Today, many countries are competing against each other for attracting international students to their universities. As a student, it is very important that you take a very careful decision in choosing the country and the university for your education.

The following sections will give you a complete picture about the educational system in the US and will help you judge whether studying in USA will be the best choice for you:


Advantages of studying in USA

Drawbacks of studying in USA

Types of educational institutions in the US

Higher Education in USA

Common Programs Offered

Programs designed for international students and scholars

Typical Academic Year in the US

Typical Course Structure

Grading System

 

Related Links

  Intro to Study in USA
  Search for College/ Uni
  Admission Requirements
  Application Process
  Application Deadlines
  Application Time Table

Advantages of Studying in USA

Quality of Education

U.S. has a pool of academic institutions that are among the best in the world. The quality of education is periodically reviewed by various organizations. Hence colleges and universities in the US have to constantly work hard to maintain their quality of education.
One example of organizations that review academic institutions is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business ( AACSB), which accredits business schools worldwide including the US. AACSB is generally regarded as being the most prestigious accreditations for business schools. In order to be AACSB accredited the universities have to meet certain criteria such as the quality of faculty and students, the infrastructure, the research being performed, etc. Last year only 531 colleges and universities worldwide have the AACSB accreditation, and more than 400 of those are US colleges and universities
In addition, many independent rating agencies, such as Princeton review or US news, keep updating its college / university ranking yearly. US colleges and universities are working hard to maintain or improve their ranking in the list.

Infrastructure

Most US academic institutions have well furnished research as well as computer labs along with libraries with huge collections of books. Many libraries (especially libraries of the same state) are linked with libraries of other universities. This enables the students to order a book that is not available in their university from other university. The academic buildings are also well furnished. They have good heating, cooling and safety systems.

Scholarships

Most US colleges and Universities offer academic scholarships and assistantships. This means that if you get a full time scholarship or assistantship, you won’t have to pay anything out of your pocket and you will also get a monthly stipend to cover your living expenses.

Emphasis on Research and Development

Many US Universities are global leaders in terms of research. They hire world class professors as faculties. Many Professors are leaders and innovators in their field of study, from nano-technology to econometrics to food sciences. Many universities have joint research programs or work in tandem with world renowned organizations such as NASA. Obvious fact that shows US universities support research more than that of any other country in the world is that most Nobel prize winners had done their research in US universities.

Industries

U.S. is home to many well-known industries, factories, hospitals, financial institutions, etc, and it has the highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies. US is among the biggest economy in the world. Every year there is a need of thousands of skilled workers in the manufacturing as well as service sector. As a result, many international students have an opportunity to work in the U.S. after the completion of their studies.

People & Culture

The U.S. culture is very open, i.e., U.S. values freedom of individuals and everyone’s view to the fullest sense. However, laws are in place to safeguard the freedom of the people. U.S. is a country of diversity. Most Americans are aware of the fact that their ancestors were also immigrants. Therefore, they are generally very open to welcome legal visitors, including international students. The U.S. also welcomes skilled immigrants into its workforce. In any U.S. company, you will find people from different backgrounds and races working together. Studying in USA will expose you to this wonderful culture and its people and will enrich your life. Unlike many people think, most Americans are friendly, hospitable and eager to learn new cultures.

Global Recognition

Education from an academic institution in the U.S. is valued and recognized all over the world. As a result, you will have more chance to get a good job in any part of the world after you finish your education here. Many international students get very good jobs in their home country when they go back. Many also have been paid higher salaries and offered better perks and have better opportunities for professional growth as compared to others who have similar education but from academic institutions in their home country. Many political as well as industry leaders around the world have had their education in the U.S.

Limitless study options

You may recall any academic discipline or field of study. Chances are, there is an educational institution in the U.S. that offers education in that particular field of study. You can study almost anything here, be it the ancient Indian civilization or be it the Milky Way galaxy. There are hundreds of colleges and universities that specialize in thousands of fields and will be happy to accept you as a student provided you meet their admission criteria.

Academic Life Flexibility

You can determine what courses you want to study and when. In some countries, you are required to take a certain course in a certain semester. Of course, in certain cases, you will have to follow the sequence of courses, but in general you have the option of taking a course in any semester you want. For some classes, you can also have the option of taking the course during the day or in the evening. In addition, the grades are not just based on your final exams. It is based on your performance in the entire course of study through assignments, team projects, class room discussions, mid terms and final exams. So, if you do not perform well in the finals, you can still get good grades depending on your over all performance.

