Education System In USA For International Students
The US education system comprises 12 years of school (known as K-12), followed by four years of undergraduate studies and two years of postgraduate studies.
In this article, we offer an overview of the US education system. As an international student, familiarizing yourself with the American education framework would be highly useful.
Table of Contents
The Various Stages of the US Education System
The US education system is organized into several levels:
- Primary education: Educational programs for children from birth to age 5, such as preschool and daycare.
- Elementary school: Kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade, depending on the school district.
- Middle school: The 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, and is sometimes called junior high school.
- High school: This includes 9th through 12th grades, also known as senior high.
- Higher education: Postsecondary education, such as college and university.
Each level of education is designed to build upon the skills and knowledge learned in the previous level, and thus prepare students for future careers.
The specific curriculum and requirements for each level may vary depending on the state or district in which the school is located. The education system of the USA does not have a fixed curriculum.
Upon completion of Grade 12, a student receives a high school diploma.
K-12 school education is provided in public schools and private schools.
Close to 90% of students attend public schools. The education and meals are entirely free and financed by the federal and state governments to the tune of $800 billion.
To enter a college a high school diploma is not sufficient. There are no common boards such as AQA, Edexcel, and OCR in the education system in the USA when compared to the UK or India.
All applicants have to appear in a standardized test.
Standardized College Admission Tests
Standardized college admission tests are exams that are taken by high school students as part of the college application process.
These tests are designed to assess a student’s knowledge and skills in certain academic areas and are typically used by colleges and universities to help make admissions decisions.
The most common standardized college admission tests are the SAT and the ACT.
The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) is a standardized college admission test used in the United States. It is designed to measure critical reading, math, and writing skills and is typically taken by high school juniors and seniors.
The SAT consists of three sections:
- Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: This section consists of a reading comprehension test and a writing and language test, and measures a student’s ability to understand and analyze written texts.
- Math: This section consists of a math test that measures a student’s ability to solve problems using algebra, geometry, and data analysis.
- Essay (optional): This section is an optional essay that asks students to analyze a written passage and write an essay based on their analysis.
The SAT is scored on a scale of 400 to 1600, with two sub-scores for the reading/writing and math sections.
The test is administered by the College Board, a non-profit organization that also administers the Advanced Placement (AP) program.
The SAT is one of two standardized tests commonly used for college admissions in the United States, along with the ACT (American College Testing).
The ACT (American College Testing) is a standardized test used for college admissions in the United States. It is designed to measure a student’s knowledge and skills in the areas of English, math, reading, writing and science.
The ACT consists of four mandatory sections:
- English: This section measures a student’s ability to understand and analyze written texts, as well as their knowledge of grammar and usage.
- Math: This section measures a student’s ability to solve problems using algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.
- Reading: This section measures a student’s ability to understand and analyze written texts from a variety of sources.
- Science: This section measures a student’s ability to understand and analyze scientific information and data.
The ACT also includes an optional writing section that asks students to write an essay based on a given topic.
The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36, with a separate score for each of the four mandatory sections and the optional writing section.
The test is administered by ACT, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Iowa City, Iowa.
SelectRight can offer you insights on how to ace these exams for undergraduate study in the USA.
Higher Education System in the USA
The higher education system in the United States is complex and diverse, with a wide range of institutions and programs that serve students at different levels of study.
Here is an overview of the main types of institutions and programs:
- Community colleges: These are two-year institutions that offer associate’s degrees and certificate programs in a variety of fields. Many community colleges have an agreement with four-year colleges and universities, which allow students to transfer credits earned at the community college level toward a graduate degree.
- Four-year colleges and universities: These institutions offer bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of fields. Four-year colleges and universities can be public (i.e. funded by state governments) or private (funded by tuition fees and donations).
- Technical and vocational schools: These institutions offer practical, hands-on training for specific careers, such as automobile repair, nursing, or plumbing. They offer certificate or diploma programs that can be completed in two years or less.
- Online programs: Many colleges and universities have online programs that allow students to earn degrees or certificates remotely. These programs can be especially convenient for students who are unable to attend traditional on-campus programs.
- Professional schools: These institutions teach advanced degrees in specialized fields, such as law, business management, or medicine. Professional schools typically require a bachelor’s degree for admission.
We share more information on the first two since they are bonafide colleges and attract thousands of international students.
Community colleges are two-year institutions of higher education system in the United States that offer associate’s degrees and certificate programs in a variety of fields.
They are far more affordable than four-year colleges and universities, and many offer flexible scheduling options, such as evening and weekend classes.
Community colleges are designed to provide a broad range of educational and training programs that are aimed at the needs of the local community.
They have strong ties to local businesses and offer programs that are designed to prepare students for specific careers or to transfer to four-year colleges and universities.
As mentioned before, many community colleges have an arrangement with four-year colleges and universities, which allow students to transfer credits earned at the community.
This lets students complete the first two years of their bachelor’s degree before transferring to a four-year institution.
Community colleges are a popular choice for students who are looking to upgrade their skills, change careers, or complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at an affordable cost.
They are also an option for students who are not sure what they want to study. Community colleges offer a wide range of programs and provide academic and career counselling to help students choose a path.
Four-year Colleges and Universities
Four-year colleges and universities are institutions of higher education system in the United States that offer bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of fields.
Four-year colleges and universities can be funded by state governments or by tuition.
They have a more diverse range of programs and a larger student body than community colleges, and offer more research opportunities.
Bachelor’s degrees require a high school diploma or equivalent for admission. They take four years.
The graduation degree is the most common type of degree earned in the United States and is required for entry into many professions, such as engineering, software development and teaching.
Master’s degrees and doctoral degrees are advanced degrees that require a bachelor’s degree for admission.
They are meant for students who want to specialize in a particular field or pursue a research-based career.
Master’s degrees take one to two years to complete, while doctoral degrees can take four to eight years or more and involve research and thesis writing.
Four-year colleges and universities offer a broad range of programs and disciplines, including the arts and humanities, the sciences, engineering, business, education, and the social sciences.
They have a more structured academic program than community colleges, with a greater emphasis on research and independent study.
What to Look for When Selecting a College?
It’s difficult to determine the best four-year colleges and universities, as different institutions may be better suited to different students depending on their interests, and goals.
Some factors that may be important to consider when choosing a four-year college or university include:
- Academic scope: Look for institutions that have a strong reputation for academic excellence in your subject of choice. You can research rankings of colleges and universities, as well as ask for recommendations from teachers.
- Faculty strength and infrastructure: Consider the quality of the faculty and the resources available at the institution, such as research facilities, labs, libraries, and extracurricular opportunities.
- Location: Think about whether you want to stay in a colder region or a warmer one. Consider the cost of living, the availability of internships and jobs, and the general economic development of the region.
- Cost: The overall cost of study, including tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses is an important criterion. Look for institutions that offer financial aid, scholarships, and work programs to help meet the expense.
- Culture: Choose an institution that aligns with your academic and career goals and that feels like a good fit for your personality and interests. If possible, talk with mentors and get a feel.
Ultimately, the best four-year college or university for you will depend on your individual needs and objectives.
It’s important to perform thorough research and consider a variety of factors to find the institution that is right for you. The education system in the USA has something for everyone.
If you are confused, experts from SelectRight are always available to help and guide you.
Studying in the USA is a rewarding experience. It is also expensive and costs about $80,000 over four years.
US universities are well-funded and have excellent pedagogy. A degree from a mid-range US university such as California State University can mean the chance to work for an MNC abroad. To find the right university consult with us at SelectRight.
Little luck and a lot of effort would surely help you gain admission to a reputed institution in the USA.