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Study in the USA: Your Roadmap to Success!

Navigate Your Path to Success - Expert Guidance for Studying Abroad in the Land of Opportunities!

Why Study in USA?

The United States of America has been a global leader in the field of education and boasts of a lion’s share of top ranked universities according to all major international rankings. Few countries offer as many high ranked universities and noble laureate academia, as USA does.

Academic Excellence

Benefit from world-renowned universities and cutting-edge research, ensuring a top-tier education that opens doors globally.

Diverse Culture

Immerse yourself in a melting pot of cultures, ideas, and perspectives, fostering personal growth and a truly enriching experience.

Career Opportunities

Gain access to a dynamic job market with ample internship and post-graduation employment opportunities, setting the stage for a successful career.

Innovation Hub

Join a country at the forefront of innovation and technology, offering a stimulating environment for creativity and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Quality of Life

Experience a high standard of living, excellent healthcare, and a variety of recreational activities, making the USA a well-rounded and desirable destination for international students.

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"Studying abroad is not just an education; it's a passport to a world of possibilities, where every culture becomes a chapter in the book of your life."

Choose Your Desired Courses

Discover the world, expand your mind! Choose to study abroad for top-notch education, cultural immersion, and personal growth. Your journey to global success starts here!

Choose Your Interested Location in USA

Discover academic excellence amidst stunning landscapes. Study in USA for a vibrant cultural experience, renowned universities, and opportunities in tech and entertainment industries.

Admission requirements for studying in USA

Planning to study in the USA? Let us help you get started with the basic admission requirements that you will need.

Preparing for Examinations

Pursuing a course in the US begins with competitive and rigorous exams such as GRE/GMAT for postgraduate studies and IELTS or TOEFL for English proficiency. Some programs do not require GRE/GMAT. Thorough preparation is vital as these exams significantly influence university admissions.

University Application Process

The application process involves submitting academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and exam scores. Meeting application deadlines and following specific university guidelines are critical to success.

Figuring Out Your Finances

A full-time program in the US can cost up to ₹ 70Lacs. Planning your finances is essential, considering options like scholarships and loans, though the latter may come with high-interest rates.

Visa Process

Applying for a student visa entails presenting the necessary documentation, attending an interview, and paying a fee. It is advisable to start this process early to avoid delays.

Booking Your Travel

Early travel bookings are recommended, as costs can be high, especially during peak seasons. Consider budget airlines and travel packages to minimize expenses.

Finalizing Your Stay

The cost of accommodation varies based on location and preferences. Exploring housing options early allows for a more budget-friendly selection, whether choosing university housing or private rentals.

How You Can Manage expenses while studying in the USA

Our programs offer financial aid and the chance to study in USA at low cost. Here's how international students in America manage their living expenses while studying there.

Benefits of Hybrid Programs:

  1. Flexibility: Hybrid programs allow students to customize their learning experience by combining on-campus classes with online coursework. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for international students who may have varying time zones or other commitments.

  2. Personalized Learning: With a mix of in-person and online components, students can tailor their academic journey to suit their learning styles. The interactive nature of on-campus classes complements the self-paced online modules, creating a well-rounded educational experience.

  3. Cost-Effective: Hybrid programs often offer cost savings as students can choose to take some courses online, reducing the overall expenses associated with on-campus living. This financial flexibility makes studying in the USA more accessible to a broader range of students.

  4. Global Networking Opportunities: Engaging in both on-campus and online activities allows students to build a diverse network of peers, professors, and professionals. This global perspective enhances their overall educational experience and prepares them for a connected and internationalized world.

  5. Adaptability to Modern Work Environments: The hybrid learning model mirrors the hybrid work structures prevalent in many industries today. Students are better equipped to navigate the evolving landscape of remote and in-person work, gaining valuable skills for their future careers.

Examples of Hybrid Programs in the USA:

  1. MBA Hybrid Programs: Many business schools offer hybrid MBA programs, allowing students to attend some classes on campus while completing the rest online. This format is particularly advantageous for working professionals seeking to enhance their skills.

