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The greatest difference between a bachelor's degree in the US and a BA in the UK is summed up by two words: ‘liberal’ and ‘arts’. If you feel that nothing but three years of physics is right for you, then stay at home.

If you know what you’re good at but want to explore a hundred other things as well, then the US may be just what you need.

Have no idea? Head to America and put off those daunting decisions for a little while longer.

Students at a liberal arts college or a university with a strong liberal arts programme – most of the ones covered in this guide – can take classes in a wide variety of courses before zeroing in on a specialist subject.

Even if you plan to major in engineering, you will usually have to take courses in the humanities and social sciences - and history majors will be required to undertake courses in maths and science subjects.

The end result? A flexible education that enables you to carry on exploring academically throughout your undergraduate career.

This philosophy is one of the most striking differences between UK and US degree programmes. For some students the thought of having to take a subject which they may have gratefully left behind at GCSE level will be unappealing, but the US system believes in urging everyone to explore a varied curriculum before committing themselves to a major area of focus.

This system also makes the US degree far more flexible for those students who are unable to make up their minds. For the most part, any "class" (American lingo for "course module") taken to fulfil the liberal arts core can also be used to fulfil graduation requirements. It is thus perfectly possible to start out as a history major and change to Spanish, without losing any time.

Transfer Students

What’s more, should you decide to transfer to a different university, you can bring what you have already completed with you – rather than having to start over. Obviously, there will be instances when you cannot transfer directly because courses will differ from university to university, but for the most part universities are co-operative and accept transfer credits.

There’s plenty of single-minded education on offer in the US too - though the best of it is often postgraduate-only. Large universities tend to comprise colleges of arts and sciences and several ‘professional’ – i.e. career-oriented - schools, such as business, agriculture, medicine, law and journalism. Institutes of technology have a scientific emphasis.



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