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United States of America

 

 

USA Education

United States of America (USA) will (most probably!) be the hottest destination for Indian and international students. It is not difficult to determine why. The quality of education, wide-ranging specialties, flexibility, large campuses, friendly professors, funding and international opportunities are only but a few of the reasons for attracting the elite students from throughout the world. It is not so easy to dislodge the pre-eminent position of US as the 'land of opportunities'.


There are more than 3,800 universities and colleges in the USA, offering right from short-term certificate programs to Post-Doctoral level degrees. Most students prefer to study in the USA at either the Bachelors level or Masters and beyond.


Master's level is the most popular among Indian students who would like to chalk their career plans for higher education. More than 78% of Indian students apply for Master's level programs in US universities.
At this level, Engineering and its specialties (MS) are most popular, followed by Management (MBA) and other subjects like Pharmacy, Public Health, Physiotherapy and other programs.

 

Each of the specialties has its own typical requirements for application, admission and all aspects further education in USA.

 

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Educational System in USA

Types of Programs

 

Undergraduate programs (Bachelor degree):
This is the first level of post-secondary education that begins after 12 years of primary and secondary schooling.  It includes at least 4 years of education and earns a bachelor’s degree (Most Indian graduation courses are of 3 years duration).  There are also two-year programs which earn an Associate degree. A student who has an associate degree has to study further for a minimum of 2 years to earn a bachelor’s degree.  

Graduate Programs (Master’s & Doctorate degree):
This is the same as post-graduate education in India.  It usually involves one year or more of education depending on the subject or course, and earns a master’s or doctoral degree like MBA, MS or PhD. Admission to a graduate program usually requires a minimum of 16 years of formal education. That is, 12 years of primary and secondary schooling and further 4 years of college education.

 

Types of Institutions

There is no central ministry of education in the U.S. and each institution can determine its own programs and admission standards. There are private as well as state funded colleges.

Universities are academic institutions that include one or more undergraduate colleges, as well as any number of graduate and professional schools, i.e. schools offering study for a single profession such as law.

Four year colleges are undergraduate institutions offering academic programs leading to a bachelor’s degree. Community colleges or junior colleges are undergraduate institutions offering upto two years of academic instruction beyond secondary school at a relatively low cost. These offer certificate programs that last for a few months to a year as well as associate degrees.

Institutes of technology or polytechnic institutes offer specialized programs in sciences and engineering, in addition to basic sciences, humanities and the social sciences, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

 

Accreditation

Accreditation is a process by which universities and their programs are recognized for maintaining a certain level of performance and quality. Accreditation is usually done by non-governmental agencies called accreditation bodies. There are two types of accreditation : regional & professional.

Regional bodies ascertain whether colleges and universities as a whole meet certain standards of educational quality.

In addition, certain professional accrediting bodies evaluate the quality of education in specific fields like Business, Law etc.

Importance of Accreditation :

  • Ensures that universities meet minimum standards.
  • Only national and international form of evaluation for US universities.
  • Increases the recognition of degree by employers and schools.
  • Helps in case the student wishes a transfer to another university.

To check out the list of accredited US universities, go to www.chea.org

NOTE : Government of India recognizes only accredited U.S. universities

It is advisable to apply to only accredited universities.

 

Semesters

US universities offer two main semester intakes:


Fall Semester (September/October):
This is the main intake and almost all programs are offered at this times. More financial aid is also available for this semester and as funds are allocated for the entire year during this time.


Spring Semester (January/February):
This is the mid-year intake. There is limited financial assistance available for this semester as most universities allocate funds to projects in the Fall semester.

 

Some universities also have a Summer intake around July.

 

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Cost of Education

US Universities fall under two major categories: public (state supported), and private (independent) institutions. International students’ tuition expenses at state schools are based on nonresident costs, which are still usually less expensive than those of private universities. It’s important to note that the cost of a program in a US school does not necessarily affect its quality. A brief idea can be got from the following table:

 

usa table

 

The tuition fee is different for different universities and varies widely with courses. It can vary from as low as $ 5000 a year for state universities to as much as $ 30000 per annum for some private universities. For more specific details, please contact the universities.

 

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Accommodation and Living Expenses

The approximate annual living expenses are about $10,000, which includes accommodation as well as other daily expenses. However, the expenses are different for different people depending on the lifestyles and this is just a rough idea. The main expenses can be split up as:

 

usa table

 

So, about $1000 per month is a good estimation.  Most people can survive with $700-$1000 a month. The key here is to share apartments/houses so that you save on the utilities, fixed charge portion of phone and to some extent on groceries.

 

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Required Tests

English Proficiency Tests

  Tests Programs
     
  TOEFL Required for almost all programs in US.
Acceptable along with TWE, in place of IELTS in universities of Canada, Australia, Europe, New Zealand.
     
  TSE Recommended for people who plan to apply for a teaching assistantship in U.S.
     
