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The United States has more than 3,300 accredited colleges and universities offering a wide range of graduate and undergraduate programs

Undergraduate Programs (Bachelor degree):

Students who have completed 12 years of primary and secondary education and wish to attend college or university, must attend an undergraduate school.These are schools which offer either a two-year degree (called an associate degree) or a four-year degree (called a bachelor degree) in a specific course of study called the major. All students are required to select (or declare) their major by their second year.

Graduate Programs (Master’s and Doctoral degree):

Students who have obtained a bachelor’s degree can continue their education by pursuing one of two types of degrees. The first is a master’s degree, which is usually two years in a highly specialized field. Students who want to advance their education even further in a specific field can pursue a doctoral degree, also known as a PhD, which can take between three and six years to complete.

Types of Institutions:

Each institution in the US can determine it’s own programs and admission standards since there is no central ministry of education. Colleges may either be private or state funded.

Academic institutions that include one or more undergraduate colleges, as well as any number of graduate and professional schools are called universities.

Four year colleges

are undergraduate institutions offering academic programs leading to a bachelor’s degree. Community colleges or junior colleges are relatively low cost undergraduate institutions offering up to two years of academic instruction beyond the secondary school level.

Polytechnic institutes or Institutes of technology

offer specialized programs in sciences and engineering, as well as basic sciences, humanities and the social sciences, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Accreditation:

This is a process by which universities and their programs are recognized for maintaining a certain level of performance and quality. Accreditation is usually done by non-governmental agencies called accreditation bodies, which may be either regional or professional. To check out the list of accredited US universities, go to:www.chea.org
Academic Calendar: The academic year is slightly different for each institution, but normally runs from early September to the end of May. It may either be divided into two terms of 18 weeks called semesters, or “quarters” or “trimesters,” which are about 12 weeks long with the summer being an additional quarter where registration is optional. Foreign students are not required to attend courses in the summer to maintain their status.

Universities very often provide six-to eight-week summer terms. These are optional, and students attend if they wish to complete their degree faster, decrease their course load during the regular terms, or make up for courses not completed successfully during the regular academic year.
There are at least two main holidays during the academic year: a two- to four-week break in the winter (December-January) and a one-week “spring break” some time between early March and mid-April.

Semesters: Two main semester intakes are offered by US universities:
Fall Semester (September/October): All programs are offered at this time as this is the main intake.
Spring Semester (January/February): This is the mid-year intake.

Some universities also have a summer intake around July.

The US College Unit or Credit System:

College courses are assigned a value in what are called “credits” or “units”. The number of units assigned to a course correspond to the number of hours that a student attends class for that course. For example, a course requiring three class sessions per week, and where each class session lasts for 50 minutes, will be assigned a value of three units or three credit hours. Typically, colleges require the completion of a number of units or credit hours in order to graduate, rather than a minimum number of courses.

Most colleges and universities follow either a quarter-based calendar system or a semester-based calendar system. In the quarter system, the academic year is divided into three sessions, typically lasting 12 weeks each, called quarters, with the summer being an additional quarter where registration is optional. Foreign students are not required to attend courses in the summer to maintain their status. In a semester-based system, the academic year is divided into two sessions, typically 16 weeks each, called semesters. The summer session may be optional here again.

Students are usually considered “full-time” when they register for at least 12 units in a session or semester. “Part-time” students register for less than 12 units. Foreign students must maintain a “full-time” course load in order to maintain their visa status.

Grading System:

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 – 65% = D
    • Below 65% = 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, multiply 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) 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:

27 divided by 9 = 3.0 GPA
Most universities 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. There may be different levels of honors: summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude, in descending order of distinction.

Eligibility for Admission:

The three most important criteria for both graduate and undergraduate courses are:

    • 1. Consistently good academic record

 

    • 2. Financial support

 

    • 3. Proficiency in English

Students who apply are also required to take standardized tests like GRE, GMAT, LSAT and TOEFL, etc. depending on the selection of the course of study. For more information please visit:www.infozee.com/usa/international-issues.htm and click on the “Tests to be taken” section.