The American education system offers international students a wide choice. There is such diversity in terms of institutions, programs and location that it can be difficult to choose, for both international and American students. As you begin your search, it is important to familiarize yourself with the American educational system. Understanding this system will help you make your choice easier and help you plan your studies.

The school structure
Elementary and secondary schools
Before pursuing higher education, American students attend primary and secondary school for a total of 12 years. This period is referred to as the “first through twelfth grades”. Around the age of six, American children begin primary school, which is more often referred to as “elementary school.” They stay there for five or six years and then go on to secondary school.

The secondary school consists of two programs: first the “middle school” or “junior high school” (college), then the “high school” (high school). A diploma or certificate is awarded at the end of these secondary studies. Upon completion of high school (12th grade or 12th grade equivalent), U.S. students can continue their higher education studies at a college or university.

Rating system
Just like US students, you will need to submit your transcripts as part of your application for admission to a university or college. Transcripts are official copies of your school work. In the United States, this includes grades and “grade point average” (GPA), two measures of your academic achievement. Courses are usually graded using percentages, which are then converted to letter grades.


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The grading system and GPA used in the United States can be confusing, especially for international students. The interpretation of the notes varies. For example, two students attending different institutions submit their transcripts to the same university. They both have a GPA of 3.5, but one of the students attended an average high school and the other a prestigious institution where he took more rigorous courses. The university may interpret their GPA differently, as the two institutions have widely differing levels.

Therefore, there are several important things to keep in mind:

You should research what is the US equivalent of the last course taken in your country.
Pay close attention to the admission requirements for each university and college, as well as for particular study programs, whose admission requirements may differ from those of the university.
Consult your educational or school guidance counselor on a regular basis to ensure that you meet the required conditions.
Your academic or school guidance counselor will be able to tell you whether or not you should spend an extra year or two preparing for admission to a US college. If an international student is studying in the United States before being admitted to a university in their own country, some governments and employers in some countries may not recognize that student’s American education.

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School year
The school year in the United States usually begins in August or September and continues until May or June. The majority of new students start their studies in the fall, so it is best for international students to also start their university studies in the United States during this period. Many activities take place at the beginning of the academic year and students often form strong and lasting friendships at this time as they adjust to a new phase in their academic career. Also, many courses are designed to allow students to take them in order, beginning in the fall and continuing through the year.

The school year in many schools is divided into two “semesters”. (In some schools, the school year is divided into three periods). Others divide the school year into four periods according to the seasons, including an optional summer term. In fact, if you exclude the summer session, the school year consists of either two semesters or three terms.

The American higher education system: levels of study
First level: Student of the first c

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