United States Plan your studies

Higher education

Higher education in the USA does not depend on a central government authority and institutions of higher education are free to design their curricula. Regional and national accreditation of US colleges and universities helps to ensure that institutions and programmes meet certain standards. 

Types of institutions 

  • Public universities.
  • Private universities.
  • Colleges.
  • Technical institutes.

Higher education in the United States has a diversity of institutions comprising public universities or colleges and also many private institutions. Keep in mind that the schools you apply to must be accredited in order to get a financial aid form the ministry of higher education and research!

Two-and Four year colleges mainly offer degrees up to a Bachelors degree. They might be public or private. Entrance requirements are here less competitive than in other institutions.

Technical Institutes mainly offer 1 or 3 years vocational training courses and prepare for immediate employment.

Wide range of institutional styles

  • large all-inclusive campus vs fewer students on a close-knit campus.
  • urban vs rural setting.
  • state-funded vs private institutions.
  • amount of funding and support for international students.
  • quality of campus facilities, from labs to athletic facilities.
  • diverse specializations vs focused on one field.


In the American system of higher education the following degrees are awarded:

  • Associate degrees (conferred after 2 years of studies).
  • Bachelor degrees (4 years of studies).
  • Master degrees (1 or 2 additional years after a Bachelor degree).
  • Doctoral degrees (PhD) at least 2-3 year of further studies.

Professional degrees: many professions require specific training at a post-graduate level:

  • law degree (J.D.): 2 years.
  • medical degree (M.D.): 3 years  plus additional training (the same applies to dentistry, veterinary medicine and architecture).

A student’s academic standing is usually measured by his grade point average (GPA) but this can vary widely.

The registrar of the university/college keeps a permanent record of courses taken and grades earned by each student ("transcript").

The accreditation system 

When selecting higher education programs, you should always choose an institution that is accredited
(regionally accredited!)

The credit system

American degrees are earned on the basis of the number of courses successfully taken. Each course earns "credits" or "units".

  • undergraduate student’s load = 15-17 units per semester.
  • graduate student’s load:= 9-12 units possibly with research.

The grading system

Most colleges and universities use letters as follows:

  • A=excellent or outstanding.
  • B= above average.
  • C= average.
  • D= below average.
  • F= failing.

An undergraduate student must maintain a C or 2.00 average in general and a B or 3.00 average in his or her major field in order to get a degree.

Find your study programme

Use the following official websites to find your study programme.

How to apply

Online admission:

Application deadlines

November to January (with most in January)

Begin your research at least 12 to 18 months prior to the academic year in which you hope to attend a college or university.

Typical Application Requirements:

  • A completed application form.
  • Application fee ($50-100 per university).
  • Admissions exam scores (SAT or ACT, IELTS and TOEFL).
  • 2-3 essays (personal statement).
  • Transcript (document listing your academic qualifications and marks).
  • 2-3 letters of reference (for some universities).
  • Interview (for some universities).

What is IELTS?

The IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. Accents and vocabulary tend more towards British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand English. To register for the IELTS visit the Institut National des Langues in Luxembourg.

What is SAT?

The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States..Like American students, you must arrange to take the SAT in the last year of your secondary studies. The SAT is administered by the College Board, a private organization based in the USA.  The SAT is offered 6 times per year in Brussels (October, November, December, January, May and June). It is advisable to take the test as early as possible, so that test results can reach the university admissions officers before the application deadlines. 

Postgraduate degrees 

If you intend  to apply for a postgraduate programme, you should be holder of at least a Bachelor’s degree (with good academic achievements), give evidence of letters of reference, make a personal statement and possibly undergo some specific entrance examinations (e.g GMAT-Test for business studies).

In short

  1. 1 August: you may begin most of your applications. The Common Application (used by over 600 American universities) and most other universities’ applications become available online.
  2. Finalise your university choices to the 2-8 universities to which you will apply
  3. Register for and sit an admissions test (SAT or ACT)
  4. September: request a transcript from your school and 2-3 reference letters.

Tuition fees

Almost all American institutions of higher education are not for free. You have to pay tuition and fees, which vary widely depending on location, size, specialization, and other factors. Institutions can be grouped according to public or private, two-year or four-year, but choosing the best institution for you depends on other features. Here is a general overview about the various tuition fees.

Here is a general overview about the various tuition fees.  

Public two-year (community) colleges

  • Tuition and other fees: 3.570 $ 

Public four-year colleges

  • Tuition and other fees: 25.620 $ (out-state fees)

Private non-profit-four year colleges

  • Tuition and other fees: 34.740 $

Obtaining financial assistance in the US

The aid is usually provided by a U.S. college or university. Frequently it will be a combination of different types of scholarships:

  • merit based scholarship (academic achievements)
  • need based scholarship
  • athletic scholarship

Distance learning

Distance learning courses are also offered by various institutions of higher education.

Part-time courses usually refer to a specialized study program. It usually takes place on campus but can be delivered online. Courses are popular for people who want to get specific knowledge in one subject. Many universities offer part-time and non-degree courses. Information about such courses are given by the universities.

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