The Structure of the U.S. Education System

The Structure of the U.S. Education System

High School:  High school refers to the Secondary School Curriculum. High school in the United States is equivalent to grades 9 to 12 or 13 in Sri Lanka.

Associate Degree: An Associate Degree is a degree awarded after a two-year period of study. It is equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. Students can either use this degree as a terminal qualification or as a means to transfer into the third year of a four-year bachelor’s degree program. (EducationUSA, n.d.)

Bachelor’s Degree: A degree that is awarded when a student completes approximately four years of full-time study. (EducationUSA, n.d.)

Master’s Degree: A degree awarded when a student successfully completes academic requirements that usually include a minimum of one year of study beyond the Bachelor’s degree. (EducationUSA, n.d.)

Integrated Master’s and PhD: Integrated programs are offered by some U.S. universities. Students applying for these integrated programs have the option of obtaining a Master’s and a PhD in approximately 5 years of full-time study.

Doctoral Degree (PhD): The PhD is the highest academic degree awarded by a university to students who have completed graduate study beyond the bachelor’s and/or master’s degree level. Students undertaking PhD programs are expected to demonstrate their academic ability through oral and written examinations and original research presented in the form of a dissertation. (EducationUSA, n.d.)

Post-Doctoral Studies: Further studies that are designed for those who have completed their doctoral degree (PhD). (EducationUSA, n.d.)

The Different Types of Academic Institutions in the United States

College: A postsecondary institution that provides an undergraduate education. In some cases, certain colleges also offer some master’s and PhD programs.  (EducationUSA, n.d.)

Community College: A postsecondary institution that offers associate degree programs, as well as technical and vocational programs. (EducationUSA, n.d.)

Liberal Arts College: Liberal Arts Colleges offer courses in humanities, languages, math, social and natural sciences, and students take 25-50% of their courses in their chosen major. A key benefit of Liberal Arts education is that it offers smaller class sizes and teaches critical thinking and communication skills that are necessary in an ever-changing job market. (EducationUSA, n.d.)

University: A postsecondary institution that offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. (EducationUSA, n.d.)

The General Application process for all levels of study.

The US-SLFC’s EducationUSA Advising Center advocates ‘Your Five Steps to U.S. Study’, which help students effectively navigate the application process. The 5 steps are as follows:

  1. Research your options: Explore your options and identify an institution that best fits your needs.
  2. Finance your Studies: Identify the types of financial aid available for your desired level of study.
  3. Complete your Application: Register for standardized tests and complete all the application requirements.
  4. Apply for your Student Visa: Familiarize yourself with the U.S. Student visa requirements and begin the visa application process.
  5. Prepare for your Departure: Prepare and gather the required documents for arrival in the United States and immigration compliance.

For more detailed information about the EducationUSA 5 steps, please follow this link:

EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State network of over 430 international student advising centers in over 170 countries and territories. This network promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by providing accurate, comprehensive, and current information about the numerous opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. EducationUSA is your official source on U.S. higher education. (EducationUSA, n.d.)   

The US-SLFC’s EducationUSA Advising Center periodically conducts free orientation sessions that provide detailed information and step-by-step guidance on the application process and scholarship opportunities for all levels of study. 

If you would like to attend one of these sessions, please click here to register for the next orientation session

Alternatively, you can also contact the Advising Center between 10:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (Monday to Friday) via 011-2564153,

011-2564176 or 011-2564029 to register for an orientation.

Once you have attended an orientation, you can then schedule an individual advising appointment with an adviser for more individualized comprehensive support and guidance.