Study - Graduate Studies in Pursuit of a Master’s Degree
Upon successful completion of your bachelor’s degree, you may want to consider staying on a little longer at university to undertake graduate studies in order to advance your career prospects even further. This is especially important in certain professions where a masters degree is mandatory for higher-level positions in fields such as engineering, law & education.
A graduate program is usually a division of a university or college. To gain admission, you will need to take the GRE (graduate record examination). Certain master’s programs require specific tests, such as the LSAT for law school, the GRE or GMAT for business school, and the MCAT for medical school.
Graduate programs in pursuit of a master’s degree typically take one to two years to complete. For example, the MBA (master of business administration) is an extremely popular degree program that takes about two years. Other master’s programs, such as journalism, only take one year.
The majority of a master’s program is spent in classroom study and a graduate student must prepare a long research paper called a “master’s thesis” or complete a “master’s project.”
For student athletes considering graduate studies, you should know that you can only be scholarship funded for a maximum of four seasons of competition (four years). Once you graduate with your bachelor’s degree, you will have to fund your own graduate studies course. Often, a route towards achieving this is through applying for a ‘Graduate Assistant Coaching Post’. Grad Assistants work for the university in a coaching capacity and receive a small wage to help with the cost of pursuing a masters degree. It is a popular route for many of our student athletes and we have a section of our website dedicated to information on post graduate opportunities.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE U.S. HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM - Classroom Environment
Depending upon your choice of course and the university/college you attend, class sizes range from large lecture theatres with several hundred students to smaller classes and discussion seminars with only a few students.
American classrooms have a very dynamic atmosphere with students encouraged and expected to participate in lively debates where your opinions, theories and arguments will be shared openly among the group.
Assignments, are normally given out on a weekly basis and you will be expected to stay on top of your studies and keep up to date with required readings and homework so that you can participate fully in class discussion and understand the lectures.
You may find that your degree program also requires you to spend time in lab studies and in field work.
Professors issue grades for each student enrolled in the course. Grades are usually based upon:
- Attendance and class participation. It is likely that your class professor will provide grading based upon your attendance records, and your overall contribution to class discussions, especially in seminar classes.
- Midterms: Midterm examinations are important progress trackers and you usually take these tests half-way through each semester in your class-time schedule.
- Research Papers and Lab Reports: Your professors will require these reports to be submitted for evaluation throughout your semester schedules.
- Year end examinations: Every student is required to successfully complete their academic year before progressing further. Finals, as they are known, normally take place towards the end of the spring semester.
What are Academic Credits?
Each university course taken is worth a certain amount of credits or credit hours. The number of credits gained roughly equates to the number of hours a student spends in class for that course each week. Course credits are typically worth three to five credits.
Full-time programs at most American universities range between 12 to 15 credit hours (four to five courses per term) and it is expected that full-time students should gain a certain number of credits in order to fulfill their course requirements each academic year in order to graduate.
International students are expected to enroll in a full-time program during each term.