University in the USA
University in the USA
The USA has the world’s largest international student population, with over 800,000 students choosing to broaden their education and life experience in the United States. Nearly 4% of all students enrolled in higher-level education in the USA are international students, and the numbers are growing.
There are more than 4,500 institutions in the USA and the country has one of the largest education systems in the world. It is also home to some of the best-ranked institutions. Seven of the top ten are US institutions, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-15. These include:
- 1st – California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
- 2nd – Harvard University
- 4th – Stanford University
- 6th – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
You need to remember that USA universities are generally known as colleges and postgraduate degrees are called graduate degrees. Students and parents of students who are considering an American university education versus a British or European one should be aware of a few important differences. American universities tend to be larger than British or European universities and may, in fact, comprise of several colleges devoted to different areas of study and offer more graduate degrees.
Students do not matriculate (start at university) with a declared course of study, but instead take a number of courses distributed over various disciplines before declaring a major and fulfilling the requirements of that concentration. For students who are undecided about their interests and careers, the liberal arts system provides an opportunity to explore different fields, while gaining a broad education, before settling on one program completing their degree in four years.
International students often underestimate the amount of time required to apply for admission to a college or university in the United States. You can avoid this mistake by setting a schedule for yourself that begins well in advance of the time that you plan to begin your studies.
When setting your timetable, always remember that starting the process early is the best way forward. You will need to allow yourself sufficient time to thoroughly research the institution or programme that will best serve your academic and professional goals. Then you must meet the application deadlines of the universities to which you apply, which may be up to ten months before the beginning of the school term.
Especially for schools with competitive admissions, the application process takes a significant amount of time and effort. You will need to write personal statements and request recommendations from teachers or others who know you well. Even if you are applying on line via the Common Application, you will want to get started early. University websites and other academic Internet sites may provide quick and convenient access to the required application forms, but you still need time to research your options, contact teachers and institutions to provide recommendations and transcripts, and sign up for required entrance exams in time to meet application deadlines.
This application timeline will provide you with detailed information about the steps you should take and when you should take them in order to plan your approach to studying in the USA. The plan starts 18 months before you wish to study, so you need to get planning soon! Of course, if you don’t have that much time you can still jump in and catch up – but there earlier the better!
Most U.S. colleges and universities require that you take one or more standardised admissions tests in order to gain entrance into their programs. SAT, ACT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, TOEFL, IELTS – so many acronyms can be very confusing!
American colleges evaluate international applicants based on their performance in secondary school, their final results on national tests such as the IBs or A-levels, and their scores on standardised tests such as the SAT or ACT. In addition evidence of English proficiency through TOEFL may be required. The admissions committees tend to look at applicants holistically; that is, they want to see the student in the context of his/her school environment, and to consider the candidates from an academic, extra-curricular, and social perspective. Admission to the most selective American colleges has become increasingly competitive over the last few years, with some accepting as little as eight per cent. On the other hand, because there are so many colleges, students who begin their college planning by casting a broad net and fully researching options can find excellent opportunities for higher education.
School curriculum varies by country, not only in language but also in practice. Many schools accepting students from other countries require the official status of your school and need to verify the authenticity of documents. This is where credential evaluators come in. Your school may require you to submit transcripts to a credential evaluator who will examine your credentials and translate the documents into your host country curriculum for review.
College costs vary according to the type of institution. The average cost of a year’s tuition and fees at a state university is $15,000; at a private college, the average annual cost is $27,000 with the top universities, such as Harvard, charging around $50,000. There are additional charges, around $7,000-£10,000, for room, board, and books. Financial aid, based on assessed need, is sometimes available for international students and varies from college to college.