• Higher Education in USA

    American degrees are based on a Liberal Arts philosophy, a unique feature of the U.S higher education system.

    It requires that students take a wide variety of courses in the arts and sciences before focussing on one academic area. This is so they gain a well-rounded education, and can apply their skills to a wide range of careers.

    The American Bachelor degree curriculum consists of:
     Core Courses these are courses taken in mathematics, physical sciences, English, humanities, and social sciences. These general education courses lay the foundation of the degree program, though not all colleges have these core courses.
     A Major – this is the main academic subject you will study. Most students major in one subject, although at some colleges you can pursue a double major in a related or different subject. Students declare their major in the first two years of study.
     A Minorthis is a subject in which a student chooses to take the second greatest concentration of courses, although not all institutions offer this choice.
     Electives these are a student's free choice of additional topics they find interesting.
    A degree is designed to be completed in four years, although there is no fixed timescale. Most undergraduates complete their studies within 6 years of the date they first enrolled. 

    Studying can then lead to a Bachelor of Arts B.A.), a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), or sometimes another bachelor\'s degree such as Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.), Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.), Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.,) or Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) Five-Year Professional Architecture programs offer the Bachelor of Architecture Degree (B.Arch.)

    Professional degrees such as law, medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry, are offered as graduate study after earning at least three years of undergraduate schooling or after earning a bachelor\'s degree depending on the program.
    These professional fields do not require a specific undergraduate major, though medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry have set prerequisite courses that must be taken before enrolment.
    For example, if you wish to apply to Harvard to study medicine, you would need to do your bachelors degree in another subject, while also taking specific medical school pre-requisite courses. Only once you have graduated can you then apply to Harvard medical school.

    In the U.S, a degree is awarded after a student has completed a required amount of coursework, expressed in terms known as credits/units or semester hours. Most courses only last 1 semester, and usually a student will need to accumulate approximately 110 to 130 credits in order to graduate, with each course on average earning 3 or 4 credits. 

    Continuous assessment is a feature and each course (class) per term is graded and then converted into a numeric equivalent called a Grade Point Average on a scale of 0 - 4.0, which indicates how well a student is performing. Many Bachelor degree programs in the United States do not require students to write a final thesis.

  • Why study in America

    Why study in the US?
    In 2008-2009, over 672,000 international students were enrolled in U.S universities and colleges.
    Here we outline some of the main reasons.

    High quality courses
    The United States has one of the world’s finest university systems, with outstanding programs in virtually all fields. At the undergraduate level, excellent programs exist in traditional disciplines, as well as in professional fields. 

    A close relationship between research and education has brought a number of U.S. institutions to the forefront of research and technological development. At these particular universities, students usually learn under the direction of world-renowned faculty who range from Nobel Laureates to Pulitzer Prize winners.

    Wide range of educational opportunities
    The U.S is home to over 4,000 colleges and universities, offering at least ten times as many campuses as in any other country.

    With such a wide range of universities and degrees on offer, you\'re bound to find something suited to you!
    Some U.S. colleges and universities teach a broad range of educational principles; some emphasise practical, employment-related skills; and others specialise in the arts, social sciences or technical fields.
    This means you can usually have a variety of options and educational opportunities if you are looking for a place to study a particular field. You will often find several schools to choose from, no matter how specific or unusual your needs may be.

    Cutting-edge technology
    Universities in the U.S. pride themselves on being at the forefront of technology, research and techniques, and in making the best possible equipment and resources available to their students. 

    Even if your field does not directly involve science or engineering, you will have opportunities to become skilled in using the latest technology to conduct research, as well as obtain and process information. 

    You will find ways to stay connected with researchers, teachers and experts in your field all over the world.

    Opportunities for research, teaching and training
    You may be able to gain valuable experience through teaching and/or research while you help to finance your education in the U.S., particularly if you are a graduate student.

    International students are some of the most valued teachers and researchers in U.S. universities because they bring new skills and ideas to the classroom and library or laboratory.

    This practical component of your education will prove useful in your future career, and may give you insights into your field that would not be possible through undergraduate study alone.

