American Education System

American Education System
Indiana University encourages your interest in studying in the United States. We are
a diverse university with international students from more than 130 countries. Here
are some details about the U.S. academic system.
Professors give letter grades to show the quality of a student’s work. The grade tells
how well the student is performing on tests, research papers, and class participation.
Most colleges or universities require that students maintain a minimum grade point
average to continue their studies. Here are the grades and the grade point averages:
A+ (4.0)
C+ (2.3)
A (4.0)
C (2.0)
A– (3.7) (excellent)
C– (1.7) (average)
B+ (3.3)
D+ (1.3)
B (3.0)
D (1.0)
B– (2.7) (above average)
D– (0.7) (poor)
F (0) (failure)
Academic Year
The university academic year at U.S. Universities is made up of two semesters. The
fall semester is from August to December. The spring semester is from January to
May. It is a good idea for international students to enter U.S. universities in fall. Most
new students enter at this time, so they can adjust together.
Classroom Learning
Some classes are large lectures with over 100 students. Others are smaller classes and
"seminars" (discussion classes) with fewer students. Lecture courses are often split into
smaller groups or "sections." The sections meet separately to discuss the class material.
Professors usually assign readings each week. They also require several written
reports or "papers" each semester. You are expected to keep up with the readings so
you can join in discussions and understand the lectures. Science students also must do
laboratory work.
The Degrees You Can Earn
Bachelor's Degree
U.S. students can go on to college or university after finishing high school (12th
grade). Therefore, you need to know which level of education in your country
matches up with the 12th grade in the United States. The International Admissions
Office can help you with this.
Upon entering a college or university, students work toward their bachelor’s degree
during the first four years. Students in the first year are called "freshmen." They are
"sophomores" in the second year. "Junior" and "senior" refer to the third and fourth
The U.S. undergraduate educational system is different from many other systems
because students have more control over their courses. Also, students are not typically
admitted directly into their "major" field of study. Instead, most undergraduates are in
general studies programs until just before their junior year.
Students must take a certain number of courses in areas outside their major
department or field in order to earn a bachelor’s degree in the United States. This is
based on the philosophy that students at the undergraduate level get the best
education by being exposed to several areas of study.
In some degree programs, students also choose a "minor" field that may or may not be
closely related to their major. For example, a student could choose to major in
marketing and minor in French. Students also choose some "elective" (extra) courses
in other subjects.
Master’s Degree
A master’s degree follows the bachelor’s degree. It involves more study of a certain
subject. This degree is required in some professions. The M.B.A., or Master of
Business Administration, is a popular degree that usually takes two years. Some
master’s programs take only one year.
Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.)
The doctoral degree is the highest degree you can earn in the United States. Examples
include Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), J.D. (Doctor of Law), M.D. (Doctor of
Medicine), and D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery).
The Ph.D. requires course work, an examination, original research, and a dissertation.
Most Ph.D. programs require at least three years of study after the master’s level.
Most students take longer to finish this degree.
The first two years include classes and seminars. For another year or more, students
will do research and write a thesis or dissertation. A dissertation is a written report of
your original doctoral research. This paper must include views, designs, or research
that has not been published before.
Students must pass a qualifying examination to get into the Ph.D. program. Later,
they must pass an oral examination on the same topic as the dissertation.
For the requirements of other doctoral degrees, contact the specific programs.