High school is free

American school system

The American school system says first of all that there is compulsory schooling in the USA. A school year consists of two semesters. It lasts from August to June in total. The school day itself runs from around 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is a relatively wide range of different subjects available. A guidance counselor is available to assist the students in their choice. In contrast to Germany, there is a relatively free choice of subjects in the US school system.

The schools in the US are for theirs excellent equipment known: The classrooms, existing computers, which are often part of the lessons, the laboratory facilities and sports facilities are very modern. A school uniform is usually not mandatory, but often a dress code.

After the lesson there are many other offers from different areas such as sport, music or art, which offer multiple opportunities for development. There are mixed schools as well as all-boys and girls schools.

What age am I at which school in the US?

  • Nursery School / Preschool Age: <5 years
  • Elementary School Age: 5 to 11 years
  • Middle School / Junior High School Age: 11 to 14 years
  • High School Age: 14 to 18 years
  • College age: from approx. 18 years

American school system - the different types of schools in the USA

The American school system is state. This means that all students can attend school free of charge. Around 90 percent use these options. The remaining 10 percent of the students attend a private school. Homeschooling is another option. Here the students are taught by their parents so that they do not go to school.

Elementary School (Primary School)

The Elementary School, similar to the German elementary school, goes up to 4th, 5th or 6th grade, depending on the school district, and up to 8th grade in those school districts where there are no middle and junior high schools. By the way, the first year will be "kindergarten" called. The size of the class is around 18 to 24 children.

Most of the teaching staff in American elementary schools is female. A school day lasts about six hours. It is only interrupted by a lunch break. The students learn in particular Writing, reading and arithmetic. The class teacher is often assisted by an assistant called a teacher assistant.

In addition, specialist teachers for art, music and sport are deployed in all class levels. In the school library, too, which is visited regularly, there is usually a specialist teacher. From the third grade, for example, students can work freely at numerous schools. Then, for example, books are read from the library or homework is done. Most of the children use the school bus.

Junior high school or middle school

After elementary school, students go to junior high school or middle school. Are in middle school all children on the same level. The subject teachers work closely together and even form interdisciplinary units. Middle schools usually include grades 6 to 8.

In the American school system, unlike in Germany, gifted and less gifted students are therefore not separated, but rather continue to teach together. The difference between Middle and Junior High School is in the educational concept.

At the Middle School, the focus is on working closely together in a team and promoting the students' social skills. The junior high school, on the other hand, is very performance-oriented. The focus is on academic training.

High school

In the subsequent high school, which with the Comprehensive school in Germany comparable, the students may be at a high level in some subjects and far behind in another. It is a unit school for secondary education that covers levels 9 to 12.

The high schools in America are all-day schools. The students are thus busy from morning to evening and can devote themselves to extracurricular activities in the afternoon.

The students of the grade levels are given names:

  • Ninth graders: freshmen
  • Tenth graders: sophomores
  • Eleventh graders: juniors
  • 12th graders: seniors

In the US school system, the course system begins at high school and not from the 11th grade as in Germany. In addition to the compulsory elective subjects, there are also some compulsory subjects. Each course consists of different students from the same grade.

The graduation from one grade to the next takes place after successful completion of the program (final exams). In some schools in America, no further exam is required for this. There are still classes in addition to the normal high school AP programswhere students can earn points that are recognized in college (university).

In a final examination, a high school diploma can be obtained with the completion of the 12th grade, which entitles them to study. In Germany this is the Abitur.

College in the usa

However, before students can be accepted into a university, they must pass additional exams. The preparation for these tests are advanced courses that are similar to the German advanced courses.

In addition, letters of recommendation from former teachers must be submitted. The University education has a very high status in the American school system. The tuition fees in the USA are significantly higher than in Germany.

How long is college in the US?

College in the US usually lasts around 4 years and ends with a Bachelor degree.

Compulsory and elective courses

The American school system offers a lot of choice and the opportunity to optimally promote one's own talents and interests. This is the focus, both during class and in your free time. The choice of subjects, courses and the various offers are very varied.

