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Study in the U.S. – A Guide for International Students

UserMark time25 July,2016

You are going to U.S. to pursue your academic dreams, or say planning to. So it is implied that you already have done enough research on the educational infrastructure of U.S. You already know U.S ranks top in the list of public expenditure on higher education or that U.S. universities dominate almost all international ranking tables every year or even the fact that U.S. continues to be the first choice for international students. So we won’t bore you with meticulous statistics to prove that you have taken the right decision by choosing U.S. as your study destination. We are here to make you prepared for the educational, social and cultural transition you are about to experience and make you acquainted with the tools to gather valuable information on every aspect of studying in U.S.

Study in the U.S.

Pre-planning for Studying Abroad

There is a lot to do before you enter the host country; here is a list of things that one needs to perform once they have decided to further their study experience abroad. Before you pack your bags you should learn what U.S. has to offer you, and you might have to reshape your skills and abilities to make most of the opportunities.

• Finest Education System:

U.S. has an array of disciplines to offer starting from conventional degree programs to modern studies. If you choose to pursue a graduate level degree, you are likely to get the chance to interact with finest minds in your area of interest. Moreover, U.S. degrees are recognized by all universities all over the world.

• Usage of Most Advanced Technology:

U.S. universities are renowned for applying modern technology in education and help their students to get acquainted with the tools and resources of absorbing study with ease. Even if your degree is not directly related to engineering or medical, you are likely to get the opportunity to use technology within the classroom to make the learning experience more interesting.

• Bright Opportunities in Researching, Teaching and Training:

Educational institutions situated in U.S. offer you more exposure that you could think of. If you have a mind to extend your study in researching, U.S. is the place of opportunities. Many graduates choose to take teaching programs and professional training courses in order to start their career as teaching assistant in universities and colleges. The practical education will help you get insights of those rare opportunities, which would not be possible with only studying.

• Customized Coursework:

Each program under U.S. colleges and universities is designed with the purpose to make student comfortable with coursework and help them practice the learned concepts. Moreover, students have a wide variety of subjects to choose from. Let’s say, you are planning to pursue psychology. But you want to keep mathematics under your coursework. The best thing is you have the freedom to choose combination of classes.

• Inclusive Support System:

Dealing with day-to-day issues can be challenging for an international student. But thankfully, U.S. universities provide a great deal with of resources to help students in any distress situations. Every U.S. university has international student office where students can their share concerns regarding accommodation, emotional problems, visa status, funds and scholarships, employment possibilities and get their problems resolved.

• Stimulating Campus Life:

U.S. universities are world famous for its cross-cultural backdrop, exposure to develop a personality through different activities and strengthen your cultural experience. There are a wide range of organizations and clubs within the college campus to make students more engaged in varied activities.

• Global Value of Education:

Employers mainly prefer to hire those applicants, who not only have cross cultural skills, but also have robust communication skills, negotiating power, business knowledge based on different cultures. Companies become much more proactive in appointing candidates who have global education. And education from the U.S. universities can provide you such opportunities.

Now that you are certain that you are pursuing educational course in U.S., so the next step would be searching for suitable college or university.

Choosing Right Educational Institution for Bright Future 

If you have happened to score highest marks or secured high equivalent GPA grades, you have the chance to get into world’s best universities in the U.S. You might have preferences but before you decide on something, you need to go through the list of top 10 USA universities,

The list has been conjured based on the QS World University Ranking (2015 – 2016),

Name of Educational Institution Location World Ranking Specialty
1. Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT) Cambridge, Massachusetts1Engineering
2. University of Harvard Cambridge, Massachusetts2Social Sciences, General
3. University of Stanford Stanford, California3Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies
4. California Institution of Technology (Caltech) Pasadena, California5Engineering
5. University of Chicago Chicago, Illinois10Economics
6. Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey11Economics, General
7. Yale University New Haven, Connecticut15Political Science and Government, General
8. Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, Maryland16Public Health and Education
9. Cornell University Ithaca, New York17Management and Engineering
10. University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania18Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support System

In case, you are not that high scorer, but want to pursue your further studies in top quality educational institutions, fortunately you have an endless list of colleges and universities to select from. If you are having trouble to select a particular university, concentrate on choosing a place for studying. There are few factors like cost of living, quality of education, scope to enjoy student life that need to be considered before deciding which student city is most suitable to your needs. Here we provide a list of top U.S. cities considering the essentials of choosing study locations,

Name of CityLocationWorld Rank
1. San Francisco California27
2. Chicago Illinois30
3. Los Angeles Southern California42
4. Washington, DCDistrict of Columbia45
5. Philadelphia Pennsylvania48
6. Pittsburgh Western Pennsylvania58
7. Atlanta Georgia58
8. Baltimore Maryland71
9. San DiegoCalifornia72

(Source: QS Best Student Cities of 2016)

These 9 places have been selected as the best study location in the U.S after considering five vital factors, which are university rankings, student mix, cost of living, desirability and employment possibilities by organizations.