  2. Engineering Hybrid Degrees: Engineering programs often incorporate hands-on lab work on campus while offering theoretical coursework online. This blend caters to the practical nature of engineering education.

  3. Health Sciences Hybrid Degrees: Programs in health sciences may integrate on-campus clinical experiences with online lectures, providing students with a comprehensive understanding of their field.

Pursuing higher education in the United States can be an enriching experience, but the associated costs can be a concern for many international students. The good news is that there are numerous scholarship opportunities available to help alleviate the financial burden. Let’s explore the world of scholarships for international students in the USA and discover how you can unlock your academic potential with financial assistance.

Types of Scholarships:

  1. Merit-Based Scholarships: Awarded based on academic achievement, merit-based scholarships recognize outstanding performance in academics, extracurricular activities, or other achievements. These scholarships are highly competitive and often cover tuition, fees, and sometimes even living expenses.

  2. Need-Based Scholarships: Designed to assist students with demonstrated financial need, need-based scholarships take into account the student’s and their family’s financial situation. These scholarships can cover various educational expenses, including tuition, housing, and textbooks.

  3. Diversity Scholarships: Many institutions in the USA actively promote diversity and inclusion by offering scholarships to students from underrepresented backgrounds. These scholarships aim to create a more diverse and culturally rich academic environment.

  4. Subject-Specific Scholarships: Some scholarships are specific to certain fields of study. If you have a particular academic interest or are pursuing a degree in a specific discipline, you may find scholarships tailored to your chosen field.

  5. Government-Funded Scholarships: Various U.S. government-sponsored programs provide scholarships to international students. These programs may be country-specific or open to students from around the world.

  6. Institutional Scholarships: Many universities and colleges offer their own scholarships to attract top talent. These scholarships may be based on academic achievement, leadership qualities, or other criteria set by the institution.

Embarking on a journey of higher education in the United States is an exciting endeavor, but the associated costs can be a concern for many international students. Fortunately, there are various loan options available to help bridge the financial gap and make your educational dreams a reality. Let’s explore the world of educational loans for international students in the USA and understand how to navigate this aspect of financing your academic journey.

Types of Educational Loans:

  1. Federal Student Loans: While federal student loans are primarily available to U.S. citizens, eligible non-citizens, including some international students, may qualify under certain conditions. These loans offer competitive interest rates and flexible repayment options.

  2. Private Student Loans: Provided by private lenders, these loans are available to international students with a U.S. co-signer. Private student loans can cover tuition, living expenses, and other educational costs, but it’s essential to carefully review terms and interest rates before choosing this option.

  3. Institutional Loans: Some universities and colleges offer their own loan programs to international students. These loans may have specific eligibility criteria and terms set by the institution, so it’s crucial to inquire about available options directly.

  4. Home Country Loans: Some international students may have access to educational loans from their home countries. These loans can be used to fund studies abroad, and repayment terms may vary depending on the lending institution.

Eligibility and Application Process:

  1. U.S. Co-Signer: For most private student loans, having a U.S. co-signer is a common requirement. A co-signer is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who agrees to share the responsibility for the loan and has a good credit history.

  2. Creditworthiness: Lenders often assess the creditworthiness of the borrower and co-signer when evaluating loan applications. Demonstrating a good credit history and financial stability can increase the chances of loan approval.

  3. Visa Status: International students must have a valid visa status to be eligible for educational loans. Ensure that your visa allows you to engage in academic pursuits and inquire about any specific requirements related to loan eligibility.

  4. Loan Limits and Terms: Understand the loan limits, interest rates, and repayment terms associated with each loan option. Be aware of any grace periods, deferment options, and the total cost of borrowing.

Repayment Strategies:

  1. Budgeting: Develop a comprehensive budget that includes tuition, living expenses, and other associated costs. Carefully plan your finances to ensure you can cover both your immediate needs and future loan repayments.