College Life

In the U.S., along with studies, equal importance is given to enjoy the college life. Typically, Friday and Saturday nights are considered party nights! While studying in U.S., you will find many students from different countries studying along with you. Studying and learning with them will expose you to their culture and traditions. The different student organizations on campus will organize cultural and social festivals and fairs. You will be able to make life long friends who come from different countries and backgrounds. All these experiences will enrich your life.

Work while study

International students are allowed to work on-campus 20 hours per week in the Fall and Spring semesters. In the summer semester they are allowed to work on-campus 40 hours per week. Students can work in the libraries or computer labs as assistants or can even work at the food joints on campus. Thus students are able to earn some money and a bit of experience while studying. International students can also do internships while studying using the Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optical Practical Training (OPT), or Academic Training (AT).

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Drawbacks of Studying in USA

Even though not many, there are some drawbacks of studying in USA, such as:

Cost of Education

Education in USA is costly. So, if you do not get any scholarships or assistantships, it will be hard for you to pay for your tuition. If you or your family do not have enough saving, you may have to take Student Loans to pay for your tuition.

No Guarantee of Job Offer from US Companies

There is no guarantee that you will get a job after your graduation. Getting a job in the US depends on various factors such as the current performance of the economy, your field of education, the reputation of your University, your skill in searching jobs, your personality, your knowledge, experiences and above all, your Lady Luck!

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Types of educational institutions in the US

As it is in many other countries, the US has private as well as public academic institutions. In this section we will only discuss the US higher academic institutions (colleges and universities).

Public institutions : The public institutions are financially supported by the Federal as well as the State government. Hence, most public universities are also called as State universities.

Private institutions : The private institutions are financially supported by private donors (mostly from alumni), investments, research contracts and student tuition.

Comparison between Public and Private institutions:

  • Typically, the private institutions are costlier compared to public institutions because private institutions do not depend on the government support. However, cost should not be the only factor in deciding where to study as both private and public colleges and universities give equal importance to the quality of education, hire quality faculty and have well-equipped computer and research labs.
  • Public universities charge two types of tuitions: in-state tuition and out-of-state tuition. Students residing in particular state pay in-state tuition for colleges / universities in that state, while students from outside of the state (including international students) pay out-of-state tuition. In-state tuition is always less than out-of-state tuition. Private universities typically do not differentiate between in-state and out-of-state students. They charge the same for all students. However, some of them do. You should check with the respected colleges / universities.
  • We have also noted that chances of getting scholarships / assistantships are typically higher in public universities as compared to private universities. However, since typically more students go to public universities, the competition to get a scholarship in public universities is tighter too

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Higher Education in USA

In the US, there are two main types of higher academic institutions:

Universities : Universities are academic institutions that offer a wide array of undergraduate, graduate as well as doctoral programs. Most researches are done at the Universities. US Universities are generally very big and sometimes have more than 25,000 students enrolled.

Colleges : Colleges typically offer occupational educational programs (which lead to associate degrees) along with undergraduate programs and graduate programs. However, in most Colleges doctoral programs are not offered. Compared to universities, colleges are relatively smaller. Public colleges commonly are called Community colleges.

A particular university / college has some departments associated with the academic program it offered. These departments are called as Colleges or Schools. For example, the department of Business may be either called as College of Business or School of Business. Similarly, the engineering department may be called as College of Engineering or School of Engineering. The nomenclature depends on the University. However, the college / school administer the degree programs pertaining to their particular field of study.

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Common Programs Offered (both for international students and for domestic students)

Undergraduate program

The undergraduate program leads to a Bachelor’s degree. Normally, the Undergraduate programs take about 4 - 5 years to complete. The undergraduate degree is divided into Freshman (first year), Sophomore (second year), Junior (third year) and Senior (fourth year) years. Typically, in the Sophomore year you will have to declare your Major. If you like, you can also declare your Minor. Major is your main field of study, and you will get a degree associated with your major. Minor is your secondary field of study. You will not be granted a degree based on your minor, but you do not need to take as many classes as if you are taking a major in that field of study.

Graduate program

The graduate program leads to a Master’s degree. Normally, the Graduate programs take 2 - 3 years to complete. Some Graduate programs will require you to complete a thesis as a pre requisite for graduation.

PhD program

The PhD program leads to a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Normally, the PhD programs take 4 - 5 years to complete. In most cases, a PhD candidate will have a master degree before he or she enters the PhD program. However, in some cases, you can start your PhD program right after you get your undergraduate degree. In this case the master program is embedded in the PhD program.

