Of the 1.2 million students pursuing post secondary education outside their home countries, more than one-third choose to study in the United States. Why do so many students from all over the world choose U.S. colleges and universities? What does the United States have to offer you…?
The United States has one of the world’s finest university systems, with outstanding programs in virtually all fields. At the undergraduate level, excellent programs exist in traditional disciplines as well as in professional fields. At the graduate level, students often have the opportunity to work directly with some of the finest minds in the world. U.S. degrees are recognized throughout the world for the excellence.
The higher education system in the United States has something for everyone. Some U.S. colleges and universities stress abroad educational principles: others stress practical, employment-related skills; and still others specialize in technical fields, the arts, or social sciences. As a result, if you are looking for an institution where you can study a particular field – no matter how unusual or specific – you can usually find several from which to choose in the United States.
U.S. universities pride themselves on being at the forefront of technology and educational techniques, and in making available to their students the best possible equipment and resources. Even if your field does not directly involve science or engineering, you will become skilled in using the latest technology to obtain and process information.
If you are a graduate student, you may be able to gain valuable experience in research or teaching while you help to finance your education. This practical component of your education will prove useful in your future career and may give you insights into your field that would not be possible through course study alone.
International students are some of the most valued researchers and teachers in U.S. universities because they bring new skills and ideas to the classroom and laboratory. Many graduate programs in the United States offer training that enables students to become teaching research assistants.
Although many programs are highly structured, you will generally find many course choices. At the advanced stages of a degree you will be able to tailor your course work to fit your specific needs. When you choose topics for independent study for a graduate thesis or dissertation, you can emphasize ideas that are important to you, your field, and your country.
At most institutions, services from the international student office help students from abroad to live and learn in their new environment. From orientation programs at the beginning of your degree program to assistance with resumes as you get ready to graduate, you will find people at the university and in the community who are interested in your success.
U.S. universities provide a rich variety of academic, cultural and athletic activities that add new dimensions to your educational experience and also help you make new friends
Experience in an international setting is a marketable commodity. Your long-term career prospects can be enhanced by and experience that develops self-confidence, independence, and cross-cultural skills – attributes in demand by employees world-wide.
System of Education in USA is different from that of India. In America, higher education starts at the age of 18 after the completion of twelve years of primary and secondary schooling.
A candidate who has successfully completed class XII is eligible for the Bachelors Programme or Under Graduate Study in USA. The bachelors degree or under graduate study usually lasts for 4 years. In some cases an accelerated Programme can be completed in three years, while some professional fields require five years.
The 4 year’s undergraduate study is considered as 120 credit hours. One course averages 3 credits. Subjects involving lab facilities will get 4 credits. You receive a Bachelor’s degree or undergraduate degree when you finish around 40 courses in different subjects within the span of four years.
1st year students are called Freshmen, 2nd years Sophomores, third years Juniors and the 4th or last year students are referred to as Seniors. The decision of the major’s to be taken is necessary only after the 2nd or Sophomore year. Deciding the majors is termed ‘Declaring a Major’ in US. Many colleges give an Associate degree after the sophomore year or second year of a Bachelor’s degree. It is the degree awarded after either a college transfer or a ‘terminal’, One to three year programme providing training for a specific occupation.
In USA, higher studies after taking a degree or Bachelor’s is termed Graduate study.
A candidate who has successfully completed four years of Bachelors Programme or Under Graduate Study is eligible to apply for the Master’s Degree in USA. The traditional three year degree (BA, B.Sc, B.com) holders from India are also eligible for a Masters Degree.
Masters degree is the first Graduate degree in the liberal arts and Sciences and certain professional fields requiring 30 credit hours of full-time study within a year or 2 years. You can get your Master’s degree by taking 8 courses of subjects with 3 credits each plus a thesis of 6 hours credit or 10 courses of subjects with 3 credits each without the thesis. Some Universities have a final exam. Usually Masters degree include M.S and M.A degrees.
