Academic system

Once American high school students graduate, many choose to start their college careers. There are thousands of institutions called college 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 four years to complete it as full-time student. Once  a student has completed their undergraduate studies and received a Bachelor’s degree, they can register for graduate studies and complete the Master’s degree that requires another two 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 two or three 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 two years. These institutions are generally called Junior Colleges or Community Colleges 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 two 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 three or four weeks. The Spring semester starts half-way during January and ends around mid-May. There are, however, some universities that divide the academic year into trimesters.

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

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