General education (GE) is the term used for a prescribed undergraduate course of study designed to provide degree candidates with a multidisciplinary foundation. In the United States, completion of general education usually occurs within the first two years of college and almost always occurs prior to enrollment in concentration specific coursework.
Requirements vary by college and there is no universally accepted standard for GE. The difference in academic background of candidates also affects colleges' approach to general education. Many colleges accept AP and CLEP exams in place of introductory courses, up to a certain limit of credits. These tests validate life experience, providing colleges with a justifiable basis to award credit. Another way to get credit is through military service. Recognizing the potential knowledge veterans have acquired through their service, the American Council of Education has established guidelines on credit equivalency for military training, using the DD214.
The cost and rigor of undergraduate study make it difficult for some people to enter a four-year institution after high school. Many students complete their general education coursework at junior colleges, where tuition is relatively inexpensive and the pace is more relaxed, then transfer to an undergraduate school. While two-year colleges make college education more accessible and affordable, there can be some drawbacks; for instance, courses may not be similar in rigor to those at the university level, leaving a transfer student at a disadvantage.