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Here are a few good reasons :

U.S. colleges are known worldwide for the quality of their facilities, resources, and faculty. Accreditation systems ensure that institutions continue to maintain these standards. The U.S. education system is unrivalled worldwide in the choice it offers of types of institutions, academic and social environments, entry requirements, degree programs, and subjects in which you can specialize. As an investment in your future, a U.S. degree offers excellent value for the money. A wide range of tuition fees and living costs, plus some financial help from colleges, have made study in the United States affordable for thousands of students before you. One of the most distinctive features of U.S. universities and colleges is the flexibility in choice of courses within a college or university, but more importantly there is also the option for students to move between one institution and another. Completing the first two years of a degree at one institution, usually a community college, and then moving to another, is very common.

Educational System

Colleges Universities and Institutes

Degree granting institutions in the United States can be called by any of these terms, and colleges and institutes are in no way inferior to universities. As a general rule, colleges tend to be smaller and usually offer only undergraduate degrees, while a university also offers graduate degrees. The words “school,” “college,” and “university” are used interchangeably.

Bachelor’s and associate degrees.

The bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete, though some students take slightly less time to finish, while others may take longer. The associate degree usually takes two years to complete. Associate degree programs may be “terminal” programs, which lead into specific careers upon graduation, or “transfer” programs, which correspond to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree and tend to be more liberal arts based. Under the latter option you could then transfer into the third year of a four-year bachelor’s degree program.The first year is called the freshman year; the second is called sophomore; the third, junior; and the fourth, senior. Students in the United States often take longer than four years to complete their degrees. This may be because they change majors and need to accumulate enough credits in the new major field to earn the degree. Or it may be because they take less than a full-time course load per term for academic, personal, or financial reasons. International students, however, cannot study part-time and must maintain full-time status. Courses taken in the first two years are known as lower division courses, and courses taken in the final two years are called upper division courses. Associate degree programs are offered at two-year colleges known as junior or community colleges . Four-year colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs, with a small number also offering associate degree programs.

The Liberal Arts

It is a shortened form of the term “liberal arts and sciences,” and the liberal arts philosophy is a unique feature of the U.S. higher education system. U.S. undergraduate education is based on this concept, which believes in providing a well-rounded academic education that develops the student’s verbal, written, and reasoning skills. Students at a liberal arts college, or at a university with a strong liberal arts program, begin their degree study by taking classes in a wide variety of courses in the arts, humanities, languages, and the social and physical sciences. They then choose a subject in which to specialize (called a major) and take about 25 to 50 percent of their classes in the major area. Even those who do not follow a liberal arts program and instead plan to major in a specialized subject like engineering are usually required to take about 25 percent of their classes in humanities and social sciences to complement their studies. Similarly, a student who wants to complete a major in history is required to take some classes in mathematics and, possibly, the sciences.

Professional education

It is included within the U.S. university system. Large universities tend to be comprised of a college of arts and sciences and several professional schools – usually business, agriculture, medicine, law, and journalism. Institutes of technology have a scientific emphasis in all the degrees they offer.his series.

State Universities

State Universities are founded and subsidized by U.S. state governments (for example, California, Michigan, or Texas) to provide low-cost education to residents of that state. They may also be called public universities to distinguish them from private institutions. Some include the words “state university” in their title or include a regional element such as “eastern” or “northern.” State universities tend to be very large, with enrollments of 20,000 or more students, and generally admit a wider range of students than private universities. State university tuition costs are generally lower than those of private universities. Also, in-state residents (those who live and pay taxes in that particular state) pay much lower tuition than out-of-state residents. International students, as well as those from other states, are considered out-of-state residents and therefore do not benefit from reduced tuition at state institutions. In addition, international students may have to fulfill higher admission requirements than in-state residents.

Private universities

Private Universities are funded by a combination of endowments, tuition fees, research grants, and gifts from their alumni. Tuition fees tend to be higher at private universities than at state universities, but there is no distinction made between state and non-state residents. Colleges with a religious affiliation and single-sex colleges are private. In general, private universities have enrollments of fewer than 20,000 students, and private colleges may have 2,000 or fewer students on their campuses.

