U.S. colleges are known worldwide for the quality of their facilities, resources, and faculty. Accreditation systems ensure that institutions continue to maintain these standards. The U.S. education system is unrivalled worldwide in the choice it offers of types of institutions, academic and social environments, entry requirements, degree programs, and subjects in which you can specialize. As an investment in your future, a U.S. degree offers excellent value for the money. A wide range of tuition fees and living costs, plus some financial help from colleges, have made study in the United States affordable for thousands of students before you. One of the most distinctive features of U.S. universities and colleges is the flexibility in choice of courses within a college or university, but more importantly there is also the option for students to move between one institution and another. Completing the first two years of a degree at one institution, usually a community college, and then moving to another, is very common.
You should shortlist of colleges that match your needs, interests, and abilities. You should also feel confident that you have the minimum entrance requirements for studying in the United States, and that you can meet the costs of a U.S. undergraduate education. Now it's time to start putting together your applications. Because of the work, and the costs, involved in putting together a good application, most students limit their applications to between four and seven colleges. However, you can request information from as many universities as you like. If you have access to the Internet, you will find that many U.S. universities also put their college catalogs onto their Web sites, and some have even stopped printing paper copies. Many also have on-line application forms that can be completed on the computer and sent back to the university electronically, or the forms can be downloaded and printed. If there is an on-line application, you should use it. This is the quickest method for submitting your application.
If you are planning to enroll at a college in September (fall semester), take any relevant tests no later than January in the same year, and preferably earlier. You should confirm with each college whether you need to take the SAT I and SAT II Subject Tests. Remember that you cannot take both the SAT I and SAT II on the same day, and deadlines for registration for the tests are usually five to six weeks before the actual test date. Test scores must reach universities before the application deadline date, and you should allow at least four to six weeks between the test date and the application deadline. If English is not your native language, register to take the TOEFL. As with the SAT, make sure your test results reach colleges before their deadline dates. If you feel that you qualify for a TOEFL waiver, contact the universities directly and explain your circumstances. At least one to two months before the test dates, find out about test preparation materials and any other help you may need. Your information or advising center can give you further information.
Planning well ahead gives you sufficient time to make successful applications to the colleges of your choice. 12 to 18 months priorto the academic year in which you hope to enroll, begin to consider, research, and do the following:
August: Contact universities for application and financial aid forms and catalogs.
September to December: Request an official transcript from your school.
January to April: University application deadlines must be met; note that these are for regular admission - early admission deadlines will be sooner.
April to June: Letters of acceptance or rejection arrive. Decide which university to attend, notify the admissions office of your decision, complete and return any forms they require
June to August: Apply to your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa upon receipt of your I-20 form and well in advance of your departure date.
Each institution will have its own set of admission requirements, but the minimum usually includes the following:
The TOEFL requirement is often lower for a community college than it is for a four-year institution. In addition, if your TOEFL score is a little below the entry requirement, the community college may still admit you into the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Successful completion of all the prescribed ESL courses will open the door to the wider academic world of the community college. Many, but not all, colleges require international applicants to take an admissions test, usually the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT I) or the American College Testing (ACT) Assessment. Some may also require SAT II Subject Tests. Check ahead to determine specific test requirements. The SAT tests are held several times per academic year, and registration materials are available from the test administrators or from U.S. educational information and advising centers.
Tuition and fees at colleges do vary based on the program of study and whether the college is public or private. Nevertheless, the cost of attending a two-year institution is usually lower than that of a four-year college in the same geographic area. This is the case even for international students attending public colleges where all out-of-state students must pay a higher rate than state residents. The economic advantage of two-year colleges is difficult to ignore.
By and large, it will be a challenge for international students to secure financial aid at state-supported colleges. Though you should check with the colleges about any scholarships they offer that are open to international students, almost all of the funds available to students will come from the federal government or local government, and are set aside specifically for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. There is a slightly better chance of acquiring financial assistance at private colleges. Other private institutions such as foundations, corporations, or associations may also have funds for grants and scholarships.
There are several things you can do to increase your chances of a favorable visa decision:
To apply for an F-1 student visa, you must have a valid I-20 form; for the J-1 visa, you must have the IAP-66 form; and for the M-1 visa, an I-20M-N form. Your college will send you the appropriate form after you have been admitted and after you have certified your available finances.
When your form arrives, check the following:
If so, the form expires and cannot be used after the reporting date. If your I-20, I-20M-N, or IAP-66 is valid