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US Education System 2024: Know Grading Scale & Top Colleges

Students who want to study in an American university must be aware of the US education system and how it works. As we know, the States is known as the land of opportunity and is often known for the best education systems in the world. Hence, its diverse culture, picturesque views, and various range of courses made the nation a perfect study abroad destination for Indian students. However, the grading system adopted by US colleges is a bit confusing. So, here's a quick rundown of the complete education system in the States. 

Divisions of Education System in the USA

American education system follows a hierarchy from primary to post-graduate studies while offering a broad range of courses for all study levels. Here's a list of the primary stages covered under the education system of the USA:

  • Elementary School
  • Middle School
  • High School
  • Higher Education

Let's learn more about them in detail in the table below!

1. Elementary School
  • It includes primary education.
  • This course is specially designed for children aged 5 and 6.
  • It runs for 6-7 years and covers K-5 or kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade.
  • Here, the main focus is to develop fundamental skills in subjects like English Language Arts (ELA), maths, science, and physical education.
2. Middle or Junior School
  • It includes middle-level education.
  • This course is designed for children aged 11-14 years.
  • It typically runs for 2-3 years and covers grades from 6-8.
  • Its main focus is on core subjects like English, Maths, Science, and Social Studies.
3. High School or Senior High School
  • It includes Secondary level education.
  • Their course is specifically designed for children aged 14-18 years.
  • It mainly runs for 4 years and covers grades from 9th to 12th.
  • The High School curriculum focuses on quality education in core subjects like Science, English, and Social Studies.
  • Moreover, after graduating from High School, students will be given a diploma or certificate. After that, they may move to college or university for higher education.
4. Higher Education
  • It includes Tertiary level or Post secondary education.
  • Students aged 18 & above can apply for a college or university program to begin their post high school education.
  • It mainly runs for 3-4 years depending on the Bachelor’s degree program.
  • Hence, students can opt for various paths like colleges, community colleges, technical and vocational colleges, and even online institutions.
  • Further, post completing graduate courses, students can enroll for a master’s and doctoral degree.

Hence, this is the complete US education system that students must know before beginning their studies in the US. International students seeking to begin higher schooling must know the main intakes accepted by US universities. Therefore, we've curated the following section describing different types of intakes in USA.

Also Read: MS in USA: Best Guide for Colleges, Courses & Exams

Intakes in USA

There are majorly three main intakes in the USA: Spring, Fall, and Summer. Meanwhile, Spring intake occurs in January, Summer in May, and Fall starts in September. Also, most colleges in the States accept admissions in Fall intake, i.e. September. So, this intake is considered the primary intake in the US.
Below is a quick recap of these intakes:

September or Fall Intake (September - December) November - May
January or Spring Intake (January - April) July - December
May or Summer Intake(May-August) January - March

Further, after Fall, the second most chosen intake is Spring intake. Hence, if you fail to apply in September for universities, you will have a second chance to fill college application form in January.


Wandering to Grab Details on USA’s Education System?

Learn about the Top US’s Institutes, Popular Courses, Awards and Grants from the Best Study Abroad Platform; Gradding.com. Connect With Our Experts!

Lastly, if you missed out on the opportunity to apply for the Spring intake, you may apply for the Summer or May intake. Remember, not all universities in the States are open to granting admission in May since this intake has a slighter availability for courses and scholarships.

Also Read: Know about the Intakes in USA

Qualifications Available in the USA

The USA education system offers a wide range of qualifications in different fields of study. Below is an overview of the available qualifications with their duration and popular courses in the USA:

Associate Degree

There are 4 types of Associate Degrees in the US:

  1. Associate of Arts (AA)
  2. Associate of Applied Arts (AAA)
  3. Associate of Science (AS)
  4. Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
  • This degree can also be part-time.
  • Tuition Fees for an Associate degree are generally less compared to a Bachelor’s degree.

Top 5 Colleges to Pursue Associate Degree in the USA:

  1. Mitchell Technical Institute
  2. Fort Scott Community College
  3. Rend Lake College
  4. Cochise College
  5. Coastline Community College
Bachelor’s Degree
(3 - 4 Years)

These are the types of Bachelor's Degree available in US for international students:

  1. Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  2. Bachelor of Science (BS)
  3. Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
  • It’s a full-time degree where you cannot get the part-time option.

Top 5 Universities For Bachelor’s Courses in the USA:

  1. University of Chicago
  2. Harvard University
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of California, Berkeley
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Master’s Degree (Professional)
(1 - 3 Years)

You can begin a Master’s Program in Professional studies in distance learning, on-campus, or blended mode.

