Essential Guide to Plan Your Studies in the USA

Yashwant Kale Career Guidance, General Leave a Comment

The first destination that comes to mind when you plan to study abroad is the USA. As the home of nearly one in every five universities in the QS World University Rankings – the most widely read university comparison of their kind; USA leads the list of world’s leading destinations for international students. An average of around 700,000 – 800,000 international students choose the US as a destination to pursue their abroad studies. In the US, most popular places for international students are California, New York and Texas. Most popular subject choices are engineering, business and computer science.

Apart from the high standard of education in US universities, the fast pace of the big cities, the weather, sun-kissed beaches or lush forests, varied climatic zones, etc attract students to pursue their studies in here.

There are about 3000+ universities in the US. This sheer volume and variety of universities means that there is one for everyone that suits their academic proficiency as well as preferred climatic needs. Another major feature studying here is the option to transfer to another university in between your studies.

Undergraduate degrees typically take four years to complete whereas graduate degrees take two years. In India, majority of students fly abroad only to pursue their graduate studies after completion of their under graduation here. Students in US can also choose their subjects on which they want to focus known as major.

One can also earn a minor qualification along with the major by taking up those classes in an additional field. These courses often supplement the major degree. For example, business majors often minor in economics. Students choose minors simply to explore the subject of interest without having to commit to a full-time study.

Tuition Fees

Studying in the US certainly won’t be cheap and US universities tend to differentiate largely between domestic and international students in terms of tuition fee. Domestic students pay comparatively low fees than international students. Public universities charge lower fees for students from within the same state compared to outsiders while private universities usually charge the same fee to everyone. The fees too vary significantly from university to university. Some universities tend to provide scholarships to deserving students but these are limited and highly competitive. The universities at the time of issuing the acceptance letter usually provide info on the average expected cost of study along with accommodation. These days, many Indian banks are offering study loans to students planning to study abroad. These loans can be repaid after the student gets a job.

Financial Aid

Like said before, the financial aid is provided basing on criteria. It can be either merit-based or need-based. Need-based aid is usually provided depending on the student’s financial circumstances. The merit-based aid is usually given to students basing on their academic proficiency. Even sports, extracurricular activities, experience are sometimes taken into consideration.
International students are not eligible for federal aid – aid provided by the US government. Many universities and private organizations have their own scholarship schemes and endowments to help students. You will need to check the respective university website for any scholarship / financial aid related info.


To apply for a university, you will need to apply directly to each of the universities you are interested in. General application periods are Jan – Apr / May for the fall semester (semester starting in Aug / Sep). For the spring semester the application periods are Jun – Oct / Nov). Please check the university websites for exact deadlines. Some universities don’t have a fixed deadline and have a rolling deadline. It means that they accept applications until the seats for that particular course are filled in by deserving students.

Entry requirements for each university are different, but most involve either completing an admissions test and / or essay. SAT or ACT admissions tests along with recommendation letters from teachers are required for under graduate admissions. GRE and TOEFL or IELTS along with recommendation letters from professors are required for graduate admissions. If you have work experience, a recommendation letter from your employer may be required too. Along with these scores, universities also ask for your academic transcripts to be sent directly from your UG University to them. You will need your transcripts / certificates to be attested by the registrar of your university. If you have studied at an affiliated college, you will need to visit the university to which your college is affiliated and get the attestation done. Apart from these requirements one most important document that defines your chance of admittance is the personal statement or statement of purpose (SOP). More about SOP will be discussed in our coming articles.

If you are accepted you’ll be entered into an international student database called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You will be sent a copy of the information stored here. You will need to check for its accuracy. It is also important to ensure that you pay the SEVIS application fee which is about $200. After this you will be sent the I-20 a form issued by the US government which you will need to present to the US embassy when you attend for your visa interview. Please keep in mind that applying to US universities itself is a costly affair and involves huge sums of money to be spent towards application fees (university application fees usually vary between $50 to $120. Each university has its own application fee), courier costs, SEVIS fee, etc.

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