What do you think of the US school system?

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duskvamp

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I'm currently living in the UK studying biology and chemistry in college, which I've heard is the equivalent to community college in the US. Hopefully next summer I'll be moving to Chicago to be with @wrighteous86 and continue my studies there. I'm not sure that I'll have the qualifications to be able to go straight to university in the US, so may have to take some classes in a community college first.

I have some idea of what to expect; having to take more classes, unlike the 2 that I take now. Compulsory maths and english classes, more frequent exams throughout the year, credits and GPA's… It's all new, daunting territory for me.

I wanted to find out how you guys find the school system. Do you prefer having many shorter classes instead of fewer, long ones? Do you think it's better having exams spread across the year instead of just at the end of the year and do you think the work load is well spread out or is there a lot crammed in to each term/semester?

If anyone in the GB community happens to have studied in both the US and the UK I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks!

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deactivated-5e49e9175da37

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I think American community college better lines up with vocational schools rather than international 'college'. Especially if your background is in biology and chemistry; I think the most you would get from a community college in terms of biology and chemistry are in nursing courses.

Then again I'm in Canada, so we may have our own crazy terminology differences.

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Humanity

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#3  Edited By Humanity

@duskvamp: A community college in the US is somewhat a direct extension of High School - at least in NYC thats how it was. There aren't typical European classes where attendance isn't mandatory and you only need to show up for the exam. In the CUNY system (City University of New York) you could only miss about 3 classes per semester before you got automatically failed for the subject. So by large it feels a lot like High School in that a bunch of people show up for class at a given time and all leave at a given time, rather than a more lax system of coming and going as you please which I've experienced in Europe.

You choose your own classes and their lengths can vary. Sometimes the same subject is taught twice a week with 1 hr 30 min classes or once a week with a singular 3 hours class. That part is fairly flexible and a lot of courses are offered during later hours like 6-9pm if you need to work. You could take 2 classes per semester but that would mean you would be a part-time student and thus not eligible for financial aid or some scholarships - but seeing as you'll be a foreigner you won't be able to get any of that aid anyway.

Also be prepared for the fact that non-US citizens had to literally pay twice as much for classes as regular US students. Once again, this is CUNY, but thats how it went. So instead of $450 per class you would pay about $900 or so, it's a bit ridiculous and maybe it changed since I had studied but start saving up - a US education is mighty expensive. Of course you can get married right away, seeing as you are willing to move countries for this amazing specimen of American genetics, but even then the immigration laws have gotten so drawn out and convoluted that you should prepare yourself for quite a wait before you're anything more than a "visitor" in this here fine nation.

Good luck!

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colourful_hippie

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More frequent exams aren't that bad, I sorta prefer them because they help reinforce information in the classes that have the eventual cumulative final at the end of the semester. Work load depends on the classes, since you're starting out expect to have a decent amount of work to do in your basic requirement classes (math, english, science, etc). I've had both fewer, longer classes, and many, shorter classes so I'm ok with both, that's more of a personal preference kind of thing.

At first I thought this was going to be about the US public school system because oh god it's the worst, but college/universities are better thanks to ridiculous tuition costs.

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Video_Game_King

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@humanity said:

In the CUNY system (City University of New York)

It feels somewhat appropriate that this is literally one letter away from being CUNT.

It's a Vinny joke, you guys.

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Nasar7

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Be aware that unlike the UK where, as I understand it, if you major in Biology you are pretty much only taking biology classes, in the US higher ed system you will be taking a breadth of courses in many other disciplines as well as part of the school's common curriculum in addition to your major coursework.

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Humanity

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I think American community college better lines up with vocational schools rather than international 'college'. Especially if your background is in biology and chemistry; I think the most you would get from a community college in terms of biology and chemistry are in nursing courses.

Then again I'm in Canada, so we may have our own crazy terminology differences.

Please, Canada isn't even a proper US state, your Education is obviously well below our high standards.

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colourful_hippie

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#8  Edited By colourful_hippie

@humanity: Right, I forgot about the differences with community colleges and universities/actual colleges. Yeah it's definitely like an extension of high school. Attendance is still a factor in the bigger colleges depending on the class but community colleges get pretty up tight with their attendance policies.

