The US has many world-class, multidisciplinary educational institutions for study on any topic of your choosing.
Specifically, what sets US universities apart is their focus on research. US universities receive extensive funding from corporates as well as public grants. Because of this, students studying in the US are taught by researchers working on the cutting edge innovations and technology in the field (even if it’s non scientific fields like economics and management).
Given the focus on the most up-to-date and relevant knowledge in the field, US universities prepare students for the best jobs in the workforce.
In the US, there are three main types of educational institutions – public universities, private universities and community colleges.
Learn more about each in our blog.
There are 4 main degrees available through US colleges and universities.
An Associates Degree is a highly practical, job-oriented, 2-year program that is typically offered in Community Colleges. These include Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degrees and students may enroll on completion of 12th grade.
A Bachelors Degree is conferred upon the completion of a 4-year undergraduate course. Students generally enroll on completion of 12th grade and can purse a large range of majors. One major advantage of US undergraduate degrees is that the student can decide to change or add to their course of study even after the admission process is over. For e.g., you may be admitted to study biology but could also later add a double major in economics.
A Masters Degree is obtained through a 2 year course of graduate level study. These courses give students deep, subject specific expertise in their field of choosing. Often, they involve elements of practical project work or novel research which give students experience in the field along with class work.
A Doctor of Philosophy or PhD is a 4 to 5 year, research based program which is the highest academic qualification in a given field of study. In the US, students pursuing PhDs typically receive funding along with a stipend, but students are required to have top performance track record in order to gain admission.
Learn more about each degree on our blog.
There are 3 key expenses that students must incur while studying in the US – tuition fees, living expenses and health insurance.
The Tuition Fee is the largest component of the cost of a US education. The amount is highly dependent on the university and degree program chosen. Generally, tuition at private institutions is higher than at public institutions. Tuition fees can be reduced though scholarships, work-study deals and other financing options.
Living Expenses cover the cost incurred for rent, food and other personal expenses. This can vary greatly based on the city or town of the college as well as the student’s chosen lifestyle. Along with the I-20, universities typically give an estimate of these costs, but it is possible to keep this very minimal if desired.
Health Insurance is typically required by all US colleges and universities. As healthcare in the US can become a major expense, advisable that students purchase medical insurance to cover for the possible burden. Several health insurance plans are available for international students and premiums vary based on the plan selected.
There are many financing options for a US education including loans, scholarships, stipends, assistantships and work study programs.
Student Loans are available from both Indian banks as well as US-based financial institutions. Loan approvals may depend on a review of financial documents, provision of collateral as well as the University chosen. Specifications of loan approval vary from bank to bank.
Scholarships are given towards a student’s tuition. They are offered either for the entire course of the program or on a semester by semester basis. Scholarships are generally offered based on past academic records, the student’s educational goals and the university’s goals. Partial scholarships are also possible.
Stipends are given to students with fantastic academic records as payment towards their living expenses in addition to scholarships for tuition fees.
Research or Teaching Assistantships are given to students who conduct research or help teach and grade undergraduate or introductory level classes. Selections for these are made based on past academic and professional record as well as future research goals. RAs and TAs usually qualify a student for tuition waivers and/or pay an additional stipend.
On-Campus Jobs can be found during the normal course of the semester. A student is allowed to work for 20hrs a week within the university. This job may not necessarily be related to the student’s program of study and can include part time work in research labs, administrative roles, library positions and grading jobs among others.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a program through which a student is allowed to work outside the university during semester breaks for a total number of 364 days. Employment on CPT must be related to the student’s program of study and may not commence prior to completion of 9 months of full-time study.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is activated upon completion of a student’s education. This allows international students to work outside the university in a position related to the area of study on obtaining the Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization. STEM graduates are permitted to work for 29 months.
What is a Major?
A major is the student’s main field of specialization. For undergraduate students, majors are broad areas such as Chemical Engineering or Physics or Marine Biology, and must be decided at the end of the second year of undergraduate studies at the latest. For graduate students, majors would further concentrate on the specific field of study and are usually decided at the time of admission application.
The department will usually specify the required courses for each major as well as the total number of credits a student must complete, related to the major, in order to graduate.
What is a Minor?
The number of courses a student is required to take for minor is generally less and can be taken with combination of electives.
What is the Unit or Credit System?
In the US, students receive credits or units for a course based on the number of hours of lectures or lab work in a week pertaining to that course. In addition to just attending lectures and labs, the student is also required to put in some hours of homework. The overall work expectation for a course is what drives the number of credits assigned.
A student is required to complete a specific number of credits in order to graduate. The requirements may, more specifically, state the number of credits pertaining to the student’s major and minor.
What is a Transfer of Credits?
It is not uncommon that a student switches universities after completing a few semesters of study. In this case, credits earned at the first university may be transferred to the second, i.e. applied towards requirements at the second university. Each university has criteria that specify how credits can be transferred, based on the courses taken, accreditation of the original university and others.
What is GPA?
GPA (Grade Point Average) is a measure of academic performance in most US institutions. It usually ranges from 0-4 but may also lie within any other range set by the university.
For each class taken, a student is assigned a grade such as A+, A, A-, B+ all the way to F, based on performance on homeworks, tests and exams. On a 4 point GPA scale, each letter grade is assigned a score between 0 and 4. To calculate GPA, the score for each class is first multiplied by the number of credits/units for the class and these products are then summed for all classes. The GPA is this sum of products divided by the total number of credits/units completed by the student.