United States Academic System Information
Generally, students must study full time for two years in college to earn an Associate Degree. Before students can enter an associate program, they must have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED). Some of the courses in the associate program may be used later if students want to earn a Bachelor’s Degree.
Generally, students must study full time for four years to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. In a bachelor’s program, all students must take courses in the natural sciences, social sciences, art, and humanities. In addition, students take courses in their area (or field) of specialization. This area of study is called a major. Students may choose to have a second, related area of specialization called a minor. A major requires more credit hours than a minor. Before students can enter a bachelor’s program, they must earn a high school diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma (GED).
A course load is the number of credit hours students take during a semester. Generally, full-time undergraduate students must take a full course load, which is at least 12 credit hours per semester (6 credit hours during summer sessions). Full-time graduate students usually take 8 credit hours per semester (4 credit hours during summer sessions). Part-time students have a course load of 1-11 credit hours during a semester/session.
Credit Hour (Hours, Credits, Semester Hours, or Semester Credits)
These terms have the same meaning and are used to talk about academic work that students complete. One credit hour means that students attend a lecture, discussion, or laboratory for 50 minutes each week during a semester. Course credits are based on the number of hours students spend in class. For example, students taking a 3 credit hour English course go to class for 3 hours every week. At the end of the semester, the student will receive 3 credit hours toward their degree.
It is important to remember that for each credit hour students spend in class, they will study independently (homework, research) for three or four hours. For example, in a 3 credit hour course, students will study a total of 12-15 hours every week.
Students go to school to earn a degree. Undergraduate students try to earn an Associate Degree or a Bachelor’s degree. Graduate students try to earn a Master’s Degree or Doctoral Degree.
Doctoral Degree (Doctorate, PhD)
This is the highest degree in the United States. After students earn a Master’s Degree, they must take more coursework, take a comprehensive exam, do original research, and write a dissertation (a long piece of writing on a specific subject – longer than a master’s thesis). Students usually spend three or more years working on a Doctoral Degree.
In all programs, professors evaluate student work with letter marks called grades. Grades and credit hours are computed to determine a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). At the end of each semester, students are given their semester GPA as well as their cumulative GPA. IU Southeast uses the following four-point grading scale:
- Excellent: A+ (4.0), A (4.0), A- (3.7)
- Above Average: B+ (3.3), B (3.0), B- (2.7)
- Average: C+ (2.3), C (2.0), C- (1.7)
- Poor: D+ (1.3), D (1.0), D- (0.7)
- Failure: F (0)
Students can usually earn a Master’s Degree in two to three years. First, students must earn a Bachelor’s Degree. Then they must take 30-60 credit hours in their area (or field) of specialization. The number of credit hours students must take depends on their field. In some fields, students must also write a thesis (a long piece of writing on a specific subject). Usually, students earn a Master’s Degree in the same field in which they earned a Bachelor’s Degree. If they do not, they may have to take additional courses.
At most colleges and universities, degrees come from special units called schools. At IU Southeast, these units are the School of Arts and Letter, the School of Business, the School of Education, the School of Natural Sciences, and the School of Social Sciences. Each school contains specific majors
The academic year is divided into semesters or sessions. IU Southeast offers a fifteen-week Fall Semester, a fifteen-week Spring Semester, and two six-week Summer Sessions.
A transcript is an official record of courses and grades from your school.