High school in the USA - all myths and facts

You've probably heard a lot about high school life in America - from cheerleaders, homecoming dances, and football games. But what is student life truly like in the United States? We debunk the most common American high school myths!

Myth: all students in the USA wear school uniforms

False! Usually, US high schools do not require school uniforms. Only a small number of schools have introduced them in the interest of equal treatment or to avoid unnecessary distractions due to fashion issues.

Some “elite schools” also value uniforms for a feeling of belonging and pride. However, most schools allow students to wear their own clothing as long as it is “appropriate” and “respectful.”

Dress code at high school in the USA

Myth: all exams are multiple-choice tests

False! American high schools by no means only use multiple-choice tests, as it’s too often the case in American films and series. Instead, there are also several other test formats, such as lectures, essays, projects, and practical exams.

Which type of test is used for which exam depends on the school subject and the aim of the exam. Some subjects like math and science use multiple-choice tests often, while essays and oral exams are more likely to be used in literature or history courses. Long-term projects and extensive presentations can also serve as a performance appraisal.

Myth: high school life means, above all: partying!

False! Of course, like everywhere else, a few fools only have parties on their minds. However, most US students take advantage of the opportunities that make high school life in the USA so special: an overabundance of clubs, sports teams, and volunteering!

So most students are busy preparing their future plans and enjoying the sense of community typical for America. Popular extracurricular activities include, in addition to world-renowned high school athletic teams, music groups, drama groups, community service teams (e.g., environmental volunteerism), and even student governments.

In addition, most high schools in the USA place a high value on career preparation and offer students the opportunity to complete internships in US companies.

Myth: students sing, dance, and throw food during school breaks

False! You might suspect American school breaks are chaotic if you've seen High School Musical or some American comedy series. However, this representation is greatly exaggerated.

American high schools tend to be relatively civilized in the cafeteria (or the commons, quad, or student lounge — depending on the school). There are clear codes of conduct and usually a break supervisor who enforces the rules.

In addition, many American high school students use breaks for joint project work. Of course, there are student groups that stand out, but you probably won't see a cinematic food fight or an impromptu "Glee Club" chant.

Myth: you must pledge allegiance to the American flag every morning

True! Well, partly. While the Pledge of Allegiance is commonly recited at the beginning of the school day by students and teachers, standing and facing the American flag, the practice varies by school.

Some schools make reciting the Pledge of Allegiance voluntary, while others may also include singing the national anthem as part of their morning routine. However, some schools have discontinued this practice for legal or personal reasons.

Myth: high school life is tough

False! Some movies give the impression that clique wars, bullying, and nasty pranks mainly characterize life in a US high school. The one-dimensional characters fulfill every cliché — from the superficial cheerleader witch to the brutal "Jock" to the tormented nerd.

In reality, however, high school life is much more diverse and multi-faceted and, overall, no harder than everyday life at other schools worldwide. Where there are bullies and witches, there are students and teachers committed to creating a positive and supportive school environment.

Increasingly, US schools are taking an active role in preventing bullying and violence by providing school programs and resources that help students feel safe and protected.

Get an impression of US high school life for yourself!

American high school experiences are as diverse as the people. While we can clear up some of the most common myths and misinformation for you, the best way to find out what it's truly like to go to school in the USA is for yourself to travel.

There are many opportunities to test what living in the USA is like. For example:

And if, like us, you've fallen madly in love with the United States, you can sign up for a Green Card as soon as you are 16 years old. The Green Card allows you to live and work in the USA indefinitely. The easiest way is through the annual Green Card Lottery, held by the US government.

Green Card Lottery

Win one of 55,000 Green Cards in the official Green Card Lottery of the US authorities!