The American Education System

The American university system is known for its flexibility and offers a wide variety of paths to the degree and career that you seek. We give you end-to-end support through the US university system's complex process.

The academic year

In the USA the academic year generally lasts nine months, and the most of universities use a 'semester' system which divides the year into two equal periods. There are two intakes a year for the majority of degree programs at university in America.


During each semester, you will take a selection of courses, each of which is awarded a number of 'credits.' A credit is a unit of study. Universities usually expect students to complete:

  • 120-130 credit hours for an undergraduate degree
  • 30-64 credit hours for a Master's degree

As an international student, you are required to maintain a full course load of at least 12 credits per semester in order to maintain your visa status.

Length of a degree program

At US universities, the length of your program is determined by the time you take to earn enough credits to complete your degree. Most undergraduate programs are structured so you can earn enough credits to graduate in four years of full-time study. Graduate programs are generally structured to allow you to earn a degree in one or two years of full-time university study.

Assessment and grading

At US universities, your academic performance will be continually assessed by your teachers. They will use a range of methods including essays, written assignments, presentations, laboratory or studio work, class attendance and class participation. You will also take examinations at the end of each semester. At the end of each semester, your teachers will give a letter grade for each course that you have taken. Typically, letter grades are assigned as follows:

A excellent, the highest grade
B above average
C average
D the minimum passing grade
F Fail

Academic good Standing and Progression.

At most universities, you must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 to be considered in academic good standing and continue to the next year of your degree program. A cumulative grade point average is the GPA for all courses taken throughout the degree program. The GPA equivalents chart below shows how the grading system in your country compares to GPA scores.

Percentage 10 point CGPA Equivalent GPA US Grade Equivalent Classification
60-100 06-10 4 A First Class/ Distinction
50-59 05-06 3.5 B+ Second Class
40-49 04-05 3 B Pass
<40 <4 <2 C Fail

University teaching and learning styles

You may find that the teaching style and learning in the US is different from that in your country. Class lectures are an important part of learning at US universities, but you can also expect a high level of responsibility for your own studies. At American universities, teachers and students sometimes enjoy a much more informal relationship than in other countries. Some teachers prefer to be called 'Professor' or 'Doctor,' while others will not mind being called by their first names. In some countries, it is not acceptable for students to express their opinions to their teachers. In America, where the learning process stresses analysis and critical thinking, the exchange of ideas is encouraged.