Community colleges

provide two-year associate degree programs, usually called the associate of arts (A.A.) or associate of science (A.S.) degrees, as well as excellent technical and vocational programs. Community colleges are community-based institutions with close links to secondary schools, community groups, and employers, and many U.S. students live close to campus with their families. Community colleges can be public or private institutions and are sometimes called junior colleges or two-year colleges. Increasingly, international students are looking at community colleges as their gateway to academic advancement. Like their American classmates, they are discovering that many of these unique schools have outstanding programs, transferable credits, reasonable fees, and supportive environments. These factors are so attractive that over 40 percent of the U.S. undergraduate population can be found in the classrooms of America’s two-year colleges. The number of international students at community colleges has been rising rapidly in recent years. With high-quality courses, simplified application procedures, low costs, extensive student support systems, committed teachers, and smaller classes, community colleges offer a unique way to access many aspects of U.S. higher education – from technical and vocational education to continuing education to full degree programs. For many international students, the quest for a U.S. bachelor’s degree will begin at a community college.

Technical and vocational colleges

specialize in preparing students for entry into, or promotion within, the world of work. They offer certificate and other short-term programs that train students in the theory behind a specific vocation or technology, as well as in how to work with the technology. Programs usually last two years or less. There are several thousand technical and vocational colleges across the United States, and they may be private or public institutions.

The Credit System

Students at American universities complete their degrees when they have accumulated a certain number of “credits.” It usually takes somewhere between 130 and 180 credits to graduate. Sometimes the terms “semester/quarter hours” or “units” are used instead of credits. Each individual course you take each semester earns a specified number (usually three or four) of credits/hours/units. Your academic adviser will help you plan your course schedule for the academic year.


American universities employ a system of continual assessment and assign grades for each course taken. Almost everything you do for a class will influence your final grade. Examinations and tests, essays or written assignments, laboratory reports, laboratory or studio work, class attendance, and class participation may all be used to determine your final grade. This means it is essential to keep up with the reading and course work and to attend classes on a regular basis. The following is a general percentage?letter grade scale for classes taken at U.S. colleges: 100 – 90% = A 89 – 80% = B 79 – 70% = C 69 – 60% = D 59 – 50% = E 49 – 0% = F WHAT IS A GPA? Each student completes his or her degree with a grade point average (GPA). A cumulative grade point average is the GPA for all courses taken throughout the degree program. Most universities use a GPA scale of 4.0, but a few universities use a scale of 5.0. To work out your GPA, take the numerical value assigned to the letter grade you achieve for each course (typically 4 points for an “A,” 3 points for a “B,” and so on), then multiply this number by the number of credits each course is worth. Finally, add these numbers together and divide by the total number of credits for all courses. For example: Letter Grade Numerical Value Number of Credits Total A 4.0 3 12 B 3.0 3 9 C 2.0 3 6 Total 9 27 27 divided by 9 = 3.0 GPA Most universities will also offer some sort of honors degree. To qualify for an honors degree, you must fulfill additional credits or write an honors thesis; precise details depend upon the university and/or academic department.

Entry requirements

Under graduate requirements

Each institution will have its own set of admission requirements, but the minimum usually includes the following:

  • Completed application form
  • proof of secondary school completion (usually 12 years of schooling)
  • Certification of English language proficiency (usually a score from the Test of English as a Foreign Language [TOEFL])
  • evidence of financial support (required for the I-20 form.

The TOEFL requirement is often lower for a community college than it is for a four-year institution. In addition, if your TOEFL score is a little below the entry requirement, the community college may still admit you into the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Successful completion of all the prescribed ESL courses will open the door to the wider academic world of the community college. Many, but not all, colleges require international applicants to take an admissions test, usually the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT I) or the American College Testing (ACT) Assessment. Some may also require SAT II Subject Tests. Check ahead to determine specific test requirements. The SAT tests are held several times per academic year, and registration materials are available from the test administrators or from U.S. educational information and advising centers.

Graduate Requirements

Vary greatly

  1. Tests & Minimum Scores – GRE, TOEFL, and GMAT
  2. GPA(grade point average)
  3. Work and writing samples or portfolio requirements

interviews or auditions

  1. Work Experience

Vary from institution to institution

Vary within different programs in institution

  1. Ssometimes by specialization within the same Program

Vary by field of study

  1. Business weighs work experience and essays
  2. Law weighs prior institutions attended
    3. theoretical fields in sciences and humanities weigh

prior academic experience and academic references

Vary from year-to-year

Select a college

If you plan ahead and do your research carefully, you will come up with a manageable shortlist of colleges that match your needs. Every student is different, and when making your choices you should consider carefully the factors that are important to you in both your education and your lifestyle. Educational Information and Advising Centers U.S. educational information and advising centers can be found in almost every country around the world, and they are the ideal starting point for your research. Centers usually have a library with directories, university catalogs, introductory guides such as this one, handouts, and reference books to assist you in applying to study in the United States. Many centers have developed guides, videos, and Web sites specifically tailored to students applying from your country. In many parts of the world, private agents or agencies work to recruit international students into U.S. colleges. There are also private educational consultants who charge a fee for assisting you with the process of choosing U.S. colleges and putting together your applications. Often these educational consultants and private agents are graduates of U.S. colleges or people who are dedicated to promoting the benefits and advantages of the U.S. education system. However, sometimes they are not, and so it is important to check the credentials and past performance of educational consultants or agents before using their services

