Receiving your college education in the United States can be very different than at Hong Kong, UK or Australian universities.
In this series of articles we will address some of the differences of the US university system to make the process clearer. From admissions process to standardized tests to writing personal essays and interviews, many students and their parents may be confused and at times lost.
It is little known that many US universities offer handsome scholarships and/or financial aid to cover tuition fees and living costs; or that many top ranked universities' names are almost completely unknown in Hong Kong.
There are some programs that may have classes of over 500 students while others may be as small as five and are ungraded. Some provide excellent work- study programs for students or ample opportunities to study abroad.
The diversity of the US university system encourages individualism and allows for students to change their educational and career paths, if not once, but multiple times. The schools try to align the many roles of universities in the 21st Century: from helping them to learn and develop as individuals to equipping them with the skills necessary for a successful career.
The key is flexibility and freedom once a student enters the school. The courses that they take in their freshman year are introductory and focus primarily on liberal studies with some core electives. Unlike the UK, the student may or may not have a core curriculum in mind or planned in his freshman or even sophomore (second) year.
The first year(s) allow students to discover what subjects interest them and then they can pursue these interests more exclusively in the subsequent years. Some may wish to take courses that will prepare them for professional qualifications after graduation. A study listed as "pre law" may be courses that are geared to produce the required skillset to later enter law school after taking the "LSAT" or law school admissions test
While some students attempt to graduate in three years, many students actually graduate on average after five years. Given the breadth of education and the wealth of choices students are afforded in the US system, this process should not necessarily be thought of as excessive.
Many an investment banker, entrepreneur, or film maker has been nurtured and developed from a Basic English Literature or Western "Civ" (civilization) class; it's the skills learned on these courses employers seek, not the knowledge gleaned from the course's content.
Next week we will cover the admissions process for a student's entry into a US college and university system.
Non-academic tips to help you achieve your educational ambitions and make your mark at the world's best universities and colleges.