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The school system in the USA

What does the US school system actually look like? What can you expect as an exchange student? What is the level, how long does the lesson last and is it comparable to the German school system? We will clarify these and other questions below.

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Basic information about the school system

In the US there is public and private schools as well as the option of taking paid lessons at home. In principle, schooling is compulsory, but it can differ according to region. Because each state decides for itself how high its budget for education is, there are great differences in the quality of teaching. A school year consists of two terms and lasts from August to June. In summer, students enjoy more than two months of vacation. In the USA, school uniforms are the exception in public schools, and more the rule in private schools. Usually lasts a school day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.. After - and sometimes before - there are numerous other offers from the areas of sport, art / culture, etc.

The types of schools in the USA

The German Elementary school is called in the USAGrundschule (or Primary School). The pupil visits it - depending on the region - either for four years and then two years in middle school (or junior high school) before moving on to the High school changes where you usually graduate after 12th grade, or he moves directly from elementary school to high school after four years. The division of secondary schools into There are no secondary, secondary, comprehensive, or high schools in the United States. There all students in a high school are taught, no matter how different the level of the students is. The differences in performance are attempted to balance out through targeted support measures for weaker students. There is also often different groups in courses for students of different levels of performance.

School types

In the US there is various basic school models. After the basic education in the elementary school, which can take different lengths of time, either middle school or high school can follow. With the final graduation, one can later study at a university or go to college. We have the four possible School models listed in a table for you.

There is a special distinction between the state and the private schools. As in Germany, the state schools are most frequently attended. Just like ours, these schools are run with the help of Taxpayers' money financed. The private schools, on the other hand, have to be paid for by the families themselves. The fees for this type of school are quite high, as they are only financed by school fees and sponsors, so that only around 10% of the students attend such a school.

The graduationthat you can get at a state school is equivalent to a comprehensive school diploma, in America the high school diploma, which enables you to apply to a university or college. The degree from one of the private preparatory schools, on the other hand, has a higher priority and is similar to the Abitur or the Matura. This means that private students are also better at responding to the higher requirements University prepared.

Another possibility is that Homeschooling, with students being homeschooled. This can be the case, for example, from religious views or because of special circumstances and needs, although very few choose this form, as teaching from home is also very controversial.

>>More information about the different types of schools


In the US, instead of numbers, you will be using Letters rated. You have passed as long as you have correctly solved more than 50% of a paper or exam. Anything under 60% will be assessed with an E for just over half and an F for under 50% and means that you have failed. If you only get 10% wrong, you will get an A, an American A, which means “very good”. Then it goes in Steps of ten down - if you have solved around 80% correctly, you will get a B, which in Germany would be a two, i.e. “good”. You scored “satisfactory” if you did up to 70% correctly and you get a C. You only passed if you get a D with around 60%, the German is “sufficient”. Of course, all grades can also be awarded with one Plus or minus be differentiated.

school uniform

The uniforms that are mostly worn there will seem typical from American films. But actually, the classic school uniforms are no longer so common in American schools. If the mandatory is more likely to be worn in the lower grades and at private high schools. In general, the obligation to wear a uniform should mean a greater one Sense of community generated and Competitive strugglesavoided become. Therefore, despite the increasingly rare uniform, there is often one today dress code. The dress code is in place at almost all high schools and is very strict controlled. For example, depending on the school, the length of the skirt is specified, stipulating that no shirts or clothing that is too revealing may be worn. Piercings and tattoos are also prohibited.

>>You can find more details about the school uniform here

School buses

The way to school is regulated very well by the school system on a daily basis. The typical yellow school bus brings the children to class every day and picks them up again later. Therefore there is certainBus stops, in more rural regions, the students are even picked up directly from home. But if you live so far out in the country that even the buses don't go there, your host parents will take care of the transport to the school. The buses are generally very well and safely equipped, with a surveillance camera, additional signal lamps and others Safety devices.


There are many and very strict security measures in schools in America regulate. For example, you can only enter with a permit, the Hall Passmove around the school premises during break times. That's because it's special in America Gun laws there, very different than in Germany. Often the school entrances are locked during lessons and are otherwise heavily checked.

Get to know the school system yourself!

With a high school year or student exchange, you can learn about the US school system and attitude towards life get to know yourself intensively! Experience for yourself what it is like to go to school in the USA and gain experiences for life!

>> more high school USA programs

Which subjects are taught?

The The choice of subjects is far greaterthan you know it from Germany. There are a few Compulsory subjects such as English, American history, or math, but otherwise the offer is much larger than ours. At some schools, students can choose from over 100 courses.

In addition to the compulsory subjects, there is also a selection of exciting subjects such as:

  • journalism
  • photography
  • Web design
  • psychology
  • anatomy
  • exotic foreign languages ​​like Japanese or Chinese

Usually are Courses divided into levels of difficulty (strong, medium, easy) so that all students are taught according to their ability. Numerous Working groups, cultural offers and a mostly very extensive range of sports complement the normal lesson plan. Such offers often take place before or after regular lessons.

Detailed information on high schools

The High schools form the final part of the legal education in the USA. Usually students learn from the here 7th to 12th grade, sometimes right from the 5th grade, then initially for two years in junior high school. The level at the US high schools is - as in all other types of school there - very different, because education is a matter for the states. So the quality fluctuates depending on the budget the teaching.

A special feature in the USA is that there is a so-called High school spirit gives. These include Enjoyment of learning, enthusiasm, motivation and a strong community. Attributes that some German students do not know very well. If you are at an American high school, you may be able to "get caught" by this special spirit, which of course is very different.

Student exchange USA - start your adventure now

Are you fascinated by the land of unlimited possibilities? Would you like to spend your year abroad right there? Then find the right exchange organization here. Simply order catalogs to your home free of charge and compare offers. Here we go.

You can find more exciting topics here:

>> Year abroad in the USA
>> Stay abroad: As a student in the USA
>> High School USA testimonials

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