American University structure?

Could someone please explain to me how life at an American university (college) works? I’m a Brit so my degree was in Wildlife Conservation and that’s what I studied for three years, modules in that time included; Ecology, Animal Behaviour and Biodiversity. All I know is that in the USA you are required to attend classes in a much wider variety of areas.

Please could you explain:

  1. What lessons are you required to take?
  2. What are credits and what are they to do with lessons?
  3. Accommodation structure.
  4. What is a dorm advisor’s role?
  5. Social life on campus?
  6. Anything else you think might be relevant to USA university life.

I want to be able to know these things for future stories and feel it would be useful is all.

Thank you :blush: xx

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So cool you were into wildlife conservation, I’m in zoology and looking into conservation :smiley:

I believe I can explain a bit:

  1. Basically general classes are the first 2 years such as History, Science (usually biology) which has a lab, math (usually high level algebra), and Literature/English class, and some Diversity class which are like art, psychology, health classes; generally any ‘cool,new’ classes.

  2. Credits are like points, classes are usually 2-4 credits depends on the subject. Biology could be 3 if it’s just an intro class. A math class can be 2 credits if it’s just a basic math class; math that was already taught in high school. Higher level classes like science tend to be 4 credits.

  3. University is in two semesters, splits the school year in two parts which is Fall semester and Spring semester. My uni starts in late August and ends in the beginning of May. There is a thanksgiving break, three day weekends in the first semester which is from August-December. After the first semester there is a winter break that’s basically a month long. My first semester ended in the beginning of December, that first week in December was finals week where we didn’t have classes just exams and papers to turn in. Towards the start of January (a few days after new years) the second semester starts, with new classes; a whole different schedule. My spring break was in start of March and that was about a week long.

  4. Dorm advisors usually check in with everyone, make sure everyone is fine. Mine would do activities in our lounge to get everyone to hang out. They create engaging, safe communities, support us and tell us about events on campus. They try to solve conflicts and address any problems any technical problems on the floor like bathroom/shower/kitchen issues.

  5. Social life on campus can vary, depends on the person. There are events on campus like Game nights, or just speakers talking about information that students are interested in hearing. There’s gyms, cafe’s, lounges to hang with friends.

  6. Greek houses and parties. Now, I go to a “party school” where there were parties every week because we’re located in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know how they work, but I imagine you just have to know someone from a sorority (girls) or a fraternity (guys) to go. I believe the other universities in my state don’t have parties and generally Greek houses aren’t all about parties. They are organizations that work with the school to provide students academic support, social skills, and do community service.


Thank you so much for this, it fills in some blanks.

I always feel sorry for American uni students though as you guys can’t drink where as the legal age for alcohol is 18 in the UK.

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Omg yes that too. Honestly its pretty normalized there, tend to forget it’s illegal even though 21 is good enough.

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So my friend and I did gap years between our 2nd and 3rd years, I did mine at a wildlife reserve near home but my friend did hers in Florida. It was in the year we turned 21 (6 years ago) but her year there ended 5 days before her 21st.

  1. General education classes can generally be filled by high school AP, IB, or community college dual enrollment classes. My state required credits in art, social science, writing/oral presentation, US history, global history, humanities, lab science, math, foreign language, and physical activity. These are usually completed within the first two years along with intro classes in your major, though STEM majors tend to save at least one of these “easy A” classes for junior or senior year when their coursework is harder. After that, the classes depend heavily on your major. I can’t speak for non-STEM majors, but it seems the class requirements are similar no matter where in the world you study as a STEM major.
  2. Credits are more of a bookkeeping thing. It offers a more numerical way of defining a full time student, required amounts of classes from a certain category, and how much of a time commitment a class will be.
  3. l12beth explained it well.
  4. I lived off-campus with my parents, so idk.
  5. There are many student-run, university funded clubs. Activity fees are included with tuition, so there’s lots of ways to have fun, volunteer, engage in activism, or do professional development for “free.”
  6. This is probably the same in the UK, but I’ve seen a lot of stories do this, so I’m going to say it: never address a professor as Mr./Ms. Nearly every professor has a Ph.D., so unless they’ve explicitly said they want to be addressed by their first name, it is correct to call them Professor [Last Name], Dr. [Last Name], or just Professor. In the rare case a professor only has a Master’s degree, Professor is appropriate. Behind a professor’s back, students will probably call them by their first name, though. Teaching assistants will teach classes like labs or discussions that have too many sections for the professor/department to handle and they will generally be other students. Undergrad TAs can be addressed by their first name and grad student TAs can be addressed by their first name or professor, depending on their preferences.

This is likely also the same in the UK, but it’s common for professors to be immigrants. I’ve had entire semesters where all four of my professors were not born in the US. The professors I’ve had have primarily been from east Asia and eastern Europe, though this of course can vary based on major and is by no means a hard rule. Departments that study the history, culture, or politics of a particular ethnic group will employ primarily professors of that background, though again, not a hard rule.

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Thank you and for me at least, I only called my teachers Sir or Miss up until High school (aged 16 here), after that I did 2 years of college and 3 years of university during which I always called my teachers by their first name. I also only had maybe 1 or 2 lecturers who weren’t English.

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