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Diploma courses after class 12 in the US

Diploma courses can help make your pathway to a top American institution

The US offers a diversity of institutions and courses for students to specialise in a variety of disciplines. With a cluster of 4,000 accredited institutions, the country offers globally-recognised courses to every student as per their interest and abilities. Unlike other countries, the US institutions are not centrally administered but are accredited on a national or regional stage by independent accrediting bodies.

Many students prefer the country for its higher education, but sometimes their marks and grades don’t meet the admission criteria. This is when the Foundation or Diploma courses in the US come into picture. There are many diploma courses that you can pursue after your Class 12.

In the US, diploma courses are popularly known as ‘Foundation programs’ which are pursued after high school to get enrolled in the desired bachelor course later, as several students might not meet academic or English requirements at an entry-level. These are also known as ‘Bridging courses.’

Benefits of Foundation or Diploma programs in the US

There are not one, but many advantages of pursuing a Foundation or Diploma in the US. Some of them include: 

  • University guidance: The application process in the US is a little different in comparison to other countries. Most universities in the US have advisors to assist their students and help them gain entry through a diploma course, in case they are unable to meet the requirements at an entry-level

  • Fulfil English proficiency requirements: The requirements for a foundation course is slightly lower as compared to degree programs. You can pursue these foundation programs with a minimum IELTS score of 5. In fact, these foundation courses help improve your English language skills that are mandatory to pursue degree programs in the US

  • Direct admission into a bachelor program: Diploma programs can be your way to move forward, as a one-year foundation program will reap the same amount of credits as a full-time college program will. In a nutshell, you have an option to get directly enrolled in the sophomore year at your desired institution post your course completion

  • Diversified options: These foundation courses in the US are available in many locations, including Boston, New York State and California. With partner institutions in each of these locations, you’ll have ample options to choose from

  • Be accustomed to the US lifestyle: As an international student, you’ll have to adapt to the new culture and foundation programs help smoothen this transition for you. The classes take place on the partner university campus with a smaller batch size making it easy to network with other international students 

  • Stay academically competent: These courses help you learn other academic skills specific to their area of interest

The objective of the diploma program in the US is to bring you par with students studying in other institutions in terms of knowledge, skills, abilities and scope. Hence, the elements of these foundation programs are the same in all institutions across the regions. 

Duration of foundation or diploma programs

Generally, the duration of these programs in the US is one year, where you’ll be required to get acceptable grades to pass to year 1 of the bachelor degree. The start date of these programs is mostly in September. However, in some cases, there can more than one intake if your foundation provider in the USA has the provision.

Who provides these courses?

While you can find these courses in most US universities, there are many Government-funded colleges or private institutions as well that you can look at for options. 

Eligibility criteria

English language requirements

Academic requirements

  • Irrespective of the course, you must be proficient in the English language, which will assist you to continue studies in your desired subjects, be it humanities, engineering, medical science, or any other. In some cases, the English language requirement is the sole criteria for preparation programme application, as an academic requirement can be fulfilled throughout the entire programme


  • Foundations or Diploma programs are basically for students who have secured below 60% and can’t pursue their bachelor’s degree. As the education system of each country is different, institutions mention on their official website about the minimum scores accepted to enrol into these diploma courses 


  • Your acceptance will be based on your existing level of English proficiency and the English language level needed to pursue the degree programme. For instance, in native English speaking part of North America, the minimum accepted average level score of IELTS is 5.23


  • In the US, most education institutions require a 2.5+ of GPA or equivalent in addition to the English proficiency score. Many institutions accept students who have completed some years of study during secondary school in the mentioned fields:
  • English: 4 years
  • Mathematics: 4 years
  • History/Social Studies: 3 or more years
  • Science: 3 or more years

Remember, foundation program is a broader programme that will prepare you for the future while you understand the basics of your desired field of study. Most American universities offer both core and elective disciplines and you can understand different topics before you enrol in a degree program. Additionally, as foundation programmes have a higher academic standard, it smoothens your transition into a degree course.

Note: Given the current COVID-19 situation, there might be some changes in the 2020/21 intakes. Don’t worry, our international education experts are here to guide you with the latest updates to help you apply to your desired course and institution. Feel free to connect with our experts for a free counselling session and keep posted about the latest COVID- 19 updates. 

Updated on August 20, 2020

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