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Rephrase the question. I'll stick with "most" unless you shed some new light on the statement.

I mean, I only have direct experience of one university and indirect experience of two more (being a grad student ... which they take freshman year; and if anything, freshmen have somewhat more flexibility in their course load than upperclassmen do.

The average number of credit hours to graduate is probably 120. Of these, 40 to 48 credits must be taken from a list of core courses for the major. That's about 1/3 or more of the total hours, and they are usually taken in the first two years. That pretty much coincides with my statement above. In the first year or two of university, most students are taking the same courses. They might not all take the same language or math course, but they're taking some course in that area. The students may take electives during the first year or two, but that just delays the core requirements.
It's impossible to say "this is what is done" because the requirements will vary from university to university. Some schools, for example, require religion courses. See
http://www.mc.edu/campus/academics/BIO/core.htm for a school that requires 42 hours of core courses with six of those hours being religion courses.
It also difficult to make blanket statements because some universities use credit hours and some use other systems. Generally, though, if a student goes off to college in the US this fall he/she will be selecting courses from a limited field of study for the first year or two. They may choose from some options in literature courses, but they will be taking a literature course.
Once the student gets into his/her major field, there will be the obligatory "Introduction to.." courses that are pre-requisitites for the meatier courses.
Certainly there are exceptions, but "in general" means "in general".
The usual, but by no means invariable, UK situation. There are "modular" degree courses, as discussed here lately. There is also the system used at Cambridge (and, I think, Oxford) where the qualification for a degree is to have resided within the precincts of the University for nine terms and to have passed two sets of examinations; nothing says that they have to be in the same subject, and mine weren't.

Don Aitken
Mail to the addresses given in the headers is no longer being read. To mail me, substitute "clara.co.uk" for "freeuk.com".
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Note that "freshman" and (less often) "sophomore" generalize by analogy to to other situations in which someone is in their first or second year. So someone might be a "freshman senator" or a "sophomore congressman".

Or first or second term of service, of whatever length - a "sophomore congressman" isn't in his second year, but in his second term and third or fourth year, right?
(California, unusually, doesn't have one, since our two senators were elected at the same time, one of them initially serving the last two years of a senator who resigned.)

How was it decided which one would get the shortened term?

-Aaron J. Dinkin
Dr. Whom
No, and it has always struck me a generally bizarre. Not to mention the legal age for drinking being 21. ... treated far more as children, than over here, where they are encouraged to at least attempt to behave like adults.

I think that my school, when I was there, at least (they've unfortunately changed a bit) was more like what you'd expect. Stanford didn't deal with parents. The students were responsible for our own bills.(1) Grades were sent to us, not our parents, etc.

The alcohol policy had three prongs. The first was a simple statement that the legal age for drinking alcohol in the state of California was
21. The university kept a clear distinction between "illegal" and"unacceptable". "Illegal" was the domain of the police. "Unacceptable" was the domain of the university. There were illegal things that weren't unacceptable, just as there were unacceptable things that weren't illegal. The police didn't worry about students cheating, and the university didn't worry about underage drinking (per se).
The second prong was that drunkenness wasn't an excuse for unacceptable behavior (and, indeed, would be seen as exacerbating) and that the university (including residence assistants) had no responsibility to bail you out of jail. The third was that the consumption of alcohol couldn't be the sole focus of any "public" gathering.(2)
The result was that the consumption of alcohol was routine(3), and also that for most students it wasn't a problem.(4) The University of California campuses, which pretty much banned alcohol entirely in the dorms, seemed to have a much bigger problem with it.

(1) Parents' income was figured in when determining financial aid packages, if you applied for them, unless you convincingly told the school that your parents weren't, in fact, paying.

(2) All parties at which alcohol was served were required to also serve "equally attractive non-alcholic beverages", which became known as EANABs (/'i n&bz/).
(3) Even all-freshman dorms tended to serve it at their parties. Kegs of beer were routinely (and openly) brought into football games.

