American college system (vs. Norwegian)
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07-05-2011, 04:04 PM
American college system (vs. Norwegian)
Sorry if I’m in the wrong section, but I didn’t know where to put this, so I figured politics was probably the closest thing.

I’ve been thinking of maybe taking a year of my degree in the US, mainly because I’d like to experience the culture and also because my field of study is much more prominent in America (astrophysics), but the American education system seem so different. I was wondering if someone could help me get a basic overview of how college in America is structured.

As far as I’ve understood it, a bachelor’s degree takes four years and will be in the field you choose as a “major”, and while many of your courses are related to the major, you also need to take a whole bunch of unrelated courses?
Another thing; do you have all your courses simultaneously and final exams at the end of the year, or some subjects one semester and other subjects the next, with final exams at the end of each semester?
And one more; How many courses do you typically take each year?

The reason I’m curious is because I’d love to study in America, but if it’s mandatory with a whole range of unrelated courses, it would seem like a lot of wasted work. I've had enough of that already Undecided

To compare it with the Norwegian system: A bachelor’s degree takes only three years, but we’ve had thirteen years of precursory education as opposed to America’s twelve (so we start college a year later).

Your bachelor will typically contain all but two related courses to whatever it is you might be studying (in my case math and physics). The two unrelated are; one mandatory philosophy course and one course that is whatever you want it to be as long as it is completely unrelated. To “complete one year” you need 60 points where each subject is usually 10 points, but vary from 5 to 20, so one year usually contain 6-8 courses. Half of them with final exams before christmas and the other half with final exams before summer.

I know about a decade ago the education system was changed in many ways to fit international standards, so I guess it’s not all that different? I’m very curious about the differences and would really appreciate some insight, or perhaps a link to a better explanation than wikipedia? Smile
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07-05-2011, 04:40 PM
RE: American college system (vs. Norwegian)
If you're here as a foreign exchange student who already has most of the basic credits out of the way, you can tend to avoid taking the fluff classes as long as you aren't looking to graduate from a university here. I go to a school that specializes in Engineering and Science, and it usually takes students 4 years to complete their Major (get their Bachelor's degree).

You take courses on a semester basis with the finals at the end of each semester. Though sometimes classes are broken into 2 parts because they are full year classes (here we have chemistry 1 and chemistry 2, which you take separately, but are both necessary to get all of the subject covered). Each semester you take 15-18 credit hours (credits are a rough estimate of the hours each week you'll be in class), with most classes being 3 or 4 credits. So 4-6 classes each semester usually. In order to graduate, you need to get so many credits (~120 credits after 8 semesters). Here, it tends to break down into a simple system:

First year (Freshman): You take the general classes: Chemistry, Physics, Calculus 1-3, then biology or geology. By the end of your freshman year, it's expected that you know if you want to become a scientist or an engineer.

Second year (Sophomore): You take your basics classes for engineering or science (engineers take Dynamics, Statics, Mechanics of Materials, etc. and scientists take Biology, Organic chemistry, or Modern Physics). Here you should narrow down which field your going into.

Third year (Junior): You take your specific major classes (I'm taking Environmental Science 1 and 2, hazardous waste)

Fourth year (Senior): You close out your year with some of the fluff classes (we require students to have some philosophy/ethics classes and 1 economics course).

While the fluff courses aren't all that useful for your field, it's a nice way to not lose your mind with all the math and science that goes on at this school. So most people see them as a way to relax, and learn some interesting (if not entirely useful) information. Here's a link to the physics curriculum at my university so you can see what courses you'd probably face going into physics. Physics doesn't have a flowchart like the engineering majors, but here's the flowchart for my major to help show how the classes are laid out.

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07-05-2011, 07:13 PM
RE: American college system (vs. Norwegian)
I can't stand the American collegiate system. They make you take 10 times more unrelated classes than actual pertinent classes. If I'm trying to be a Java programmer, why the F do I need to take Philosophy of Art, a foreign language, and History of America 10,000 BC -1900 AD ? It's great and all to learn history but it's not at all needed for the job I'm paying thousands of dollars to be trained for. It's just another way to drain more money from you.

All I need is Math up to Integral Calculus and about 6 Computer Science classes (Java, Python, C++, Resolve, HTML, and a job specific class). The end. I'm ready to work. But no, 4 years sounds so much more impressive. In my 6 or so years at college, I probably retained 5% of what was taught and learned the rest from the "Complete Idiot's Guide" series.

Sorry, I know this doesn't answer the original question at all.

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08-05-2011, 03:40 AM
RE: American college system (vs. Norwegian)
(07-05-2011 04:40 PM)Glaucus Wrote:  ..

Thank you! That pretty much covered everything. Smile

It's great to hear you take courses on a one-semester basis as well, which means if i took some time there i wouldn't need to take a whole year. It could get a little expensive.

I can see how the fluff might be relaxing and give you a break from the heavier stuff. The reason why i really don't want any more of it is because i already have a bachelor degree in computer science/software engineering and now that i've decided to go in a completly different direction, that's a lot of time wasted, which i can afford no more of!

Luckily i live in a socialist/communist/marxist country or whatever you want to call it where the tuition cost about 50 dollars each semester, so i can start from scratch, like i have, without going into a lifetime of debt. Rolleyes

and @buddy christ, i agree! Even though we only have that problem with our one mandatory course (philosophy), there's a huge outcry among students to make it optional.
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