Schooling System in the USA

Coming to the United States of America as a student with kids?
Or do you want to enroll in a local secondary school before applying to a university?

Schooling System in the UK

Coming to the United Kingdom as a student with kids?
Or do you want to enroll in a local secondary school before applying to a university?

Studying at a U.S. high school can give international students an invaluable opportunity to immerse themselves in American culture, socialize and adapt to the U.S. education system before entering a university.

This page will inform you about:

  • The U.S. school system: K-12 schools
  • International student enrolment in U.S. high schools
  • Enrolment of internationalstudent’s children in U.S. schools
  • Application processes
  • How to select a high school in the U.S.

U.S. school system

The American school system consists of private, public and home schools. Schooling in the U.S. lasts 12 years and includes 3 levels of education: elementary/ primary, middle and high school. Middle and high schools are often referred to as secondary school. Upon graduation from high school (12th grade) students are given a certificate or diploma and can continue their education at a university.

U.S. schools normally use percentages to grade students which are later transformed into letter grades. Students also have a GPA (grade point average) calculated on a 4-point scale.

The school year in the U.S. usually lasts from August/ September till May/ June. The academic year consists of two semesters or 3 terms.

Read more about U.S. education system

NB. International students aren’t required to have 12 years of schooling before applying to a university. As long as you’ve completed all stages of secondary education in your country, you can apply to a U.S. university directly.

International students are eligible for entering both public and private U.S. schools. However, each type of school has different regulations and requirements.

Public schools

  • International students can enrol in a U.S. public high school: grades nine through twelve. 
  • The maximum duration of secondary school attendance is 12 months.
  • International students pay the full cost of secondary school education. Costs typically vary from $3,000 to $10,000. Full one-year payment must be paid before applying for the F-1 student visa.

Private schools

  • Unlike public schools, which are only open to international students at the high school level, private schools accept students in any year of study from kindergarten through high school.
  • Moreover, there is no time limit for which an international student can attend a private school. 
  • International students are required to pay the full rate of the tuition fees before applying for a visa. The average annual tuition at U.S. private schools is $12,350 and $16,040 - for high schools, $37,690 - for private boarding schools. Some private schools offer scholarships for international students. 
  • A private school has to be Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVRP)-certified (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) to enrol international students. 




Duration limit

Public schools

Private schools



Full cost

12 months



Full cost


Can children of international students attend U.S. schools?

Yes. Dependents of international students holding F-1 visas can attend U.S. private or public schools or any other public educational institution as well as an adult education program at the appropriate grade. In this case, the school doesn’t have to be SEVR-certified.

Application process 

In addition to filling out an application form for admission to a U.S. school, the admission process at both public and private schools may require an essay, interview, an English proficiency test and teacher recommendations.

How to choose a high school in the U.S.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • SEVR-accreditation
  • Location
  • Extracurriculars
  • Type: public or private
  • Availability of university-accredited courses
  • Accommodation options