Introduction

From apple pie to the Big Apple and from rock and roll to the Rockies, the United States has jam-packed a whole lot into its comparatively brief 230+ year history. USA is one of the most prestigious, top ranked higher education systems in the world. USA is the world’s most popular international student destination. According to statistics- more international students study in USA than in any other country in the world – there are more than 750,000 international students in USA. For any international student, the USA has a lot to offer: one of the most prestigious, top ranked higher education systems in the world, eclectic cities and beautiful natural parks, culture, history and a very multicultural population.

Here are few reasons why you should study in USA:

Ivy Leagues

Eight U.S. colleges make up the “Ivy League”: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale.

Business and Engineering

The most popular fields of study for students from abroad are in business and engineering fields. These account for 38% of declared majors of international students.

Student Preference

The U.S. is the destination of choice for the vast majority of respondents worldwide, with three-quarters (75 percent) of prospective students reporting the U.S. as their top choice.

Top Universities

USA comprises of seven out of the world’s top 10 universities according to the 2013/2014 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. In fact, 76 of the top 200 universities are based in USA.

Lucrative Salaries

At the start of 2015 the US job market achieved the highest quarterly job growth in 17 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Average Monthly Salary in United States: 6,044 USD

Work Opportunities

There are ample opportunities for part-time or seasonal jobs, and working in the United States gives individuals time to explore the country, while supplementing travel expenses and gaining international work experience.

Education System

We should focus on type of programs – undergraduate, graduate, PhD, MBA, Medicine, Law School.  Also focus on private vs public; quarter based system – semester based system – All years to complete the program

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There are over 5,500 universities in the US, averaging at around 115 per state, so with this much choice you are bound to find an institution to suit you. Graduate programs in the US fall into three main categories:

  • Academic Masters
  • Professional Masters
  • Doctoral/PhDs

Professional, or ‘terminal’, masters are designed to lead to employment rather than further study. Popular courses include: Master of Business Administration (M.B.A) and Master of Library Science (M.L.S.).  Academic masters, however, are generally designed to lead the way into doctorate/PhD study. Popular courses include: Master of Education (M.Ed.), and Master of Engineering (M.Eng.). Both last between one and three years, depending on the subject.

Doctoral degrees are the most advanced level of higher education, and usually take between four and eight years to complete, which includes the time it takes to write and present a dissertation.

The main reason behind the educational leadership of the United States is the evolving educational system. The educational system in the United States attracts almost 30% of students who study abroad each year, and this makes the United States in the forefront among other study destinations. USA has an established, high-quality tertiary education system which makes it one of the top destinations to study abroad.

Academic freedom is one of the hallmarks of a U.S. university. There’s no better place for gaining first hand exposure to cutting edge developments, sophisticated equipment, extraordinary resources and preeminent scholars in key areas, such as technology and research. The country has a federal system of government that has historically valued local governance, no country-level education system or curriculum exists in the United States. The federal government does not operate public schools. Each of the fifty states has its own Department of Education that sets guidelines for the schools of that state. Public schools also receive funding from the individual state, and also from local property taxes. Public colleges and universities receive funding from the state in which they are located. Each state’s legislative body decides how many tax dollars will be given to public colleges and universities.

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University of California-Berkeley
Georgia Institute of Technology

Job Opportunities

As students, we all try to find ways to support ourselves. Typically students do two kinds of jobs: One is legal and other is illegal on F1 visa.

“On Campus” is part time where one is allowed 20 hrs per week; if you are a full time international student, working beyond 20 hrs is against the rule. You can only work for more than 20 hrs in summer, when you are not taking any classes.  Technically, if you are not enrolled in classes, you can work full time up to 40 hrs in summer term. Also, for some of these jobs, you may get tuition waivers. Typically, tuition fee waivers are common for Teaching assistantship (TA), Graduate Assistantships (GA) and Research assistantships. You can make anywhere from 7 to 12 dollars or more. In order to be paid for work, students must have a Social Security Number (SSN). New students may work on campus up to 30 days before classes begin in the fall. However, on-campus employment is not permitted after graduation.

