Academic system

Once American high school students graduate, they start their college careers. There are thousands of institutions called colleges or universities that can provide university degrees in many different academic disciplines.

The first level of college instruction is called undergraduate studies and it usually takes a student 4 years to complete it as full-time students. Once completed the undergraduate studies and receiving a Bachelor’s degree, a student can register for graduate studies and complete the Master’s degree that requires other 2 years of education. Finally, the third level of education are the Doctoral degrees or Ph.D. which stand for Doctor in Philosophy. This last step can be completed after 2 or 3 years of coursework and research on top of a specific thesis that needs to be defended.

Other than colleges and universities that offer 4-year degrees, there are institutions that offer Associate degrees that can be completed in 2 years. These institutions are generally called Junior College or Community College and most of the time the Associate degrees obtained at these institutions can be transferred to a 4-year institution as part of the academic curriculum. Therefore, those who have obtained an Associate degree from a Junior or Community college can choose to transfer the degree to a 4-year institution to complete the remaining 2 years of study needed to obtain a Bachelor’s degree.

Most American institutions divide the academic year into two semesters called the Fall semester and the Spring semester. The Fall semester starts usually during the first week of September and ends around mid-December after which there’s a stop for the holidays of 3 or 4 weeks. The Spring semester starts half-way during January and ends around mid-may. There are, however, some universities that divide the academic year in trimesters.

To be admitted into a 4-year institution it is generally required to take an admissions test. Unlike many other countries, un the USA there are two standard admissions tests that are widely recognized by many institutions and that will allow students to get into university independently of which career they will like to follow (there are a few exceptions). These test are: the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test e Scholastic Assessment Test) and the ACT (American College Testing). Each one has its own testing modality and even though different, to some extent similar. The score needed to be admitted to a certain school depends on the school itself that can also not require either of the test.

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