One of the most attractive features of the U.S. higher education system is the flexibility it provides through the number and diversity of institution types it encompasses.

This diversity offers students options to specialize in a variety of academic disciplines and even gain employment training.

More than 4,500 accredited institutions make up U.S. higher education in the United States. Unlike many countries, U.S. higher education institutions are not centrally organized or managed, but are accredited on a national or regional level by independent accrediting bodies.

A variety of institution types offer higher-education degrees. Liberal arts institutions, for example, offer courses in the arts, humanities, languages, and social and physical sciences. The majority of liberal arts institutions are private. Private colleges and universities are funded by a combination of endowments, gifts from alumni, research grants, and tuition fees. Private colleges and universities are usually smaller than public institutions and can have a religious affiliation or be single-sex schools.

Community colleges are another option and provide two-year associate degree programs to prepare students to continue studies for an undergraduate degree or help them gain occupational skills for immediate employment. State colleges and universities, also called “public universities” were founded and subsidized by U.S. state governments to provide a low-cost education to residents of that state. Public universities generally offer access to research opportunities and classes in a wide variety of fields of study.

These universities tend to be very large and generally admit a wider range of students than private universities. Each student’s interests will guide his/her choice among the many possibilities.

Regardless of the institution type, in the United States, students typically earn credits for courses they take and these credits count towards the completion of a program. Courses are often divided into “core” subject areas to provide the foundation of the degree program and “major” courses to provide specialization in a subject area. Students can also take “elective” courses to explore other topics of interest for a well-rounded educational experience.

The U.S. academic calendar typically runs from September to May and can be divided into two academic terms of 16-18 weeks known as semesters. Alternatively, some schools may operate on a quarter or trimester system of multiple terms of 10-12 weeks.

With the variety of available U.S. higher education options, students are sure to find the right fit for their academic, financial, and personal needs.

Many U.S. institutions offer a variety of student housing options and services on the college campus.


Entry Requirements

Colleges and universities in the U.S ask all their applicants to take one or more standardized tests.

These tests include the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), and the ACT (American College Testing). Applicants who are not Americans are also required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language). Most standardized tests are designed to assess your skills, rather than your amount of knowledge. The questions in these tests evaluate your ability to solve problems, not your knowledge of facts.

The role of standardized tests is to provide institutions a way of evaluating all their applicants on an equal level.

Comparing grades received for coursework or exams is not always enough because different universities and colleges have different academic standards.

An admissions counselor at a university has no way of determining how challenging the mathematics or economics course you took was.

By comparing your score on a standardized test to the score of another student who took the same standardized test, the counselor has a better idea of how the two of you compare.

International students applying for a degree in the U.S will be required to take the TOEFL and the SAT I tests; some universities will also require the SAT II. There are also many institutions that will accept the ACT in place of the SAT I.

(extracted from EducationUSA)