The US has been a preferred destination for undergraduate study across the globe. There are about 4,000 colleges in the US offering 4-year undergraduate courses. However, many take it as a challenging task to be successful in getting a chance to study in the US. It is not as challenging as people consider it to be. Following guidelines can help you understand the path to study in the US and corresponding steps you will need to take:
This is the most basic step in the path to undergraduate study in the US. It includes researching your options to find a college that fits you the most.
You may see ranking of colleges in various sites, but they can be misleading since those sites have different criteria for such ranking. Keep in mind that there is no official ranking system for colleges and universities in the United States. The best college or university is the one that is best for you and meets your requirement —academic, financial, and personal. Begin your search more than a year prior to your expected enrollment date in the US colleges.
Undergraduate education in the US is mainly based on the concept of liberal arts and sciences. You can take classes in a wide variety of subjects in addition to your major field of study. The bachelor’s degree is awarded after completing a specified number of credits in a major field of study. Think about credit hours as the number of hours spent per week in a classroom. Every course earns a certain number of credits, and each institution has its own requirement for the number of credits needed to graduate.
Four years of full-time study is usually required to earn a bachelor degree in the US. US colleges and universities have student advisers who guide students in their choice of courses to reach the credit hours needed for graduation. College research will be easier for you if you have guidance counsellor in the high school. You can get advices and resources from the counsellor which can be very helpful in college research.
While doing research on colleges focus on factors like location, size, cost, academic quality, campus safety, and choice of majors.
Plan financing for your study
Calculate the funds available to you
This is the step that you should take simultaneously with college search. You can start with evaluating how much funding you and your family are able to provide for your education. You need to be informed about total income of your family, expenditures and savings. You might get short of fund for the colleges you have researched on. In such cases, you can look for merit-based and need-based scholarships along with other grants that most of the US Colleges provide. You can also look for a donor to support your study.
If you are planning to apply for financial aid, note that general financial aid amounts are based on the difference between college costs and what your family can afford. If you compete in sports, look into athletic scholarships. Understand that most scholarship awards may cover only part of the total educational and living costs and may not be available to first-year international students.
Reducing your cost to an optimum level
There are ways of reducing your cost of attendance if you are really interested in studying in the US. However, this will require a thorough research. You can look for colleges in the parts of the country tha have lower costs of living, like South or Midwest or rural areas of the country. You also have a choice of attending a community college first, and then transferring to a four-year school to complete your bachelor’s degree.
Complete your application
Few of the requirements for getting admitted in a US college are starting early, planning well, and having a complete knowledge of the application requirements. Thorough preparation and planning are required to furnish a good application.
If you start the process in your high school, it is much better for you. You should be able to plan and schedule time and efforts needed in this process and remind yourself that this is not a one-day task. You will need persistence. You can make a calendar of deadlines to track what you need to do and when it needs to be completed.
In the US, application requirements can vary greatly from one institution to another. Website of each institution provides you with information about application processes. You can always put forward your queries to the admission offices of the colleges via email or college visit. It is typical for US undergraduate applications to be due between November and January for students who wish to begin courses the following September.
Some general application requirements are education credentials (like high school transcripts), Standardized Test Scores (SAT or ACT, etc.), recommendation letters, application essays/personal statements, and proof of English language proficiency for international students (IELTS or TOEFL or PTE-Academic, etc). Note that this is just an example of what colleges might require. Depending on the colleges, the exemplary list may get longer or shorter.
Some universities receive applications directly while some others use common platforms like Common App, Universal College Application, or Coalition Application.
Apply for a Student Visa
This step follows after you get acceptance in a US university or any institution of higher education that is certified by Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP). You also need to have received I-20—a document issued by SEVP-certified schools (colleges, universities and vocational school). I-20 mentions supporting information on your status. It specifies your status for visa.
F Student Visa is for study at an accredited US college or university or to study English at an English language institute.
Even when an institution is SEVP-certified and able to issue I-20 and DS-2019 forms for use in visa applications, it may not hold national or regional accreditation. The US Department of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation databases list accreditation status for all US institutions. Recognition of course credits and degrees by other institutions and by US and international employers is linked to an institution’s accreditation.
It is important to note that two separate US government agencies are involved with international student arrival and status while studying in the United States. The State Department is responsible for the visa application process and issuing the visa. Once a visa holder arrives in the United States, the US Department of Homeland Security then takes over as the responsible agency for entry into the country, as well as issuing and enforcing international student regulations.
Prepare to leave
Key components to this final step include making your travel arrangements, gathering pre-departure materials and documents for arrival, as well as reporting to your school and attending orientations.
Check your new institution’s website for additional pre-departure information that will be more specialized and have information about health insurance, average local temperatures throughout the year, local transportation options, housing, and more.