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Four-Year Bachelor's Degrees

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Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees are usually four years in length. Bachelor’s degrees in the US follow the liberal arts philosophy described below and generally include core required courses, a major and electives.

To graduate, students will generally be required to complete a number of credits or credit hours set by the university or department. A credit hour can roughly be thought of as the number of hours a student is in the classroom per week. Most bachelor's degrees are created such that a student can expect to complete the required credits within four years. However, it is possible to complete the degree earlier by taking classes during summer school, receiving advanced standing for A-levels and/or taking extra classes during the semester or summer. Please note questions regarding advanced standing should be directed to the department in which the student will study, after you have been admitted.

"Liberal arts" is a shortened form of the phrase, "liberal arts and sciences". The liberal arts philosophy is a unique feature of the US higher education system. This concept promotes a well-rounded academic education that develops the student's verbal, written and reasoning skills. It is a real benefit to those who don't know what they want to major in. Also, with today's changing economy, it is likely that you will have a job that's not even been heard of or created yet, so it's great to keep your options open! Students begin their degree study by taking classes in a wide variety of courses in the arts, humanities, languages and the social and physical sciences. They then choose a field in which to specialise, usually around the end of their first year or during their second year, and take about one half of their classes in their major area.

Minimum Academic Qualifications

As a general rule, US universities will expect to see a similar type of qualification and results as British universities of a similar level of prestige and competitiveness. 

As a minimum requirement for four-year bachelor's degrees, you should have completed at least five GCSEs at grade C or above (or five Scottish Standard Grades), including English and Math, plus be completing or have completed a post age 16 qualification. The most competitive universities will expect to see three A-Levels or their equivalent. This could include a minimum of three Scottish Highers, A-Levels alongside the Welsh Baccalaureate, the IB or Pre-U.

The slightly less competitive bachelor's programmes are likely to accept the BTEC. The Edexcel website provides a list of some of the universities that accept the BTEC. Many more do, and we encourage you to simply email or call the admissions office for more information.  Additionally, some institutions, particularly two-year or community colleges, will accept students with other UK qualifications, such as GNVQs, GSVQs, HNCs or HNDs.

We also suggest that you not assume that US universities will know about or accept qualifications beyond GCSEs, A levels and the IB (which is available in the US). You should therefore email or ring the admissions office to double check they accept your qualifications and ask if you should submit additional information about them. Although US universities do not use the UCAS Tariff, it doesn't hurt to include information about the UCAS Tariff points for your qualification or the description of the qualification provided by UCAS, along with your transcript.

If you have only completed your GCSEs, you may wish to apply for a two-year associate programme at a community college, which will give you the option to transfer to a four-year bachelor's programme in a 2+2 arrangement.  If you plan to apply for a four-year bachelor's programme immediately, the university may require you to sit the GED high school equivalency exam.

Types of Classes

A four-year bachelor's degree following a liberal arts philosophy will typically include the following types of classes: