A comprehensive guide for International Students seeking to pursue higher studies in the United States of America.
Table of contents
Why the USA?
The United States of America has been a top and preferred higher education destination for the international student community.
Why might you wonder? Well, here are some facts:
- Top 3 Universities in the QS World Ranking are from the US.
- Out of the Top 10 Universities of the ARWU Rankings, 8 Universities are in the USA.
- The USA produced the most number of Nobel Laureates.
- The average salary for a Master’s degree holder is $74k
- Excellent quality education, diverse programs, cutting-edge technology, research and teaching opportunities are some of the perks that US Universities offer.
Do they accept three-year Indian degrees?
Generally, a lot of universities require a minimum of 16 years of formal education. That is, four-year undergraduate courses are compulsory. But a few universities are flexible in this regard.
Below mentioned are some of the higher-ranked universities that accept 3-year undergrad degrees:
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Columbia University
- University of Virginia
- John Hopkins University
- Northwestern University
- Stony Brook University
- The State University of New York at Potsdam
- Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
- Syracuse University
- Yale University
- Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College (Source: WES)
These universities accept 3-year Indian bachelor’s degree only if it meets the following requirements:
- An institution must award the degree with NAAC grade of “A” or higher.
- The candidate must complete the degree with Division 1. (More than 60%)
However, to be on the safer side, get your degrees evaluated by WES.
Can I apply without a GRE?
A lot of universities in the US have GRE (Graduate Record Examination) as a compulsory requirement and require official scores giving out a decision. (The scores are official only if the ETS sends scores to these universities directly).
ETS charges $27 to send your scores to one university.
Some universities accept self-reported scores and give out a decision. If it is an admit and you plan to go ahead and study at this University, you’ll have to send the official scores. For example: While applying to Northeastern University, you’ll just have to enter your GRE verbal, quants, and AWA scores and upload the score report. Official scores are only required after you get an admit from them.
Nevertheless, a few universities/a few courses in some universities don’t require GRE. For example, Computer Science at Purdue University does not require GRE, but for Purdue Engineering Management, official GRE scores are mandatory.
Which language tests should I take & what is the minimum requirement?
TOEFL and IELTS are widely accepted.
The average minimum required TOEFL scores range from 80 to 85. But top-ranked schools require scores of 90+ or even 100+ for specific courses.
The average required IELTS minimum is 6.5 to 7, with top universities posting a requirement of 7.5.
Are International Students eligible for part-time jobs?
All international students with a valid F1 visa can work up to 20 hours/week when college is in session and up to 40 hours/week in the breaks/vacations.
Part-time jobs are classified as On-Campus jobs and Off-campus jobs.
On-campus jobs are jobs that are associated with universities. They can be on-campus (Library, IT department, etc.) or off-campus locations that are affiliated to the college. (Bookstores, Cafeterias)
International students are, in most cases, not eligible for off-campus part-time jobs. To get an on-campus job, you need to approach your designated school official (DSO). To get your DSO’s approval, you need to have good academic grades and a valid US visa. On-campus jobs are usually posted on the University portals and are often filled even before the semester starts. So make use of your early admit if you have one.
How to choose the right University?
Before you find an answer to this question, make a decision about what major you would like to choose for your Master’s. Browse through the top universities and the programs they offer to get an idea. Once you zero-in on your major, now comes the university part.
This is a very critical decision, which has to be made prudently by selecting the ideal University based on the International Ranking, courses offered and affordability.
There are three types of intakes in the American universities; Fall Intake from August to December, Spring Intake from January to April and Summer intake from May to August. Intake during the Fall is a better-known choice of most Indian students.
Application opening and closing dates vary for all the departments/universities, so be attentive and check the dates in the department/university website of your preferred university.
When choosing a university, you must consider these three aspects: Cost, Location & Ranking. The precedence is left to you.
Also, take a look at the ‘average class profiles’ section of your website and see if it matches with your scores.
Universities’ location is of high importance if you’re planning to work after your Masters. The general scenario in the US is, there are several software and tech companies on the West Coast. So if one wishes to get into these companies that pay very high, choose the colleges closer to these firms. For software developers and Data Scientists, California has been the go-to place. If you are planning to opt for Finance and Management majors, East Coast would be your destination.
Check-out these hotspots which are considered as student hubs with a myriad of job opportunities:
- New York, NY
- Los Angeles, CA
- Chicago, IL
- Seattle, WA
- San Francisco, CA
- Boston, MA.