    Flexibility
    Although many programs are highly structured in that specific coursework requirements must be met, you will generally be able to find a wide variety of course choices to meet those requirements.

    For example, liberal arts coursework for an undergraduate program will include (among others) classes in languages and mathematics, but you will often have several options from which to choose with regard to which language class you take, or which area of mathematics appeals most to your interests and skills.

    At the advanced stages of a degree, or if you are pursuing a graduate degree, you will be able to tailor your coursework to fit your specific academic goals, needs and interests.

    When you choose topics for independent study for a graduate thesis or dissertation, you can emphasise ideas that are important to you, your field and your country.

    Good career prospects
    Experience in an international setting is a marketable commodity.

    Many employers seek the wide range of knowledge, adaptability and experience that international students acquire by studying in the USA.

    Companies in the U.S. are increasingly seeking to become a strong presence in the global marketplace.

    They often look to hire employees who not only have multi-cultural language skills, but those who can also help communicate, negotiate and conduct business across different cultures.

    The U.S is not the only country seeking strong candidates when hiring; international students are in high demand elsewhere, as well.

    In recent years, international companies have become much more proactive in recruiting from the pool of strong international student graduates.

    Campus life experience
    When you continue your studies in the U.S., you are making a choice to broaden not only your educational experience, but your cultural opportunities as well.

    Whether you attend a small, private college in a small town or a university situated in the middle of a large urban area, most universities offer a variety of student clubs and organisations to match the wide variety of student interests/hobbies.

    You have the opportunity to immerse yourself in American culture, meeting new people and making new friends, through different organisations and associations.

    International students often find that the international student office is a good starting point for campus offerings, as well as the campus student centre.

    Your time studying abroad can be enriched by taking part in the social and cultural scene surrounding you, and you will likely find that U.S. campuses provide a rich variety academic, cultural and athletic activities that add new experiences to your life.

    Support services for international students
    Studying in the United States is a rewarding experience, but navigating your way through day-to-day issues can be a challenge.

    Many international students find that the college and university international student office is a great help in helping them adapt to a culturally and academically different environment.

    The aim of the international student office is to assist students like you, and there is often a wide range of student services that they can provide.

    An orientation program upon your arrival is just the start of the many programs and benefits of the university international student office - throughout your time in the U.S., they can help answer questions you may have regarding your visa status, financial situation, housing, employment possibilities, health concerns and more.

    If you choose to complete your degree in the U.S, this office often provides resume and employment assistance as graduation nears. The international student office will be an invaluable source of information and help as you make the transition into academic and cultural life in the United States.

  • Choosing a University

    You should start searching for potential U.S universities or colleges you might like to attend about 18 months before beginning your studies, as it can take some time to complete the application process.

    First, you should have a good idea what course(s) you would like to study, plus a rough idea of where in the U.S you would like to be located (e.g. east or west, coast or mainland, temperate or warmer climate, etc.)

    The best place to find out more information on particular institutions is their website. Most universities and colleges have a section dedicated to international students. This should provide information on student life, accommodation, the admissions process, entry requirements and more.

    Factors to consider

    Academic excellence
    First of all, be sure the courses provided by the institution are of high quality, with an excellent standard of teaching. Find out if they are accredited by governmental agencies, as this provides a certain guarantee of quality.

    International student support
    It’s worth investigating how good the course is for international students by seeing if the institution has an International Student Program Director, help with housing, an orientation to the university, city and American education system, as well as advice services specifically for international students. In other words, make sure that help will always be there when you need it. 

    A good course will also provide opportunities to meet American students and will offer social events and an opportunity to get involved in student activities.

    Location
    Look at a map on the internet to see exactly where the institution is located and investigate the area it is in. Consider whether it is a place you would like to live for a prolonged period of time, and the sort of cultural and social activities it offers. Would you prefer to live in a large urban city, or somewhere in a more rural setting? 

    Think about what the weather is like there – you may want to avoid places that are too rainy or warm! Find out if your accommodation will be on the campus, and if not, how good the transportation links are.

    Cost 
    You will also need to take into account financial considerations, as study in the U.S is expensive and the amount can vary greatly from institution to institution. Check that the cost is reasonable for the program you receive – although some private colleges are very expensive, you will receive an excellent service. 

