The United States remains the premier destination for international students because it has something for everyone. It offers a vast number of academic options and it is always possible to find the one program that is a perfect match for your interests. One can focus on a rather narrow area of a discipline or study a varied group of subjects – as per one’s requirements. The variety, flexibility and quality of an American education are what draw students to the US in large numbers everywhere
What are the factors that make the US, the number one educational hub for international students?
1. Commitment to Excellence : One of the highest selling points of American education is perhaps its worldwide reputation of commitment to excellence. Only the best students around the world are admitted to the top schools in the US, where quality education is imparted to them by an expertly trained faculty. This quality education is thereby upheld year after year and the degrees that students attained in the US are not just widely recognized and accepted, but also widely respected around the world.
2. Brilliant Scope for Research : If you are inclined toward academic research, the US is your perfect choice for higher education. You can get the opportunity o earn while you learn, when you enroll into an MS/PhD program. Your research grant will help support your personal needs by waiving your tuition and providing you with a stipend, while the intellectual challenges that you will overcome academically will certainly help satisfy your professional appetite. Funding and grants for most research projects at the university are obtained from either the federal government or reputed multinational corporations in the industry.
3. Academic Flexibility : You will soon discover that the education system in the US is a lot different from your home country. The US education system offers a kind of flexibility in terms of the courses that are offered, which enables you select your choice of subject from a variety of topics. You can now specialize in the area of your choice without having to take any unnecessary classes. You also have the flexibility to choose a class at any time during the academic year, since the some courses are offered multiple times during the academic year. The quarterly or semester system gives you a flexibility to complete your academic program at your own pace and take additional time on a research project if required. For instance, if you can complete the total number of courses required for you to graduate, you can finish up your master’s degree within a year. You can also spread out your course completion schedule in such a manner as to devote more time for research and complete your course in a couple of years.
4. Financial Support : Availability of financial aid is another major incentive for international students to opt for higher education in the US. Most universities offer its students grants, loans and stipends to cover their daily expenses as well as tuition in some cases. University assistantship is provided on the basis of merit rather than financial need. If you can prove your excellence in academics, then your US education may even turn out to be free. Otherwise, obtaining grants and loans from banks is also easy if you can provide proof of your admission. On-campus work programs are also available for students who qualify for a specific kind of job. For instance, if you have a humanities major, you can seek employment at the library. If you are certified lifeguard, you can work at the Aquatic Center.
5. Lucrative Job Opportunities : On completion of your degree, you are legally authorized to work in the US in your related field for about a year. You need to apply for Optional Practical Training Employment Authorization (OPT). Most international students get inducted into the company that hires them during their OPT period, by sponsoring their H1-B or work visa. The H1-B work visa is usually granted by employers if they are hiring international students in specialty areas such as software, engineering, accountancy, teaching or marketing. Once your employer grants your H1-B, you are allowed to work in the US without returning to your home country.
6. Value Addition and Cultural Enhancement : Around 30 percent of all international students in the world study in the US. So, as an international student, you will have the unique privilege to interact with a lot of people from a lot of different nationalities. This exposure will not only enhance your cultural and artistic faculties, but will also help you learn a lot more about the world. The exciting cultural exchange and international diversity will certainly enrich your life both personally and academically. Your new friends will be your new family.
The USA education system
The education system is one of the most expansive in the world, with approximately 4,000 universities on offer.
These universities can be divided into two types:
- Private universities – are maintained by tuition fees and private donations. They usually have fewer students and are more expensive to attend, but often have state-of-the-art facilities and more funding for international students.
- Public universities – are funded by the state and contain large numbers of students. Tuition fees are less expensive but international students pay out-of-state tuition, which is often expensive.
There are other specialist institutions which focus on certain subjects, such as science and technology, performing arts, and music. It is important to note that in the USA, universities are known as colleges and postgraduate degrees are called graduate degrees.
University admission in the USA is competitive, with UK-based students expected to have a minimum of a 2:2 in an undergraduate degree to be considered.
All students must sit an entrance exam, which is in a multiple choice format. Most universities require students to sit the SAT or the ACT exam. They can be taken in test centres around the UK and tests cost roughly £50 each.
You can practice and register for exams at College Board – SAT . USA postgraduate programmes also require two or more reference letters, usually written by university lecturers or former employers.
It is also worth noting that there is no official conversion rate between UK A-level/degree results and USA grades and each university will have its own policy. Therefore it is vital to contact individual universities to find out their requirements.
The US education system is expensive. Before you are even accepted into a university it will cost you $50-$100 (£30-£60) per application.
The average cost per year for international students studying at a public university in 2011-2012 was more than $20,000 (£13,000). Those attending a private institution had to pay an average of $28,500 (£18,000), with some prestigious universities charging upwards of $40,000 (£26,000) (College Board, 2011).
There is no standard set fees like the UK and costs will vary between institutions. Prices can even vary between departments at the same university.
Funding to study in the USA
Funding for international students is readily available, although options will vary between universities. Some institutions will provide scholarships covering the entire cost. The most common sources of funding are:
- Merit scholarships – for those with outstanding academic achievement or talent in performing arts. Need-based financial aid – for those whose family cannot support them.
- Sports scholarships – available for students who are gifted in a specific sport but also academically eligible for admission.
Competition for funding is fierce so be sure to submit your application early.
Around 30 scholarships are offered each year on The Fulbright Award Programme. Opportunities are available for UK students that want to pursue a postgraduate degree in any subject. For more information visit Fulbright Commission – Awards and Programmes for UK Postgraduates .
USA exchanges and placements
For UK students studying degrees which focus on architecture, engineering, science and technology, the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE UK ) provides placements.
It is worth checking with your current universities international office as they may have links with a USA institution.
Before applying for a visa you must be accepted and approved for your programme of study. You will then be sent the necessary documentation to start the visa process.
It is best to apply early and you will also need to make an appointment for a visa interview with the US embassy in your country. The F-1 student visa is for those wishing to study full time at an accredited US college or university.