Ask An American: COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY and HIGH SCHOOL in the U.S.

Ask An American: COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY and HIGH SCHOOL in the U.S.

August 16, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


Hey everyone! Dana here and on today’s Ask
An American, I’m going to be talking about high school, university and college, in the
U.S. Is there even a difference between college and university? How long are Americans actually
in high school for? And what’s all this talk about graduate versus undergraduate programs?
All of this and more. So, let’s start with high school. High school in
the U.S. usually 4 years of school from 9th grade to 12th grade. And so you’re in there from about
age 14 about age 18. And the grades that you get in high school are more important than the
grades you got in middle and elementary school because your high school grades are what universities
are going to look at when deciding whether or not to accept you. Getting into college is a competitive process
in the U.S. and universities look at your GPA – grade point average – which is on a
4.0 scale, where 4.0 is actually the best, so unlike here in Germany where I believe
a 1 is then an A, that’s the best you can get, is a 1. In the U.S., an A equals 4 points,
so you want to be as close to 4.0 as you can. Universities also look at your SAT score.
The SAT is a standardized test that you take toward the end of your high school career. And universities
also look at any kind of volunteer work or actual paid work that you did, any kind of
extra-curricular activities that you did, clubs that you were in. Or maybe clubs that
you were a leader of! So what they are really looking for is often a well-rounded person.
So that’s kind of the catchphrase that’s tossed around when applying to university. They’re looking
for a well-rounded individual. Okay, so before we go any further, let’s
talk about the terms college and university because I’ve kind of been throwing them
around, sort of interchangeably here, so what is the difference or are they just the same? Eehhh, Trying to make a distinction and explain
out these two words gets a little messy, because they can be used interchangeably as I did,
um, use them to sort of mean the same thing. But then they do also have their own separate
meanings as well. So it’s a little complicated. Technically a university is generally a
school that offers an undergraduate and a graduate program. So what do I mean with that,
then? Well the undergraduate program is the one you would go to right after high school.
You graduate from high school and then you go to a four-year undergraduate program, and
you graduate with your bachelor’s degree. After that, if you want to keep studying you
could get your master’s and then your PhD, and both of those are then part of what’s
called the graduate program. So technically a university has both.
Being a university kind of comes with more prestige than the word college, although not
always because there’s Dartmouth College, which has college in the name and not university,
but it definitely has a graduate and an undergraduate program and lots and lots of prestige. So
that’s not always the case. As I did in this video, when we talk about
getting more education after high school, in the U.S., we often we often generally talk
about it as going to college. So: I’m going off to college, I have to study a lot in college,
it’s hard to get into college. And so in that way, it does then mean the same as university.
We talk about the university as the actual establishment. I go to blah blah university.
But I’m in college. So, in that case, they are kind of interchangeable. But not always! So often within one university
you will have different colleges, and that’s just what they call the different areas of
education in that one university. So you’ll have the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
or the College of Business. And those are areas of education within the one university. And then there’s also something called a
community college. A community college is different from a 4-year university. At a
community college there is no campus to live on like at a 4-year university. Classes are
usually cheaper, you stay at home with your parents or you rent an apartment, and you
commute each day to the, the classes, and they accept everyone. So, it’s not a competitive
process. No matter what your SAT score, no matter what your grades in high school, you
can go to community college. And community colleges actually play a really
important role. They offer lots of different things for different people. So for people
who perhaps can’t afford to go to a 4-year university right away or for people who didn’t
get the best grades in high school, they can go to the community college for the first
two years, study for those two years if they need to show that they can get good grades,
you know work their butt off, get straight As or as good of grades as they can get, and
then use those grades to apply and go into a 4-year university to finish the last two
years and graduate with their bachelor’s degree. It’s kind of, for people who didn’t get such
good grades in high school, it’s kind of like a chance at a re-do. They can still go to
university. And community colleges also often offer some kind of vocational training. So we don’t
really have the Ausbildung program that Germany does, but at community colleges you can often
learn some sort of a skill. So you can get certificates and, yeah, training in a certain
field that doesn’t necessarily require you to go to university. Okay, but so what if someone wants to be a
doctor or a lawyer? Do they just go to university and study to become doctor or a lawyer. No.
So, in the U.S., even if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, you still have to do that
first 4-year undergraduate program. So you pick a major that has something to do with the
field you would like to go into. So, for example, if you want to be a doctor, maybe you would
get your undergraduate in biology. And if you want to be a lawyer, maybe you get it
in political science or something like that. And so you still study for four years, and
you graduate with that bachelor’s degree, and then after that, you go on to medical school
or law school. And how about switching majors? Let’s say
you start out in history and then you realize that your passion actually lies in chemistry.
Can you just switch to the other major? Sometimes. It depends on how far along you are and how
similar or completely different the two fields are from each other. Generally speaking, in
your first two years of college you’re often taking general education courses. So, English,
math, science. And so these courses are often required by a lot of different majors, so
if you’re in your first year or beginning of your second year, it’s usually not too
hard to switch because it’s often the case that the classes you’ve been taking are also
required by the other major as well. But as time goes on, that history major requires,
of course, for you to take more and more history courses, and the chem. major requires that
you take more and more chemistry courses. So at some point, you’ve diverged so much
in the other direction that it’s not so easy to then just switch majors. You’ve taken a
whole year of history courses that the chem. major doesn’t require. You don’t have those
chemistry courses, and so perhaps you could switch but then you would “lose” a year. You’d
have to make up all those courses that you, that you haven’t taken yet. And perhaps if
you’re on some scholarships they don’t allow you to just add on a 5th year to your undergraduate
education. If you can afford it, you know if you can pay for it, well then okay. But
also, even if you can afford it, it’s been my experience that universities make it a
little tricky because they don’t really want you to go into a 5th or a 6th year in the
undergraduate program because it looks good in their statistics if they can tell parents
and the rest of the world that people come in and make it out in that four years. So
generally within the first two years, it should be possible to switch majors, but after that,
it often gets a lot harder. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it gets harder. Now, in this video I was alway going to talk
about college tuition, costs. I mentioned a little bit about scholarships and paying for university.
That the community colleges are cheaper. But, yeah, when I was looking at all the information
I had and everything I wanted to say, I just realized if I also talked about college tuition,
this video would be a 20-25 minute video. So I will make a separate video just about
costs of university in the U.S. So my question for you is: how was your college
experience? How does it work where you live? The same or different from what I described in this video? Please let me know in the comments below. Thanks so much for watching. Please don’t
forget to subscribe for more videos, and hit that like button if you enjoyed watching this
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my Facebook page. Until next time, auf Wiedersehen! Oh, oh, oh! And something else that I wanted
to mention: if you want to see more videos, you can also check me out now on the Telekolleg
Facebook page. I’ll put a link down in the description box below. Um, once ever couple
of weeks now there will be a video up there where I’m teaching some sort of short, little,
interesting thing about the English language. So I hope you enjoy those as well. So my question for you is: what was your… This is also something that’s good for people
who didn’t get that very… Eeeh! Trying to ex… And the grades that you get in high school
are more important than the grades you got in military…military? Middle school. What?
Ah, 14…