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The Trombone ForumPractice BreakChit-Chat(Moderators: bhcordova, RedHotMama, BFW) Harvard for Non-Americans
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BandGeekBarclay
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« on: Feb 27, 2012, 11:27AM »

As some of you may or may not know, I'm Scottish.

I'm currently deciding what subjects to take for my 5th year at secondary school, and in order to make the best choices for me, have been looking at various universities, mainly in Scotland.

However, my dad heard an interview on the radio this morning with someone from Harvard, who said that they really want British students.

Now, the question is this.

Can someone who has an understanding of both American and British degree courses explain to me the differences?

I am quite confused as to what an American degree entails, especially to do with the breadth of subjects - UK degrees are very focused in what they cover, but how focused or broad is an American degree?

It is in a sciency-type degree I'm interested in doing.


Also, this post probably doesn't make too much sense...oops...
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BGuttman
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« Reply #1 on: Feb 27, 2012, 12:27PM »

Our schools are different, as you point out.

We have Elementary School for 8 years starting age 6.
We have High School for 4 years starting age 14.

A typical High School graduate is 18 years old.

We have Undergraduate College for 4 years.  So a College graduate is 22.

Then we have Post Graduate.  Master's and Doctorate.  Full time you usually need 1 year (sometimes 2 years) for Master's and 3 years for Doctorate.

Where would you fit under this age scheme?

If you are the same age as an American college student, you might consider the Harvard courses.  But for a Science or Technology oriented person you might want to consider their neighbor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Good luck.
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« Reply #2 on: Feb 27, 2012, 12:46PM »

I'll be leaving my high school equivalent aged 17 or 18, but probably at 18 in order to get the necessary qualifications and experience in order to get accepted.

I did consider MiT, but what really attracted me was Harvard's finance scheme - my family can't pay the fees for education, or for food or accommodation in America, and Harvard have a great finance system - top class education which will cost my parents roughly the same as sending me just 30 miles down the road to a good, but not as good as some, university.

Does MIT have a similar scheme? I'll need to check that out...
Thanks again
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« Reply #3 on: Feb 27, 2012, 01:02PM »

MIT does indeed have a finance scheme...slightly smaller chance of getting accepted but is also more specific in what they want...

Thanks for the heads up BGuttman!
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BGuttman
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« Reply #4 on: Feb 27, 2012, 01:35PM »

As far as academic prerequisites, you'll have to look at the courses they offer to see what is covered.  Most catalogs have a brief syllabus of any course.  If you want to take Organic Chemistry I, for example, you'd probably have to have taken Inorganic or Introductory Chemistry I and II; listings of both will appear in the course catalog(ue).  You should be able to see all of that stuff on line.

If you don't do it this year, there is always next year.  It's a great opportunity.
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« Reply #5 on: Feb 27, 2012, 02:08PM »

Bruce gave you a good rundown.

Now, you need to go to the websites for each school you are interested in. Don't see what you are looking for? Send the admissions department an inquiry. They will be able to help you with specifics.

Know this - every university will be different when it comes to finances and admissions.

Check this out - it may come in handy when it's time to start applying:

https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/default.aspx
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Thomas Matta
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« Reply #6 on: Feb 27, 2012, 02:17PM »

How focused are the degrees in Britain?  In the US there are mostly BA's and BS's for undergraduate work.  I have a BA in Biology which means I had to take more liberal arts courses (philosophy, english literature, etc.)  Whereas a BS would require more science courses.  And most degrees are not job focused. 
My 2 cents.
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« Reply #7 on: Feb 27, 2012, 02:20PM »

...  And most degrees are not job focused. 
My 2 cents.

Not quite true.  If you major in Library Science you graduate ready to be a Librarian.  If you take a BS or BE in an Engineering discipline you are ready to go to work in that field.  I agree that Doctors and Lawyers don't really specialize until they get into Graduate school.  I also agree that if you major in English Literature you are not prepared to do anything :-P
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« Reply #8 on: Feb 27, 2012, 02:22PM »

Not quite true.  If you major in Library Science you graduate ready to be a Librarian.  If you take a BS or BE in an Engineering discipline you are ready to go to work in that field.  I agree that Doctors and Lawyers don't really specialize until they get into Graduate school.  I also agree that if you major in English Literature you are not prepared to do anything :-P
Most undergrad degrees.  I think that's what he's looking for.
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« Reply #9 on: Feb 27, 2012, 02:41PM »

I think the biggest difference you'll see is that the American system, in general, is much less exam-driven than what you're used to.  The exams are less formal, and your fate is pretty much in the hands of your lecturers.  Expect to be in class every day (undergraduate programs are, in many ways, an extension of high school).

