US degrees are highly regarded all over the world, but with around 4,500  institutions to choose from, there is an enormous variety on offer. To break this down, there are several categories of higher education in the US:


1. Community College 2 Year Programme: students can study the first 2 years of a 4 year degree programme here and earn an Associate degree. After this they may work or transfer to a 4 year university to complete their Bachelors degree.

2. 4 Year University or College Undergraduate Programme: students achieve a BA (Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science) on completion of their programme.

3. Graduate, Masters or Professional Programme: this is a 1, 2 or 3 year course leading to a higher degree. (Master of Arts, Master of Science, MBA, for example, or a professional degree such as JD – Doctor of Jurisprudence or MD – Medical Doctor).

4. Doctoral program – PhD, a research program which can take from 3 to 6 years  to complete.


In terms of choice of institution, students can attend:

  1. Community College
  2. 4 year Public University
  3. 4 year Private University
  4. 4 year Liberal Arts College
  5. Smaller Specialized Institution


Universities in the USA are decentralized, this is to say they are not managed by the federal government, but by the state where they are located. Some of the richest and most highly ranked universities (such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Princeton, Cornell etc.) are private and endowed with both state funds for research as well as private donations. However, some of the largest state university systems are just as famous and well endowed with funds.


In terms of rankings, there are 150 US universities in the Times Higher World University Rankings. Almost all of the states are represented in the best US universities list. In total, 128 different cities appear in the ranking, but the top 5 US universities are in California, Massachussetts and New Jersey.


Vietnamese students can enter 4 year universities directly from Vietnam, but need to take specific tests (SATs or ACTs) and to apply through the centralized application systems to be accepted. For this reason, many students prefer to go first to a Community College before transferring to a 4 year university.


Financial assistance (scholarships) is available in the US but it is not easily accessed by students outside the system. Students who are already attending a Community College can more easily apply for financial assistance to fund their last 2 years of study.


Students who wish to enter a 4 year university directly but don’t yet have a sufficient level of English, or who would prefer to avoid taking SATs, may choose from one of the many pathway routes now available at an increasingly wide range of universities.

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