Embrace & Achieve!

US School System

The American high school system is different from that to which most international students are accustomed in their home countries. Although they vary in size, many private day school campuses are quite large. To help the intl. students familiarize themselves with the private day school following their registration, a counselor or an appointed student will take the USA Program intl. student on a tour of the campus. The USA Program intl. student can take notes of the locations of classes, the library, the cafeteria, the restrooms, the gym, and the counselor's office. It is important that they memorize the layout of their schoo's campus as soon as possible so they do not get lost or arrive late to their classes.

The following topics cover some additional facts about American High Schools that the intl. student should be aware of:

School Year

The academic school year in American High Schools consists of approximately nine months. Two semesters divide this academic year. The Fall semester begins in late August or early September, and the Spring semester begins in January. Throughout the academic year, school will periodically be dismissed for nationally recognized holidays and teacher's workdays. In December, school is dismissed for a two-week Christmas break, and in March or April, for a one-week Spring break. The summer break is from June through August.

Grade Levels

Here are the average grade and age levels in American schools:

Grade LevelAge
Nursery School03-04
Junior High12-13
High School14-18
College (2 years)19-21
Bachelor's Degree (4 years) (Univ.)19/21-23
Master's Degree (MA)24-25
Doctorate (PHD)25-26

The intl. student grade level in High School will be determined by the school counselor at registration. It is based on several factors. Some of these factors include the intl. student's home country grade level, age, academic standing, and their English language proficiency.

Freshman9th gradeAge 14-15
Sophomore10th gradeAge 15-16
Junior11th gradeAge 16-17
Senior12th gradeAge 17-18

Grade Point Average (GPA)

USA Program requires that every intl. student in the program maintains a grade point average of at least 2.0, 70% or C in order to remain eligible for second semester enrollment or renewal status and to avoid academic probation. The grading system in American high schools is shown below:

Grade AExcellent4.090-100%
Grade BAbove average3.080-89%
Grade CAverage2.070-79%
Grade DBelow average1.060-69%
Grade FFailing0.00-59%

USA Program requires that all of the teachers send a progress/report card so that we are better able to monitor the intl. student's academic progress. It is beneficial for the intl. students to become acquainted with their teachers so that they will feel comfortable when asking for assistance. Remember, the reason the teachers are there is to instruct and help the intl. students.


Each intl. student will be issued his/her own locker. In the locker, the intl. student will store their books, lunch, and other personal belongings. The locker must be kept locked at all times. Intl. students must NEVER leave anything of value in the locker, NEVER give the combination to the lock to anyone, and NEVER share the locker with anyone.


An assigned counselor in the high school will available to assist the intl. student with any questions or problems that they may have with their schedule, classes, classmates, teachers, or other related issues.


The daily school schedule will consist of six to eight classes which last approximately fifty minutes each. Although less common, there are a few schools that have only four classes per day which last approximately ninety minutes each. At the end of each class, students move from class to class with five to ten minutes to arrive to the next class. The intl. student will be expected to arrive to all classes on time. Tardiness and/or absenteeism will adversely affect their grades. In addition to normal class requirements, homework is customary and will influence the final grade. Tests are given frequently in the form of pop-quizzes, multiple-choice exams, essay exams, and oral reports. Intl. students will likely have tests in more than one class on the same day. It is important that they arrive to each class prepared for all assignments.

Below is a list of courses in which the intl. student may enroll while attending an American High School. Please remember, USA Program requires each intl. student to take an English class plus either American History or American Government.

  1. English Language:
    • Literature , Composition, or Grammar
  2. Social Studies or one of the following courses:
    • History, Geography, Sociology, Economics, or U.S. Government
  3. Physical Education or any sport that is under the supervision of a High School teacher.
    • Football, Soccer, Basketball, Baseball, Running/Track, Swimming, Weightlifting, or Tennis, etc.
  4. General Mathematics or one of the following:
    • Algebra, Geometry, or Trigonometry
  5. General Science or one of the following:
    • Physics, Chemistry, or Biology
  6. One elective in the Area of:
    • Art, Home Economics, Business, Drama, Choir, Religion, Computer, Keyboarding, Band, Ceramics, or Health, etc.

School Campus

Schools will normally have maps of their campus available. We recommend that the intl. student highlight where the classes are and the best route to each classroom. Most schools will also provide the intl. student with a locker for their personal belongings. However, the intl. student will need to purchase a lock.


USA Program recommends that the intl. student check out the bus schedule (where available) first, so they will become familiar with the arrival and departure times of the school bus and where it will pick up the intl. student. In some cases, the intl. student will be within walking distance to and from school or the host family will make arrangements to transport the intl. student (car pool).


