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Educational terminology can be quite confusing in USA.  Also, the system and marking is quite different from the rest of the world.

Generally, it takes four years of undergraduate study to earn a Bachelors degree.The 4 year undergraduate program consists of:

·         1st Year is called Freshman Year.

·         2nd Year is called Sophomore Year.

 ·         3rd Year is called Junior Year.

 ·         4th Year is called Senior Year. Students in senior year are also called as “Upperclassmen”.

The first two years mostly cover general subjects. A junior year student must choose a “major” field of study. In some schools, students also choose a “minor” field. There is usually time for students to choose several other “elective” (extra) courses in other subjects. Each student is assigned a “faculty advisor”, who teaches their major subjects, and also helps them to select a particular program of study.An international student will also have an “International Student Advisor” who helps them to adjust to U.S. life, handles visa and other paperwork problems.

Graduate Study: It is what we in India call as postgraduate education. All master degrees are graduate degrees.

Masters Degree: This degree is usually required in fields such as Engineering, Library science, Business Administration or Social work.Mostly masters degree is a 2 year program, but some subjects like journalism, may need just one year.

A Doctorate degree (Ph.D.) usually takes five to seven years to complete. Unlike undergraduates, graduate students begin specialized study from the first day.

Professional/Vocational Training Programs: These are many specific courses/training programs for professional subjects. Some of them include Printing technology, Orthoptics, fashion and textile technology.

EducatioN in USA:

State College or University: These schools are supported and run by the State Government. Each U.S. state operates at least one state university, and several state colleges.

Private College or Universities: These schools are privately owned/operated institutes. Tuition fee is usually higher than the state government schools. Normally these colleges and universities are smaller in size.

Community Colleges: Community colleges are local i.e. a city or county colleges. They also conduct evening classes for students who work during the day. Normally, community colleges welcome international students. But few countries do not recognize degrees from such community colleges.

Professional Schools: These are professional schools to train students in professional fields such as Art, Music, Engineering, Business, etc. They can be a part of a university or may be a separate school. Some offer graduate programs as well.

Institute of Technology: These are technical schools which conduct atleast four years of study in the science and technology fields. Some of them offer graduate programs too.

Schools run by Church: Many U.S. colleges and universities were founded by religious groups and are run by local religious organizations. Nearly all these schools welcome students of all religions and belief, but may give preference to members of their own religious group. Traditionally, many church related schools insist all the students to take Bible courses and attend chapel services.

Academic year: The school calendar usually begins in August or September and continues through May or June. Most new and international students join the colleges during the Fall session, so as to adjust to the weather.The academic year at many schools is composed of two terms known as semesters. Some schools use a three term calendar known as the “trimester” system. Still others divide the year into four terms known as the “quarter” system, including a summer session which is optional.

Credits: Each course is considered to be worth a number of “credits” or “credit hours”. This number is roughly the same as the number of hours a student spends in a class for that course each week. A course is typically worth three to five credits. A full program at most schools is twelve or fifteen credit hours (four or five courses per term). International students are expected to enroll in a full program during each term.

Difference in Community College and regular four year College/University

Community colleges meet the educational and vocational needs of local communities. Usually they are run by a state government, by maintaining an “open door policy” with low tuition costs and few entrance requirements.Universities on the other hand are bigger educational centers which offer wide range of courses, and caters to a larger area. But due to the competition and a complicated admission process, it is difficult to get an admission here.

Advantages of a Community College:

Admission is easily available.
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), or in few places 16 years of prior education in english medium is required other then academic record. Many community colleges also offer English as a second language program for students whose TOEFL scores were low. They can help an international student to improve language skills, and get accustomed to the U.S. educational system.

Less tuition fee.
Tuition fee at community colleges are much less than any regular four year college or university.

Smaller in size.
Community colleges are often smaller than the universities. Classes are smaller, too. Teachers and advisors are able to provide personal attention to the students.

Supporting environment.
Introductory classes in community colleges are supportive rather than competitive. They are good for International students to get the hang of US style of study, and environment.

Instructors.
Instructors are able to give personal attention to the students. These teachers work in community colleges because they choose to teach instead of conducting research and publishing articles. Some instructors at universities are mostly interested in research.

Student Counseling.
Student Counseling is available in all the colleges. Their main objective is to help and guide students in selecting the best course for them. They help students with their personal problems too.

1.     GRE (Graduate Record Examinations). It is usually required for graduate programs. GRE includes a general test, subject test and writing assessment. (http://www.gre.org/).

2.     GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). This test contains verbal, quantitative, analytical, and essay sections. It is usually required for graduate programs in business and management. (http://www.gmat.org/).

3.     TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). It measures the ability to understand, read and write english. For more information checkout TOEFL website (http://www.toefl.org/).4.    

4. SAT: The SAT or Scholastic Assessment Test is a college admission pre-test. This exam has two parts, viz. SAT I (Reasoning Test) and SAT II (Subject Tests).

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