  2. Explore Repayment Options: Federal student loans often offer various repayment plans, including income-driven repayment options. Understand the available choices and choose a plan that aligns with your financial situation.

  3. Financial Counseling: Seek financial counseling services offered by educational institutions or external organizations. These services can provide valuable guidance on managing your student loans and planning for repayment.

While pursuing higher education in the United States offers a transformative experience, managing living expenses can be a concern for many international students. Fortunately, the U.S. provides a variety of part-time job opportunities that allow students to gain valuable work experience and supplement their finances. Let’s explore the world of part-time employment for international students in the USA and understand how to strike a balance between academic commitments and earning income.

Types of Part-Time Jobs:

  1. On-Campus Employment: Many universities and colleges in the USA offer on-campus job opportunities for students. These may include roles in libraries, student centers, cafeterias, or administrative offices. On-campus employment is convenient for students as it is often located within the university premises.

  2. Off-Campus Employment: Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are employment options that allow international students to work off-campus in roles related to their field of study. These opportunities provide real-world experience and may be pursued during or after completing academic programs.

  3. Internships and Co-op Programs: Some academic programs offer internship or cooperative education (co-op) programs that allow students to work part-time in positions relevant to their field of study. These experiences not only provide income but also contribute to a student’s professional development.

  4. Online Freelancing: With the rise of remote work, international students can explore online freelancing opportunities. Platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr offer a range of freelance jobs, from writing and graphic design to programming and virtual assistance.

  5. Tutoring and Academic Assistance: If you excel in a particular subject, consider offering tutoring services to fellow students. This can be a rewarding way to share your knowledge and earn income simultaneously.

Legal Considerations for International Students:

  1. Work Authorization: International students in the USA are typically allowed to work part-time on campus during the academic year. However, off-campus employment may require approval through programs like OPT or CPT. Ensure that you comply with all U.S. immigration and work authorization regulations.

  2. Social Security Number (SSN): To work in the USA, you will need a Social Security Number. Check with your designated school official (DSO) for guidance on obtaining an SSN and fulfilling any necessary paperwork.

  3. Hourly Restrictions: While on-campus work typically has hourly restrictions during the academic year, these restrictions may be lifted during official breaks. Ensure you are aware of any limitations and plan your work schedule accordingly.

Balancing Work and Studies:

  1. Prioritize Academic Commitments: Remember that your primary purpose in the U.S. is to pursue education. Choose part-time work that allows you to balance your work hours with academic responsibilities.

  2. Effective Time Management: Develop strong time management skills to efficiently allocate time for classes, assignments, and work commitments. Create a realistic schedule that accommodates both academic and work-related tasks.

  3. Communication with Employers: Maintain open communication with your employer regarding your academic schedule and any potential conflicts. Many employers understand the academic priorities of international students and may offer flexible work arrangements.

Everything You Need To Know About USA

American symbols are recognized the world over. The Statue of Liberty, the White House, and the Bald Eagle are just some of the iconic images that may come to mind when students think of the United States of America (also known as the US or America).

Indeed, the US means many things to different people. For some, it is an economic and political powerhouse and an influential player on the world stage; for others, it is defined by its entertainment industry – Hollywood films and the bright lights of Broadway. And for years, many have seen it as the land of opportunity, a destination for immigrants seeking new freedoms and wealth.

But the US is much more than its symbols and stereotypes. For international students, the US education system offers world-renowned educational opportunities of all shapes and sizes. Students can choose from a variety of excellent education institutions in cities and towns across the country. They can experience American college life in a nation that is known for its ethnic and geographic diversity, while discovering the sights, sounds, and tastes of the US. 

These are just some of the reasons why the US hosts more international students than any other country in the world. This section will outline what makes the US attractive to students considering study abroad – beginning with quick facts about the country and progressing to a more detailed look at its history, economy, government, people, culture, geography, and climate. 