It is not particular that you continue with the same majors that you chose for undergraduate study-in graduate study. But if you change the majors, you will have to take additional basic courses for the new subjects. These courses are called Pre-requisite courses. You have to get a pass in these courses but you may not get credits for the same.
Research (Doctoral Degree) – The highest degree awarded in research-oriented academic disciplines, usually requiring 3 to 6 years of full time study besides the Bachelor’s degree as preparation for University level teaching and research. Indian students with a Master Degree can apply for Ph.D.
Universities are larger institutions that include several undergraduate colleges, graduate schools, and professional schools. Graduate school involves 1 or 2 years of study and offers advanced programs in arts and sciences which give Master’s degrees like M.A or M.S, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) etc.
Professional schools are institutions which specialize in a single field of study such as medicine, pharmacy, business administration, law etc.
These colleges award only Associate Degree of Arts (A.A) and Sciences (A.S) which involves 2 year of study. After receiving Associate Degree, students must join a 4 years college or University to complete the Bachelor’s Degree.
These institutes specialize in training for the skilled trades and technical fields of employment. Duration of the courses depends on the particular subject. After completion, they will be awarded a certificate of completion and they can straight away join for a job.
Usually, for most Universities and colleges the year begins in late August or early September and ends in May or June. The academic year is divided into semesters, trimesters or quarter depending on the institution. The semester system divides the year into 2 equal terms of 16 weeks. Each semester is 4 months. Trimester system has three equal terms of 16 weeks each, including a summer term. Quarter system divides the year into 3 equal terms of 11 weeks each. Classes are lecture-based with practical (lab or practicum in U.S). Overhead projector, computer projections, multimedia are used along with the lectures. Printed notes and additional information on topics (Handouts in U.S) are given. Professors or advisors are always available to clear doubts. Interaction in class in encouraged.
Each student will be assigned an ‘advisor’ who is a member of the faculty. This advisor will help the students to select the courses to be taken in each semester, plan the whole program and monitor the student’s progress. The students register for the particular courses with the permission of the advisors.
The average class size at the undergraduate level, in most universities is 100-150 for introductory courses. Advanced level classes will be smaller in size. Master’s degree classes have an average of 20 students and Doctoral classes have an average of only 10 students.
Each semester has an average of 4 tests. Test range in style from multiple choice (objective type) format designed to gauge your knowledge of the subject and reasoning ability to essay or problem-solving type tests. There are 3 kinds of tests – open book tests, closed books tests and take home tests. In the 1st type, you can refer notes, text book, reference material etc during the test. 2nd one is usual tests that we have in India. In the 3rd one you take the question paper home and answer at your convenience before the dead line set by the professor. Take home tests often have essay-based questions.
In American Universities, they give grades instead of ranks or classes for courses. The grades are A, B, C, D, E, F, I. A is the highest grade. Grades from A to D are considered as pass. Grade I-incomplete. Grade I is granted when students stop the course in between with the teachers permission. If it is without permission this can become F grade.
Grade Percentage A 92%–100% B 83%–91% C 74%–82% D 65%–73% E / F 64% and below Each grade has points. 4 points for A grade, 3 for B and 2 for C. The average points taken for all the courses taken together are the GPA (Grade Point Average). It is the general score on a scale of 1.0(lowest) to 4.0 (highest). It is difficult to get admission for graduate study if you don’t have at least a G.P.A of 3.0.
Twelve years of education is the minimum requirement for admission to an undergraduate course in the US. So whether it’s a state board or the CBSE, the ICSE, what you need is twelve years of schooling, excluding your nursery and kindergarten years!
On the other hand, there are no minimum marks requirements, nor any specific subject requirements. TOEFL is the only proof you need to show that you know English well enough to cope with the anyway atrocious American accent.
Admission to internationally known institutions is highly competitive. You will need to have excellent academic records and high scores on academic entrance examinations and the TOEFL examination, if you apply to such institutions.