Top 5 Universities to Pursue Master’s Degree (Professional) in the USA:

  1. University of Louisville
  2. Rochester Institute of Technology
  3. Johns Hopkins University
  4. Purdue University
  5. Eastern Virginia Medical School
Master’s Degree (Academic)
(2 Years)

These degrees are generally awarded in traditional humanities, arts, and science fields.

Top 5 Universities to Pursue Master’s Academic Courses in the US:

  1. Duke University, Durham
  2. University of California, San Diego
  3. University of Illinois, Urbana
  4. Purdue University, West Lafayette
  5. Michigan State University, East Lansing
Doctorate or PhD
(5 - 8 Years)
  • These degrees can be completed in Blended, Distance Learning, and On-campus mode.
  • Doctoral or PhD programs must be completed under the supervision of a faculty advisor.
  • PhD degree is only awarded on the successful completion and submission of a dissertation before a panel discussion of faculty members in the college.

Top 5 Universities to Pursue Doctoral or PhD programs in the US:

  1. Lakeland University
  2. Seton Hall University
  3. University of South Carolina Aiken
  4. Case Western Reserve University
  5. Nova Southeastern University

To discover the best courses offered by universities, please visit the website and search for a study program based on your interests.

Additionally, the following section provides information on the various types of accreditation that US institutions follow. If you are unsure about what accreditation is, simply scroll down and learn more about this term!

Also Read: Know about STEM Programs in the USA

Accreditation and Quality Assurance in the US Education System

A process adopted by the US education system to ensure that all the institutes across the country meet and maintain the minimum standard of providing quality education to students. It includes a comprehensive review of a school's mission, faculty qualifications, and the curricula followed by them.

This process ensures that the learning material provided to students is relevant to their field of study. Moreover, to confirm the legitimacy of educational institutions, both federal and state governments recognize the importance of the accreditation process.

Furthermore, there are different classifications of this process, which ensures a quality degree and global recognition for all graduating students.

Types of Accreditation in the USA

The following types of accreditation are offered to US institutions to ensure that the degree earned by the students will have global recognition. The following are the classifications:

  • School-Level Accreditation
  • Post-Secondary Accreditation
  • Diploma Mills & Fraud
  • Federal Recognition & Approval
  • Other Quality Assurance ConditionsFurther, there is a step-by-step process to perform this process. Hence, read out the subsequent sub-section.

Accreditation Process Steps in the USA

The general steps of the accreditation process followed in the US institutions are:

Learn About the Accreditation Process in the USA with this Gradding.com Guide.

1) Preparation and Self-Examination:

To meet the standards of the accrediting team, colleges or institutes must highlight their earned achievements throughout the years. For that, they need to prepare a written report before the accrediting team visits the university to begin the process.

2) Peer Review:

After submitting the formal paperwork, the managerial department and faculty peers conduct an intensive review of the prepared documents. It includes the written report and general workings of the college or university seeking accreditation.

3) Visit and Inspection

Once the peer review has been conducted, the accreditation organizations send a team of professionals to visit the college or university seeking accreditation status. This team consists of peer reviewers and members of the public who volunteer their time to ensure that the college or university meets high-quality educational standards.

4) Final Decision

After completing the previous steps, the accreditation organization requests their commission to review collected data and determine the accreditation status of the scrutinized college.

5) Continuous Review

After getting a positive response from a recognized accreditation organization, a college or university has to meet the quality standards set by its team. The accredited college also has to periodically submit a renewal review to the organization. Hence, because of this setup, institutions have to continually prove that they are meeting high-quality education benchmarks year after year.Talking about colleges, the US is home to many prestigious universities in the world, since they are continually meeting every quality standard set by the accreditation department. Hence, we've curated a list of some top colleges in the States offering excellent academic programs, world-class faculty, and facilities. Scroll down and check out the following section!

Top Universities in USA

As we know, studying in the USA ain't walking in the park. It comes with a high tuition fee, pricey rent, etc. Hence, we've mentioned some top as well as affordable institutions in the States for overseas students. Also, don't worry; even with their low tuition fee, they've been meeting their quality standards to stand tall in the crowd. Let's explore the top 10 inexpensive colleges in the US:

    1. University at Buffalo, SUNY
    • It is counted as the nation’s oldest public research university.
    • Depending on the course or subject, an undergraduate degree costs you in the range of $5,000 - $25,000.
    • Meanwhile, you can also get support with a range of scholarships, including need-based and merit-based grants, to help qualifying students.
    • Lastly, average tuition fee for international students in USD: $17,000 - $23,000

    Popular Courses:

    1. MS in Computer Science and Engineering
    2. Masters in Data Science and Applications
    3. MS in Management Information Systems
    2. University of Florida
    • It is a public university based in Gainesville, Florida.
    • It is considered one of the largest universities in the USA with an admission of over 50,000 students every year.
    • Meanwhile, tuition fees for international students range from $30,000 - $32,000 (in USD).

