Bound for the USA

America’s lure lies in its smooth-flowing system and strong student support service offered by US universities


Indians constitute the second largest contingent of overseas students in the US. And this is because America’s lure lies in its smooth-flowing system and strong student support service offered by US universities. This combined with a flexible curriculum, which allows you to virtually design your own programme, even choose a test date, if you have covered a portion of the syllabus during your undergraduate studies in India — makes the USA a very attractive destination for education.

Admission procedure: There are several criteria that you need to consider while narrowing down your options: cost, availability of funding, course, curriculum, acceptance and enrolment rate, placement record, internships, co-operative programmes, diversity of student body, library holdings, research facilities, faculty profile and strengths, specifics of the locality, past students’ experiences etc. Every student is different, and it is very important to consider the factors that are relevant to one’s education, financial situation and lifestyle.

Keeping it manageable: Prospective undergraduate students are usually recommended to apply to 10 institutions; Masters students to between eight to 10 and doctoral to between six to eight institutions. Start planning in advance. Surf the Internet sites (official ones); do some faculty checks, find out which varsity has what kind of funding and then proceed with your applications. You can also consult the USEFI directories — they are very helpful.

Academic calendar: Variety being the bedrock of US education, entry dates vary from institution to institution and from department to department within an institution. The standard entry date is August / September (for the Fall semester) of the academic year. Optional entry dates are in Jan/Feb (Spring). Occasionally you can find programmes that will take in students in the winter quarter (Nov / Dec) and in summer (May/ June).

Statement of Purpose/College Essay: Overall the SOP or the essay should tell the admissions committee who you are, what sets you apart from the rest, your academic progress and development, how clear your goals are, have you made an objective assessment of your expectations and the school’s strengths, whether the two complement each other and so on.

Application packet: US universities usually provide a checklist of all that should be included in an application packet. You should closely follow those instructions. Another important thing to keep in mind is to include a cover note detailing what is enclosed — specifying the order of documents.

Standardised test scores: There are no qualifying tests in the strict sense but general requirements are: TOEFL to demonstrate adequate proficiency in the English language. For UG students — SAT I (more or less mandatory) and SAT II Subject tests (required by highly selective schools and programmes and useful when you are applying for financial aid. For detailed information, http://sat.collegeboard.-com/home. For graduate students in non-professional fields: GRE General and GRE Subject Tests. Detailed information at  For business studies: GMAT

Cost factor: Estimated costs range from US$20,000 (tuition plus living expenses) to over US$ 70,000 for professional studies like MBA.

Permitted work for international students: During the academic session, international students are allowed to work 20 hours per week on campus for the first nine months. After these initial nine months of full time study, international students can work off campus too. During vacation, they can work up to 40 hours per week.

Student visa: A student visa is valid as long as full-time student status is maintained. And the common belief that the visa interview is a tough hurdle is actually a self-perpetuating myth.

Job opportunities: All foreign students, including Indians are eligible to work in the US for a year after completing their academic programmes. This is called the “Optional Practical Training (OPT)” programme and you can take it up while being on a F1 student visa. Career and placement offices in the universities help by arranging campus career fairs but you can try through professional contacts too. Meticulous planning, thorough research, clarity of purpose, and timely execution of the plan is essential for study in the United States.



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