Entry to some fields of study is also highly competitive. To apply for study in these fields, which are also some of the most popular fields that US students pursue, you will need outstanding grades and test scores.
Bachelor’s degree in Arts or Science after fifteen or sixteen years of education, will be eligible for a Master’s degree course in the US immediately after such a BA or B.Sc degree.
Academic program admission requirements (see below) may be in addition to, or more rigorous, than the Graduate School requirements.
A minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) or a master’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00. Applicants from an international institution must have a strong academic performance comparable to a 3.00 for an undergraduate or master’s degree. All GPA’s are based on a 4.00 scale. We use your institution’s grading scale; do not convert your grades to a 4.00 scale.
A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution, or a comparable degree from an international institution. International applicants must have a degree comparable to a regionally accredited U.S. bachelor’s degree.
Every applicant must provide an English proficiency test score. Your score is considered too old, and will not be accepted, if it is more than 2 years old from the start of your admission term.
The English Proficiency Tests are:
Applying for a course in a US University requires you to fulfill certain eligibility criteria. Here we discuss about the application process for a graduate course in a US University.
The US academic year is usually divided into 4 Intakes – Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. The semesters are usually 13 weeks long. The Fall semester starts somewhere between August and September and ends in late December or early January. The Spring semester starts in January and ends in May. The Summer semester starts in late May or early June and ends just before the Fall semester begins.
Not all universities have a Winter semester but if they do, it is a very short semester squeezed between the Fall and the Spring semesters. The semesters correspond very roughly with the eponymous seasons.
Most universities in the U.S. accept applications only two times in a calendar year for the Fall and the Spring semesters of the academic year. Some universities only entertain applications for the Fall semester. The application process for the Fall semester usually starts one year before your joining during October and ends on December or January.
For applying for a graduate program in US universities you need to take the General Record Examination (GRE). Apart from this you also need to take a Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam.
There are a number of documents you need to submit with your application. All Universities have detailed and specific guidelines in their application brochure about the documents required. Here is a list:
Note: Apply to at least 5-6 US universities. Your decision should be a mix of Excellent, Good and Safe. Excellent universities are those which have extraordinary rankings but are difficult for you to get in due to your academic records. These should be kept to a minimum. Good universities are where you have a fair chance of getting selected. Apply mostly to these universities. Safe universities are those which are not as good but you have an almost definite possibility of getting admissions. You should keep them to a minimum but don’t ever leave these out.
Also, do keep in track with the application deadlines of the University of your choice.
Applications can usually be accessed via the Institution website.
Completed Application for Admission, either internet-based or paper version.
The Tuition Expenses of a University depends on which category it falls, under which are broadly categorized as Public University which are entirely supported by the state and secondly the Private University which are independent institutions. Though the fees of Public university’s is lesser than private ones, it also varies for different universities and their respective courses. The annual tuition fees here range from $5000 to $35000. The average tuition fee is broadly mentioned below;
Apart from just the tuition fee, there are several other expenses which substantially influence the cost of living of a student. For instance, Application fees by any one university or college may vary from $20 to $80 and the cost of books may vary from $400 to $1000. Along with these basic ones, Health insurance may cost about $500 per semester and some extra fees for stationary, field work, sports facilities etc. Though it is recommended to check the tuition fees of the respective university along with the course to which one is applying for.
As for the Expenses on Living Cost it entirely depends on the individual lifestyles and requirements. But an approximate estimate can be charted out with the basic requirements which include accommodation along with day to day expenses.
It is very important to prioritize and plan as a tool for budgeting as to be able to cut costs it is a good idea for students to do some Part time work as the average cost of living in this country is approximately $10,000/year and $700 to $1000/ month.
