International Students - Admissions
Understanding the U.S. Academic System
The American educational system is intended to provide a broad education for as many people as possible. A high proportion of the population of the United States completes secondary school (high school) by age 18 and a large percentage of high school graduates go on to some form of higher education.
College or university education consists of the following:
- Bachelor’s Degree: 4-year degree; students are
- Master’s Degree: 2-year degree following the
Bachelor’s degree; students are called “graduates”
- Doctorate Degree (PhD): a highly specialized
degree usually following the Master’s degree.
- Postdoctoral study and Research following the
The academic year at UNF is comprised of three semesters:
Fall, Spring, and Summer. Each semester is 16 weeks in length. The summer
semester is divided into three sections, Summer A, Summer B, and Summer C. You
may take classes during Summer A, Summer B, and/or Summer C. Summer A and
Summer B are usually 6 weeks in length and Summer C is 12 usually weeks in
Most undergraduate students in the United States select a major by their third year
of study. A major is a program of study that is well defined and either
prepares a student academically for employment in a particular industry,
provides a broad education without depth in any one particular field, or
prepares the student for further study in that academic area. Most students
select one major and perhaps a minor. Some students select two majors.
Each semester students study different subjects of either a
general nature or specific to their major. Many courses are required of all students
in a particular major, but students generally have a variety of elective
courses to choose from.
General Education is the first part of a degree, before you
get into the area of study (or major) courses (the main classes that define
your degree). General education courses cover a variety of topics such as
English, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities.
Courses are identified with an alphabetic and numeric coding
system. The alphabetic abbreviation identifies the course content, and the
numbers have the following meaning:
- 1000 and 2000 level – freshman or sophomore-level courses
- 3000 and 4000 level – junior or senior-level courses
- 5000 level – beginning graduate-level courses
- 6000 level – graduate-level courses
- 7000 level – doctoral-level courses
Example: ENC 1101 = freshman level English course
A prerequisite is a specific course or subject that you must
complete before you
can take another course at the next grade level.
example, if you wish to take “Intermediate Macroeconomics” and the prerequisite
is “Business Statistics,” if you cannot show that you have completed and passed
Business Statistics, you will not be approved to register for the course.
The quantity of academic work a student does at a university
is measured in credits. The number of credits a course is worth usually depends
on the number of hours per week that it meets. A “three credit course,” for
example, will meet three hours weekly for one semester. It might meet for three
sixty-minute sessions, two 1 ½ hour sessions, or for one three-hour session. A
student who has achieved a passing grade in the course has earned “three
credits” or “three-credit hours.”
The student must earn a specified number of credits in order
to graduate. A typical Bachelor’s degree program requires 120 credits to
graduate. Graduate (Master’s) degree program generally require a minimum of 36
credits for the degree. It is necessary to apply for graduation and complete
all graduation requirements in order to earn a diploma.
Transfer students who have earned university credit abroad
may transfer some of their previous credit. Academic advisors will determine
how many previous credits will transfer and count towards a degree at UNF.
Students should be advised it might take longer than originally anticipated to
complete a degree program with transfer credit due to general education
Students are classified based on the amount of credit hours
- Freshman: 0-29
- Sophomore: 30-59
- Junior: 60-89
- Senior: 90-120
The quality of a student’s academic work is measured by
means of letter grades. Each letter grade equals to a certain number of points,
and these points are used to calculate a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). View
UNF’s grade policy on the UniversityCatalog website.
Professors differ greatly in their awarding of grades. Each
professor at the University has his or her own philosophy and methods of
grading. Many professors grade objectively, basing students’ grades on their
exam scores alone. Others grade subjectively, requiring students to participate
in classroom discussions and other activities.
Some professors use fixed grading scales whereby each
assignment or examination can receive a maximum number of points (e.g., 10, or
100), and the total number of points accumulated is converted into a letter
grade (e.g., 90-100 is an A). Some others grade “on the curve.” They use a
formula so that the highest group of grades will receive A’s, the next highest
group will receive B’s, etc. Under this system, the students in the class are
competing with each other for high grades. This information should be clearly
stated on the course syllabus.
Your academic advisor helps you plan your program of study
in a way that will best enable you to fulfill your graduation requirements and
at the same time allow you to pursue studies to your area of interests.
Undergraduate students will typically meet with their
academic advisor during periods of class selection and registration. Graduate
students on the other hand work very closely with the academic advisor
throughout the school year.
At UNF, there are specialized academic advisors by college
and there are also general advisors for first time in college students called
First Year Advising.
The most common method of instruction at UNF is the
classroom lecture. Lectures are supplemented by classroom discussions, reading
assignments, and writing assignments. It is important for a student to
contribute to classroom discussions. Your grade may be determined in part by your
contribution. If you sit in “respectful” silence, the professor may assume that
you’re not interested or that you don’t understand the topic being discussed.
When the class is too large to permit discussion or you
don’t have the opportunity to ask questions in class, it is recommended that
you meet with your professor during their office hours.
Many courses require work in a laboratory, which involves a
separate course registration, where the theory learned in a classroom is
applied to practical problems. Most often science courses will require
You will have many examinations, tests, and quizzes. Nearly
every class has a final exam at the end of the semester and most have a
mid-term exam. There may be weekly tests or quizzes. Your grade in the class
will often be based on your exam scores.
You may not look at other students’ papers or at course
materials during an exam. If you cheat on an exam it can result in a “zero”
grade for the examination and disciplinary action.
An objective exam tests the students’ knowledge of
particular facts. There are several different types of exam questions:
- Multiple Choice: choosing the most appropriate
answer from among a series of answers.
- True and false: indicating whether a stamen is
true or false.
- Matching: matching words, phrases, or statements
from two columns.
- Identification: identifying and explaining the
significance of a name, term, or phrase.
- Fill-in: completing a statement by filling in a
word or phrase left blank.
- Essay: writing an essay in response to a
question or statement; tests a student’s ability to organize and relate his
knowledge of a particular subject: are often graded subjectively by the