The U.S. government requires international students to pay taxes on their earnings, in accordance with U.S. tax laws. For this reason, the university withholds certain percentage of students’ pay. The amount of withholding depends on tax treaties between the U.S. and individual nations.

“OFF Campus” is outside of campus. Anything that is not affiliated with University is called Off Campus Job. Typically, it is ILLEGAL to work off campus if you are on F1 Visa, unless you get an exception and waiver from school for severe economic hardship.   It is not very uncommon for students to engage in some sort of off campus job because they do not have a choice to support themselves. As it is illegal to work without proper authorization from school, students are paid anywhere from 5 to 10 dollars.

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are keen graduate employers, especially in the IT and technology sectors. The world-famous Silicon Valley in California is home to hundreds of IT and technology start-ups.

Major US companies include:

Apple AT&T Hewlett-Packard
Chevron Exxon Mobile Bank of America
Ford Motor General Electric Verizon
Google IBM Citigroup
JPMorgan Chase Microsoft Nasdaq
Pfizer Proctor & Gamble Cargill
 NASA  Boeing Bloomberg
 Walt Disney Company  Tesla Motors Mckinsey & Company
 SpaceX Intel Boston Consulting Group
 Lockheed Martin SpaceX Twitter

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Applications and Visas

Most colleges and universities in the U.S. use a holistic approach to university admissions: They look at a student’s GPA (grade point average), admission test scores and other factors to try to gain a better picture of the student. These factors may include: coursework, teacher and counselor recommendations, the student’s personal statement, interviews, community service, extracurricular activities and more.

Typical Application Requirements:

  • A completed application form
  • Application fee ($50-100 per university)
  • Admissions exam scores
  • 2-3 essays
  • Transcript
  • 2-3 letters of reference
  • Interview (for some universities)

U.S. universities and colleges usually base their admission decisions on a student’s academic record and applicable test scores, such as TOEFL, the SAT or ACT. If you are applying to graduate schools, additional exam scores, such as the GRE or GMAT, will be required.

The fee for each application is US$35 to US$100. This money pays for processing your application and is non-refundable, even if you aren’t admitted to the school. If you mail your application, make sure to contact the admissions office to confirm your application was received.

The admissions office will review your marks earned during the last four years of secondary school. Your results from your country’s national secondary school examinations will also be reviewed.

If you are applying to a graduate program your marks from the university or college will be taken into consideration.

Ask the school you are now attending, or the school you have attended most recently, to mail a certified copy of your academic record or “transcript” to the schools to which you are applying. Prior to taking your admissions tests, you should arrange for official score reports to be sent to the universities or colleges that interest you.

Most applications will request the following information:

  • Personal information—Include your name, age, address, family background, birthplace, citizenship, and so on.
  • Activities—make a list of club memberships, awards earned, team sports experience, or leadership roles you have held.
  • Education plan—Write a short essay explaining why you want to attend this school, what course of study you want to pursue, your career goals, and research plans.
  • Essay—some schools require a personal essay on a topic of your choosing.
  • Letters of recommendation—the application form will include several blank pages for your letters of recommendation. Ask several of your teachers to compose and mail these letters directly to the admissions office of each school you choose.

Be sure to send your application to each university or college well before the application deadline. This gives you some extra time to resolve any possible delays.

Once a US education provider accepts you as one of their students, they will issue a “Confirmation of acceptance of the student” known as an i-20. An i-20 is required for an F-1 or M-1 student visa.

As well as applying for the visa, the i-20 form is mandatory to enter the U.S. for the first time, re-enter U.S. after a short visit outside the U.S., and for the entry of family / dependents (spouse, children).

Pay the SEVIS fee online
SEVIS is The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. The SEVIS I-901 fee is required for all F and M students as well as J exchange visitors.

Complete the DS-160 for online application
In order to complete the form you will need to have completed all steps up to this point. After successfully completing the online form, you will have to print the confirmation page of the DS-160.

Payment of visa fee
The next step is to pay the visa application fee after filling visa application form. There are various modes of payment available.