For F1 student visa applicants must have successfully completed a course of study normally required for enrollment, should be sufficiently proficient in English to pursue the intended course of study, should have been accepted for a full course of study by an approved educational institution, and be able to prove that sufficient funds are or will be available to defray all living and school expenses during the entire period of anticipated study in the United States.
They should also be able to establish to the satisfaction of the Consulate that they have binding ties to a residence in their country which they have no intention of abandoning and that they will return to their home country when they have completed their studies.
If a student desires to enter into any short-term course or any full time course, requires USA student visa.
There are two main categories of non-immigrant visa for the international students who wanted to study in United States. These categories are “F” visa, “M” visa and “J”. “F” visas are especially reserved for those non-immigrant students who want to take admission in the academic studies or language training programs.
When the student arrives in USA with F-1 visa will receive Form I-94 which will include admission number to USA. This form shows Arrival and Departure records of the student. The admission number is written on the I-20 form by immigration inspector. The first and second pages of I-20 form are further sent to the school showing a record of legal admission in USA. The third and forth page of I-20 form is known as I-20 ID is kept with the student. This will be the document showing the proof allowing the student to study under student visa in USA. The student should also take care of I-94 form which is the proof of legally entering US under student visa.
Every time the student move out or in US, will require getting new I-94 card describing their official stay in USA.
Students recommend buying international phone cards as a ‘must-have’ because talking to loved ones can really strengthens you through hard times. Also, bringing some memorabilia, photos, posters, music, or artwork from your country can make the transition as smooth as possible. The more you can imitate the feeling of home in your room, the better you will be able to cope with homesickness. You can also keep yourself occupied with studies, work, by hanging out with friends, or volunteering in student or community organizations. The busier you are, the less you will think of home.
Lastly, remember that you come to study in the States “not only for grades and degrees, but also for a social life and community, and learning the culture”. Allow yourself to be integrated into an on and off campus community, and participate in departmental and student activities, registered student clubs, and other volunteer organizations. If resources are available, take advantage of the time you are in the States, go travel and see different parts of the United States. This will enable you to enjoy your experience!
Many students who come from other countries to study in the US wish to stay and work after graduation. This allows them to continue their exploration of a different culture, while at the same time develop professional experience that will further their careers.
The following is an overview of employment options for foreign national students graduating from US colleges and universities, according to the type of visa they hold. Note that these options can change at any time so students should check with the resources included below for the latest regulations and details or if appropriate a professional service specializing in assisting international students and workers in the US.
Both undergraduate and graduate students can apply to remain in the US for employment-based training for 12-18 months after completion of their studies, depending on their visa status. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly known as INS) defines this training as employment related to the student’s course of study. Without proper authorization, off-campus employment is illegal.
Optional Practical Training for Foreign Student Visa (F-1) Holders
Most international students are Foreign Student Visa (F-1) holders. After they have completed a course of study, F-1 students can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows them to work up to 12 months following the receipt of a degree. (Each degree, starting with the bachelor’s, must be a higher degree than the previous one.)
Once the OPT application has been submitted, it takes 2-3 months to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Upon receipt of the Optional Practical Training authorization card, graduates can legally work. After the EAD has been issues, the approved period of time cannot be changed. Therefore, students who have not completed their studies by the date provided on their application will not be able to begin working full time until all their studies are completed, and they will not get back time lost.
In some cases, once an employee reaches the end of their OPT, an employer may wish to sponsor them for an H1-B Temporary Worker Visa (see below). This allows the employee to continue to work for that company an additional 3-6 years.
Exchange Visitor Student Visa (J-1) holders can apply for Academic Training (AT), which allows them to work off-campus in full-time, paying jobs related to their field. The total amount of time allotted for AT is 18 months (regardless of the number of degrees obtained while studying in the US) and can be completed either before or after a graduate’s period of study. Both undergraduate and graduate-level students are eligible. Post-doctoral fellows are allowed to apply for an additional 18 months, for a total of 36 months of AT.
