Planning US Education 101

Investing in education abroad is a very crucial decision a student makes and hence it must be well thought-out with proper planning. Right from researching potential universities and programs that the student may want to apply to, to preparing for departure, the entire application process to USA takes approximately 12 to 18 months. The sheer time and effort it takes, makes it imperative for students to start early. Even prior to the 18 months it takes to research and apply, a student must be aware of specific program requirements higher education in USA may have, in terms of courses studied and grades awarded. Meticulous planning of applications is not only very organised but it also shows commitment and clarity of thought to the universities that the student is applying to.

EducationUSA has curated the following 5-steps to US study which may be helpful in the planning process:

STEP 1 – Research your options: This step should typically start 12-18 months prior to the intended start date of the program. A student must start exploring the programs available, universities that offer such programs, curriculum offered, program costs, university culture and location of the university. Going by the rankings published by various sources is not always the best way to shortlist universities; one should find the right fit for one’s profile and a university which fulfills the students career goals. Define your priorities, look for best fit for your profile and fulfill application requirements. Every student is different, and it is important to think about the primary reasons to pursue a degree in the United States. These reasons may change over time, but they will help guide your program search.

STEP – 2 Finance your studies: Tuition, fees, and living costs vary greatly between institutions; hence, it is important to decide how much the student wants to spend on education abroad. It is advisable to check websites of the universities to investigate the options which exist for financing higher education. Following are the sources a student may consider for making financing decisions:

STEP – 3 Complete your application: After making a short list of universities based on the above mentioned parameters, 10 – 12 months prior to the intended start date of the program, the student must appear for the standardized tests which are required to be taken for the program the student wishes to pursue. Following are the various standardized tests which a student may have to take for higher education in USA: 8-10 months prior to the intended start date of the program, the student must start working on the applications. Prioritize the areas which need most amount of effort and time, such as arranging for reference letters or an academic mark sheet or certificate. This time should also be used to search for and begin applying for external scholarships. Most deadlines will fall between November and March. However, deadlines will vary from program to program and may include an early and regular admission deadline. It is recommended to apply by the early deadline, especially if the student is interested in applying for university funding – financial aid deadlines generally fall early. Applying early is also necessary so that visa processing can start well in time.

STEP – 4 Apply for student visa: Between February and April, most of the admissions decisions are out. Some degree programs, including certain PhD programs and competitive MBA programs, may request a phone interview before offering admission. Once the admission offer is made and a non-refundable deposit is made to the university the student shall apply for the F-1 student visa. Visa interviews typically are 10-15 long; therefore every effort must be made to explain why USA is the student’s preferred destination for higher education, how does the student plan to finance the higher education, and what the student’s career goals.

STEP – 5 Prepare for departure: Preparing for departure includes making travel arrangements and making sure housing and accommodation in USA is taken care of. United states-India Education foundation organizes various pre-departure events for students to familiarize them with the culture of USA, helping the students with the documents to be carried for arrival in USA and reporting to the school for orientation.

Check out www.usief.org.in for more information on these events and other information on the application process

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