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USA: a land of opportunities

More than 3,500 US institutions of United States of America offer aspirants an amazing range of options. You can choose from them.

delhi Updated: May 12, 2008 13:18 IST

More than 3,500 US institutions of United States of America offer aspirants an amazing range of options.

The country’s USP

The United States of America is a land of opportunities. One of the advantages of the US higher educational system is the amazing range of options offered by over 3,500 colleges and universities.

These vary with programmes that differ in various ways, the choices of academic and research programmes, types of institutions, size, cost, diversity in student bodies, selectivity, campus ambience to location. US universities boast world-class faculty, quality programmes, latest technology and equipment and cutting-edge research. Moreover, the choice of courses is flexible.

According to the US Educational Foundation in India (USEFI), "US institutions are known for their generous award of financial assistance to international students." Also, institutions provide support systems to these youngsters as each campus hosts an International Students' Office and a Foreign Student Adviser.

International students can gain from internships, Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training. Studying in the US also presents a chance to appreciate diverse cultures and social experiences that around 5,00,000 international students bring to campus.

Indians are the biggest contingent of foreign students in the US. But lately, due to different causes, there has been a 4.9 per cent slump — from 80,466 in 2004-05 to 76,503 in 2005-06 — in their ranks.

Hot for what?

Engineering, MBA and Computer Sciences are still the hot favourites among Indian students. There is, however, considerable growing interest in Biological Sciences, Health, Art, Economics, media and entertainment studies, Law and Aviation. Top institutes in terms of highest enrolment of Indian students:.

University of Southern California. Purdue University. SUNY Buffalo. Illinois Institute of Technology. University of Texas at Arlington These lead the list of institutions with about 900 to 1500 Indian students.

Information highway

For those wishing to take up higher education in the United States, here's some information on how to get the ball rolling…

Session commences: entry dates vary from one institution to another and from one department to another. Standard admission is made for the fall session, which usually starts in August/September.

Optional entry can be in January/February (Spring). Occasionally, you may find programmes for which candidates are admitted in the winter quarter (November/December) and in summer (May/June).

When to apply: for the Fall 2008 session, apply anytime from November to March 2008.

How to apply: send your application along with required additional documents such as academic credentials, writing samples, recommendation letters, professional resume and interest essay to the selected institutions.

Prospective undergraduate (UG) students should apply to 10-15 institutions and Masters aspirants from eight to 10 and doctoral candidates from six to eight. Deadline: for the Fall semester, application deadlines are usually from November of the preceding year to February 1 of the year admission is sought.

For Spring admissions, application deadlines range from July to October of the previous calendar year.

Application processing time: institutions send admission decisions from April 1 to June/ July.

Application docket: US universities usually provide a checklist of all the documents that are required with applications. Include a cover note detailing what all is enclosed and in what order. If a specific, necessary document is not attached, explain in the note why it is not there and by what date it will be dispatched.

Overall, the Statement of Purpose (SOP) or the college essay should tell the admission committee about yourself and what sets you apart from the rest.

Spell out your academic or career goals clearly. Give an objective assessment of your expectations and the institute's strengths, and say if the two complement each other and so on.

Standardised test scores: there are no qualifying tests in the strict sense but general requirements include a Test of English as a Foreign Language ( score to demonstrate adequate proficiency in English.

For UG aspirants, SAT I ( Scholastic Aptitude Test; is more or less mandatory whereas SAT II (subject tests) are required by selective schools and programmes and are also useful while applying for financial aid. For graduate aspirants in non-professional fields, Graduate Record Examinationsand A-GRE (Subject Tests;, and Graduate Management Admission Test ( for admission to business schools.

For the Fall entry, take the tests anytime from May to October a year before.

Tuition fee: the average tuition fee is US$12,000 a year.

Cost of living: the estimated, average cost of living is US$8,000. The cost (tuition charges plus living expenses) varies from US$20,000 to US$50,000 and depends on the type and the location of a college.

Scholarships: colleges and universities offer fellowships, scholarships and tuition fee waivers. USEFI too, grants fellowships. Besides, assistantships and internships are available.

Accommodation: some colleges are residential especially for the freshman class. In general, all US institutions offer on-campus as well as off-campus housing.

Part-time jobs: international students, with F1 visas, are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week on campus, for the first nine months. After this period, they may do off campus jobs.

During the vacations, they can work as long as 40 hours a week.

Student visa: an F1 student visa is valid till one retains full-time student status. For the Fall 2007 intake, apply for the visa in May or August the same year.

Job opportunities: the Optional Practical Training enables foreign graduates, on completing their programmes, to work up to a year on an F1 student visa in the US. Institutions generally offer career placement services that include advising, counselling, job fairs, training for interviews and resume building.