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Humanity

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@humanity: Right, I forgot about the differences with community colleges and universities/actual colleges. Yeah it's definitely like an extension of high school. Attendance is still a factor in the bigger colleges depending on the class but community colleges get pretty up tight with their attendance policies.

That is not to say Community Colleges are all bad, some have excellent programs and really hard working professors. Some though, like Queensborough College, are horrible gatherings of people that don't know why they're even there in the first place.

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colourful_hippie

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#10  Edited By colourful_hippie

@video_game_king said:

@humanity said:

In the CUNY system (City University of New York)

It feels somewhat appropriate that this is literally one letter away from being CUNT.

It's a Vinny joke, you guys.

If only it was in Toronto.

@humanity: I'm not saying it's a negative, it's just something to consider. I think community colleges are great, I got an AA without having to pay any tuition which helped make the admission process into bigger colleges a whole lot easier.

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Humanity

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#11  Edited By Humanity

@video_game_king said:

@humanity said:

In the CUNY system (City University of New York)

It feels somewhat appropriate that this is literally one letter away from being CUNT.

It's a Vinny joke, you guys.

If only it was in Toronto.

Then it would CUT

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colourful_hippie

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#12  Edited By colourful_hippie

@humanity: Cause a mass revolt and tear part the city and later form New Toronto

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McGhee

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I just started at a community college last year and I can tell you that most classes are easier than when I was in high school 12 years ago.

I'm willing to bet that going from a University in the UK to a University in the states would not be as hard as you think. But I'm still in community college, so what do I know?

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pyrodactyl

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#14  Edited By pyrodactyl

@humanity said:

@colourful_hippie said:

@video_game_king said:

@humanity said:

In the CUNY system (City University of New York)

It feels somewhat appropriate that this is literally one letter away from being CUNT.

It's a Vinny joke, you guys.

If only it was in Toronto.

Then it would CUT

So we need to build a city called New Toronto then.

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McGhee

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@humanity said:

@colourful_hippie said:

@humanity: Right, I forgot about the differences with community colleges and universities/actual colleges. Yeah it's definitely like an extension of high school. Attendance is still a factor in the bigger colleges depending on the class but community colleges get pretty up tight with their attendance policies.

That is not to say Community Colleges are all bad, some have excellent programs and really hard working professors. Some though, like Queensborough College, are horrible gatherings of people that don't know why they're even there in the first place.

The teachers at my community college, for the most part, actually really give a shit and go out of their way to help people. I was really surprised.

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Raven10

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Well US schools can vary greatly in their structure and course requirements. Community colleges are generally for people who want to simply learn a vocation and go to work. I believe in the UK you can choose to leave high school at either 16 or 18 and the people who leave at 16 then go on to vocational schools, correct? If that is correct then that would be what our community colleges would be like except you still have to finish high school. If you took your A levels and did well then you would be fine going to a standard college or university. In the US the difference between a college and a university is that colleges don't tend to offer graduate degrees. So you couldn't get a doctorate at a college but you wouldn't be doing that at this point anyways so no worries.

The normal "university" in the US contains various schools. You might have a school of liberal arts, a school of engineering, a school of law, and so forth. Depending on which school you attend you will have different entrance requirements and class requirements. Many universities specialize in certain areas and getting into those schools can be more difficult than getting into a lesser school within the same university. The requirement to take liberal arts courses (maths, writing, and usually history or humanities of some sort) only occurs if you are in the liberal arts schools. So if you were to enter the school of engineering it is definitely possible you would only have to take engineering courses, which would still include math but no writing or literature.

You also have colleges and universities that contain only a single school and have a very singular focus. There are your fine arts schools like The Art Institute or Columbia College to name some Chicago ones, and technology and engineering schools of which the most famous is probably MIT. Those schools may or may not even offer liberal arts courses and often won't require them.

