Tuesday, 12 July 2011

School Daze

When I was a senior in high school, I applied early decision to my first choice college.

Senior Prom, waiting for my date who was late to pick me up.
Perhaps that's why I look so severe...

My senior picture

Graduation Day

When I told people that I was going to Austin College, I generally encountered the following dialogue:

Them: "Oh!  You're going to love University of Texas!"
Me:  "No- not UT, Austin College."
Them:  (with a slightly pitying, but reassuring expression)  "Oh.  Austin Community College is a good school too.  I'm sure you'll get into UT next year."
Me:  "No- not ACC.  Austin College.  It's a small, private, liberal arts school about and hour north of Dallas."

Being a small institution (it was, in fact, smaller than my high school) people hadn't always heard of it, despite it's excellent reputation.  I'm glad to say that in the years since then, AC has continued to raise it's profile and it is much better known- and still well regarded!

I've always taken pride in saying that I went to college at AC.  I got an excellent education there and made some wonderful friends.  It was absolutely the right place for me to get my degree (a B.A. in Psychology).

Now that I live in England, however, I find myself once again stumbling when I tell people where I got my higher education.  I'm sure you're aware that the educational systems are fairly different in the US and the UK.

Did you know that students in the UK don't graduate until they leave university?  There's no ceremony for completing A levels or anything.  So there's no real equivalent to high school graduation.  Weird.

Here, it's generally referred to as going to University or "uni", rather than college.  College is something different all together.  College here is generally for 16-18 year olds, though they do adult education as well.  You can do your A levels at a college.  Though, you could also do your A levels at the school you went to before if they have a Sixth Form.  It's all very confusing and there's not really an equivalent in America. It's partly junior college, partly vocational school, partly other stuff... sort of.

Suffice it to say that college is not on the same level as university.  So, conversationally, I generally say something like "When I was in college..." or  "I studied psychology in college."
But should I be saying "When I was at university..." to make sure people know what I mean?
Or do they understand that I mean American college and not British college?

Oh, also... don't call university "school".  As in "When do you go back to school?"
Your niece will look at your very strangely and be confused as to why you would call university school.
Apparently school is only for those under 16.  Duh.


  1. yeah, that all confuses me... i don't understand the A level thing or what that even is. Heidi was looking at a school er.... university called The University of Southampton, the school of ocean and earth science. I asked about requirements, i didn't understand the answers, i don't think i was asking the right questions, I don't even know if she got in it was so confusing. Anyway, she's an English major now. LOL

  2. I've always been confused by the different school customs too!

  3. You'll be thrilled to know that I met someone this weekend in Nairobi, from India, that had heard of Austin College. I was a bit taken aback until I learned that he studied at A&M. But still, he's in Kenya and not even an American. The Texans here haven't even usually heard of it.