An Array of High-Quality Education Institutions

There are over 4,000 accredited colleges and universities in the US, ranging from large research universities to small private colleges, state universities, community colleges, and specialized and technical institutions. Many US universities are ranked among the world’s best, consistently dominating the top tier of global rankings. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is consistently ranked #1 in the QS University Rankings. It is one of 10 American universities found in the QS Top 20 for 2021. The 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings placed 14 US universities in the top 20. And 15 universities in the 2021 ARWU top 20 (Shanghai Jiaotong University) World University Rankings are American. Dozens more American universities place in these ranking systems’ top 100 universities.

One of the Most Well-Educated Countries in the World

Close to 50% of American citizens between the ages of 25 and 64 have a post-secondary education. The US is also ranked among the top 25 countries in the world when it comes to the science, reading, and mathematics abilities of its secondary school students. American industries have been judged to have the second best collaboration with universities in the world.

Diverse and Multicultural

Spanning six different time zones, the US is geographically and ethnically diverse. It is a country of immigrants that is shaped by the cultures of the world. Although English is the official language of most US states, more than 67 million Americans speak a different language at home. Many US cities – including Houston, New York, and Los Angeles – have large and vibrant African-American, Hispanic, and Asian communities. According to the US Census, one in eight US residents is foreign-born. In 2020, 1,251,570 international students were studying in the US, adding to the nation’s diversity.

A Highly Competitive and Powerful Economy

The US has the largest economy in the world as measured by GDP. It ranks second in the world on the measure of competitiveness, thanks to its financial sector, commitment to technological innovation, and successful companies. The World Bank ranks the US 6th out of 189 countries when it comes to ease of doing business.

A Creative, Innovative Nation

Since its inception, the US has been an innovative nation driven by ideas, traditions, and talents that foster achievements in science, technology, the arts, and other fields. From Thomas Edison – who invented the long-lasting light bulb in the 19th century – to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of today, Americans have been known for their inventions and creativity. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ranks the US as the third most innovative country in the world.

The US Values Openness and Equality

The US has a strong democratic tradition that regards all citizens as equal, and a Bill of Rights that legally confirms their fundamental rights. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, speech, the press, and peaceful assembly and petition. Americans believe strongly in the rights and freedoms of people, and equality in their social relationships.

Native Americans – also known as American Indians or indigenous Americans – are the original inhabitants of the United States. It is estimated that anywhere between 1.8 and 18 million Native Americans were living in what is now the US at the end of the 15th century. They spoke hundreds of distinct languages and developed complex societies.

However, the area that would become the US remained largely unknown to the rest of the world until Christopher Columbus set off in search of a sea passage to Asia in 1492. Although the Italian explorer never actually saw the US mainland – he landed in the present-day Bahamas – Columbus is nevertheless credited with opening up the Americas to exploration, settlement, and exchange. In the centuries that followed, explorers and settlers from England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and other parts of Europe came to what was known as the “New World” in search of riches, freedoms, and new beginnings. Africans also arrived, as early as 1619, though unfortunately they initially arrived as slaves.

Eventually, 13 distinct colonies developed in what is today the northeast coast of the United States. They soon fell under control of the British Crown and remained so until winning independence from Britain during the 18th-century American Revolution. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, proclaimed that all men are created equal, and founded a new nation, the United States of America. The 4th of July has since been celebrated as America’s Independence Day.

In the mid-1800s, the North and South of the country became bitterly divided on the practice of slavery. This paved the way for the American Civil War (beginning in 1861), which pitted Confederate states from the South against the Union. The war resulted in the end of slavery and a stronger role for the federal government.

The rest of the century was marked by rapid economic development, and by 1890, America had become the most industrialized and wealthiest nation in the world. At the same time, record numbers of immigrants came to the US, adding to its cultural diversity, and the women’s movement began to demand equal rights and the ability to vote for women.

When World War 1 broke out, the US attempted to remain neutral but ended up contributing significantly to the Allied movement that finally defeated Germany.

The 1920s saw the further expansion of the economy as well as the Great Depression of the early 1930s. President Roosevelt helped the country out of the Depression, creating systems of welfare, unions, and other security measures for the working class and poorer families in America.