Dual Degree program

A dual degree program is a program that will award you two degrees upon graduation. Many Universities offer dual degree program such as MBA (Master of Business Administration) and MS-MIS (Master of Science in Management of Information Systems).

Normally, it will take you two years each (four years total) to complete the two programs individually. However, when you are in the dual degree program, you can complete both the programs in three years. This is because many of the courses that you take for MBA and MS-MIS overlap, i.e., you will be taking the same courses for both degrees. However, if the two degrees that you want to take do not have a lot of common courses, such as business and law, you might have to spend more time in the college / university.

Please check with individual colleges / universities for a list of dual degree programs they offer.

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Programs Designed for International Students and Scholars

Some other typical programs designed for international students and scholars are:

Exchange Students / Exchange Visitors Programs

There are two types of exchange students program. The exchange can be based on the university or on the country.

Some US universities collaborate with universities from other countries. These universities often exchange each other’s students for one or two semesters. If you qualify for such program, you will be able to spend one or two semesters in a US university while a student from the US university will be studying in your home university. Please check with your college authorities for more details.

Besides collaborations between US universities and universities of other countries, US government in general also collaborates with the government of other countries to sponsor an exchange student program, which is well known as Fulbright program. International students participated in this program are called exchange visitors. Those students have the opportunity to study in the US not only for one or two semesters, but for the entire program, and obtain a degree from US universities.

Study Abroad programs

These programs are similar to the exchange student programs, in which you will be able to spend one or two semesters in a US university. The difference is that, there is no exchange student necessary. That means, you can come and study in the US even if there is no US student coming and studying in your home university. Please check with your current university for more information.

Visiting Scholar programs

Many US colleges / universities invite international scholars for a period of time to do research with the professors in the US. The period of stay normally is between one to two semesters. In most cases, you are required to have a Masters or a PhD degree. Sometimes, work experience in a Multi national company will also qualify you. The best way to get into such a program is to communicate directly with the Professors at the prospective university. If the Professor desires to work with you, he will communicate with the university authorities. Normally, the Professor will sponsor you (pay you a stipend) for working with him.

Post-doctoral Research programs

This program is similar to the Visiting Scholar programs. However, to apply for this program you are required to have a PhD degree. As the case of visiting scholar program, you should communicate directly with the Professors at the prospective university. If the Professor desires to work with you, he will communicate with the university authorities. Normally, the Professor will sponsor you (pay you) a stipend for working with him.

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Typical Academic Year in the US

There are two main ways to divide an academic year: semester and quarter. Each college / university applies either one of them, not combined. A few colleges apply a trimester system. However, this system is not commonly used.

Semester

An academic year is mainly divided into two semesters: Fall and Spring. In between Fall and Spring, there is a short semester called Summer semester. In this semester, the classes offered are relatively few, and not many students enroll in classes.
Normally, Fall semester is considered as the beginning of the academic year. However, you can also begin your study in the Spring or Summer semesters. Since Fall semester normally starts the academic year, more scholarships and assistantships are offered in this semester. In addition, more prerequisite classes are also offered in this semester. Therefore, if you start your semester in the Spring or Summer you might have to wait until the next Fall to take these classes. However, you should not worry about it. In the meantime you can always take some other classes.
Some universities / colleges do not offer admissions in the Summer semester, except for Research scholars or post-doctoral students.

  • Fall semester: The period from mid August to December (16– 18 weeks)
  • Spring semester: The period from January to mid May ( 16– 18 weeks)
  • Summer semester: The period from mid May to mid August (10 – 12 weeks)

Quarter

An academic year is divided into four quarter: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. As it is of the semester system, Fall quarter is normally considered as the beginning of the academic year. Likewise, most scholarships and assistantships are granted in this quarter. Summer quarter is also shorter than the other quarters.

  • Fall quarter: The period from late September to December (12 – 13 weeks)
  • Winter quarter: The period from January to late March (12 – 13 weeks)
  • Spring quarter: The period from April to late June (12 – 13 weeks)
  • Summer quarter: The period from July to late August (8 – 10 weeks)

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Typical Course Structure

Once you enroll in a program, your academic advisor will provide you a course structure. A course structure is basically a list of courses that you need to successfully complete in order to get the degree. Normally, one course can be of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 credit hours. As an international student you have to maintain your status as a full time student. In order to be a full-time student, you are required to take a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester (for undergraduate students), and 9 credit hours per semester for graduate students and PhD candidates.

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Grading System

Academic institutions in the US follow the GPA (Grade Point Average) grading system. Please check out our Grading System section for more details.

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