    Some Popular Courses Offered:

    1. MS in Information Systems and Operations Management
    2. MS in Computer Science
    3. MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering
    3. Purdue University
    • It is a public university located in West Lafayette, Indiana.
    • It is counted among “R1: Doctoral Universities” states very high research activity for PhD students.
    • Also, the tuition fee for international students ranges from $30,000 - $32,000 (in USD)

    Top Courses Offered:

    1. MS in Computer Science - Thesis
    2. MS in Engineering Management
    3. MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering - Thesis Track
    4. University of Houston
    • It is also a public research university based in Houston, Texas.
    • Today, it is counted as the third largest university in Texas with a global alumni base of approx. 300,000.
    • Meanwhile, the average tuition fee for international students ranges from $18,000 - $22,000 (in USD).

    Some Popular Courses Offered:

    1.  MS in Industrial Engineering
    2.  MS in Computer Science
    3. MS in Engineering Data Science
    5. Florida State University
    • It is counted as one of the highly-ranked public universities based in Florida state.
    • It is also ranked among the top universities in the US because of its rigorous academic programs, including business, arts, education, and engineering.
    • Also, as an international student, you can expect an average tuition of around $20,000 - $30,000 (in USD).

    Top Courses Offered Are:

    1. MS in Information Systems and Operation Management
    2. MS in Computer Science
    3. MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering
    6. University of Texas at Austin
    • It is considered the highly respected public research university based in Austin, Texas.
    • This university has its own 18 colleges, offering a wide range of UG, PG, and doctoral programs.
    • Meanwhile, the tuition fee for international students ranges from $21,000 - $25,000 (in USD).

    Some of the Popular Programs Offered are:

    1. MS in Computer Science (Course Work)
    2. MS in Business Analytics
    3. MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering

    Also, do you understand the grading and education system in USA? The grading system is a method to assess a student's performance. Want to know more? Check out the next section!

    Also Read: MS in USA: Best Guide for Colleges, Courses & Exams

    Grading System of USA

    A grading system is a common standard universities adopt to evaluate a student's marks and overall academic performance. Generally, in schools or colleges, your marks are calculated in grades or percentages. However, the US uses a different scoring method called Grade Point Average (GPA).

    Meanwhile, the four-point grading system is the most common method used in every American university.

    Further, there are 2 types of US grading systems. The first one is numerical, while the other one is the letter system. Let's understand each one of them!

    Letter Grades

    Students are assigned alphabetical grades based on their performance in individual subjects. These grades are then converted into a Grade Point Average (GPA). Moreover, the grading scale ranges from A to F and includes a percentage score that reflects the accuracy of student's answers.

    Grade Point Average (GPA)

    GPA is considered vital in the US grading system since the marks obtained by the student define if they are eligible to apply for the study program or any scholarships in a US college.
    Have you ever wondered what sets apart the American grading system from others? Well, it's different in that it uses a 4-point scale where numerical values are changed to grades. Then, these grades are assigned a point value based on a pre-determined grade point scale.

    Here's the overview of the scale and how it looks like at most US institutions:

     Learn how to convert your percentage score to GPA with Gradding.com.

    Meanwhile, to know what these grades illustrate, here's a breakdown of the meaning of each letter in the US grading system.

    Know your letter grade description with Gradding.com.

    What do you think about how the education in USA differs from India’s? Since, by now, you must have grasped what the term GPA concludes. Well, in the following section, we will provide you with an in-depth analysis of the contrasts in teaching methods, curriculum, and more between these two nations. So, sit back, relax, and delve into the fascinating world of education with us!

    Difference Between USA and Indian Education System

    The education system in USA differs from India's in terms of its structure, grading scale, college admission process, entrance tests, academic curriculum, teaching pattern, and assessment methods.
    Here are some notable points that separate the education systems of both nations:

    • India follows a 10+2 system, which includes 10 years of primary and secondary education, plus 2 years of senior secondary education.
    • The American education system follows the K-12 approach. Here, students will have 12 years of primary and secondary education.
    • The grading system in India is percentage-based. Marks are calculated out of 100.
    • Also, different education boards such as RBSE use percentages while CBSE uses a 9-point grading system.
    • The grading system of the US is based on letter grades, ranging from A to F.
    • A represents excellent, while F indicates failure in the exam.
    • In India, entrance tests like JEE or NEET must be taken after completing schooling to get admission to engineering and medical courses.
    • To enrol in a US graduate program, you must appear for entrance tests like SAT or ACT.
    • Meanwhile, GMAT or GRE for post-graduate level courses.
    • In Indian colleges, admissions are granted on the basis of entrance tests and cut-off marks.
    • However, for some courses, personal interviews might be conducted.
    • To gain admission to a US college is really tough. They focus on the overall assessment of applicants.
    • It includes entrance tests, SOP, LOR, essays, and extracurricular activities.
    • India uses traditional teaching methods.
    • It includes lecture-based learning, while the main focus is on finishing the syllabus based on the course.
    • Students are highly competitive here, and they are more into achieving higher grades to secure 1st place in the class.
    • Also, the courses offered by the colleges are limited and don’t involve trending subject topics in the curriculum.
    • The teaching method in US colleges is based on interactive learning.
    • Meanwhile, professors encourage students to actively participate in classroom activities, debates, brainstorming sessions, etc.
    • Also, the classroom size is generally smaller which builds a strong relationship between the mentors and students.