Book a visa interview
The next step is to book two appointments for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy. Appointments are booked online.

Once your appointment has been booked, you will be able to view your appointment letter. Make sure you take a print out of this as you will need to bring this with you when you attend your interview.

Undertake an interview with embassy
On the date of your appointment you will need to take your entire visa case with you to the interview. The case file should consist of the documents you have provided throughout the various steps of the process.

It is important to prepare for the visa interview. Make sure to be clear about the reasons you have chosen to Study in the USA, and why you have chosen the course and institution for which you have been issued an i-20.

Visa outcome
On the day of your interview, you will be informed about the visa decision. In case the visa is refused, your passport will be handed over to you directly by the visa officer. For approved visas the passport will be returned with the visa stamp, approximately one week after the interview

Complete Student F1 Visa Application Process

Tuition Costs

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 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. The tuition fee is different for different universities and varies widely with courses. It can vary from as low as $ 10000 a year for state universities to as much as $ 45,000 per annum for some private universities. A brief idea can be got from the following table:

University Type Annual Tuition Fees
Private Institutions (High Cost) $ 45,000
Private Institutions (Low Cost) $ 18,000
State Institutions (High Cost) $ 25,000
State Institutions (Low Cost) $ 12,000

The tuition fee is different for different universities and varies widely with courses. It can vary from as low as $ 10000 a year for state universities to as much as $ 35000 per annum for some private universities.

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 approximation. The expenses may also vary depending upon the state and city you are residing in; some are relatively cheaper. The main expenses can be split up as:

Expense Amount ($)
Rent $ 400 per month (You can live alone with that amount in a place like Auburn or share an apartment with 6 people in NY)
Groceries $ 100 per month
Utilities, $ 100 per month
Phone & Sundry $ 300 per month

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.

Living and Culture

Due to the sheer size of USA and the large number of USA universities & institutions, there is a perfect fit for each type of student. Huge, sprawling campuses that feel like cities and small, intimate campuses that feel like a collection of close friends. Tropical islands, dry deserts, snowy plains, the Grand Canyon, California, and New York City. In USA, there is truly something for every type of learner.

Living on campus in USA can offer you the opportunity to enrich your educational experience and meet new friends. Or you may choose to live off campus. USA universities offer a wide choice of academic, cultural and athletic activities. Your university may also have a variety of sporting teams in addition to fraternities and regional or ethnic clubs.

For many international students, adjusting to American culture can be difficult and at times frustrating. American customs and values might be very different from those of your home country, and you might find them confusing. You will probably want to familiarize yourself with American culture before your departure, in order to make the transition as easy as possible.

Values

  • Americans strongly believe in the concept of individualism. They consider themselves to be separate individuals who are in control of their own lives, rather than members of a close-knit, interdependent family, religious group, tribe, nation, or other group.
  • The American Declaration of Independence states that “all [people] are created equal,” and this belief is deeply embedded in their cultural values. Americans believe that all people are of equal standing, and are therefore uncomfortable with overt displays of respect such as being bowed to.
  • This belief in equality causes Americans to be rather informal in their behavior towards other people. Don’t be surprised if store clerks and waiters introduce themselves by their first names. Many people visiting the US are surprised by the informality of American speech, dress, and posture. Don’t mistake this for rudeness or irreverence; it’s just a part of their culture!
  • Americans tend to value frankness and openness in their dealings with other people. They believe that conflicts and disagreements are best solved by means of forthright discussion among the people involved. Americans believe that if someone has a problem with someone else, they should tell the person clearly and directly in order to come up with a solution to the problem.

America is a large place, and getting around the country may seem like a challenge, especially for international students. Whether you are living on or off campus, in a city or suburb, you are going to need to be able to get around easily and efficiently. You will probably not want to buy a car just for your time in the States, so you’ll want to learn about the many public transportation options available to you for getting around in your new country.

Depending on where you attend school, you may find a variety of public transportation systems. These options include:

  • Bicycles
  • Buses
  • Taxies
  • Trains and Subways

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