Flexibility of Study in North America

Classroom engagement in North America

One of the many reasons international students choose to study in the US or Canada is for the flexibility of their educational system. Students are able to study the subjects that interest them and have access to a variety of courses. You can even study different fields at the same time if you wish! This is possible thanks to the major/minor system employed by schools in North America. As this system is mostly new to international students, we share with you some explanations on its key components.

Core Curriculum

Most schools in North America require students to take “core” classes. These classes cover an expansive range of disciplines: science, language, humanities, social science, etc. The core curriculum is the same for all undergraduate students, no matter their major or minor. This ensures that all students receive exposure to many areas of knowledge for a well-rounded education.


At the end of your sophomore year (second year of college/university), you will be asked to declare a major. A major is the field of study in which you will concentrate the rest of your undergraduate education. Each major will have assigned core courses, as well as elective courses which you will get to choose. Some students arrive at university already knowing the subject they want to major in, while some will take advantage of the first two years to “test out” a variety of fields, before deciding on the one they like the most.

Individual study

Elective Classes

As part of your major, you will have the option to choose electives in order to have more in-depth knowledge in a specific area. Outside of your major, elective classes can be used in a variety of way. Some students will use them to study various different subjects on the side. Others will use their electives in a concentrated field, to create a second major (related or not to their first major).


For students who do not wish to pursue a double major, they can instead choose what is called a minor. Minors require less classes than majors, thus leaving the student with leftover elective classes they can use to explore other interests. A minor can either be used to complete a major or to study a field of personal interest.

The North American educational system is greatly appealing with its flexibility, many options and broad spectrum of disciplines available to students. Don’t worry if as an international student you feel a bit lost at first, academic advisors and international students counselors will be there to guide you!

Sandrine first became an international student when she was 10 years old and hasn’t stopped since. Over the years, she has studied/worked in France, England, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and the USA. She brings her passion of travel and writing together to inspire students to embark on their journey around the world and discover its many cultures.

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