Sports are a major part of American high schools. As previously mentioned, if the intl. student is sports-minded, the intl. student will most likely be able to find a sport that he/she enjoys. Some sports, however, offered at high schools or from private institutions are off-limits to the intl. students. The intl. student insurance will not cover accidents caused while participating in high risk sports such as sky diving, car racing, boat racing, bungee jumping, scuba diving, motorcycle riding, etc. Additional insurance is available for certain high school sports.

Sports are considered extra curricular activities, held either before or after the normal school day. The season for each sport varies. Typically, however, football is a Fall sport, basketball is a Winter sport, baseball and track and field are Spring sports, and soccer is either a Spring or Fall sport, depending on the climate.

USA Program does not guarantee that the intl. student will be allowed to play on varsity teams. Each private school and/or their state regulates the participation of intl. students competing with other schools.


All schools have a cafeteria. They have a variety of meals that can be purchased for an average of US$ 4.00 per day - depending on what the intl. student chooses to eat. They may have pizza day, taco day, hamburger day, salad day, etc. The meals vary from region to region in each state and school.

The intl. student may find that their friends like to go to fast food restaurants for lunch, if allowed. USA Program doesn't permit to our intl. students to leave campus during school hour for lunch or any other reason.


The books used in most high schools can be rented from the bookstore. Rental of any books and/or the purchase of all other school materials is the intl. student's responsibility. Writing in, scribbling on, or defacing rented or borrowed books is prohibited because they will need to be returned for use by other students.

Some schools are now working from digital data. Intl. students may be required to purchase a lap top or tablet in order to participate in some or all school classes.

I.D. Card

Many high schools in the United States have campus security. Intl. students must carry the ID card issued by the school at registration, as well as the ID card received from USA Program. These cards are important and need to be available at all times.


Intl. students are encouraged to graduate from the U.S. private school. It will be up to each intl. student to obtain and receive enough credit to receive a diploma from an American high school. To help the intl. student to receive a diploma, USA Program will obtain the proper legal authorization that is required to transfer the intl. student's earned grades to their home country for proper credit.

School Events

There are numerous social events that take place throughout the year in high schools. Each event offers opportunities for intl. student involvement, and they give insight into the uniqueness of the American high school experience. Intl. students are encouraged to take advantage of each school event through participation.

In American high schools, football is the number one sport. During football season, intl. students will experience Pep Rallies, School Band, Cheerleaders, Homecoming, and School Spirit.

Pep Rallies – When the entire high school comes together in a designated location to celebrate "School Spirit" and cheer for the athletic team to win the upcoming game.

School Band – A group of students who play musical instruments at select school events to encourage the athletes during the games.

Cheerleaders – A group of students, usually girls, which "lead" the student body in "cheering" for the athletic teams to provide support for the players and the crowd.

Homecoming- A special game in which the athletic team plays a "home" game (at their school), usually around the middle of the season.

School Spirit- Students show support for their team by cheering for them during games and pep rallies.

Also during the school year, the intl. student will experience:

Field Trips - Students take a trip to an educational place outside of the school for the day.

Prom- A formal, social event (spending time with friends, eating, and dancing) for the Junior/Senior students which usually takes place during the Spring (March-May).

Yearbook – A book which contains pictures of the students, teachers, and memorable events from the school year.

University Services

For every USA Program Intl. student, USA Program will provide free university counseling during in their Junior and Senior years of high school. USA Program and the high school counselor will be available to guide our Intl. students to better understand the college admission process and what must be done in order to achieve their goals.

USA Program provides materials to help our Intl. students in American high schools better prepare themselves for their next journey in life. With the help of journals, study guides, tips, etc. provided by USA Program, our Intl. students will be better equipped to successfully gain admission to the university of their dreams. Choosing a university can be a life changing experience. USA Program will be there to guide and support the Intl. student throughout the process.

"A single choice can make all the difference."

USA Program advises our intl. students that every choice and decision they make will go a very long way. USA Program encourages every intl. Student to be involved in extracurricular activities, the community, the church, and the world. Intl. Students that are well involved in extracurricular activities will have an upper leg in the university acceptance process.

USA Program's Academic Policy

USA Program takes academics very seriously. The intl. student must maintain a grade average of C or better. It is to the intl. student's advantage to study and keep high grades. At times, we may find it necessary to place the intl. student on academic probation for the following reasons:

  • Lack of improvement in the English language
  • Grades lower than a C average
  • Unexcused absences from classes
  • Excessive tardies to classes
  • Misconduct at school

Any probationary period necessary will last a minimum of 15 days or until such time as we see improvement in the area or areas in question. USA Program takes into consideration the grade averages and improvements they have made. Above all, intl. students must remember that they are representatives of their home country's school system. Therefore, setting a good example by being serious and studious is very important.