Every School You Attend in the US Education System (New in the Glossary of Confusing Words)

Guillermo wrote in a while ago (sorry for the delay!) to ask our Glossary of Confusing Words about the word “high school.”

“How many years?” he asked, wanting to know if a U.S. high school degree is equivalent to his Colombian “bachillerato” degree.  It was the perfect opportunity to do something we’ve been wanting to do for a while: publish a definitive list of all the levels of a U.S. education.

So here it is; every school you would attend in America, from the age of 2 until you retire.

1) Nursery School – Optional

Typical ages:
2-5

Might also be called:
Preschool
Pre-K
Montessori

Creative Commons photo by James Fleeting
Photo: James Fleeting

2) Kindergarten – Optional

Typical ages:
5-6

Creative Commons photo by MaST Charter
Photo: MaST Charter

3) Elementary School – Mandatory

1st grade – 5th grade (sometimes 6th grade)

Typical ages:
6-11 (sometimes 12)

Creative Commons photo by Judy Baxter
Photo: Judy Baxter

4) Middle School – Mandatory

6th grade – 8th grade

Typical ages:
11-14

Might also be called:
Junior high (grades 7-9)

Creative Commons photo by Matt Bennett/Governor Duval Patrick's Office
Photo: Matt Bennett/Governor Duval Patrick’s Office

5) High School – Mandatory until the age of 16-18 (varies by state)

9th grade – 12th grade

Typical ages:
14-18


Video: “Prehistoric Duck”

6) College

Can be:

Community College (2 years)

Might also be called:
Junior college
Technical college

Degree earned: Associate’s

College (4 years)

A school attended for college might be called:
College (ex: Kenyon College)
University (ex: Princeton University)
Institute (ex: Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Degree earned: Bachelor’s

Mount Holyoke College Library
Mount Holyoke College library

7) Graduate School

Might also be called:
Post-graduate

Degree earned: Master’s or Doctorate

Working in the GWU library (Photo: Chris Wong)
Photo: Chris Wong

Do you have a word to contribute to our Glossary of Confusing Words? Share words that have confused you or that might confuse others about studying in the U.S. Leave your suggestions in the comments, or use the form below.