 

 Undergraduate Level (Bachelor degree programs)

  Test Program
     
  SAT-I Required for almost all Undergraduate Programs in US
     
  SAT-II Required by a few Universities in US for specific courses
     
     
 

Graduate Level (Masters & PhD level programs)

  Tests Program
     
  GRE Required for Humanities, Sciences, Engineering fields in US
     
  GRE Subject Required along with GRE, for a few Universities and Programs in US
     
  GMAT Required for Business/Management Programs all over the world
     
  LSAT Law Programs in US
     
  USMLE Medicine Programs in US
     
  GGFNS Required for Graduate Programs in Nursing in US

 

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Work Prospects

Students at any level are not allowed to work full-time, while studying in the USA. However, employment of international students, who reached USA on a non-immigrant visa such as F-1, is strictly regulated.
If such students maintain their visa status and be in good standing, they could work part-time and on campus only for upto 20 hours a week. During holidays and college breaks, students could work full-time, if they maintain the good standing.


Under special circumstances, students could seek approval from the Department of Homeland Security (through their respective college) to work full-time in case of 'economic necessity' or if they experience unexpected financial crises. Such full-time work is possible only after one year of stay in the US and after proper endorsement on the I-20 by the International Student Adviser of the university where the student is enrolled.
Even Off-campus employment must be authorized in writing.

 

After completion of education, any student could take up Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or internship, for a period of one year with companies in the USA, which is normally the first step to seek a more regular employment under H1B category, for further stay.

 

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Documents Required

For Under Graduate Programs

 

Academic Records:
Students who are applying for a Bachelor program or another undergraduate course would be required to submit a secondary school report and transcripts (report cards) of the final exams. The report form should be filled out by a school official like the principal, counselor or headmaster. This form should introduce you in the context of your whole school experience in relation to the other students in your class. Admission committees will be interested in learning how you have performed in your own educational system. The school report should talk about your accomplishments and provide a prediction of your chances for success in university-level studies.

Since there is a variation between the styles of scoring used abroad and the ones used in India, ask your school to include a guide to the grading standards used in your educational system and your school. If your school ranks students by their level of academic achievement, make certain that the ranking is included with the other details. Also send the school / junior college leaving certificate as and when it is available.

If the transcripts are in a language other than English, then it must be translated into English only by the issuing authority or university otherwise it may not be acceptable.

 

Letter of Recommendation:

 

Letters of reference or recommendation letters play a very important part in your admission especially in courses that earn you a master’s or doctoral degree. A recommendation letter is a signed statement from a person who knows you well professionally or has taught you in a subject that is related to the course you are applying to. It should list your positive and negative qualities, strengths and other such information.

 

The author or teacher must indicate his position, how long he/she has known the applicant and in what capacity. He/she should briefly discuss the need, importance and usefulness of the study the applicant proposes to undertake. Authors are usually asked to rank applicants in their letters of recommendation, which helps admission officers to interpret the academic credentials of foreign students. Students should obtain letters of recommendation (often on the prescribed forms sent by the institutions) from teachers who know them as a person as well as a student. You may like to request your author to give concrete examples that may show your qualities and help your case.

 

Many universities have their own format and questions that have to be answered by the person who is giving the letter of recommendation on your behalf. Letters, which do not give enough information, can jeopardize a candidate’s chances of selection.

 

Note : Even if not mentioned, it is advisable to include at least two letters of recommendation in your applications as they increase your chances of getting admissions.

 

SOP:

 

The personal essays, and/or statement of purpose, play a very important role in the process of evaluating your application for both admission as well as financial aid because it gives the faculty assessing your application their most significant impression of you as an individual. This section is the key to distinguish your application from other suitable candidates and a chance to market yourself.

A personal statement should include your reasons for choosing a particular course, the suitability of your education and experience for the chosen course, your personal interests and career goals.

Some courses like Business school courses will have their own essay questions and format. Others may ask for a resume or reasons for applying to that particular course.


For  Graduate Programs


Eligibility :
Most schools require qualifications comparable to a U.S. Bachelor’s (Honours) degree (Four Year Degree Program). That means a minimum of 16 years of formal education. In the Indian context, it implies qualifying in a professional four-year degree like engineering or other such courses.

For Doctorate programs, most universities require a Master’s degree in that subject. In a few exceptional cases like a good undergraduate engineering degree, they may offer a direct admission to a Doctorate course.

If you have completed a three-year degree program in India, the advisable plan of action to maximize eligibility for U.S. graduate schools is to apply for a Post Graduate degree here in India. A one-year university affiliated program will make up for the fourth year of a U.S. Undergraduate degree.

 

IMPORTANT

  • Professional programs like the CA, ICWA, part time diplomas from a university such as those in management, communication may or may not be accepted. Though many universities, especially Business Schools, have started recognizing the Indian CA.
  • Independent certificate courses offered by private institutions like Aptech, NIIT, etc. may or may not be accepted based on each individual university’s evaluation.

One-year education of a two year degree course (like M.Tech, MA etc) may not be accepted by most schools. The full course has to be completed for qualification, unless there is a recognized university exam at the end of one year.

