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The American college system

The American college system can be quite different from those in other countries, so it’s no wonder that international students may have questions about how it works. Here is a brief overview of the American college system to help students better understand how it functions:

  1. Types of institutions: In the United States, there are a variety of different types of higher education institutions, including community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. Community colleges offer two-year associate’s degrees and often have more affordable tuition rates. Four-year colleges and universities tend to have more diverse academic programs. It’s important to note that in the USA, the word college and university is used interchangeably. 
  1. Credit system: American universities use a credit system to measure the amount of coursework completed by a student. Most bachelor’s degree programs require the completion of around 120 credits (depending of field of study), which can be earned through a combination of required courses and electives. It can get complicated so here’s a quick breakdown: 
    • Student-athletes will need to pass a minimum of 12 credit hours a semester to be eligible (there are two semesters in an academic year)
    • The most common classes are worth three credit hours but this can vary depending on how much time you spend in the classroom throughout the week. 
    • Over one semester, if you take five classes worth 3 credits each, you’ll earn 15 credits over that semester. 
    • If you do this over eight semesters (four academic years) you’ll have achieved 120 credits at the end of your degree. 
  1. Grading system: American universities tend to use a GPA grading system, with grades ranging from 4.0 (the best) to 0.0 (fail). Each University will have their own GPA entry requirement so just because you’re eligible for one college, doesn’t mean that you’re eligible for all of them. 
  1. Admissions process: The admissions process for American universities can vary, but generally, students will need to submit an application, transcripts, test scores, and possibly other materials such as essays or letters of recommendation. Admissions decisions are typically based on a combination of factors, including academic performance, test scores, extracurricular activities and your athletic performance (if applicable).
  1. Cost: In the US, each university can massively vary in price anywhere from $10,000 to $80,000. The price will all depend on the type of institution, location and the academic reputation of the university. US colleges can offer financial aid to students in the form of academic and athletic scholarships. Check out our blog on US scholarships here. 

Overall, the American college system offers a wide range of options and opportunities for higher education, and while it may be different from university systems in other countries, it can be a rewarding and exciting experience for international students.

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