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5 Major Differences between American and Russian Colleges

Being a student in the U.S. is completely different than being a student in Russia. Professors treat students differently, classes are taught differently, and grades are doled out in a different way, as well. Let’s get started. Here are the top 5 things I’ve had to adjust to as a student in the U.S.

1. Opportunity to choose your classes

Unlike in the U.S., in Russia, you are unable to choose your classes or make your own schedule. All students, after they have been enrolled to a school, are assigned to groups according to their major and class year. Colleges, together with the government, develop a curriculum for each major that contains all mandatory classes for the students in that major.

Most students have the same group (usually it contains 20-25 students) until the graduation, and they become close friends through these college years.

2. Textbooks are EXPENSIVE

Although Russian students experience some lack of freedom in shaping their college education, they are better off than American students when it comes to textbooks. Universities’ libraries in my home country typically provide free textbooks for all students.

Image courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon

3. Private academic performance

While in the U.S. students’ grades are not revealed to the whole class, in Russia it is the opposite. It is common for a Russian professor to announce students’ grades publicly in the presence of the whole class. It is also common for Russian professors to send an email with students’ names and grades, so everyone in the group can see it. Even more, academic performances are made publicly available on the Internet, so Russian students should never exaggerate their academic performance in their resume. 

4. Sports scholarship

Sports scholarships don’t exist in Russia at all. And that is understandable; universities do not compete with each other in basketball or soccer, so high school graduates can only get an academic scholarship from the government.

5. No exams determine the final grade

Most of the time in Russia, a final exam is worth 90 or 100 percent of the grade, so the exams in Russia are certainly more stressful than in the U.S. At the exam, a student gets a few random questions based on the entire course and often has to answer the questions orally in a tet-a-tet format with the professor.

Article by Anna Markina

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