What is a Major?

A major is the student’s main field of specialization. For undergraduate students, majors are broad areas such as Chemical Engineering or Physics or Marine Biology, and must be decided at the end of the second year of undergraduate studies at the latest. For graduate students, majors would further concentrate on the specific field of study and are usually decided at the time of admission application.

The department will usually specify the required courses for each major as well as the total number of credits a student must complete, related to the major, in order to graduate.

What is a Minor?

A minor is a secondary subject that the student is interested in pursuing along with the major. The number of courses a student is required to take for the minor is usually smaller than the same for the major.

What is the Unit or Credit System?

In the US, students receive credits or units for a course based on the number of hours of lectures or lab work in a week pertaining to that course. In addition to just attending lectures and labs, the student is also required to put in some hours of homework. The overall work expectation for a course is what drives the number of credits assigned.

A student is required to complete a specific number of credits in order to graduate. The requirements may, more specifically, state the number of credits pertaining to the student’s major and minor.

What is a Transfer of Credits?

It is not uncommon that a student switches universities after completing a few semesters of study. In this case, credits earned at the first university may be transferred to the second, i.e. applied towards requirements at the second university. Each university has criteria that specify how credits can be transferred, based on the courses taken, accreditation of the original university and others.

What is GPA?

GPA (Grade Point Average) is a measure of academic performance in most US institutions. It usually ranges from 0-4 but may also lie within any other range set by the university.

For each class taken, a student is assigned a grade such as A+, A, A-, B+ all the way to F, based on performance on homeworks, tests and exams. On a 4 point GPA scale, each letter grade is assigned a score between 0 and 4. To calculate GPA, the score for each class is first multiplied by the number of credits/units for the class and these products are then summed for all classes. The GPA is this sum of products divided by the total number of credits/units completed by the student.