How do colleges work in the US?

Hey, I’m writing a series that will be set in college. I am not from the US but I want my story to be set in the US. My questions are:

-Are there universities that are accessible by price?
-Are all universities like Yale and Harvard? (Like, only limited and qualified applicants can get in?)

Thanks. :blush:

  1. Yes some are, however not all are. Also you can also have financial aid if you struggle with money. You can also have a student job/ loan meaning you can work part time and have money that the school will pay you.
    2.Some high prestige colleges/ uni would be like that again not all. I hope this helped by giving you brief knowledge, however I would recommend doing some research
    Love meena <33

Thank you so much Meena. This is really helpful. I appreciate this. Yes, I will be doing more research about college in the US. :blush: :two_hearts: :two_hearts:

Yes, as far as I know we don’t have any colleges that offer free tuition. However, the price of each school varies drastically by prestige as well as whether or not a student is out of state. For example, where I live, my tuition costs about $3700 per semester, but if I was going to school here and had come from out of state, it’s would cost $14000. There’s also student loan options to help pay for school, or you can be awarded scholarships for good grades/sports skill.

In the sense that they only allow qualified applicants in, yes, but colleges like Harvard and Yale have a more rigorous set of requirements, like a higher gpa requirement, an application essay, etc. So a person may have a good enough gpa to get into a state university, but not necessarily a good enough one to get into an Ivy League school like Harvard.

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So, the route to college:

  1. People can get scholarships to colleges by being involved in arts, sciences, or sports in high school.
  2. Those who do not get scholarships either have to work several jobs to pay, get admitted on a work-study program (where they work in the university- usually places like the library, cafeteria, janitorial work etc.) or take out “student” loans which have payment plans, interest rates, fees etc. that have to be paid back to the lender.

Harvard and Yale are considered very prestigious colleges and are not easy to get into. And, no, not every college is like the Ivy Leagues ( Yale, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell or Dartmouth.) You have state schools which usually have “in state tuition” which means that the college is cheaper for residents of the state to attend. They offer a lot of the same programs/areas of study as the more “prestigious” institutes. Then there are “Community” colleges and they accept people who may not have had the grades or money to get into a State college. They are usually cheaper and offer basic degrees (Associates, Bachelors, Certificates) that can help a person get a better than entry level job or to use to apply to a higher level school for the same program (showing that they’ve completed the first steps to a high degree).

Every college is a little different in terms of sports, programs etc. There are also specified schools like Julliard (which is for the arts - dance, film, etc.) Or M.I.T. which is geared more toward technology.

Tuition can be very expensive depending on the school, course load, and books etc.


Understood. Thank you very much for this information Selene. It really helps. :heart::blush: it’s interesting how college works in the US though but it can be complicated if you wanna get ingo ivy league colleges.

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Of course, I’m glad I could help! :heart:

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Thank you so much for this! Glad to learn about college in the US. I appreciate this. Understood. :blush: :smiley: :purple_heart:

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You’re welcome. I wanted to name a few more 'prestigious ’ schools because people tend to think [because of movies] that yale/Harvard are the only ivy leagues lol the others are just as impressive to get an acceptance letter from. :joy::grin:

Good luck.


ah. It’s nice to know some Ivy Leagues. Yale and Harvard are always the ones mentioned in TV shows and Episode stories. :sweat_smile:

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Yeah, they are the most well known because of media productions. :joy: but the others I listed are also very well respected and sought after colleges. To get into any one of them is a huge accomplishment.


yes I totally agree :grin:

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Yes, I think that it’s possible to get into any college if you want. There are different scholarships, grants, and other things, which can help to get into the uni of your dream. But what about Yale or Harvard can’t say anything, because I don’t study there, and know no one from there, sorry(

There are also prestigious US universities that are not Ivy League! Since TV always has characters go to an Ivy League school, it would be cool to showcase a prestigious university that isn’t Ivy League–also, I think mentioning a real university’s name might fall under the category of real-life brands we can’t mention. So you could model a fictional university after a real one.

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Addendum: Rivalries between universities can get really ugly, especially in sports. It would be super fun if you showcased a university having a rival! (It doesn’t have to involve sports.)

The culture at every university, even every department, will be different. Generally speaking, if someone has a high GPA in high school, takes Advanced Placement or IB courses, and has test scores that are in line with the school’s statistics, they will be able to go to any state school they want. Private universities, like Ivy Leagues, can be much more competitive. I’m a bit biased in favor of state schools because tuition is very affordable for in-state students. The real high costs of college come from food and housing, which can be avoided by living at home and commuting. Middle class and lower students generally receive a few thousand in state/federal aid per year. It’s near impossible to earn a free-ride from a state school, but they do have donor scholarships that can be won with an essay and/or receiving high grades as a part of a certain demographic (local student, department, race, etc). Earning external scholarships is very difficult, but certainly possible. Taking out student loans to pay for college is common, though not necessary for people that choose their college with the goal of paying as little as possible. Some people do a hybrid model of completing the first two years at their local community college (cheapest tuition before scholarships) before transferring to a four-year university (local and public will be most affordable if accessible, far-away and private will be the most expensive)

Graduate students are in a completely different realm than undergraduate students. I can only speak for STEM departments, but course requirements are the quickest part of the degree to finish. While working on their thesis/dissertation, they are basically a source of cheap labor for the school. For PhD students, most will get paid for their research or take jobs as teaching assistants or graders. Masters students probably won’t be prioritized for jobs since they’re out in two years and spend most of it taking classes, but still can get aid.

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If I’m being honest, people don’t seem to care too much about the prestige of schools once they’re in college unless they’ve made going to a prestigious school their entire personality. I don’t regret not applying to any Ivy Leagues for a second because I’m happy with my school and opportunities. What gets people clout from undergrads is research experience, internships, and/or being a grad student.

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I’m in my first year of college so I should be able to help.

Are there universities that are accessible by price? It depends on how expensive, but some people can get scholarships/grants (free money) and/or financial aid (like you can pay half now, half later). For me, I didn’t get any scholarships or financially aid so my family had to pay more than someone who got those.

-Are all universities like Yale and Harvard? (Like, only limited and qualified applicants can get in?) Yes and no. Yes, because each university has criteria like GPA (your grades) which you have to meet to get in and stuff like that. For schools like Harvard, their GPA requirement is much higher than non Ivy League schools. I think it’s also good to note that all Ivy League schools are private, while most other universities are public (meaning they get funding from the state/government).

Hope that helps!