The students put together their own schedule with the help of their trusted teacher. Everyone has their own schedule. However, there are also compulsory subjects that must be taken, such as English, math, geography, social studies, and history. Depending on the school, many other subjects and courses are offered, for example:

  • fitness
  • Nutritional science
  • marketing
  • psychology
  • dance
  • journalism
  • Creative writing
  • art
  • Computer science
  • Web design
  • anatomy
  • Woodwork
  • photography

The selection is much larger than in Germany. In some schools, students can choose from more than 100 courses. The courses are usually divided into levels of difficulty (easy, medium and hard) so that all students are taught according to ability.

There is a credit system that defines the subjects through which the credits can be obtained and how many are required for the degree. The school system in the USA aims to prepare students for life in the best possible way. Extracurricular activities also take place after school.

Grades / school grades

In the American school system, grades are distinguished with letters and not numbers:

  • A: very good (90 percent must be correct)
  • B: good (80 percent correct)
  • C: average or satisfactory (70 percent)
  • D: just failed (60 percent)
  • F: unsatisfactory (not passed)

The pupils receive reports (report cards) after each month, but these are for guidance only. The quarterly reports are issued four times a year.

The special thing about the American school system

In America, it does not mean that children have to do a few compulsory lessons in school to acquire the knowledge they need. It is more about spending lessons and free time at school together with the others. After the end of the class, the students meet in groups, for example to work on the school newspaper or to play theater.

Exercise is also a very important part of the American school system. The various working groups correspond to the German AGs, but they have a higher status than in this country.

When does school start in the US?

The American school day lasts from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., sometimes until 3 p.m. At high schools, the school year is divided into two semesters. Between the end of the school year (mid-May / end of June) and the beginning of the new school year (end of August / beginning of September), however, there are significantly longer summer holidays than in Germany.

There is good cohesion in American schools. Another peculiarity is that the American school system, unlike Germany, does not have any different school types (Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium).

All attend the same school, with different levels of difficulty. The numerous elective courses promote talents and interests in the best possible way and of course everyday school life is not so dry.

school uniform

Many wonder whether the well-known school uniform is compulsory in schools. No, they are only compulsory in private schools. The primary purpose of the uniform is to create a sense of community among the students and to avoid envy or competition, for example because of branded clothing.

Almost every high school has a dress code, that is, a dress code that must be adhered to. It is regulated differently at every school and describes, for example, the length of skirts and T-shirts, whether visible piercings or tattoos are allowed, how subtle the make-up must be, etc.

School buses

The way to school is very well regulated by the school system in the USA. The typical yellow school bus takes students to and from school every day if the school is not accessible by foot. There are various bus stops here, whereby the students in more rural regions are even picked up directly from home.

Safety is very important in the buses, which are available free of charge at the state schools: They are equipped with various safety devices such as a surveillance camera and signal lamps.


Safety plays a special role in the American school system. In recent years there have been repeated reports of incidents such as rampages or shootings in American schools. These often result from the gun laws that apply here.

Most American schools therefore have very strict security measures in place to avoid such terrible incidents. During the breaks, for example, it is only possible to move around the school premises with the “Hall Pass” or to go to the toilet.

The entrances to the schools are often locked during lessons and are generally closely monitored. There are also video cameras and security services to protect the school premises.

The school system in the USA compared to Germany

The main difference to the German school system is that the US school system does not provide for any “horizontal differentiation” and therefore children with different talents are not divided into different schools, but are encouraged individually.

The course selection gives you the opportunity to determine the learning content and the level. There are courses for less able-bodied children, but also courses that prepare the students for their studies. In addition, gifted students can take part in special programs at many schools or skip individual grades.

The class associations are newly formed every year and the class teachers change every year. In many states of America there is no class association or classroom teacher in junior high school and high school. The latter are partly replaced by contact aids, similar to the tutors of the German upper secondary school.

Children with special care needs, for example an intellectual disability, attend general schools in which they are supported in normal class units or small groups by specially qualified specialist teachers. The American school system is sometimes very different from the German model, but there are also some similarities.

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