Before booking a flight, engage in some serious correspondence about credit for any advanced SQCs and/or A-levels you may have.  I should think that, if Harvard is really serious about attracting British students, they'll extend credit.  If not, be prepared to spend at least one additional year earning a degree.  Possibly more for a science or technical degree, if you can't get into a calculus class in your first semester.

Beyond that, as has already been mentioned, study the catalogs.  They usually spell out the requirements pretty thoroughly.
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« Reply #10 on: Feb 27, 2012, 03:38PM »

I heard the same radio report this morning.
Are American undergrad courses usually 3 or 4 years?
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« Reply #11 on: Feb 27, 2012, 03:45PM »

I heard the same radio report this morning.
Are American undergrad courses usually 3 or 4 years?

Degrees are earned, typically, in 4 years.

There might be sequences that last one or two (or maybe even 3-4 years in some cases), but most courses are quarter- or semester-long (quarters are typically 10 weeks, semsesters 15 weeks).

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« Reply #12 on: Feb 27, 2012, 04:03PM »

Four (nominal) years is the rule.  There is no "upper sixth" equivalent in the U.S., though many students attend two-year colleges before going on to university (mainly for financial reasons), and the first two years are, to be frank, largely remedial (basic English, math, history, government, and humanities).
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« Reply #13 on: Feb 27, 2012, 08:08PM »

I should also point out that there are some courses of study that can require 5 years for a BS.  Some Engineering schools require 5 years of study.  I did mine in 4 years, but my course load was about 33% higher than friends in other schools.

With 2 years of college you can get something called an Associate in Arts or Associate in Sciences.  Generally you have to take the basic courses in Math, Science, English, History, etc. plus a small amount of whatever you want to concentrate in.  People with these degrees are often eligible for certain technician jobs (although there was a period where AS degree individuals were being dropped in favor of BS individuals; the situation seems to be reversed today).
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #14 on: Feb 28, 2012, 10:55AM »

I should also point out that there are some courses of study that can require 5 years for a BS.

Tell me about it.  For reasons I won't go into, I had to take two remedial semesters of math and chemistry in preparation for two virtually identical semesters of college-level math and chemistry.  As a result, I didn't get enrolled in calculus until my fifth semester, and I had to fight for that (they really didn't want me taking analytic geometry and calculus concurrently).

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Some Engineering schools require 5 years of study.  I did mine in 4 years, but my course load was about 33% higher than friends in other schools.

Several years ago, while clearing out my grandmother's house, I ran across one of my father's old OU catalogs (I guess from around '46).  It was a real eye-opener:  calculus and statics on day one, and nothing like the course load we had to endure.  Goes to show what a high school education is worth (and why Dad was so appalled at the classes I was taking).


In perusing my previous posts, I realize that I've somehow neglected to mention the biggest difference of all.  The legal drinking age in the U.S. is, pretty darn strictly, 21.   Evil
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« Reply #15 on: Feb 28, 2012, 04:38PM »

Full time you usually need 1 year (sometimes 2 years) for Master's and 3 years for Doctorate.
Around here, Boston, it takes 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years for a (real) master's degree with a research thesis, and usually 5 years for the PhD; 4 years is not common, and is usually only possible if the master's research was very closely related to the PhD research with the same advisor.  I did know a woman that got a PhD in Industrial Engineering after only 3 years, but that was Industrial Engineering.  I've never known anyone in the other engineering disciplines to get a PhD in less than 4 years.  Engineering departments almost always require the MS before proceeding to the PhD.  Science departments usually allow students to skip the MS, and it still only takes 5 years, but I've heard that it takes 6 years for a Physics PhD without the MS.  Most grad students in Engineering are from developing countries.  Most grad students in the sciences are from the US, Canada, and Europe.

Harvard tends to do things different than other schools.  For instance, they hire their own former students and post docs to teach there.  Most schools don't do that.  I think that except for business, their grad schools are smaller than the other schools around here, only because I haven't met many of their students.
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