When you successfully choose a place, simply search online to evaluate the number of universities situated in this place, their world ranking, quality of education etc. Let’s just assume you have selected a place or educational institution to pursue your academic dreams. The following step would be filling out the application form to project you as worthy candidate in your ‘dream’ university.

Applying for Colleges and Universities

This is not the time to forfeit your patience because you need to show some patience. During applying for universities, you need to fill out a meticulous number of forms. You might need to take your all-nighters out to manage the pressure of applying to potential college, compose essays for each college and note down all upcoming deadlines to micromanage your applying process. The application process at competitive schools and universities consumes more time you expect, so it is advisable that you start as early as possible. It allows you sufficient time to thoroughly research on the institutions’ offered programs and application deadlines. To complete the application process, you need to write a personal statement which is famously known as admission essay and send personal recommendations from your teachers and other eminent people who know you well. Nevertheless, you are applying through the Online Common Application form, so you need to invest a good amount of time in the application process. On the other hand, if you are directly contacting universities and colleges, visit their websites to get easy access to their application forms and other essentials. But you still need time to scrutinize your options, have an interactive session with teachers and sign up for required entrance tests.

How to Allocate Time for Admission Applications?

The research and planning should start before 18 months to the time you wish to be there in the country.

Things to do before 18 Months of Reaching the Destination

• Conduct research to make a list of potential universities and colleges

• Register with entrance exam site and prepare yourself to take the exam

Things to do before 12-14 Months of Reaching the Destination

• Choose the educational institution where you want to pursue your dream

• Gather all necessary information

• Appear for the entrance exam

Things to do before 10-12 Months of Reaching the Destination

• Ask for transcripts from your schools

• Send necessary transcripts required by the institution

• Write the admission essay

Things to do before 10 Months of Reaching the Destination

• Get all required information about funding

• Assemble everything in one place and send the applications

Things to do before 3 Months of Reaching the Destination

• Apply for your student visa

• Get information about health insurance options for your time abroad

• Make travel arrangements

How to Take the Standardized Test?

Most of U.S. universities require its international applicants to undergo a standardized test (SAT, ACT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, TOEFL, ITELTS etc.) to prove their knowledge and English language proficiency as the part of admission process. Keep in mind these tests are valuable in terms of judging the students’ skills and abilities from different subject backgrounds. The tests will play a vital role in determining your candidature. Here are the things that you need to consider before taking entrance exam or any standardized test of a college in U.S.,

• Know the type of test you will appear

• Be acquainted with the sections within the test

• Understand the segregation of marks for the test

• Read the test directory carefully to understand the rules and regulations you need to maintain

• Determine how you plan to prepare for the test

• Calculate the fees of the exam and make the payment

• Find our is there any negative marking for wrong answers or guess work

Tips to Excel in the Test

The above-mentioned strategies are applicable during the exam preparation, but when the final day arrives, you need to perform the following steps in order to ensure your success.

• Make sure you get a full night’s sleep, and eat a healthy breakfast in the morning

• Pack all essentials like two sharp pencils, a good eraser and a sharpener

• Read the instructions carefully before answering a question

• Before starting the exam, calculate the time for answering each question and always consider each option before settling onto one

• Answer the easiest question at first and leave the tough ones for later, moreover if you have time left, check answers once again.

How You Will Be Evaluated?

A good number of international students flock to U.S. to expand their study experience. The diversity of applicants and their educational system need to be judged by common evaluation method which is known as credential evaluators. The credential evaluators play a crucial role in evaluating overseas students’ credentials, knowledge and skills. There are three types of credential evaluation exist in U.S., which are,

• Course by Course Credential Evaluation

• Educational Credential Evaluation (Document by Document)

• Professional Work Experience Evaluation

You need to determine in which criteria you fall under and act accordingly.

Now it is time to receive a confirmation letter from the university and to be assured that you are going to U.S. After getting the approval from the destined university, your focus should be getting acceptance from The Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

Applying for Student Visas

By reading this section, you will be acquainted with the types of visa for international students and the application process of visa applying with easy steps.

Types of Visas for International Students

Before you go on applying for a visa, you need to understand which type of visa suits your requirements. There are mainly three different student visas that could be issued for international students.