 

No standardized policy exists regarding the acceptance of such programs. Some universities may accept the three-year Indian Graduation Degree for a few programs. Confirmation can only be obtained by either writing directly or formally applying to the universities concerned.


Academic Records:
Your past academic record is one of the most important deciding factors in securing admission to a college abroad. Most schools require you to have a reasonably good academic record especially for programs and courses offering a master’s or doctoral degree. Each university has its own minimum requirement for its programs, which are flexible depending on the candidate’s profile.

Universities in USA have their own marking and evaluation systems, which are considerably different from the Indian system. They follow the GPA (Grade Point Average) system which is based on the 5 points scheme – A,B,C,D & F.

It is advisable not to convert your marks in the Indian system of grading to the American Grade Point Average system or any other system since the conversion may not be accurate. You may attach an explanatory note from your college to indicate your rank in your class and/or university. The letter may also indicate your relative place in the class and the university average, along with the number of students in the class and the number of colleges and students in the university. You may also provide any other information or documents that you feel may help you in the admission process.

Students applying for Graduate courses (MBA, MS etc) are required to submit an official transcript (mark-sheets) from each college or university that they have attended after secondary school with complete details of the subjects/credits involved (for each year) and other details like correspondence courses, diplomas etc. Most universities ask for the transcript (mark-sheets) to be sealed in an envelope and signed and attested across the seal by the registrar. This procedure is to be done for each and every college that you have attended. Some universities may ask for more than one copy of the transcript. 

If the transcripts are in a language other than English, they must be translated into English only by the issuing authority or university.
Work Experience Details:

A number of professional and vocational courses require relevant work experience. For instance, many MBAs or master’s courses in information studies require at least a couple of years’ work experience. Most Australian universities are pretty strict about this.

A detailed Résumé is an important part of your application. It should include all information of professional work experience along with the details like positions held, achievements and range of work.

 

Letter of Recommendation:

 

Letters of reference or recommendation letters play a very important part in your admission especially in courses that earn you a master’s or doctoral degree. A recommendation letter is a signed statement from a person who knows you well professionally or has taught you in a subject that is related to the course you are applying to. It should list your positive and negative qualities, strengths and other such information.

The author or teacher must indicate his position, how long he/she has known the applicant and in what capacity. He/she should briefly discuss the need, importance and usefulness of the study the applicant proposes to undertake. Authors are usually asked to rank applicants in their letters of recommendation, which helps admission officers to interpret the academic credentials of foreign students. Students should obtain letters of recommendation (often on the prescribed forms sent by the institutions) from teachers who know them as a person as well as a student. You may like to request your author to give concrete examples that may show your qualities and help your case.

Many universities have their own format and questions that have to be answered by the person who is giving the letter of recommendation on your behalf. Letters, which do not give enough information, can jeopardize a candidate’s chances of selection.

 

Note : Even if not mentioned, it is advisable to include at least two letters of recommendation in your applications as they increase your chances of getting admissions.

 

SOP :

 

The personal essays, and/or statement of purpose, play a very important role in the process of evaluating your application for both admission as well as financial aid because it gives the faculty assessing your application their most significant impression of you as an individual. This section is the key to distinguish your application from other suitable candidates and a chance to market yourself.

A personal statement should include your reasons for choosing a particular course, the suitability of your education and experience for the chosen course, your personal interests and career goals.

Some courses like Business school courses will have their own essay questions and format. Others may ask for a résumé or reasons for applying to that particular course.
In Brief, following are necessary for Visa Interview
Applicants should apply at the consular section of the American Embassy any working day, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:30 and 10:00 AM.

 

Documents required are :

  • Valid Passport
  • One Passport size photograph (Black and White or Colour)
  • A Non-immigrant Visa Application (Form 156) available from the Consular section.
  • Form I-20 executed by the authorizing official of institution concerned, signed by the applicant.
  • Evidence of financial ability to cover the costs of the education and maintenance involved
  • Visa fee to be paid in Indian Rupees by Bank Draft

 

When to Apply?

An applicant may apply for a student Visa not earlier than 90 days before the registration date specified on the FORM I-20. If the registration date is already passed or the applicant cannot reasonably expect to arrive at the school by the registration date, the applicant should obtain an amended I-20 or a letter of extension from the issuing institution stating by what date the applicant may arrive.

 

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Financial Documents for Visa

You must submit a financial aid application if you desire financial help for your graduate studies in a US university. Financial assistance for non-US citizens is very limited.

The evidence of financial support is required by universities to issue the documents needed for visa application. Although it is a requirement for application, it is usually not taken into consideration into factors that determine admission. Most universities make their admission decisions without regard for the source and amount of financial support.

You would be required to submit documentation of your family’s financial resources to help schools assess your need. Most of the universities have their own financial aid form, which you would have to complete.

You would also be required to submit a bank statement demonstrating your financial capacity to support your education in US. Some US state institutions offer tuition waivers to international students in return for some type of educational contribution.

 

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