(4) There were, of course, both chronic and acute problems. My favorite story of the latter was a freshman in my sophomore dorm who went to a party with Susan (now my wife, and also a freshman at the time). It was the beginning of the year, and they went to a frat party at which kamikazes (which have a bit of a delayed reaction) were being served. He was about six or seven inches taller than she was and outweighed her by probably eighty pounds, but he had no experience with alcohol and made the mistake of assuming he could keep up with her. Susan reached the point where she realized "I'd better go home before these hit"(5). He stopped right around then...and then wound up in student health center getting his stomach pumped.
(5) One of the other things about drinking at Stanford was that nobody drove on campus, so you walked to and from parties.

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No, I was suggesting that American universities don't offer degrees with "Classics" in the name as in "I have a ... It's the term, not the program, that I was referring to. One doesn't hear "I did Classics at Wyoming A&M".

Most liberal-arts colleges will have a classics major offered, I think. I'm certain I.U. does, for example, even without checking. I.U.'s business school, however, probably doesn't offer a classics major. But neither does MIT, I'm guessing.
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We had exams only at the end of the year. We were unusual in that we didn't have a major exam at the end of the first year; just an informal one. Those who failed were told to pull their socks up, but nobody was requested to leave. This was unusual (so I was told at the time), for many universities used the year 1 exam to separate out those who were really keen on the subject from those who were taking it just because it had been their best subject at A-Level GCE.

This latter group often found that they were either doing the wrong degree, or that it was too much for them, in the first year, and either gave up or transferred to some other subject. This drop-out rate could reach 30%. We had our major "pass and continue; fail and leave" exam at the end of year 2, which reduced our ranks from approximately 40 when we started, to about 20 who went on to year 3. (Several of those who started just turned up at the start of years 1 and 2 to get enrolled, so that they could get their student grants, then buggered off.

They were out after year 2, of course.)
I mentioned that the third term of each year was revision. This was designed to be interactive, in that the lecturer would run through some topic again, then ask a member of the class to volunteer an answer to some question. This was supposed to provide the lecturers with feedback on how people were coping. But I don't like being picked on, so I took those third terms off to work at home, just going back for the exams, and got a right bollocking at the start of years 2 and 3. I thought, and proved, that revision was something that I should organise at my pace, not theirs.

As to the exams (informal and formal), we had to answer 5 questions from about 10 in 3 hours. The 10 covered all fields, and we didn't have separate exams in each of the subject areas. Questions could cover more than one topic, but were traditional, in that they came in two halves: a piece of theory, then some calculation which used that theory. We believed (maybe it was even true) that one could pass the exam (and in the third year get a third class degree) by just answering the theory parts of the questions.

wrmst rgrds
Robin Bignall
Hertfordshire
England
The average number of credit hours to graduate is probably 120. Of these, 40 to 48 credits must be taken ... courses. They might not all take the same language or math course, but they're taking some course in that area.

I'm not sure how prevalent this sort of system is, Coop, at least as you've described it. What can be said is that most colleges of a conventional sort do make some effort to place some subject-matter constraints on the sorts of courses students take during their first two years (one common constraint is that courses must be selected from a number of broad groups). Some colleges have stricter rules than others. In general, beeack in the '70s there was a movement to get rid of all this sort of thing, and then in the '80s there was a movement in the other direction.
No, "reading" or "doing" would seem to describe the UK situation where you specialise right from the start and gain ... from a variety of different subjects with there just being some sort of emphasis on the subject being "Majored" in.

I think that's precisely it. I don't know the history of 'majoring' and such, but I believe it started out as a sort of reform of a previous system that was more like the present-day UK, where you decide off the bat that you want to study physics and so you get your degree in physics and you're forced to be a physicist unless you're lucky enough to get a job at IBM like Doc Robin did. The whole idea of 'majoring' is that of "much but not all". You don't can't take all your courses in one subject or even two closely related subjects. The idea is that you'd be too narrow and unedumucated if you did that.
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That's usually the case here, for physics majors anyway.

Um. It's not the case that physics majors here take classes only in physics and math. A physics major (undergraduate) ... as "elective" courses, or as necessary to satisfy requirements by the university other than the requirement to major in something.

Even with a four-year undergraduate degree, rather than three, would studying physics and maths for only half of the time enable someone with a good class of degree to enter straight into a PhD program, or would they be expected to do an MSc first?

wrmst rgrds
Robin Bignall
Hertfordshire
England
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