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. Grades 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 years. 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.