    Some community colleges are less expensive, but still offer a great service. Many American and international students who want a university degree attend the first two years at a community college with lower costs and easier admission policies, and then transfer for their last two years at a four year university.  Look at the costs carefully to make sure you are getting value for your money.

    Funding
    Unfortunately, there is very little financial aid available from US sources for international students.
    International student scholarships are very difficult to obtain, and therefore the majority of international students in America must rely almost entirely on themselves and their relatives for funding.

    Although there are many universities in the US that provide financial aid and international student scholarships to international students, this aid is normally limited and is often more accessible to graduate than undergraduate students.

    Furthermore, competition for international student scholarships and aid is fierce, and institutions are careful to only help the most deserving international students.

    Good grades and exam scores are extremely important in securing an international student scholarship, as they are only awarded to those with an outstanding academic record.

    Find out whether any of the schools that you would like to apply to have grants, loans or scholarships for international students. If they don’t, and you have not been able to obtain enough funding on your own, you may have to consider other schools that will help.

    You can read more on funding your higher education in the U.S in our finance section.

    Further research
    If you have any friends or relatives who have studied in the U.S, it’s worth talking to them to find out about their experiences, and what advice they can offer you in choosing a place to study.

    It’s important to research universities and colleges carefully so you choose the ones that will meet your needs and interests – spending time and effort on choosing an institution can ensure you have a successful and rewarding experience.

    If you can not find all the information you require about a particular institution on their website, contact them and ask for it.

  • Visas

    Student Visas for the USA
    Most of those who wish to study in the United States will seek an F-1 student visa, but there are other visa types that are sometimes used. A short description of the two types of student visas:

    F-1
    This visa is the most common for those who wish to undertake studies in the U.S. It is for those who wish to study at an accredited U.S. college or university. If you are going to the United States to study and your course of study is more than 18 hours a week, you will need an F-1 or M-1 visa.

    Students may remain in the US up to 60 days beyond the length of time it takes to complete their academic program. They are expected to complete their studies by the expiration date on the I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status).

    M-1
    This visa is for those who will be engaged in non-academic or vocational study or training at a U.S. institution.

    Applying for a US immigration visa
    To apply for international student visas, you should apply at the US embassy or consulate in your country of permanent residence.
    Although international student visa applicants may apply at any US consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence.

    In most countries, first time international student visa applicants are required to appear for an interview.
    However, each embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding these international student visas. Students should consult their local consular office for specific application instructions.

    When to apply for an international student immigration visa
    You should bear in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most embassies and consulates. Interview appointments are usually very difficult to get during that period. It\'s important to plan ahead as much as possible to avoid repeat visits to the consular office.

    To allow time to overcome any unforeseen problems that might arise, it is recommended you apply for your international student visa several weeks before they plan to travel.

    You should not apply more than 90 days before the registration date noted on the I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status).

    Immigration forms and documents
    The following items are required from all applicants for a student visa.

    Acceptance form (I-20)
    Before applying for an international student visa, you must be accepted by a school or institution approved by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

    You can find out directly from the institution whether it has that approval. If you are applying for the F-1 visa, the institution must send you a Form I-20A-B, (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant [F-1] Student Status for Academic and Language Students).

    If you are applying for the M-1 visa, the institution must send the applicant a Form I-20M-N (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant [M-1] Student Status for Vocational Students).

    All four pages of the I-20 form must be submitted with the application. The form must also be signed by the applicant and by a school official in the appropriate places.

    Application fee
    Each applicant for a student visa must pay a nonrefundable application fee. Contact the consular office to find out the current amount of the fee.

    Application form
    You must submit a Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156, completed and signed.
    Free blank forms are available at all US embassies and consulates. A copy of the form can also be obtained online from the US State Department website.

    Passport
    Each applicant must have a passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date that extends at least six months beyond the applicant\'s intended period of stay. If more than one person is included in the passport, each person applying for a visa must make a separate application.