Select a Course

Community colleges usually have strong ties with their state’s universities and their region’s business sector, and so are sometimes referred to as the community’s college. Programs of study at community colleges usually include: Two-Year Associate Degree Programs designed to fulfill the requirements for the first two years of a four-year bachelor’s degree. They may be called transfer degree programs because students who complete them later transfer to four-year universities for the final two years of study. such programs include pre-business administration, pre-engineering, fine arts, liberal arts, and computer science. . designed to prepare students for immediate employment in fields such as automotive engineering, interior design, aviation flight technology, child development, criminal justice, health care services and sciences, business, fire science technology, paralegal studies, food management, and photography. These are sometimes called terminal degree programs. Certificate Programs Certificate programs train individuals for positions in areas like social work and human services, health care, building trades, and technologies. Certificate programs may be short- or long-term depending on the type of course that is offered. Long-term programs include nursing, while short-term certificate programs include such specialty areas as office technology, real estate, and computer-assisted design.

Admission Procedure

You should shortlist of colleges that match your needs, interests, and abilities. You should also feel confident that you have the minimum entrance requirements for studying in the United States, and that you can meet the costs of a U.S. undergraduate education. Now it’s time to start putting together your applications. Because of the work, and the costs, involved in putting together a good application, most students limit their applications to between four and seven colleges. However, you can request information from as many universities as you like. If you have access to the Internet, you will find that many U.S. universities also put their college catalogs onto their Web sites, and some have even stopped printing paper copies. Many also have on-line application forms that can be completed on the computer and sent back to the university electronically, or the forms can be downloaded and printed. If there is an on-line application, you should use it. This is the quickest method for submitting your application.

Registering for the admissions

If you are planning to enroll at a college in September (fall semester), take any relevant tests no later than January in the same year, and preferably earlier. You should confirm with each college whether you need to take the SAT I and SAT II Subject Tests. Remember that you cannot take both the SAT I and SAT II on the same day, and deadlines for registration for the tests are usually five to six weeks before the actual test date. Test scores must reach universities before the application deadline date, and you should allow at least four to six weeks between the test date and the application deadline. If English is not your native language, register to take the TOEFL. As with the SAT, make sure your test results reach colleges before their deadline dates. If you feel that you qualify for a TOEFL waiver, contact the universities directly and explain your circumstances. At least one to two months before the test dates, find out about test preparation materials and any other help you may need. Your information or advising center can give you further information.

Planning well ahead gives you sufficient time to make successful applications to the colleges of your choice. 12 to 18 months prior to the academic year in which you hope to enroll, begin to consider, research, and do the following:

  • What are your reasons for wanting to study in the United States?
  • Which universities will meet your needs?
  • Will you need financial assistance?
  • Find out application and financial aid deadlines. This will affect when you take the standardized tests required for admission since test results must reach admissions offices no later than these deadlines. The tests should be taken in advance of submitting university application forms.
  • Register to take standardized tests if required by the universities to which you are applying.
  • Begin narrowing down your choices of schools to approximately 10 to 20 institutions.

August: Contact universities for application and financial aid forms and catalogs.

  • Obtain test registration forms to take the TOEFL and SAT I and SAT II, if necessary.

September to December: Request an official transcript from your school.

  • Request letters of recommendation from your teachers.
  • Submit completed application forms (for admission as well as financial aid).
  • Double check that transcripts and references have been sent.
  • Take the necessary admissions tests

January to April: University application deadlines must be met; note that these are for regular admission – early admission deadlines will be sooner.

April to June: Letters of acceptance or rejection arrive. Decide which university to attend, notify the admissions office of your decision, complete and return any forms they require.

  • Send letters of regret to those universities you turn down.
  • Organize finances: arrange to transfer funds to a U.S. bank; make sure you have funds for travel and expenses on arrival.
  • Finalize arrangements for housing and medical insurance with your university.

June to August: Apply to your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa upon receipt of your I-20 form and well in advance of your departure date.

