College is a complicated system that allows for flexibility and variety in education. Most students use college to earn an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree. Traditionally, both public and private colleges offer classes for a certain number of credits that contribute to the required credit total.
The curriculum for a four-year bachelor's degree involves general education credits, which vary by institution. Usually, a freshman takes classes in basic subjects, such as English, history and science, before he moves on to take classes in his major or minor. Sometimes, these 100- and 200-level general education courses can be taken at a two-year community college before transferring to a four-year university. A more thorough education at a two-year college that includes major work results in an associate's degree.
Each class is worth a number of credits, and these credits usually count toward a bachelor's degree. Students must take the required classes for general education and complete a major in order to graduate. There may also be a required number of upper level credits, which means classes at a 300 level and above, and an overall required number of credits. Students often work with an academic adviser at the school to understand the complicated graduation requirements and formulate a schedule for the upcoming year.
Many students return for a two-year, focused program in a specific major in order to earn a master's degree. There are also various programs for students interested in nursing, teaching and other careers to earn certificates and licenses.