Lastly about course loads. In the US you can choose to be a part time or a full time student. A part time student in general takes less than 12 credit hours per semester. A class will usually either be 3 or 4 credits. Most science courses have a lab course that you are required to take at the same time as the lecture portion. So if you were to take, say, organic chemistry you might get 3 credits for the lecture and then have to take a lab which will be an additional 3 credits and will require attendance. The lecture portion will maybe have a couple of tests throughout the semester while the lab will require you to perform experiments and turn in reports every couple of weeks. An average full time student probably takes between 14 and 18 credit hours per semester, although some take only 12 and some will take 20 or more. As a full time student you would most likely have to take a minimum of three classes per semester, although you would probably not be able to graduate very quickly at that rate. With a dual major you would have to take at least 15 credits per semester and will probably have to do 18 or 20 some semesters if you want to graduate in 4 or 5 years. That would come out to 6 to 8 classes, compared to a minimum of 3 to be full time (if they were 4 credits each not 3). As a general rule plan to spend as much time out of class working on the class each week as you do in class. So if you spend 3 hours a week in organic chemistry expect to spend at least 3 hours a week out of class working and studying. (Actually in the case of organic chemistry plan to spend like 12 hours a week just trying to understand what you are doing). So your total time spent on school each week will likely be between 30 and 40 hours assuming you are an average student and want at least a B average which will be required to get a good job in your field.

Oh and also note that almost all biology and chemistry research jobs in the US require a graduate degree which can take up to an additional 6 years to earn. Also plan to spend well over $100,000 on this education assuming you can get financial aid. A year at the University of Chicago is like $100,000 so you could spend like half a million if you had to pay it all out of pocket.

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CynicalBuzzard

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I hate our education system here in the US.

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TowerSixteen

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#18  Edited By TowerSixteen

My experience with community college here was excellent, they had a program where, as long as you kept up your grades to a certain standard, after a two-year program you got a guaranteed place in other major in-state colleges, and kept pretty much all your credits. It essentially saved me two years tuition with no downside, and the classes were at a high standard, as well.

My experience with workload in regular college was that, well, it kinda depended on you- if you were determined to go through as rapidly as you can, things could get rather intense. If you had the money and patience to spread things out, though, it can be as handlable as you need it to be- My advice to people would be to push yourself at first, but don't be afraid to drop classes or take less in future semesters if you feel more comfortable that way. Burnout will cost much more than an extra semester.

All in all, I had a great experience all through college- it's just up to you to be wise about how you pace yourself. If your foolish about it, they WILL just let you crash and burn.

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Nodima

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I feel sorry for anyone who didn't experience modular scheduling in high school, I can't imagine how I would have survived high school under any other circumstances, especially after we signed up for Apple's One-to-One program and had MacBooks for every student to surf the web and work in Microsoft Word during open mods my sophomore year.

As for college, it's prohibitively expensive and likely as big a reason for our current debt crisis as anything. I believe when I left after two and a half years (due to my own foolishness, flitting between Dean's List and 0.0 GPAs) I was saddled with a $20,000+ federal loan bill...and that was for in-state college. Unless something amazing happens, when that bill finally comes out of deferment in three years I'll be lucky to have more than $100 a month in personal spending money.

I don't think it's right that higher education hamstrings folks for the rest of their lives, especially when our entire culture is built upon a very clear path of pre-school, elementary school, middle school, college, work, work, work, retirement. Deviating from that path is HARD to imagine at 17, 18 years old and gets a lot of people like me that just aren't mentally prepared for college no matter how high their ACT score is (and mine was in the 30s all three times I took it).

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duskvamp

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@humanity: College (not university) in the UK is quite similar in that it's like an extension of high school, since we finish high school at 16 you can't go straight to university so you have to go to college or "sixth form" to get the qualifications for university. In my current college your attendance has to be above 90% or you can be kicked out. I spoke to an International student advisor while I was visiting this summer and the fees are crazy, even if I were a resident they'd be high for me as I only had to pay £15 to enrol in college here. I've been saving and saving and selling all my stuff, my game shelves are looking rather lonely these days. So you've studied in Europe?

@colourful_hippie: I hate that I'm going to have to take maths and english again, I'm terrible at both and dropped my maths class last year because it actually made me break down in tears!

@nasar7: I've always wondered about that because you're right, in the UK if I take a biology degree in university then all my classes will be strictly biology. So in the US could I theoretically take "easy" non-biology related subjects just to earn credits and raise my GPA?

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colourful_hippie

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@duskvamp: Maybe see if those classes could transfer over in some capacity. It's a slim chance but you can always ask

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#22  Edited By Fredchuckdave

No clue about the UK but in general the US education rewards effort, not competence; this includes all levels of education. As such you're basically just training people to be mediocre and thus the economy suffers since there isn't really any drive for innovation; people want the most unremarkable people possible as their employees; basically they want their employees to be equally as stupid as their customers and have the same level of predictability. Aptitude, intelligence, and capacity for independent thought are all deterrents to finding employment, not assets.