  • Make travel arrangements.
  • Contact the International Student Office at your university with details of your arrival plans, and confirm details of any orientation for new students held by the university.

Cost Fee Financial Aids

Tuition and fees at colleges do vary based on the program of study and whether the college is public or private. Nevertheless, the cost of attending a two-year institution is usually lower than that of a four-year college in the same geographic area. This is the case even for international students attending public colleges where all out-of-state students must pay a higher rate than state residents. The economic advantage of two-year colleges is difficult to ignore.

By and large, it will be a challenge for international students to secure financial aid at state-supported colleges. Though you should check with the colleges about any scholarships they offer that are open to international students, almost all of the funds available to students will come from the federal government or local government, and are set aside specifically for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. There is a slightly better chance of acquiring financial assistance at private colleges. Other private institutions such as foundations, corporations, or associations may also have funds for grants and scholarships.

It is important to start your financial planning at least 12 months before you intend to study in the United States. Financing your college education consists of:

  • Compiling effective applications, assessing personal funds;
  • Identifying financial assistance for which you are eligible;
  • Rreducing educational costs. Assessing Personal Funds Consult your parents and other family sponsors to find out how much money they can commit each year to your education. Try to raise as much as you can from family sources, because most scholarship awards, if available, cover only part of the total educational and living costs and may not be available to first-year international students.

All types of scholarships and financial aid for international students are highly competitive and require excellent academic records.

You will often find the terms “scholarships” and “financial aid” used interchangeably, but technically speaking, a scholarship is a financial award based on merit, including outstanding academic performance, special talent in sports or performing arts, or perhaps community service or leadership. Financial aid is a “need-based” grant based on the student’s financial need, as documented by family income, assets, and other factors.

Home Country Funds:Conduct research at home to find possible funding from local government, corporate, or foundation sources. Although these sources are not found in all countries, you could reduce your educational cost with scholarships from local organizations. Funding From Colleges: Meet with an educational adviser to learn how to research available financial aid for international students. Careful advance research and realistic expectations are more likely to result in success. Do not assume that all colleges award financial aid. In fact, less than half of the institutions offering bachelor’s degrees can provide financial assistance to students who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Keep in mind that financial aid for U.S. students is separate from financial aid for international students. Be sure to tell the admissions office your country of citizenship and request information on financial aid available to non-U.S. citizens.

If offered, financial aid is usually made up of a number of different types of assistance, including grants and scholarships and occasionally loans or part-time work programs.

You will discover that financial aid is very rare at state, or public, colleges and at colleges that offer professional courses such as engineering, business administration, and health professions. More financial aid may be available from the private liberal arts colleges, which offer the arts and science subjects. As you do your research, make a table listing the colleges you would like to attend. Write down annual costs (as outlined above), then enter the average financial aid award and the number of awards made by each of the colleges. Such information is available from resources in your information or advising center.

The total number of full scholarships available each year to incoming international students in the United States is about 1,000, offered by only about 100 colleges.

To get a full scholarship, you must be one of the top students in your country, usually with “A”s (excellent) in almost every subject, high SAT and TOEFL scores, and distinguished performance in other areas such as leadership and community service. There are 20 top students from all over the world competing for each scholarship, so you must distinguish yourself among a pool of outstanding students. Only a handful of wealthy colleges in the United States are able to meet the financial need of all the students they admit. (Please note that admission to these schools is usually very competitive.) Financial need is the difference between what you and your family can afford to contribute and the estimated cost of attending the college. The former is calculated on the basis of detailed information about your parents’ financial circumstances, including supporting evidence such as bank statements, employers’ letters, and other official documents and statements. Other universities, which make more limited awards on the basis of your financial need, will also ask to see such evidence.

Financial assistance from colleges is awarded at the beginning of the academic year and is rarely available for students entering mid-year in January or at other times. More aid is available for freshman students than for those transferring in from other institutions. Students who have already proven themselves at a college may find it easier to obtain financial assistance from that college than new students.

Sports Scholarships: Some U.S. colleges offer opportunities for gifted student athletes to play for the college team as a means of paying for their education. See chapter 7 for further details, including how to apply for a sports scholarship. International Awards: International students also ask about financial assistance from foundations, organizations, and the U.S. government. Very little aid exists through such sources, and it is usually earmarked for advanced graduate students. Again, your educational adviser can tell you whether there are special funds available for students from your country.

