Everything You Need to Know About Higher Education in the US

This is the continuation of the higher education series. This is the second part in the three part series. For part one please click this link.

If you are looking into pursuing higher education in the United States, then you have come to the right place. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about higher education in America. We will cover topics such as tuition costs, admission requirements, and scholarships. We will also talk about the different types of higher education institutions available in the US, and help you decide which one is right for you. So whether you are a high school student considering your options, or an adult looking to further your education, read on for all the information you need!

How does the US Higher Education System work?

You may be wondering, where do colleges and universities fit into the bigger picture of the US Higher Education System, and what are the different types of institutions available?

The Higher Education System in the United States can be divided into three main categories: Primary and Secondary Schools, Postsecondary Education, and Vocational and Technical Training.

Primary and Secondary Schools include kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12), and provide basic education such as reading, writing, math, and science. Postsecondary Education includes colleges and universities and is focused on academic degrees or professional training programs. Vocational and Technical Training provides specific job training in fields such as healthcare, information technology, welding, and automotive repair.

There are also a variety of Higher Education Institutions available in the US, including Public Universities, Private Colleges and Universities, For-Profit Schools, Community Colleges, and Religious Schools. Let’s take a closer look at each one:

Public Universities are funded by state governments and offer lower tuition rates than private schools. They typically have large student bodies and offer a wide range of degree programs.

Private Colleges and Universities are funded by tuition payments from students and their families, as well as donations from individuals and organizations. They typically have smaller student bodies and offer a more limited range of degree programs.

For-Profit Schools are funded by tuition payments from students, as well as government loans and grants. They often have lower tuition rates than other types of schools, but their graduation rates tend to be lower as well. Community Colleges are two-year institutions that provide vocational or academic training in fields such as business, nursing, engineering, and teaching.

Religious Schools include private colleges and universities that are affiliated with a religious denomination or faith tradition.

Admission requirements

Now that we’ve covered the different types of Higher Education Institutions available in the US, let’s take a look at some common admission requirements:

To be admitted to Higher Education Institutions in the United States, you will need proof of English proficiency and academic qualifications. Proof of English proficiency is required for admission into Higher Education Institutions that offer classes taught entirely in English. You can demonstrate your ability to understand and speak English by taking one of several standardized tests such as TOEFL, IELTS, or Cambridge Advanced (CAE). Academic Qualifications typically include a High School diploma or equivalent degree from an accredited institution. If you do not have these requirements but would like to pursue Higher Education, there are options available:

Some Higher Education Institutions offer conditional admissions programs that allow students who have received their diplomas from non-accredited schools or don’t meet other basic entry requirements to enroll on a trial basis. Students in these programs are typically required to complete a set number of credit hours or pass a certain level of English proficiency before they are fully admitted.

Another option is to pursue Higher Education at a Community College, which typically has lower admission requirements than other types of schools. After completing an associate’s degree or certificate program at a Community College, you can then transfer to a four-year college or university to continue your studies.

What course should I choose and what should I major in?

Even though, US Colleges and universities provide world-class education irrespective of which career or specialization you choose, some subjects are more popular than others. Here is a list of a few courses that have been traditionally taught at Higher Education Institutions in the US:

Accounting, Business Administration and Management, Computer Science/Information Systems, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration, Culinary Arts/Culinary Services, Engineering Technologies/Technicians (Computer Aided Drafting & Design), Foreign Languages and Literatures (Chinese Mandarin), Health Professions & Related Clinical Sciences (Registered Nursing) Hospitality Administration/Management(Hotel Motel Operation), Psychology – General Motors Human Resources Management Legal Professions And Studies Liberal Arts And Sciences Studies And Humanities Mathematics Mechanical Engineering Medical Administrative Assistant Physical Therapy Technician Practical Nursing Registered Nurses Sales Marketing & Merchandising Zoology

For many international students, taking a course outside their area of the academic field of study might not be a norm, a course in liberal arts or foreign languages from a well-reputed college is equally valued after you graduate. There might be pre-requisites that some students might have to take if they do decide to take courses different from their academic field of study. For example, A mechanical engineering undergrad might be asked to take some additional computer science courses as a foundation if they choose to major in computer science for their Master’s degree and vice-versa. It’s always wise to plan and pick the course accordingly, based on what you want to do after graduation.

So, if you are undecided about what to study in Higher Education, don’t worry! There is a program and institution for everyone. Do some research online or speak to an advisor at the school of your choice to find out more about the courses they offer.

Are US universities also accredited by the Government and how important is this?

You would be surprised to know that the federal government does not have an accreditation board in the US to certify which institutions are allowed to operate.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) (a non-governmental organization) both recognize reputable accrediting bodies for institutions of higher education and provide guidelines as well as resources and relevant data regarding these accreditors. Neither the U.S. Department of Education nor CHEA accredits individual institutions. [2] With the creation of the U.S. Department of Education and under the terms of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, the U.S. Secretary of Education is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies that the Secretary has determined to be reliable authorities on the quality of education or training provided by the institutions of higher education and the higher education programs they accredit.[3]

Professional schools, which are often graduate schools, have separate organizations for accreditation.

The college application and admission process

The application process for US colleges and universities can sometimes become complicated, confusing, and tedious process if you are a beginner. The following are the most common steps in the application process:

-Researching schools and programs that match your interests and qualifications

-Filling out college applications and supplements, including essays and recommendations

-Submitting standardized test scores (ACT, SAT or TOEFL and GRE)

-Attending college fairs and interviews

-Receiving admission decisions

-Making a final decision and enrolling

When does the academic year start in the college / University?

Depending on the college, usually, the academic year starts in either August or September and lasts until May or June. Some colleges have a trimester system, where the academic year is divided into three terms: Fall (September-December), Spring (January-May), and Summer (May-August). Check with your chosen college to find out when their academic year starts.

Tuition Fees

The cost of Higher Education in the US can be expensive. Tuition fees for undergraduate courses at private universities averaged $32,405 in the 2016-2017 academic year [14], while tuition at public universities averaged $11,792 [15].

Many colleges and universities offer scholarships, grants, and loans to help students finance their education. It is important to do your research and apply for as many scholarships and grants as you can.

International students usually apply for education loans from their home country and that process is usually dependent on the country you are from, the eligibility criteria, and your credit history.


-14.   National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Digest of education statistics, 2016 (Table 238). Washington, DC: US Department of Education. Retrieved from

-15. Ibid.

When to Apply

Most international students are recommended to apply for admission one year in advance, For example: if you want to start your master’s degree in the Fall semester (August / September) of 2023, you will have to start the application process in Aug 2022.

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