Academic System in the USA

How much do you know about the academic system in the USA? In this section, we will try give you some key information that will help develop your knowledge so that you can become an expert like us!


Do you know that you want to get your degree, but not sure which area to study in? No problem! The US college system is really a good fit for you. It is different to the way in which UK universities operate. One of the main variances is that it usually takes four years to complete your degree in the US, as opposed to three years in the UK. The reason for this is that in the US, you will undertake a ‘general education’ alongside or prior to your specified study subject.

So, you will have to take classes and earn credits in subjects like English, Mathematics, Science, History, Languages, Social Science, etc. Every student needs to do this, and many take these classes within their first year or two at college. The benefit of this is that it gives you time to sample classes and decide for certain what you intend to focus your degree on for the final two or three years. In the UK, students need to consider their degree choice as early as their GCSE’s (or National 5’s in Scotland) which puts tremendous pressure on young people who have yet to choose what they want to do. After all, how many people know exactly what they want to do by the time they’re 18 years old!?

Once you’ve gained the necessary credit hours having taken the general education classes, the rest of your college education will be more focused on your chosen degree subject, which is known in the US as your ‘major’. This subject can be anything the college you’re at offers. Some colleges offer hundreds of subjects, ranging from Marine Biology to Photography, Criminology to Spanish, and Economics to Sport Science! You won’t need to decide on this major until your second or even your third year at college. Up to that point, you can remain ‘Undecided’ until you are happy to commit to one specific area.

Read our Blog on Degree Courses You Can Study in the USA!


Baylor University campus in Waco, Texas

An example here is Athleticademix Director, David Fletcher. He began his general education in year one, before taking some classes in Business in year two. However, after taking a Criminology class in order to gain a Social Science credit, David decided that he really enjoyed that subject and then opted to major in Criminology instead. There was no disadvantage for him as the general education credits are required for all, so you have the time to chop and change and sample different subjects. In addition, following graduation David then went on to study his Masters degree in Sports Management. So even the bachelors and masters degree you may choose to study do not have to be connected!

Note: It does not matter what you studied back in the UK, your degree in the US is completely your choice, and you can even switch majors during the four years if needed!


If you want to earn your degree in the United States, it usually takes four years. You choose your own pace of study, something you can read about below.

Your commitment to the college is semester by semester (term by term). So if you decide for whatever reason that it’s not for you then you’re not obliged to stay. Similarly, your scholarship package is renewed on a year-by-year basis for all four years. While this won’t be withdrawn, it is further indication that you are not fixed there for the entire time if you feel the need to change schools or maybe return home.


Students at Baylor University, Texas


‘GPA’ is an acronym for ‘Grade Point Average’, which is used in the US to measure your academic standing. It’s based on your grades at high school and then at college. Each grade you achieve during your High School studies holds a numeric value which is added up and calculated to determine your GPA. The GPA scale is from 0.0 to 4.0, with 4.0 being the highest. So, if you were a ‘straight A’ student, your GPA would be 4.0 – if you were all ‘B’s’ across the board, your GPA would be 3.0, and so on. Here’s a guide to go by:

A (7, 8 , 9 in GCSE) = 4.0

B (5, 6 in GCSE) = 3.0

C (4 in GCSE) = 2.0

D (3 in GCSE) = 1.0

With GCSE’s now graded in numerical form, this can get a little tricky… but don’t worry! Athleticademix will help you calculate your GPA at an early stage so you know where you stand.

NOTE: The minimum GPA requirement for going to a 4-year college is 2.0! However, there are still options for anyone under 2.0 – we can provide you with more information on this once we have assessed your academic achievements.

Alongside your GPA, universities will also look at your scores in either the SAT or ACT test. Both of these are entrance exams for US universities (you only need to sit one of them). Read more on The SAT Test.

In our section about scholarships at college we highlight the importance of achieving good grades if you want to maximise your chances for a better scholarship package.


A regular year in college differs slightly from UK universities.

Each school begins and ends term on different dates, but below is a generic example of how a year at college will look:

Fall Semester: Late August – Mid-December
Winter Break: Mid-December – Early January
Spring Semester: Early January – Early May
Summer Break: Early May – Early August


Study Hall

Transferable? – Can I use my US degree back home in the UK or somewhere else in the world? YES!

At Athleticademix, we only work with ‘accredited’ universities in the US, which means that their degree diplomas and qualifications are transferable and accepted in other countries. Talk to us about what you’re looking to study and we will advise and guide you on the pro’s and con’s!

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