College and High School Age in the US: An Overview

We give you an overview of the typical age of high school and college students in the US.

For those unfamiliar with the US education system, understanding the age requirements for high school and college in the US can be a little confusing.
The American education system is slightly different from that in Scandinavia.
Below we provide a brief overview of how age is related to high school and college in the United States.

High School

High school is an educational institution for students aged 14-18 years. Students are divided into four different classes, from freshman to senior. The typical age of a high school student depends on the student’s birthday and class. Here is an overview of the typical ages for each class:

Class English designation Age
Freshman 1st grade 14-15
Sophomore 2nd grade 15-16
Junior 3rd grade 16-17
Senior 4th grade 17-18


In the United States, the words ‘college’ and ‘university’ are often used interchangeably and in many cases the two terms are synonymous. But there are some nuances between them, which may vary from institution to institution. Generally speaking, ‘college’ often refers to a smaller institution offering undergraduate degrees, while ‘university’ is usually larger and offers undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees. However, some institutions also use “college” as part of their name, even if they are universities. Therefore, it can sometimes be confusing to distinguish between the two concepts in the US context.

College is an educational institution for students after high school. The typical age of a college student varies depending on circumstances. Here is an overview of the typical ages of students at different levels:

Education and training age
Associate’s Degree (Junior College) (2 years) 18-20
Bachelor’s Degree (4 years) 18-22
Master’s Degree (2 years) 22-24
Ph.D. (doctoral degree) 27-33

Age For Student Athletes

If you are interested in playing sports in high school or college in the US, age may play a different role. To participate in high school or college sports, you must meet specific age requirements.

In high school, age requirements are usually quite flexible, as students are still under 18 years old. However, if you want to take part in sports at high school, you usually need to be between 14-19 years old.

The rules regarding Being able to play sport in college depends mainly on when you graduated from high school or equivalent – rather than your age. We elaborate on this in an article on sporting eligibility.
The typical age of a college athlete is between 18-23 years.

More To Explore

College Sport

What is Junior College?

We give you an introduction to what Junior College is and why it’s a good idea for many.