Four years of undergraduate study in the USA lead to a Bachelor’s degree in the Arts (B.A.) or the Sciences (B.S.) and qualify students to apply for admission to graduate school or to join the work force.
The Bachelor’s degree is awarded upon the successful completion of a specified number of courses or units. The full degree requirement is usually 120 credits (about 40 courses) for institutions operating on a semester system, and 180 credits for those on a quarterly calendar.
A Bachelor’s degree program takes four years: the first year is called freshman year, the second sophomore, the third junior, and the fourth senior. Courses in the first two years are referred to as “lower division” courses and in the last two years as “upper division” courses.
Although there is significant variation across universities, the personalized curriculum usually consists of:
• Core courses: general/foundation courses, which must be taken by all students, usually during the first two years. These account for one third of the degree and they include subjects such as English, a foreign language, natural science, social science, and math;
• Courses in which the student wishes to major or specialize in. These courses are mostly taken in the last two years and usually amount for a quarter or more of the total degree requirements;
• Courses in which the student wishes to minor. The minor is usually the subject with the second greatest concentration of courses. These courses tend to be half the number of major courses;
• Elective courses, which the student chooses from any field they are interested in, to ensure a well-rounded college experience.
Students from other countries do not necessarily enter an American college or university as freshmen. Some opt to apply as transfer students in order to continue the college degree they started elsewhere. However, most Romanian students prefer to apply as freshmen, even if they’re already enrolled on college courses in Romania or elsewhere. This approach usually gives them stronger chances of securing university funding than transfer students, and also allows them to fully enjoy the full U.S. undergraduate educational experience.
Students may sometimes complete a Bachelor’s degree in less than four years by receiving credits for pre-college work (i.e. the International Baccalaureate) or taking courses during the summer.
Romanian students generally thrive on a U.S. campus. Take Ana’s word for it:
Three years into college, I am still pleased with my decision. University of Richmond has given me everything I wanted in a school and a lot more. First of all, it has helped me find and refine the interests that define me: scientific research, environmental issues, and giving back to Romania. Then, it helped me pursue and even combine them. And, finally, it exposed me to a world of opportunities, from friends from all over the world with more different opinions than I ever imagined the planet has room for, to introducing the President of the United States to me.
I was able to take my passion for chemistry to an entirely new level by doing high-quality scientific research. I have already worked in two different labs, the first of which I basically joined during Orientation, before the start of my freshman year. I was awarded two summer fellowships for full-time research, and most likely will have a paper published in a top scientific journal by the end of my junior year. I am currently helping with organizing the Southeastern Conference of the American Chemical Society, where I will also present the results of my research.
Ana Neferu, University of Richmond, VA, class of 2013 and FEAC friend
What about Associate’s degrees?
Associate’s degree programs - Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) - are offered by two-year colleges, which in the USA are known as community, technical or junior colleges. Students at a community college may either receive a stand-alone two-year qualification, the Associate’s Degree, or transfer to a four-year Bachelor’s program to get their Bachelor’s degree in a 2 + 2 format.
Although community colleges offer exciting academic as well as vocational training programs, this option usually offers close to no financial aid opportunities for international students.
More details in the videos below:
My fulbright experience
Students at the advising center