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TowerSixteen

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@fredchuckdave: Sorry, but especially in college, that was never my experience at all. In fact, I kind of think its a load of horseshit. Certainly, there are employers like that, but you've obviously got a bit of a chip on your shoulder, don't you? if it was anything as dire as you say, there's no way in hell America would still be the leader in so many industries. Given how many tech, medical, engineering ect. ect. advancements come out of america, and given how many even recently-minted prominent international companies are American, I don't think I can take that seriously. Always room for criticism and improvement but I just don't buy that.

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EpicSteve

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Are UK schools also grossly overpriced?

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Fredchuckdave

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@towersixteen: America is swiftly declining in almost every arena, it would be foolish to suggest otherwise. The reason America is successful is because the other major economies blew each other up in two consecutive cataclysmic wars; it has nothing to do with all the nonsense you're spoonfed as a child.

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colourful_hippie

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#26  Edited By colourful_hippie

@duskvamp said:

@nasar7: I've always wondered about that because you're right, in the UK if I take a biology degree in university then all my classes will be strictly biology. So in the US could I theoretically take "easy" non-biology related subjects just to earn credits and raise my GPA?

Yes

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TheHBK

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I think it works fine. People expect too much out of schools. Hey if your kid is dumb, just deal with it. Should I blame coaches if I was never able to be tall enough or big enough to play the sports at the level I wanted to? No. Some got it, some don't.

And then you have people complaining about standardized tests and how some people are better at taking tests than others. Yeah? Well that is also something measured! And I would see those tests and think back now and they are a complete joke. If you can't pass those tests then you are too stupid to graduate high school anyway. People forget you have to earn a diploma and not just have things accommodated to you so you can get one.

It is just too many people that grow up now thinking everyone has to get a trophy.

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veektarius

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@towersixteen:

Going to agree with this. There may be people who get through college without the skills to be dynamic professionals, but the ones who do have the skills (and the motivation) tend to do well. Naturally, with an attitude like his, I kind of doubt he had the latter.

To the OP, I would say the community college is not necessarily the place you want to shoot for. When you take classes in community colleges, you often take the chance that some of your courses may be non-transferable to whatever university you hope to ultimately attend. My personal preference would be to shoot for an associate's degree at a satellite college of a major university (for example, one of University of Illinois' campuses outside of Springfield). These often have more manageable requirements but also have programs specifically oriented to get you into a totally solid university if you perform well.

That said, I do expect costs to be an issue for someone who is entering the US without residency in any state.

Good luck, whatever you do.

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veektarius

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@towersixteen: America is swiftly declining in almost every arena, it would be foolish to suggest otherwise. The reason America is successful is because the other major economies blew each other up in two consecutive cataclysmic wars; it has nothing to do with all the nonsense you're spoonfed as a child.

We could have an argument about exactly what indicators you're pointing to when you make such a claim, and whether it really is reasonable to argue that a nation rich in untapped natural resources in temperate climates was not poised for growth regardless of what happened over the course of the 20th century, but we really should be focusing on helping the OP make the best choice, yes?

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Humanity

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@duskvamp: I've studied two years of architecture before going back to NYC and finishing my major there. A good GPA is important but you should concentrate on internships as such just so that you can get out into the field, get experience, and most importantly meet potential employers. I graduated with honors but concentrated strictly on my studies without doing any internships - thus I was kind of left out to dangle in the cold while much worse students than me were gainfully employed simply because they did internships and it was less trouble to keep them on than interview for new people.

I studied in a pretty prestigious university in Europe, although in a country that most people wouldn't be able to point out on a map, and I must say I learned much more in a fairly average ranked college in NYC than I ever did in that University. This was mostly because a lot of professors in the US, well I don't know if a lot but the ones I had exposure to, care about teaching their students. In Europe we were somewhat left to our own devices, my drawing "classes" consisted of the professor coming in, arranging some pots and plants, saying he'll be back in 45 minutes and that was it. No teaching to be seen anywhere, you were expected to already know how to draw proper perspective etc before you even enrolled. This sort of trend continued in many other courses where a topic and goal was given with the minimal amount of knowledge passed on from the instructor.