F1 Visa (Academic Studies):

F1 visa are issued for students who want to pursue an academic program or English Language program. This is the most popular type of visa acquired by overseas students. While applying to this kind, students need to take care of few factors like minimum course load of full-time student. Although, this type of visa allows students to have part-time and on-campus job (less than 20 hours per week).

J1 Visa (Practical Training):

Students, who need practical training in U.S. apply for this type of visa. With the help of this visa status, students can start their professional life with the similar restrictions mentioned on the F1 visa. But you need to sanction it from exchange visitor program sponsor.

M1 Visa (Non-Academic/Vocational Studies):

Students who are planning to attend a non-academic or vocational school. Students who come to U.S. with this type of visa cannot work during course of their studies. The criteria of this visa is to demonstrate that the applicant has sufficient funds to pay all tuition fees and living cost for entire period of intended stay.

The Process of Applying for the Visa

Any international student, wanting to study in USA universities, needs to obtain a student visa. If you are one of them and want to pursue your academic career in USA, you must follow the general process of obtaining a student visa described below:

Get an acceptance letter from SEVP Approved School:

Before you apply for an F-1 visa, you must ensure that you receive a confirmation letter from SEVP approved university. You cannot apply for a visa before you get selected by a college and university.

Make the payment for SEVIS fees and receive I-20 Form:

After getting the acceptance letter from the university, you need to pay SEVIS I-901 fee. By paying the SEVIS fee, you get yourself enrolled to in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). After making the payment, your university is responsible for sending you the I-20 form and you need to fill out the form and present it to the consular during the F-1 interview.

Fill Out the Visa Form:

To fill up the application form, you require paying a non-refundable application fee. Application forms are available online, you need to visit the website and complete the visa application form and take the print out of DS -160 to present it during the visa interview.

Make an Appointment With USA Embassy or Consular:

The next step to acquiring a visa would be scheduling an interview with consular or interview officer. You should be present with valid documents such as a valid passport, the non-immigrant visa application, Form DS -120, the application fee payment receipt, a passport photo, valid document proving non-immigrant student status, form 1-20. It generally takes 120 days to issue your visa. So it is advisable that you apply for visa in advance, long before starting of the course.

Appear at F-1 Visa Interview:

It vastly depends on the interview whether you are eligible to get F-1 Visa for the USA. Once you meet all criteria for getting a visa, your visa will be approved by the consular officer. Biometrics will be taken at the consulate to complete the identification. You may require to pay a insurance fee to make sure you face no hassle in case you lose your.

What All Needs to be Done While Arriving in the U.S?

You need to understand one thing that getting a visa will not get you an entry to the U.S. The final decision will be taken by Customs and Borders Protection (CBP). The decision on how you will stay in the country will also be decided by CBP. At the port of the entry, CBP officials have the authority to check your Form 1-94, record of arrival-depart and also make a note of the length of stay.

Let’s say you completed your visa process and about to get your visa through mail services. Now you need to make your travel arrangements. The following section prepares you for the challenges that usually a student faces while travelling to new country.

Making Travel Arrangements:

It is challenging to uproot your life from the place where you have been brought up, and move to a new country. But it can be a life changing experience too. Problems will be there, but you need to fight off these issues and enjoy your stay. Preparing for going overseas can be tiring yet adventurous. If you don’t want to weary yourself, you need to apply the following suggestions to save yourself for the uninvited situations.

Make Plans Beforehand:

It is advisable that students make a detailed planning before they leave the home country. First of all, you need to make a budget adjusting your financial support and funds. If you want to enjoy low cost travelling, you need to books air tickets in advance. Make sure you have sufficient infrastructural information about the transformation system of USA. Owing the advent of modern technology, you can easily visit the official website for detailed knowledge.

Arrange Temporary Accommodation:

It is quite hard to select an accommodation without seeing it or assessing by yourself. So consider staying at youth hostel for few days in order to get yourself a permanent resident. During the course of staying in hostels and hotels, you concentrate on finding a permanent address.

Make the Use of the College’s Resources:

During making the travel plans, you need to check out the resources your college is offering you. You can find it easily on the website of International Studies. Most colleges display travel information concerning travel arrangements to the immediate area, like airports, taxis, buses and trains, even temporary housing options. So you need to read those carefully in order to make yourself acquainted with the route and traveling time. In case, you are encountering issues with finding your college’s site, you need to contact the college directly.

Now you are ready to board the plane and visit your home country because you got the confirmation letter from the college, you applied for the visa and received it as well, more importantly you have made survival plans.