    Photograph
    Each applicant must provide one photograph 1 and 1/2 inches square (37x37mm), showing full face, without head covering, against a light background.

    Evidence of financial resources
    Applicants must provide evidence that shows they (or their parents who are sponsoring them) have sufficient funds to cover their tuition and living expenses during the intended period of study.

    Applicants or sponsors who are salaried employees should bring income tax documents and original bank statements.

    Applicants or sponsors who own a business should bring business registration, licenses, and tax documents, as well as original bank statements.

    A student\'s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 also can apply for visas to come with the student to the US. Applicants who wish to bring dependents with them to the US must also provide marriage and/or birth certificates as proof of the relationship with his spouse and/or children.
    In addition, students may also be asked to provide:
    Transcripts and diplomas from schools they have attended.
    Scores from standardised tests required by the US school such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.

    Other requirements

    Educational qualifications
    The consular officer reviewing the visa application is required to determine that the following items are true.
    You have successfully completed a course of study equivalent to that normally required of an American student enrolling at the same institution.
    You have not submitted forged or altered transcripts of previous coursework to the school.
    You have not incorrectly accepted an applicant\'s previous coursework as the equivalent of its normal requirements.

    English proficiency
    The applicant, unless coming to the US to participate exclusively in an English language training program, must have enough knowledge of English to pursue the intended course of study.
    If that is not the case, the school must have made special arrangements for English language classes for the student, or must teach the course in the student\'s native language.
    In order to determine whether the applicant has the necessary knowledge of English, the consular officer must perform the visa interview in English and may require the applicant to read aloud from an English-language document, and to explain in English what was read. The officer also has the option to refer the applicant for language testing.

    Ties to the country of origin
    The student must prove intent to return to the home country after completing the coursework by showing strong ties to the country of origin. The student must demonstrate that he has no intention of abandoning those ties.

    Conversely, if the student has close relatives or other ties in the U.S, those may affect the intent to return to the home country. Examples of ways to provide evidence of ties to the home country are given below.
    The names, addresses, ages, and occupations of close family members who remain in the home country.
    Financial interests in the home country.
    Evidence of job prospects in the home country.
    Additionally, the INS may require the student to post a Departure Bond to guarantee departure after the course of study is completed.

    Changes to your USA student visa
    Making changes to or extending the I-20 form
    If the student is not able to complete their studies by the expiration date on the I-20 form, they must apply to the school\'s foreign student advisor for an extension at least 30 days before the expiration date.
    Usually extensions will granted if the student provides academic or medical reasons.
    If the student changes their degree course (e.g. from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree program), the student will need to get a new I-20 form and submit it to the foreign student advisor within 15 days of beginning the new program.

    No changes need to be made to the I-20 form simply a change of major.

    In order to transfer to another school, the student will need to notify the current school of the transfer and obtain an I-20 form from the new school.

    The student must provide the foreign student advisor at the new school with the completed I-20 form within 15 days of beginning classes at the new school.

    Length of stay
    The length of time that a student carrying an F-1 visa is authorised to remain in the US is determined by the INS, not the consular officer.

    At the port of entry, an INS official will validate the student’s Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which states the length of stay.

    Usually the student will be admitted into the US for the duration of his coursework.
    In other words, the student may stay in the US for as long as he is a full-time student, even if the F-1 visa expires.

    However, if the student departs the US with an expired F-1 visa, he will need to obtain a new one before returning to the US to resume his studies.

    An F-1 visa cannot be renewed or re-issued by the State Department inside the United States; it must be done at an embassy or consulate abroad.

    Renewing a student visa for study in the USA

    All applicants applying for renewals must provide the following items.
    A passport valid for at least six months.
    A completed and signed application form (DS-156) with a photo for each person applying. A separate form is needed for children, even if they are included in a parent’s passport. These forms are available at the consular office at no charge.
    Payment for the processing fee for each applicant.
    A new I-20 or an I-20 that has been endorsed on the back by a school official within the past 12 months.
    All applicants applying for renewals should also be prepared to submit:
    - A certified copy of his grades from the school in which he is enrolled.
    - Financial documents (from him or his sponsor) showing the ability to cover the cost of schooling.

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