I can see how that sort of environment can produce really talented students, as you are literally dependant on yourself to succeed, but it's not for everyone and was certainly not for me.

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Tireyo

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#31  Edited By Tireyo

College is fine. Grade school is not fine.

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clumsyninja1

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High School, private and public, is a mess. Our Universities is always been great, we have the best ones in the world: Harvard, Yale, Brown, etc. I wish they were more affordable for those that can't get scholarships or their families to pay for it. Free socialized higher education will never happen in the U.S, is too much of cost. We already have lot of issues with Obamacare, imagine if the same apply to our graduate programs.

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duskvamp

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#33  Edited By duskvamp

@raven10: I'll be finishing with 2 A levels and 1 AS (the first year of a 2 year A level) as you're correct about organic chemistry and it helped me fail my first year and have to re-sit it. I've been told that going straight to university, if I'm able to, would be more expensive and that it might be better to instead take 2 years of classes in a community college that will transfer to university and then 2 years in university. I think I would probably be a full time student because I don't want to prolong my studies any longer than I already have. I'm still not certain on career choices yet, so I don't know if I'll be taking any graduate degrees yet, plus the finances make that less of a possibility.

@towersixteen: That sounds like a really good program, I hope the community college I'm looking at going to will have something similar.

@epicsteve: In the UK the very most that any university can charge is £9000 a year. College, like community college tends to be free or have a small enrolment fee, mine being £15.

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asurastrike

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I never went to a community college, but my biggest issue with them is that people tend to become complacent and stay at them for far too long. I'm not sure if it's a lack of motivation, or direction, but many of my friends are still trying to get their "2 year degrees" 5 years after we all graduated from high school.

As for universities, they are far too expensive. Just getting my Bachelor's degree put me $30,000 in debt, and that was at a State University. Private schools would easily have cost me 4-8 times that.

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49th

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From what I have heard about the US system I really like the flexibility of it. How you can major in something but still take different classes is something I would love to see in the UK. Our system is so rigid. You might have 1 or 2 optional things each year but they are still going to be closely related to your course.

I also just like their whole University lifestyle with huge campuses and the idea of fraternities and stuff. We don't have any equivalents of that stuff.

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Raven10

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#37  Edited By Raven10

@duskvamp: Don't feel bad about Organic. My Dad is a chemist and he said organic was the hardest class he ever took. He nearly failed the other classes he was taking that semester because he spent all his time trying to pass organic. 30 years later he is one of the most respected battery chemists out there with dozens of patents to his name. His technology helps run everything from cell phones, to hearing aids, to combat drones, to hybrid cars, to your standard AA batteries.

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I_Stay_Puft

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I think watching the show community is a good representation of community college in the United States.

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development

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@duskvamp said:

In the UK the very most that any university can charge is £9000 a year. College, like community college tends to be free or have a small enrolment fee, mine being £15.

Hah! Fuuuuck that. I only went to community college, and now I'm $5,000 in-debt. In New York I had to pay hundreds of dollars for classes each semester in addition to books/required materials. Of course, then I moved to California and added another $1,000 to my debt, though I payed that off. Keep in mind you'll be paying out-of-state tuition, which can cost you like 900% as much, no exaggeration.

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DCam

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@duskvamp:

You could try some online SAT practice exams to get a feel for what material they expect you to know: http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice

The community college for transfer credit to university is a possible route. I think the downside there is you may need to be more focused and self-starting. Your classmates won't necessarily be aiming for the same thing, so it's easier to get distracted.

But I did all my school in Canada and then moved to the US to work, so I might be inappropriately transferring. I did have british roommates in University in Canada. Even in 3rd year Uni, they felt they were repeating some stuff from the A-levels that they had done. Subjects that they hadn't done A-levels for were the challenging bit.

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ch3burashka

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@humanity said:

In the CUNY system (City University of New York)

It feels somewhat appropriate that this is literally one letter away from being CUNT.

It's a Vinny joke, you guys.

It's alright, I know a Vinny so I can make jokes about it.

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Canteu

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#42  Edited By Canteu

@epicsteve: Yes. University is mad expensive. Depending on the course and length, you can end up with (this is at the high end) about 30-40k in debt. That's including accommodation and expenses and stuff though.

