US Education System

Table of Contents

  1. How does the education system work in the US?
  2. Higher education system in the US
  3. Types of higher education institutions in the US
  4. Academic year in the US
  5. Campus life in the US
  6. Financial aid in the US for international students
  7. Frequently Asked Questions

The US is regarded as one of the top countries with more international students migrating every year. According to Statista, a renowned online platform for data collection, around 9 Lakh international students were studying in the US in 2021-2022. 

As more international students embark on their journey to study in the US, it is ideal to familiarize with the US education system.

How does the education system work in the US?

Generally, the education system in the US focuses on the overall development of students. The US school education system can be divided into primary and secondary education, the details of which you can see below.

Primary and secondary education in the US

In the US, primary and secondary education follow the K-12 system (Kindergarten to 12th). The K-12 system has the following divisions:

  • Elementary (K-5) – from kindergarten to 5th grade
  • Middle school – from grade 6 to 8
  • High school or secondary education – from grade 9 – 12

Once students complete the K-12 education, they enroll into postsecondary education, also known as tertiary education.

Higher education system in the US

The US education system offers various levels of tertiary education including non-degree programs – certifications and diplomas and 6 degree programs as given in the table below: 

Type of degree Course durationDescription
Associate Degree2 yearsMainly job oriented and highly affordable to students. Students later can transfer their associate degree to bachelor’s
Bachelor’s Degree4 yearsA bachelor’s degree is the popular undergraduate degree in the US, and having a bachelor’s is mandatory for master’s study
First Professional1 – 3 yearsThe First Professional degree in the US is an academic degree that is mandatory to commence a profession, such as Law. The students must have at least 2 years of experience in college prior to entering the program
Master’s Degree2 yearsA Master’s degree help students advance their learning and enhance their professional opportunities, also letting interested students pursue Research in future
Advanced Intermediate2 – 3 yearsAn Advanced Intermediate degree in the US signifies courses and certifications that are beyond the Master’s degree but not the equivalent of a research degree
Research Doctorate4 – 6 yearsThe Research Doctorate degree in the US is equivalent to what is Ph.D (Doctor of Philosophy) in other countries. A Research Doctorate student will be focussing on a topic of advanced research to contribute to the repertoire of knowledge, not for immediate job requirement

Grading system followed in the US higher education sector

The grading system called Grade Point Average (GPA) is followed in the US higher education system. The GPA is the sum of all the course grades divided by the total number of credits. The maximum GPA a student can obtain is 4.0, which corresponds to the grade A.

When international students apply to US universities, usually they are required to convert their scores into the GPA scale to streamline the evaluation process.

Types of higher education institutions in the US

The following are the main types of higher education institutions in the US offering various degrees to the local and international students:

  1. Government-funded universities and colleges: The government-funded universities and colleges in America offer higher education at affordable fees, compared to the private-funded ones. The government-funded universities are popularly known as public universities in the USA or state-funded universities in the USA. All the 50 states in America have at least one public university in every state. Eg: the University of California, Berkeley, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Virginia, etc. 
  2. Private-funded universities: The private-funded, or simply private universities in America function independently and usually charge a higher tuition fee than the public universities. Often, the private universities are smaller than public universities in the US. Eg: Stanford University, Harvard University. Duke University, etc.  
  3. Community Colleges: Community colleges offer affordable degree programs to students and equip them selves to explore the job market, thereby contributing to the US economic workforce. An Associate Degree is the highest level of degree program offered in community colleges. Eg: De Anza College, Santa Barbara City College, Foothill College, etc.
  4. Institutes of Technology: Institutes of Technology in the US is a term used to describe universities where intensive research-oriented academic activities take place in STEM subjects. Examples of top institutes of technology include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology, etc. 
The Ivy League: The Ivy League is a group of top 8 universities in the US with similar academic patterns. The Ivy League schools are historically known for their top-notch academic reputation, and their alumni groups consist of US presidents and Nobel laureates. 
Ivy League universities in the US
1. Harvard University 
2. Yale University 
3. Princeton University 
4. Columbia University 
5. Brown University
6. Dartmouth College 
7. University of Pennsylvania 
8. Cornell University 

Academic year in the US

The academic year in America is flexible and spans all over the year. There are three admission intakes in the US, namely the Fall intake, the Spring intake, and the Summer intake. 

Most universities in the US commence their academic year in August or September, which is the Fall season in the US. The other admission intakes are Spring or January intake that takes place in January or February till April, and Summer or May intake that takes place in May till August.

Campus life in the US

Campus life in the US will help students expand their network and understanding in general. The following briefly describes campus life in the US.

  • Fraternity and sorority systems: American campuses are known for fraternity and sorority clubs. They are basically student clubs that help students make lifelong friendships. Each member in a fraternity or sorority is expected to work with one another to form friendships, exchange knowledge, and make the organization strong. For example, there are such clubs where the members who belong to the same sex rent a common apartment.
  • Campus events: US campus life includes many events, such as a music gig, dance parties, career fairs, etc. 
  • Part-time work during study: In America, Students can work up to 20 hours a week during their study. The work duration can be up to 40 hours a week during vacations.

Financial aid in the US for international students

International students can apply for various financial aids to fund their studies in the US. Most often, the detailed information on available financial aids will be provided by the university on their website. Alternatively, international students can get in touch with their DSO (Designated School Official), seniors, etc., for information regarding funding options. 

The following are the top funding options for international students in the US: 

  • Scholarships: There are many scholarships available in America for international students. The scholarships are sponsored by the state, private organizations, or the school concerned, and they can be merit or need-based.
  • Student loans: Student loans help you study without worrying about finances since repayment starts only after the moratorium period. Consider taking our guidance to explore your loan options.
  • University grants: US universities offer grants and other fundings to eligible international students, sponsored by each school or the university.
  • Private student loans: International students can apply for private student loans in America that are offered by NGOs, alumni associations, etc.

In short, studying in the US will be an opportunity for international students to get exposed to a world-class education system that helps you explore top academic and professional opportunities in life. If you are planning to study in the US, note down all the crucial information regarding your admission and apply on time with valid documents. 

However, often students can be confused about admission in the US, and issues can arise in finding the right university. No more worries since we offer you zero-cost guidance on US admissions. Take advantage of the opportunity –  check the link right now

Frequently asked questions

Can I study in America for free? 

Many US universities offer zero tuition fees to international students. You may explore the universities with no tuition fees. However, there will be other associated costs that you must finance.

Which Indian degree is valid in the US for MS degrees? 

You must have studied a 4 year undergraduate degree to apply for MS in the US. In India, engineering degrees are usually of four years. If your undergraduate degree consists of only 3 years, you must do a 1 year course to meet the eligibility requirement. 

Is IELTS certification required to study in the US?

An English proficiency certificate is required to study in the US, be it the IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, or other tests. However, under conditions, US universities do not mandate the language proficiency certificate. 

What is the minimum GPA required to study in the US for international students? 

For international students, the minimum GPA required to study in the US is determined by the concerned school of study. Generally, it is suggested that students should have 2.5 – 3.5 GPA when they apply for IS university admissions.

How much is the proof of funds to be shown to apply for a US student visa? 

You must have at least 10,000 USD in your account as proof of funds to apply for a US student visa.

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