What Can I study in the USA?

Do I have to pick my subjects according to what I want to study?

What ATAR (OP) Score do I need?

By Marco Maisano






An Overview

To begin with, let’s start with a very simple overview of the two systems (USA and Australia) just to make it easier for you whilst you are reading through this blog.

Let’s start with entry requirements. Here in Australia (or New Zealand) you’re working to get an ATAR score or an OP result, or an NCA level three endorsement with merit. That’s what determines the universities that you can gain admission into, and it also determines what you can study at university.

And ultimately, if you know exactly what you want to do and you stick to that, then you can essentially complete a bachelor’s degree in three years.

But if you don’t qualify straight away to get into the course you would like to get in to, you may need to do an extra year, or an entry course with pre-requisite classes to gain admission, then it might possibly turn it into a 4-year degree.

64 Universities…..

In Australia, there’s 64 or so universities and it’s never guaranteed that you’re going to get accepted unless you hit the mark. There’s so much pressure put on those end of year 12 exams…..YOUR LIFE IS OVER IF YOU DON’T GET A 99 ATAR!!!! (not really)

Let’s put this into perspective…………….at 15 years old (year 10) to sit there and say, “Pick your electives for the next two years that are ultimately going to lead to your testing, that leads to a score that then determines if you can or can’t study what you want to study.”

Really?????? Surely there is a better way? When I was in Year 10 all I knew was that I liked sport and I hated my teachers (Mr Jones if you are reading this I disliked you because you asked me every single day “What are you going to be when you grow up?” and because I answered “A Soccer player”…….Well…. let’s just say we never got along.












Anyway…back to my point….

That’s where the US system is inherently different, and I’ll ask you (the reader) the question, and you can answer this whilst reading on…… Going to university or studying after year 12, is it your choice?

It is your choice!!

Well it should be anyway!

So why on earth, if it’s your time, your energy, your effort that you are putting into going into post-secondary studies, why can’t you study whatever you want to study? That doesn’t make sense.

I’ve been asking that question for 11 (since I started NSR and found a better way) years and no one’s been able to give me the actual answer to that……

I mean……..Yes you can study what you want to study but you may have to have some ridiculous ATAR score.

What if I matured a little later? What If I had personal things going on during that time in High School?

This is one of the reasons I fell in love with the US System…..

The US is a lot different.

Your grades throughout high school are still very, very important. But nothing determines what you can or can’t study other than you. You genuinely get to choose whatever you want to study. All that you really need is a high school certificate. You need to graduate from year 12 or year 13 in New Zealand.

There are so many different pathways for you to do exactly what you want to do. I think the big difference is that the US has got so many different options and so many different pathways designed for different types of students. If you’re an unbelievable student, then you open the door to more options. If you’re an average student that just finishes with the minimum, then you still have over a thousand options that you can sit there and choose between, and at the end of the day……What you study is completely up to you!!!

Schools have different entry requirements….but in this blog let’s just stick with what you can study…..

Once you’ve gained admission into a school, you can study whatever you want to study. That’s, I think, a hard concept for people to grasp and there’s a reason for that. It takes four years to get to a bachelor’s degree in the United States.

The better the ATAR that you have and the better grades that you have, the better that your GPA’s going to be, but it doesn’t have the same meaning when it comes to choosing what you can study and what you can do.

One of the main differences is everything you do before university here in Australia in terms of study determines what you can study here in Australia. Everything you do before university here, if you were looking to go to the US, will determine what school you can get into, but you can study whatever you want.

It’s your time, it’s your energy, it’s your effort, it’s your life, whatever you want to be you can become.

The theory behind it is quite simple….. You’re always going to do better in something you want to study rather than something you’re told you can or can’t study.

I also want to touch on the first two years of study in the United States, because again, it’s a little different than here in Australia.

I often get asked.. “Why is it a 4 year pathway in the USA?”

The US system requires an additional liberal arts core curriculum. People get confused when you say liberal arts, they think it’s like art, like you’re doing art. No, liberal arts is written and verbal communication.

it’s ingrained in their education system. No matter what you want to study, improving your written and verbal communication will get you better prepared for the working world, especially in this day and age.

Those are all things that will help you no matter what career pathway you may take. So basically in the States, the first two years of your study will be a combination of your liberal arts core curriculum along with other selected classes. So, your written, verbal communication core, in addition to the prerequisite courses for further study in a specific field. Essentially, Australia skips that liberal arts and ultimately jumps straight into those prerequisite courses

It gives you a little bit more freedom in the first two years, as well with the selection of courses and classes











Because let’s be honest here…… a lot of kids don’t know what they want to study or what they want to be (talking to you here Mr Jones!)  So if you don’t know what you want to study, you can enter into a US college undecided and know you don’t need to jump into any prerequisite coursework yet because you actually don’t know what you want to do, so you can just focus on your liberal arts core that you have to do no matter where you go or what you study.

This gives you more time to figure out what you’re interested in


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