10 Facts About the USA You May Not Know | FindAPhD.com

10 Facts About the USA You May Not Know

The USA is an extremely popular study abroad destination, hosting almost one million international students (that’s roughly equivalent to the population of Delaware!). If you’re considering making the USA your home-away-from-home for your Masters or PhD, it can’t hurt to know more about it! We’ve picked out 10 facts about the country you may not have heard.

#1 There are over 4,000 higher education institutions in the USA

When it comes to picking where you’ll study your Masters or PhD, you’re spoiled for choice. The higher education institutions in the country, which include universities, community colleges, liberal arts schools and more, total over 4,000. Only 1,000 or so of these offer postgraduate degrees – but you’ll still have no shortage of options!

#2 The famous Ivy League is actually an athletic conference

Today, the Ivy League is known for containing some of the most prestigious and competitive colleges in the USA. But its original founding didn’t have much to do with academia at all – in fact it was formed as an intercollegiate athletic conference allowing colleges to adopt common rules in football and other sports.

This doesn’t mean that the eight institutions forming the Ivy League aren’t some of the best in the country – but there was more historical accident involved in its inception than you might think. There are also many prestigious US universities that aren’t members! We explain all this and more in our guide to the Ivy League.

Learn more about studying in the USA

Want to know more about studying in the USA? We have plenty of information on universities, funding, visas and more in our detailed guides.

#3 (Almost) all of the Ivy League universities are older than the USA itself

Talking of the Ivy League, its members all have long and fascinating histories! In fact, all the Ivy League colleges (with the exception of Cornell University) predate the American revolution, making them technically older than the country itself.

The oldest higher education institution in the USA is Harvard University, which dates back to 1636, almost a century and a half before American independence.

#4 Drinking culture may not be quite the same as you’re used to

It’s worth bearing in mind that American attitudes towards alcohol aren’t quite the same as in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. The legal drinking age of 21 is very strictly enforced, and alcohol consumption may be prohibited on your university campus.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself on a Friday night! Just be sensitive to cultural norms around drinking and make sure you stick to the rules.

#5 The US flag was designed by a high school student… or was it?

In 1958, while the USA was in discussions about adding extra stars to its flag to represent two recently added states, a high school student named Robert G. Heft decided to rise to the challenge as part of a homework assignment. Heft submitted the now 50-starred flag to his American History teacher, who awarded him a B-, but told him that if he could get his flag adopted by the US Congress, it would go up to an A.

Heft claims that after sending the design to his Congressman, he received a call from President Eisenhower himself informing him that it had been made the official US flag (and that he was awarded his promised A grade).

This story was widely believed for over half a century, and was reported by many reputable sources, until it was revealed to be an elaborate hoax by a 2022 Slate article. A reminder to the history students among you to always check your sources (and that an appeal to the government probably won’t get your grades bumped up!).

#6 The USA has no official language

The USA is one of only five countries worldwide to have no official language. English is, of course, the most widely used, closely followed by Spanish, which is spoken by around 13% of the population! Though there is no official language at the federal level, it’s not uncommon for states to designate one (usually English) – this is currently the case in 32 states.

#7 Americans consume approximately 100 acres of pizza a day

We all know that the USA is a haven for pizza-lovers, whether you’re a fan of the Chicago deep dish or a classic thin and crispy New York slice. Studies suggest that around 100 acres (or 76 football pitches) worth are consumed across the country every day. Make sure you sneak in a slice or two of your city’s local delicacy while you’re there!

#8 The USA has a town with only one resident

If the day-to-day business of student life ever leaves you craving a quiet getaway, Monowi, Nebraska, might be the perfect choice. 88-year-old Elsie Eiler has been the only remaining resident of Monowi since the death of her husband in 2004, making it the only US town with a population of one, according to official census data.

Elier wears many hats as the mayor, clerk, treasurer, bartender and librarian of Monowi. Every year, she is the winner of (and only voter in) the town’s mayoral elections, which she advertises on a noticeboard in its only registered business (her own bar).

#9 It contains a palace covered in corn

You read that right – Mitchell, in South Dakota, is home to the world’s only building covered entirely in corn, The Corn Palace. This multi-purpose arena is used for sporting events, concerts, and exhibitions, and is decorated with crop-themed designs made from corn kernels and other grains. Every year, the building is covered with new murals from local artists. It is constructed in the exotic architectural style Moorish Revival (appropriately named, since popcorn is so moreish).

Make sure to avoid The Corn Palace in a heatwave, though, as the kernels are liable to pop and produce a hazardous avalanche of the world’s favourite salty snack. *

*To be clear, this is a joke. It has never actually happened and likely never will, despite South Dakota’s frequently hot summers.

#10 You could come across a $10,000 dollar bill

Ok, we’ll admit that this is exceeding unlikely, since the $10,000 bill (the highest ever denomination circulated in public) has not been printed since 1969. However, it is still legal tender, and the government believes that it may still be in circulation. So, it’s not completely inconceivable that one could end up in your wallet (just don’t lose it on a night out!).

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Last Updated: 21 September 2023