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Angre_Leperkan439

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Every school is different. The US School system is not really a generalized thing; many different experiences can be had.

I thought it was okay. If you have an idea of what you're wanting to do, and you make an initiative to get out there and do things, you'll be just fine. But otherwise our school system leaves you woefully unprepared for the real world.

I got a degree in history, and have since gone into programming. Stupid, I know, but hey what can ya do.

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Slag

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@duskvamp: Never studied in the UK

I like frequent testing, gives you practice taking tests and gives you a better idea of what you really know before Finals. Takes a lot of the pressure off in a way.

the thing about the US college system is that where you get a degree from matters more than what you learn in many respects in terms of future success. Community Colleges do a pretty good job at educating nearly as well as many of the name brand State and Private Colleges and University, but when you go out into the workforce it really pays to have a degree from a prestigious school with a good alumni network on your resume.

Who you know matters more than what you know in the job place in many fields.

The trick if you can pull it off, is to see if you can get your community class credits to transfer to state or private school and finish up there. Many Private Sector non academic employers don't care where you spent your freshmen, sophomore and junior years, they just want to see a name they recognize on your degree. Dirty little secret of the US college system is that it is much easier to transfer into the school you want (assuming your grades are good) than to apply directly.

That being said as @raven10 said, most good jobs in Hard Sciences in the US require Graduate degrees. So you might want to be careful about taking too many courses at community colleges. If you need to take something like Orgo or PChem just to get a requirement out of the way, go for it. But don't take classes in you subject interest there (e.g. say you like Invertebrate Zoology, make sure you take that where you intend to get your degree).

To get in a decent grad program you will need several good recommendations from Faculty from a State University or Private College. Which means you'll probably need to take enough of your core classes from those teachers that they will feel comfortable recommending you.

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Ben_H

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#45  Edited By Ben_H

From what it sounds like, community college is the equivalent of what we call technical school or technical institution here in the prairies in Canada. A step up from high school. Lots of short classes and mandatory attendance.

I wonder if the IT training departments at the schools in the US badmouth the local university's comp sci department like the technical school here does. My buddy is doing the IT program there and from what he tells me they really try to sell how much better the technical school is compared to university, when in reality, the certificate they get is useless outside of the province whereas a degree is nationally accredited. I don't want to say they are lying to students about what their certificate will get them, but it kinda sounds like they are.

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sixnahalf

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#46  Edited By sixnahalf

US school system is very far from other school systems they have more concrete based foundation on their education. based from my experience i prefer their school system than anyone else because it is the standard grading which other school around the world follows under the education system.

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mike

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@ben_h: That sounds about right. The private technical schools that sell computer science certifications and degrees tout themselves as being more relevant and having better programs than public Universities, when that clearly isn't the case (at least most of the time, anyway.)

Community colleges in the US are public institutions, but attendance isn't mandatory. Many students attend community college to satisfy their general education requirements and then transfer to a 4-year school.

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Nasar7

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#48  Edited By Nasar7

There's a lot of talk about community college here, but I'm pretty sure you'll be able to get straight into a 4 year college or university based on your qualifications. Besides, US schools love international students.

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CircleNine

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The US school system is shit because so much of school funding and ratings (grade school) comes from how those schools perform on standardized testing which in turn leads to rote memorizations of facts that appear on those tests and teaching material that has no real practical value and is only taught so that the students test well. Oh yeah and they don't bother to teach people how to think critically about anything again because rote memorization is a lot easier to teach, because effort.

But hey better to teach to the test to protect your funding rather than just properly funding schools through giving them more money so that classrooms aren't full of 30-40 students where any students who need help with specific problems will never get that help just because of the sheer number of students that the teacher will have to deal with on a daily basis. 30-40 students per class and 5-6 classes per day doesn't leave a lot of time for individual students.

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YoungFrey

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#50  Edited By YoungFrey

I have experience in both a US community college and a private university. My experience is that if they offer the class, it's good enough to teach you that material. People love to crap on community colleges, but what they lack is more range of classes (like advanced math topics) and research. So community colleges can be great to take the foundation classes before transferring to a 4 year to finish up and then go to grad school. But if you want a science degree, doing all 4 as a CC isn't a great plan. You want a good school that has professors doing research that you can help with to get actual experience.

If you plan to transfer, you do need to make sure what classes you take will transfer.