If one period of AT ends, or if the job ends, a new application must be submitted and authorization granted for any new period of AT. Some J-1 students may have a “two-year home country residence” requirement, which prevents them from continuing employment with an H-1B visa (see below) after academic training, unless the requirement is waived.
H-1B Temporary Worker Visa
Once a period of Optional Practical Training or Academic Training is completed, Federal regulations require that employment be terminated. However, graduates may continue their employment if the USCIS approves a change in visa type to H-1B Temporary Worker, the most common type of work visa. There is a quota of how many H-1B Visas can be granted per fiscal year (between October 1 and September 31). Some non-profit research institutions and universities are exempt.
H-1B Visa holders must be sponsored by their current or prospective employer, and the position must be a professional one. The sponsoring organization petitions the USCIS and the Department of Labor for the H-1B, which can take 4-6 months before the employee’s new immigration status is granted. Employees cannot change companies without jeopardizing their visa status, and the visa ends when employment with that company ends, or after six years, whichever is shorter.
American employers often see International Students as assets, as they possess both multicultural and multilingual skills, and an education from a US institution. Additionally, when they hire a foreign national with a student visa, organizations are not required to prove that there is no American available for the position (which they have to do with green cards).
However, some employers are reluctant to interview F-1 Visa holders because they know their worker will have to leave in one year, unless the employer is willing to sponsor a change to H-1B Visa status. Potential employers may also be concerned about their own lack of familiarity with the process, and hesitant to invest money in training an employee who, sooner or later, will want to return to their home country.
There are a number of different types of accommodation available to international students at US universities and institutions.
It is customary once an international application has been accepted for the institution to send a welcome pack to the student. Within this welcome pack will be an explanation of the various accommodation options as well as a housing application.
The USA government advises international students to return the housing application as quickly as possible to give the student a higher chance of obtaining their desired living environment.
On-campus accommodation is a popular choice for international students as it can be a very sociable environment and an opportunity to integrate into US culture. Another advantage to on-campus accommodation is convenience, generally on-campus accommodation is located in close proximity to the university therefore reducing on time and commuting costs.
Dormitories or ‘dorms’ are the most popular accommodation for students. They are appropriate for single status students as they are often shared with a roommate. The facilities available depend upon the institution but students should expect basic furniture including storage, a desk, a bed and a shared bathroom. Some universities provide students with the option of single sex dorms, it is best to enquire directly to the student’s institution to confirm whether this is an option.
University owned apartments are usually self-catered and shared with a group of students. Priority is given to post-graduate students or students in the final stages of their course as it is a quieter way to live and therefore easier to study.
Fraternity and Sorority houses are a type of single sex student accommodation affiliated with a particular organisation. These houses are only available to students who are apart of the club in which the house is affiliated with.
Off-campus accommodation is housing which is privately owned and is therefore unaffected by university semesters. This means students have the option of living in this accommodation during the entire contracted year. Off-campus accommodation is suitable for independent international students as well as students with families.
In populous student areas, private companies often provide students with accommodation that you would expect on-campus; these are often referred to as off-campus dorms. The costs are likely to be comparable to on-campus dormitories and are appropriate for students who were not offered a place on-campus.
Students often share houses with friends near their institution in their final years of study as it is a good way to cut the cost of utility bills.
International students often have the option of living with an American family whilst studying in the USA. These home stays are often organised through international advisers and can be beneficial to international students as the cost of living is much cheaper.
If you’ve obtained your US student visa, congratulations. You’ve taken the first step towards the journey of a lifetime. Before you go, however, you need to make pre-departure preparations to ensure everything goes smoothly. First of all, make sure to double-check the visa stamp placed by the US consulate in your passport.
If there is error in any of these categories, you should rush to the Visa Facilitation Services office in your city and request for the necessary change to be made from the nearest US consulate.
Do make a few photocopies of your passport, including the page that shows the US student visa so that, in case you lose or misplace your passport, you have proof that you have been granted a US student visa.
