I'm in the circuit for another month, so I guess I'm pretty qualified to answer this one.
The Typical American Education Track
Preschool: Up to Age 4-5
Kindergarten: Age 5-6
Elementary School(Grades 1-5): Age 6-12(Roughly)
Middle School(Grades 6-8): 12-14
High School(Grades 9-12): At least until 16 or 17, then dropping out is permitted though looked down upon. Typically graduates are 17-18
High School Content
High School content is generalized largely. Students that graduate are expected to take away at least basic knowledge about
Sciences: Earth Science, Basic Biology, Organic Chemistry, Mechanical Physics
Mathematics: Algebra(2 years) & Geometry(1 year), Pre-Calculus if they’re sharp, Algebra III if they’re not(or lazy)
English: Four years of English, most of it spent on mechanics such as grammar and syntax, with the last year spent on synthesizing thoughts in Essays and reading some older books each year
Foreign Language: At least a year of experience. In America this typically means taking Spanish, either by cliché or because it’s the only option. I decided to be different and speak the language of Krauts instead.
Some elective experiences in the arts or computer fields is also required.
Students are expected to search for future education options and financial assistance under their own prerogative, though some schools may offer some guidance and minor assistance. For example, my high school budgeted three days to each student per school year for visits to college.
Your Future After Highschool
Where I live, typically if you drop out or are “low GPA” or "Low ACT/SAT" then you hop onto the military track(National Guard or Federal Military branches), and after a time in service the GI Bill can cover your college costs when you complete your service contract.
If you’re sharp enough to graduate with decent grades, the general sense is that you go ahead to community college and get a 2 year Associates Degree, though many kids don’t have the direction to pick something they can really build on and many of the 4-year colleges look down on the community college’s degrees due to their teaching discipline(In a sense, several of the classes are basically just High School Plus, a rubber stamp factory so to speak)
If you’re really on top of things, you’ve either been scouted and invited to a 4 year college based on your SAT/ACT scores, or you’ve applied to one and been accepted. Tuition costs in my experience are triple the community college rate, applied to a student’s bill based on credit hours(i.e. community college tuition in my state was $123 in 2015, it was $324 at the state college 50 minutes down the road. Bear in mind this is prior to textbook, travel, or boarding costs. A standard class at a state college can run you over $1000, a full time student is expected to take 12-18 credit hours or 4-6 classes per semester, and the costs are continually inflating each year). A Bachelor’s program typically requires 120-128 credit hours applicable to the degree before it can be awarded.
Once you graduate your bachelors program, typically the college has some office to help you find a job and sharpen yourself for interviews and networking, but the hiring is up to you and it depends on how “saucy” your resume is on if you can be hired sooner rather than later. In the background to all of this, your probable student loans are ticking away(though you can file to delay payments for a few months and consolidate them).
If you’re REALLY, REALLY on top of things, you hop into a trade school, take a 2 year program where you'll probably net an internship while you learn and come out already hired and earning a good 5 figure salary with job security in the long term.
Your Future After College
After a Bachelor’s degree, you can join a Masters degree program, for another 2-4 years(depending on the field), and further that still for a Doctorate(another 4 or so years). The costs of these courses is progressively higher for each level.
If you’re chasing a higher degree, it’s either because:
- You got fucked by your bachelor’s program, which only offered the theory side and all the real skills are in the masters program(Or you get double fucked, where the bachelors program didn't qualify you for entering a masters level program)
- Someone else is paying for your trip
- You have more time and money than sense
- You already have a strong paying job and you’re taking the program to raise your pay grade(Teachers for example take a Masters program on the side because upon completion it automatically raises their annual income by a sizeable chunk)