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Best academic year in the USA for international students

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Best academic year in the USA for international students

The academic calendar at universities in the United States is divided into several structural units - semesters, trimesters or quarters. Educational institutions themselves determine by what type of academic calendar students study, specific dates for starting studies, and duration of vacations. Typically, the school year lasts from early September to late May, and in the middle of the course, students pass intermediate exams to assess progress.

Academic year: semester, trimester, quarter

The most common form of dividing the school year in the United States is the division into semesters, although there are universities that divide the academic year into trimesters and quarters.

  • Semesters divide the school year into two parts, autumn and spring, and last about 15 weeks. The fall semester lasts from August to December, the spring semester - from January to May.
  • Trimesters divide the school year into three parts - autumn, winter and spring. Duration of trimesters is about 10 weeks. Autumn lasts from September to December, winter - from January to March, and spring - from March / April to June.
  • Another option for dividing the academic year into study periods in the USA is the division into 2 large and one small trimester: 4 + 1 + 4 or 4 + 4 + 1.

Some colleges conduct summer classes that last all summer or last 6-8 weeks. Summer schools / courses are suitable for students who want to get additional credits for the selected courses or study the discipline in addition, in some cases they help to complete their studies faster, study courses missed during the regular semester. Similar short intensive courses are sometimes held during the main semesters from fall to spring.

Holiday and weekend schedule:

  • Autumn break (1st week of October)
  • Thanksgiving (3rd week of November)
  • Christmas break (mid-December - first week of January)
  • Spring break (early March, week)
  • Summer holidays (mid-May - end of July).

List of US universities with different academic year divisions

Type of academic year

University name


American University, University of Southern California, University of Washington at St. Louis

Quarter, quarter

Oregon State University, Princeton University , Caltech, University of Chicago


MIT (4-1-4), University of South Alabama (4-4-1)

Study load, credit system and academic year

The USA educational system offers the student to choose programs and courses within his specialty, in addition to several compulsory disciplines. Each course allows you to get a certain number of loans - 3 or 4 (in the case of the project - 5 or 6). When a student receives the required number of credits, he or she can apply for a degree. In most universities, this option is between 30 and 36 credits (usually with a project) for a bachelor's degree.

The loan system is convenient in that if you want to change your specialization, university / college, loans received earlier can be taken into account. It must be remembered that the number of credits that can be transferred is limited (specific numbers depend on the college / university department).

Preparation for starting studies for international students

International students begin preparation for admission and study in advance. Students apply early to complete the necessary formalities: embassies and consulates can issue a student visa 120 days or less before the date of registration of the course.

First-year students enter the United States no later than 30 days before the start date of the course / filing date of the report. If a student wishes to enter the USA ahead of schedule, he must obtain a guest visa. The visitor’s visa will show the student’s expected mark, and the traveler will need to clearly state their intention to study with the US immigration inspector at the port of entry. Before starting any research, he or she must obtain permission to change the status of the visitor by filling out Form I-539.

Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Kuban State University, Russia (World Economics); Westminster University (Business & Management).
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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