The American School System

The American School System – PRIMARY & SECONDARY SCHOOL

In America, students are attending elementary (primary) and secondary school for a total of 12 years. These years are called 1st through 12th grades. After kindergarten (some also go to pre-kindergarten) U.S. children go to primary school, which is usually called elementary school at around age six.

After five or six years they move on to secondary school. Secondary school generally includes two programs: first they attend ‘middle school’, also called junior high’ (without ‘school’), and the second stage is ‘high school.’

When they graduate from high school (12th grade), students will be awarded a diploma or certificate, which allows for a college or university education (known as ‘higher education’). Some students don’t finish high school, they can get a GED diploma.

Many students who try to get the GED certificate are working individuals so they use online programs to get ready for the GED test. Students need to pass the exam that contains 4 subjects. This GED exam can be taken only in the official GED centers, it’s not offered online. So never attempt to buy online the GED diploma!


Foreign students will, just like American students, have to submit their academic transcripts together with their application for admission to college or university. Academic transcripts are notarized or official copies of academic achievements. In America, students must include their ‘grades’ and ‘grade point average’ (GPA), which indicate their academic achievement. Generally, academic courses are graded by using a percentage, which will be converted into grades by letters.

The U.S. grading system (also GPA) may be somewhat confusing, particularly for international students, because of variation of interpretation of grades. To give you an example, if two students were attending different schools and both are submitting their official transcripts to exactly the same university, their achievements may be interpreted differently in case both have a 3.5 GPA, but student one want to a very prestigious school known for academic challenge,  and student two attended an average high school.

The university may be interpreting their GPA’s in a different way because the two schools are having dramatically different academic standards.

Therefore, international students must bear a few crucial things in mind:

– Find out the American equivalent of your last completed education level in your home country.
– Carefully check the admission requirements of each college and university, as well as the prerequisites of individual degree programs that may differ from the university’s general requirements.
– Talk to educational advisers or guidance counselors regularly to ensure you meet all requirements. They can advise you properly whether you need extra preparation or not.


In America, the school calendar generally starts in August or September and will continue through June (sometimes May). Most new American students will start their education in autumn, so international students should in general also start their education at a U.S. university or college around that time.

There is always lots of excitement when the new school year starts out and many students will form new friendships then, and they all will need to adjust to a brand new phase in their lives. Many academic courses are also designed to be taken in sequence, so when you start in autumn you can continue throughout the academic year. At most schools, the academic year consists of two terms referred to as ‘semesters’, though some schools are using a 3-term calendar that’s referred to as the ‘trimester’ school system. )