Attending university in the U.S. can be an exciting, fun and inspiring experience. That’s how you see it in the movies and it may be one of the reasons why you want to study in the U.S. in the first place. Don’t worry! In real life, American colleges might be even better than they are portrayed in the movies.
What is it like to sit in a classroom at an American university? How are the courses, grades, and semesters set up? What will be expected of me? As an international student pursuing a Bachelor's or Master's degree in the U.S., you have to adapt to a totally new education system. To make the transition easier for you, here is a list of things is you should consider and expect when you are attending classes in the U.S.
Before we go into it, here are some American Colleges that might match your heart's desire:
- Columbia University
- Marshall University
- University of South Florida
- Merrimack College
- Southern NewHampshire University
1. Class structure depends on what and where you study
Your student experience in the U.S. will entirely depend on what you study and what kind of university you attend. But we guess you already expected that. Some of the most popular disciplines for undergraduate studies in the U.S. are:
- Bachelors in Management in the U.S.
- Bachelors in IT in the U.S.
- Bachelors in Engineering in the U.S.
- Bachelors in Social Sciences in the U.S.
What you may not know is that classroom atmosphere in a private university may be different compared to the one in a public college. Furthermore, each professor has a different teaching style; some prefer to dominate the discussion, while others simply guide the students and let them do most part of the talking, asking questions and so on.
A key thing you have to keep in mind about studying in the U.S. is that being active in class is not only expected, but highly appreciated by teachers. What’s more your activity during class will be a part of your final grade. You will be stimulated to think independently, engage in active conversations, and argument your ideas.
2. University classes in the U.S. focus on applied and creative learning
U.S. colleges apply the concept of active learning, creating an academic environment, curricula and research where students are required to apply what they learn through problem-solving exercises, group simulations and role playing. More often than not, you can also apply what you learn in the classroom to real-life experiences.
For example, it is not unusual for and Art teacher to take students to a museum and have the class there in front of a painting or a sculpture, instead of only showing them picture in class.
3. American university classes include peer-instruction
Students are encouraged to study more outside the classroom, giving them the possibility to ask questions and discuss the most important and relevant topics during lectures.
Some professors apply the ‘peer-instruction’ approach in their teaching, which means teaching more by questioning, rather than teaching by telling. Through ‘peer-instruction’, students discuss questions and topics between them, and each one tries to explain to one another what they have understood from the lesson.
4. The American education system is about project-based learning
In the U.S., students are challenged either during lectures, or for home projects to answer a question, solve a problem or explore an issue, usually related to a topic that inspires them or that is related to their personal interests and career aspirations.
This method makes learning much more appealing to students and most times they don’t even have the “classical” feeling of studying; it is rather viewed as a way of discovering something new about a subject they are really interested in.
5. University classes in the U.S. are high-tech
During a class, almost all the time, some kind of technology is integrated, in order to enhance the learning experience. Text books are still used but the visual effect has a much higher impact on students, especially when it comes to things that are sometimes hard to memorize. Teachers make use of various software, applications, video projector presentations to increase student understanding of difficult concepts. Here are some examples of how tech is part of undergraduate courses:
Example 1: the teacher posts multiple-choice questions on a screen, and students give their answers through a smart app. It is not only fun learning, but it also helps the teacher track each student’s attendance and participation.
Example 2: the uses a web-based monitoring system where he asks students to submit their questions or unclear aspects about the lesson prior to coming to class. The teacher discusses them during the next class.
6. The challenging U.S. education system
When you attend a lecture in an American college, you don’t just sit in class and take notes as the teacher tells ‘a story’. You don’t make an assignment and receive a grade. What give the U.S. educational system a great rep are:
- constructive criticism
- after class study groups
- practical and research oriented activities
The teaching style is built in such a manner that enables you to reach your full potential, by becoming an independent learner and challenges you to improve your own performance.
Some courses are rigorous, the workload may be considerable, especially for some majors, but in the end, you will be greatly rewarded. You will not only see an academic progress, but you will also grow as a person.