Understanding the American Education System

American Education SystemAmerican education system offers you number of choices that are rare in other parts of the world. Sometimes it is so wide that students are overwhelmed with the choices. The most important aspect is that US education does not fall under the ambit of any education ministry like in India and perhaps explains why it is important to understand its structure. Currently there are nearly 15 million students that are enrolled, either in full- or in part-time courses in America.

The US education has nearly 4200 colleges and universities, which are far more than its European or Asian counterparts; out of which approximately 58 percent offer four-year courses and nearly 789 (or 19 percent), offer two-year courses. These 4000-plus institutions include some of the prestigious institutions of the planet like Harvard, Chicago, Stanford, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and MIT to name a few.

Structure of Education System in USA

For an Indian applicant is it important to understand the basic educational structure in USA. Before attending higher studies an American student finishes primary and secondary school for a period of 12 years. Upon completion of 12 years of formal education, they have to go to college or university which is known as higher education in America. Despite having a Department of Education, its roles are restricted in a manner of not influencing the schools and colleges. Unlike in India it does not decide or write or prescribe the curricula of education.

Understanding The Credit System

Grading mechanism is another critical area you need to pay attention to, especially for Indian students planning to pursue higher education in the US as it is somewhat confusing. While applying for higher education you need to submit your credit transcripts which are often quite baffling under certain circumstances. Academic transcripts are your performance indicator during your academic years. Your academic competence is measured in terms of ‘Grade Points Average’ (GPA). However, this GPA might have several interpretations depending on various factors.

For example, if you and your friend are applying for same course in the same university in the US, and have got same 3.5 GPAs but from different institutes, the university may interpret it in different ways. In that case, the university may take into consideration factors like which one of these institutes is academically more challenging and which one is easier to pass out from.

Each course carries certain credit hours which is almost same as the number of hours you spend in class for that course during each week. Each course comes with a limit of 3/5 credits. A full-time course comprises somewhere in between 12 and 15 credit hours.

Things To Keep in Mind

1. First and foremost thing would be to find out your last education level equivalent to that of the US.

2. Be extra vigilant about each and every university and college’s admission procedure including individual degree program as the requirements may vary from institute to institute along with variation in courses.

3. Keep in touch with an educational counselor so that you understand everything without any ambiguity.

Classroom Experience

For an Indian student the classroom experience under the US education system is quite different. Classes do not comprise only of students listening to teachers.  Classrooms, at times, may be as big as several hundred students to a small number of students, which give you ample opportunity to interact, discuss, argue, present your views and sometimes may even require you to just stand and say it aloud ‘I think I can still extend Einstein’s relativity’.  It is more dynamic, more interactive and it makes you share your knowledge and views to a wider audience unlike Indian system of one way speech.

Student participation in seminars and other discussion forums are valued and often each professor will have to grade a student’s performance depending on one’s caliber in these discussion panels. Another way you performance is evaluated, is through one or more research or term papers, or laboratory reports. Then there’s a midterm examination followed by a final exam.

These are some of the important variations that students often encounter while studying in the US, especially international students.

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