Finding Student Accommodation in the U.S.

So finally, you are crossing big blue sea, and heading towards your destination. You might have brushed your knowledge of American football, baseball, even volleyball. Needless to say, studying in America is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to expand their academic knowledge. It is not the time to panic but to follow a few steps to find a resident, which you can call ‘home’ for next few years.

What are the options you have?

For international students, who are looking for housing in the US, mainly have two choices: dormitories on campus or apartments off campus. Here we give a clear idea about the pros and cons of these two options to help you to choose the better one.

On-Campus Dormitories

It is sad if you went to USA and didn’t experience the lifestyle of college dormitories or ‘dorms’. If you want to know what dorms feel like, you need to imagine yourself in the middle of the American college seen on television and films. Dormitories are just like that where you will find large buildings, rooms equipped with the latest and greatest facilities. But dorms vary hugely in designs; usually a student shares a room with his or her roommate. On the other hand, some universities have their own pods where 6 – 10 students have their own rooms, but they have to share their bathroom and common with other students. Frankly, dormitories vary in different sizes and shapes, so it is hard to tell which one you are going to get.

Pros

No matter what shape or the size, here are few benefits that students mainly receive while staying in dorms.

Making Strong Bonds:

Your roommate is going to be your support system for few years from now. Also you have hall mates, whom will be with you in thick and thin. You may carry this bond after you leave this country.

Close Proximity to the College:

You will reside within the campus, naturally you will be close to classrooms and other social events. You hardly need minutes to reach the lecture rooms.

Saving Money on Transportation:

Students, who are coming to college, need to invest certain amount on daily fare. But if you are living on campus, your transportation cost will be zero.

Fully Furnished Rooms:

Utilities in dormitories are already installed and they are ready to us. Adversely, when you rent an apartment off-campus, you might have to buy furniture for your rooms and other utilities.

Cons

As always, every good thing comes with some negative aspects, which are,

• Loud and Noisy:

Students can be super loud and noisy. You can enjoy this busy atmosphere, but during exams, it won’t be very favorable for you.

Failure to break the ice between you and your roommate:

There are possibilities that you might not like your roommate because everyone has their own unique personality. It will be an awkward for both you and your roommate.

Strict and disciplined:

Dorms are mainly strict and run according to rules and regulations. You cannot add something as per your wish; you are liable to take permission from the authority.

Off-Campus Apartments

In case, your college does not provide you housing for any unforeseen reason, or you think dorm life isn’t for you, you should turn to off-campus housing. It is a great chance for overseas students who want have a place on their own. Living away from the campus actually gives you opportunity to create a home away from home. Your college Liaison Officer is there to help you with it. Here are few things you need to keep in your mind while seeking for an off-campus apartment.

• Normally, the duration of lease is for one year

• You need to submit deposit money, which will be returned after assessing whether you broke any rules mentioned on the lease, or cause any damage to the property

• You need to pay extra charges for utilities such as gas, water, cable, phone

• Before you agree to take the house, check all appliances like dishwashers, stove, oven, etc.

• Many apartments have great utilities like pool, gym, etc.

Pros

Like on-campus dorms, off-campus apartments also have some advantages to offer:

Home away from home:

You can arrange the place according to your likings, like your choice of curtains, the placement of furniture, or colors of walls. You can also choose a roommate whom you like, which naturally cannot be possible in dorms.

Befriend with different people:

While staying in on-campus dorms, you get to live with students. But when you are staying on your own, you get to meet different people from varied backgrounds. It becomes easier for students to deal with cultural shock.

Get to enjoy the travelling time:

Every day, you might have to board a bus or train to reach your college. Every day you get to see the places, which you would miss residing on campus. You can explore various things on your own.

Cons

Despite its advantages, off-campus apartments too have a few disadvantages, which are:

• You are on your own:

No one is there to help you; you need to manage everything single handedly from cooking food to doing laundry, keeping the place clean and everything.

Cuts down the study time:

As you might have to cook every day, it shortens your study time. You need to make more efforts to concentrate on studying.

• Not very safe:

While staying alone, you need to take a few safety measures, which are not necessary in dorms. Doors locks, spare keys, apartment security are few things you need to take care of.

After all, it is on you which option you want to choose: on-campus dorms or off-campus apartments.

Hopefully, we have covered every aspect of going abroad and prepared you for the unseen challenges that you are about to face. Undoubtedly, these suggestions will help your stay in USA more enjoyable. We cannot guarantee that you will not face any issue, but one thing can be assured that you will cherish these moments for the rest of your life.

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