You may leave a couple of copies with your folks at home in India, in case of any future reference or need. In addition to your original passport, do carry a few photocopies of the relevant pages from your passport as well.
As a student, you are allowed to carry your full US tuition fee; however, this amount should not exceed $100,000. Of course, it is not advisable to carry such a large amount with you. Instead, fees can be remitted through wire transfer; and you can also pay your fees online.
It is best to have money sent from home to the United States in installments. As you only need to pay tuitions per semester, or twice a year, you do not need such a large sum of money at once.
To avoid lengthy currency exchanges at the airport, don’t convert money just before your flight. Instead, secure the money in advance from an authorized bank or from a trusted financial institution.
It is recommended to take $200-$300 in cash for personal use, making sure to get bills in multiple denominations. Insist on a few one-dollar bills, as you’ll need them when landing in the United States for tipping and luggage carts.
Also, bring $1,000 to $3,000 (depending on individual choice and need) in travelers’ cheques. Keep at least three copies of the numbers of these cheques and place of issue, separately in your pocket, handbag and luggage. This way, in case of loss, you’ll have at least one copy of the required information for the bank upon arrival.
If this is your first international flight, seek the help of a good travel agent for all formalities. You can book directly through the airline, but agents tend to find the best deals and allow you more options. Unless you are an experienced traveler, go for the added security of an agent.
There are usually two categories of travel agents — IATA (International Air Transport Association) recognized and non-IATA agents. Non-IATA agents are sub-agents who approach IATA agents to book your tickets. For international travel, IATA agent bookings are widely accepted and recommended.
The choice of airline is yours. Obviously, most passengers seek the least possible air-fare with the best possible facilities. An overnight stay (layover) on the way from India to the US at airline expense is possible under certain conditions which your travel agent will explain, if you desire to make a halt on the way.
Check with your agent and your airline if you need a transit visa for the country in which your aircraft halts on route to the US, even if it’s just for a few hours.
For travel to the US, the free baggage allowance is based on a ‘piece’ concept. Each airline has different regulations, but here’s a general idea: Two ‘pieces’ of checked baggage: The dimension of each bag is limited to 62 inches or 157.5 centimeters (length+width+height), and the weight to 23 kilos each. Checked baggage may include lotions, creams, perfumes and other liquids.
One ‘piece’ of hand baggage: The dimension of carry-on baggage is limited to 45″ (L+W+H); the weight must not exceed five kilos. Approximate dimensions of carry-on baggage are 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, or 56 cm x 35.5 cm x 23 centimeters. Baggage seizers are often installed to test acceptable cabin baggage size at the check-in counters. Lotions, creams, perfumes and other liquids may NOT be included in your hand baggage.
The following items may be carried on board the aircraft in addition to baggage at no extra cost. Some airlines only allow ‘one’ of these personal items.
Take medical insurance cover during your study period from your university. It is the cheapest and most convenient method for two reasons. First, most universities count medical insurance as part of your tuition fee and second, the medical centre will be on campus and close by in case of emergency or medical need.
You can get health insurance from an outside company in America or India, but this is not advised. Also, you can take out travel insurance for your flight in case of loss of baggage, injury while travelling, etc. It costs up to $200 (approximately Rs 8,800), and is often difficult to claim. This is also an individual decision; research shows that most students do not take this type of insurance.
You will be required to fill in an ’embarkation card’ at the check-in counter. It asks for personal information, such as date of birth and home address, destination and purpose of your travel.
This form will be taken by the Indian immigration officer when you clear immigration and customs before moving on to security and boarding the aircraft.
Be sure to avoid carrying liquid items in your hand baggage as they will be confiscated at the security gate.
Carry following items with you in your hand luggage to be shown to the immigration inspector when you land at a US airport:
It’s an exciting time in your life, going to study in America. But, in order to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible, make sure you follow these guidelines.