- San Diego, CA
- Austin, TX
- Atlanta, GA
If you are concerned about shelling out a lot of money for higher education, then this must be your priority. Public universities are generally cheaper than private ones, but the difference in fees is not very significant in most cases.
This factor must be your top priority if you’re looking for research-based courses. Higher ranked colleges in the US have highly revered professors with top-notch research facilities and often are generous with providing funds.
What is STEM?
STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics. Degrees under these fields are called STEM degrees. All the sub-disciplines of these fields also come under this category.
What is the advantage of opting for STEM courses?
After completion of your master’s degree, you are allowed to work in the US fulltime in your field for a year under OPT. If your major is STEM, the OPT period is extended by another two years, and this gives you more flexibility to explore your career paths and also eases your loan repayment.
What are CPT and OPT?
CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training. Under this program, all international students with an F1 visa can work full-time (40 hours/week) or Part-time (20 hours/week) to gain hands-on work experience directly related to the field of study. CPT must be completed before graduation. CPT can be utilized in the form of paid or unpaid internships and Co-ops.
If you work fulltime for 12 months under the CPT program, you will not be eligible for OPT.
OPT (Optional Practical Training)
What are Co-ops and Internships, and how are they different?
Co-ops /Co-operative program is a way for graduate students to work fulltime under the CPT before graduation. Students can participate in co-ops only if the University allows it. Co-ops are usually four months long and are done in the semester period instead of opting for coursework or opting for very less coursework load. A lot of universities do not have a Co-op program in their curriculum or do not allow Co-ops
Internships – These are fulltime positions offered by companies for freshers and experienced students in the summers. They usually are for a period of three months and cannot be done in the fall or spring semester. Most of the universities allow internships.
What is the immunization requirement for international students?
International students must fulfil the mandatory vaccination requirements set by the University before they enter into the campus. Some of the most common ones are listed below
- Hepatitis B
- Varicella (chickenpox)
An immunization form signed by a certified medical Practitioner from your country must be sent to the University via email or in-person.
What is I-20?
I-20 is a document sent to you via courier by your University after you receive your admit from an SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved school. You will need to provide proof of funds to the University to get the I-20. I-20 is required to book a Visa slot.
What majors come under the STEM category?
- Computer science
- Earth sciences
- Health sciences
- Information technology
The below link is from the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement which provides the complete list of STEM fields. Click Here
What are the documents required for WES evaluation?
WES (World Education Services) is a credential evaluation company. For students applying for Masters, Course by Course evaluation is required by a few universities. They validate the authenticity of your documents and also convert your
Marks Sheets/Statement of Marks – Official sealed documents must be sent directly by the university/ autonomous college to WES. Documents sent by individual colleges are not accepted. They must be attested by the designated official and sent in a sealed, marked envelope.
Degree Certificate (Final or Provisional) – A physical copy of the provisional degree certificate or the final degree certificate must be sent. Do not send original documents.
Will I get admit if my GRE score is less than 300?
If your GRE score is less than 300 and you do not have enough time to give it another shot, or you are scoring 290 – 300 in your mocks, don’t worry. There are a ton of good universities that accept scores in this range. A lot of people get admits into good universities with scores less than 300. Below are a listed few:
- California State University – Eastbay
- California State University, Fresno
- California State University, Chico
- University Of Houston- Clear Lake
- California State University- Long Beach
- California State University – Northridge
- University at Albany, SUNY
- University of Colorado, Denver
- Cleveland State University, Ohio
- Illinois State University, Normal
- South Dakota State University
- Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
- Kent State University, Ohio
- Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton
- Florida Institute of Technology
- University of Louisville
- University of Dayton –Ohio
- University of Illinois at Springfield
- Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
- Texas A & M University, Commerce
- Lamar University, Texas
- Northwest Missouri State University
- Wichita State University, Kansas
- Colorado State University – Fort Collins
- New York Institute Of Technology ( NYIT )
- Fairleigh Dickinson University( FDU )
- Stevens Institute of Technology
- Howard University
What type of VISA do I require to study in the USA and the steps to apply?
You require an F1 visa if you are applying for Masters courses and a J1 visa if you are applying for short-term or vocational courses.
Steps to apply for an F1 student VISA:
- Request I-20 from your SEVP approved University
- Fill DS-160 form
- Pay I-901 SEVIS fee
- Book your VISA appointment
- Schedule an appointment for VAC