SPUSA 20 years

Little Known Facts about US College

Did you know that it’s possible to be halfway through your degree in the US without knowing what your degree is?

Sounds crazy, right? Let’s explore how this is possible, along with other little – known facts about the US university system.

Fact #1 – Mapping the 4 Year Degree

Student-athletes who head to the US are eligible for four years of competition, which is equal to the length of a typical four year bachelor’s degree. This four year degree is designed to provide first year students ample time to be sure about what they wish to study as a major. To do this, students are allowed to take ‘elective’ subjects across their first two years to help them explore a range of subjects. From there, they are required to nominate a major course of study which they will complete across their remaining two years. How awesome!

Fact #2 – What Can I Study?

In most countries, students nominate the course they wish to study at university whilst in high school. Acceptance into that university course is then dependent upon the student’s results in high school. In the US system, entry into university is not dependent upon the student’s choice of major- see Fact #1. Instead, entry is based on a standardised test called the SAT exam and high school grades. If accepted into a given university, students can choose what they wish to study from what is on offer at that university.

Fact #3 – Grades = Money

At many US universities, students who are successfully admitted will automatically receive academic scholarship. This is a far cry from other countries who more commonly reward only elite academic performance with scholarship.  Importantly, students do not need to be superstars in order to receive scholarship. However, the better the grades, the bigger the scholarship award. So the take away message students? Keep working hard to make improvements because grades = money in the US system.

Fact #4 – It’s not all about Year 12

Again in most countries, much of the focus and pressure for high school students is placed on their senior year in school. In the US system, they look at a body of work when considering a student’s application. Typically they will review four years of high school results, along with ‘America’s test’- the SAT exam result. This takes some pressure off Year 12 performance for many students, knowing that much of what they need to do to qualify for university has already been achieved prior to Year 12. 

Learning about these facts has proven to relieve considerable pressure for many of our student-athletes during their high school years. If you want to learn more about these key differences in our education systems, have a listen to our podcast In The Huddle and scroll to the episode titled ‘ The Pressures of Year 12’ which was recorded to provide further clarity for our student-athletes.

DOWNLOAD a free chapter


An Aussie's Transformative
US College Journey

By Study & Play Director, Chris Bates