Loans: In limited instances, you may be able to negotiate a loan to fund part of your educational costs. Your educational adviser may have information on loan programs for which you may be eligible. You must usually have a U.S. citizen co-signer to act as a guarantor for any loans from U.S. loan programs, and in most cases you must already be enrolled in a U.S. university before you apply. Before taking a loan, make certain you know how you are going to repay it, and how a loan will affect your plans for graduate or other further study and for returning home.

Best Bargains: Look for the colleges that offer you the highest quality education at the lowest cost.

Accelerated Programs: Completing a four-year bachelor’s degree in three years saves thousands of dollars. Students can accelerate their programs by:

  • Earning transfer credit or advanced standing for college-level studies completed in the home country. Taking courses at a nearby community college if tuition is lower and credits are transferable;
  • Attending classes during the summer if they are available;
  • Ttaking one additional course each semester.

Tuition Waivers: Based on your first-year grades, some colleges award partial tuition waivers. A superior academic record could save you thousands of dollars.


There are several things you can do to increase your chances of a favorable visa decision:

  • Start the process at least two months in advance of your departure date.
  • Assemble all the documentation that can help make your case.
  • Make sure you are well prepared if you are required to attend an interview.

To apply for an F-1 student visa, you must have a valid I-20 form; for the J-1 visa, you must have the IAP-66 form; and for the M-1 visa, an I-20M-N form. Your college will send you the appropriate form after you have been admitted and after you have certified your available finances.

When your form arrives, check the following:

  • Is your name spelled correctly and in the same form as it appears on your passport?
  • Is the other information correct: date and country of birth, degree program, reporting date, completion date, and financial information?
  • Is it signed by a college official?
  • Has the reporting date (“student must report no later than.”) passed?

If so, the form expires and cannot be used after the reporting date. If your I-20, I-20M-N, or IAP-66 is valid, you are ready to apply for the visa.

The visa interview usually lasts an average of three minutes, so you must be prepared to be brief yet convincing.

Be confident, do not hide the truth, or lie – U.S. consular section staff have a lot of experience and can easily identify when people are not being truthful about their visa application. In order to issue your visa, the consular officer must be satisfied on three counts:

First, are you a bonafide student?

Second, are you capable of financing your education?
Third, are your ties to home so strong that you will not want to remain permanently in the United States?

Overall you must be able to show that your reasons for returning home are stronger than those for remaining in the United States.


You should decide and plan early as to what you can realistically afford. Carefully study the fee structure printed in most university catalogs, and incorporate into your calculations the cost of room, food, tuition, fees, travel, and other expenses for the full four years. You also need to consider that tuition costs may rise, as many universities increase their tuition every year. Also look at the payment plans of various institutions. Since all colleges have different housing facilities and policies, find out if housing is available for all four years of enrollment or if students are required to find off-campus housing. Investigate the price difference between on-campus and off-campus housing. Check the living arrangements for on-campus housing; students living in dormitories may be required to share a room with one, two, or three other students. Yet living on campus, at least for the first year or two, may help you integrate into American university life more easily and quickly. It can also save you the additional expense of buying a car or paying for daily public transportation, as well as the time needed to travel back and forth to campus each day. By your junior year, however, you may wish to move off-campus into your own apartment. Be sure to find out the university’s policy on such a move, and also the cost and availability of local housing opportunities. Most two-year colleges do not offer student housing but often provide assistance through local housing groups. Students usually commute to campus and live in local communities. This experience is very different from living in student dormitories on a four-year college campus, and it gives international students a wonderful opportunity to develop independence and observe American life.

Work While You Study

Current immigration regulations permit international students to work only part-time – up to 20 hours per week – and only on campus during their first year of study. By working 10 to 15 hours a week, you could earn enough to pay for incidentals such as books, clothing, and personal expenses, but your campus job cannot pay your major expenses, such as tuition or room and board. This income also cannot be used as a source of income for any official financial statements. Campus jobs may include working at the university’s cafeteria, bookstore, library, or health club, or within the university’s administrative offices. After the first year, you can also apply for employment as a resident assistant (RA) in a university dormitory. RAs serve as the first point of contact for students needing assistance or who have queries regarding dorm life. In return, RAs receive free accommodation and sometimes a small salary and/or meal plan. Under current regulations, after your first year of study, you may apply to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for permission to work off campus for up to 20 hours a week. You should note, however, that there is no guarantee that this request will be granted. If you are married and are in the United States on an F-1 student visa (see chapter 11), your spouse does not have permission to work. However, if you are in the United States on a J-1 student visa, your spouse is allowed to request a temporary work permit. You should always check with your international student adviser before considering any form of employment.

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