    Lastly, let's find out the available financial aid for overseas students in the US. Scroll down and get insights on some of them!

    Financial Aid for International Students in the USA

    Have doubts about how you will fund your tuition fee to study in the USA? Or, have you heard of how free education in USA works? So, there are various scholarships and grants options for international students to fund their fees and other expenses. Wondering, if is it possible? The answer is, YES. You can fund your studies by availing various kinds of USA Scholarships for Indian Students. Hence, these can be classified as:

    1. Need-based Aid
    2. Fellowships / Grants
    3. Scholarships / Tuition Fee Waivers
    4. Athletic Scholarships
    5. Teaching and Research Assistantship

    Here's a table below describing these aids in detail!

    Need-based Aid
    • These aids are available to students who can’t afford to pay their tuition fee but are highly skilled and hold good grades in their previous courses.
    • Meanwhile, many US universities do offer full scholarships to international students. These are categorized as full or partial waivers. Some are listed below:
    1. The Wien International Scholarship (Brandeis University) - Full Waiver
    2. Swarthmore Scholarship Grant (Swarthmore College) - Full Waiver
    3. Foundation Fellowship (Georgia University) - Full Waiver
    4. Karsh International Scholarship (Duke University) - Full Waiver
    Fellowships / Grants
    • Such aids are granted to scholars on the basis of their academic scores, any standardized test results, extracurricular activities, etc. 
    • These grants could be government or private organization funded. Some include:
    1. Fulbright - Nehru Fellowships
    2. Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program
    3. AAUW International Fellowships
    4. Stanford Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship for Indian Students

    (Feel Free to Reach out to Gradding.com for more information)

    Scholarships / Tuition Fee Waivers
    • These are mostly available to candidates who show good academic records, English test results, any volunteering activity, etc.
    • Some scholarships available for international students are:
    1. Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation Scholarships
    2. Tata Scholarships for Cornell University
    3. Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship
    Athletic Scholarships
    • Students who want to earn a sports scholarship must demonstrate exceptional athletic skills in their choice of sports game.
    • Other than this, they must meet the minimum GPA requirements, and score well in standardized and English tests.
    •  Meanwhile, 3 top organizations in the USA that are in charge of the sports scholarships at several institutions. These are:
    1. NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Scholarship
    2. NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Scholarship
    3. NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Scholarship
    Teaching and Research Assistantship
    • These opportunities are available only on campus. Teaching assistantship in US institutions means being an assistant to a professor. 
    • While being a research assistantship in the USA means helping a professor in research-related work. 

    Also Read: USA Scholarships for Indian Students

    With this blog, you must have got your answer of what and how is the education system in USA works. The educational diversity of the States sets it apart from other nations and provides ample learning possibilities, which are open to all students worldwide. Further, the US grading system is different from other countries since it offers a K-12 scoring method to evaluate a student's performance. Hence, to study in the USA, you must understand its grading system.


    Q.1 What Grade is 70% in the US Grading System?

    The highest grade in the US grading system is A+, which represents a score between 98-100%. In contrast, a C is given for 70%.

    Q.2 What is 3.0 GPA in USA?

    A 3.0 GPA is equivalent to a "B" average, making you a competitive applicant for many colleges and universities.

    Q.3 Can International Students Get Financial Aid to Study in USA?

    It is possible to receive financial support in the form of scholarships, grants, or fellowships to attend universities in the US. For those seeking full tuition coverage, you can check the eligibility to apply for a Fulbright scholarship program.

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    Shubham Pathak

    I want to pursue an MBA in Business Analytics. Can you recommend the best universities in the USA?

    Vedant Chaturvedi

    Hi! I've completed my B. Tech in Computer Science and want to study a PG course in Digital Marketing in the US. Don't know universities and courses and want to begin next year. Please provide me with guidance so I can begin my prep. 

    Maneesha Tiwari

    I am interested in applying for a study visa to the US. Would you be able to assist me with the process?

    Aishwarya Rastogi

    Hello, can I get a scholarship to study an MS course in the USA?

    Piyush Sharma

    This blog is really insightful as it helped me understand the grading system followed in USA.