World War 2 began in 1939 with Germany’s invasion of Poland; America began fighting in the war in 1941 after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The war pushed American workers into ever-greater efforts to improve productivity and America’s contributions to the Allies. At the same time, Americans tried to buy less and save more – habits that allowed the economy to rebound quickly after the Allies won the war.

World War 2 saw the US abandon previous isolationist policies, and so began America’s role as a global leader and champion of democracy. Some call the twentieth century “America’s Century” given its influence in the world. But also, for several decades, there were two “superpowers”: America and the former USSR.

The 1950s were marked by the Civil Rights movement – in which American blacks struggled against institutionalized racism, leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1955. Another equality movement – the Women’s Liberation Movement – was a major feature of the 1960s; women campaigned for and won much more equality under the law and in society as a result.

By the 1980s, the two superpowers were at serious odds with each other, each strongly committed to contrasting ideologies. The Cold War era began, with both the US and the USSR building up their nuclear powers as the world watched in fear. The Soviet Union’s President Gorbachev was a crucial figure leading to the end of the Cold War in 1991, at which time the USSR dissolved into separate political regions: Russia and independent republics around it.

In the first few years of the twenty-first century, the US remains a global leader but welcomes the contributions of other democratic, progressive nations to the world order. The US government is increasingly working on cooperative initiatives with other countries to meet the challenges and opportunities inherent in the twenty-first century.

Natural resources, a stable government, and a relatively well-educated workforce are just some of America’s competitive advantages in the global marketplace. Although Americans make up less than 5% of the world’s population, they generate and earn more than 20% of the world’s total income.

The US is the second-largest trading nation in the world behind China. Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, Germany, and the UK are some of its largest trading partners. It is a free market economy, in which individuals or corporations own most of the technology and the economy is determined by independent transactions between buyers and sellers. Nevertheless, the government does intervene in the economy in other ways – from regulating taxes to changing interest rates. At times, the government takes an active role in matters the private economy overlooks to make sure vital services or stewardship (for example, of the environment) are provided for citizens. However, the US government generally favors less economic intervention relative to other industrialized nations.

With almost 32 million small businesses and many of the world’s largest 500 companies, the US represents one of the world’s most influential financial markets: the New York Stock Exchange. Banking, retail sales, transportation, and health care account for two-thirds of the value of America’s GDP, and the economy is very rich in information technology. The US also produces roughly 17% of the world’s manufactured goods. After more than a century as the world’s top manufacturing nation, the US is now ranked second globally, behind China.

The currency of the US is the United States dollar. It remains the most popular world reserve currency, although it has been suggested that its share of total reserves may decline in the future. 

The United States is a federal republic with a strong tradition of democracy. Its government is based on a written Constitution that was adopted in 1789 and continues to be the country’s overarching law. Political powers are constitutionally divided between the Federal and State governments, and the legislative, judicial, and executive branches:

  • The legislative branch is responsible for making and modifying federal laws. This duty is carried out by the Congress, which consists of the House of Representatives and Senate. Members of the House of Representatives are elected from constituencies based on population, and members of the Senate are elected statewide (two per state).
  • The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting the laws passed by Congress. It consists of the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts.
  • The executive branch is responsible for enforcing the laws. It consists of the president, vice-president, Cabinet, and independent agencies.

The President is the leader of the executive branch and the Head of State. American presidents are elected every four years and are not permitted to serve more than two terms. The current president is Joe Biden.

Historically, American politics has been dominated by a two-party system consisting of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

Around 333 million people live in the United States, making it the third most populous country in the world, after China and India.

The majority of Americans – 83% – live in urban areas. Many American cities are thriving thanks to multiculturalism, artistic offerings, and greener lifestyles than in the past. As of 2020, the largest US cities are:

  • New York (8.8 million)
  • Los Angeles (3.9 million)
  • Chicago (2.7 million)
  • Houston (2.3 million)

America’s coastal areas are substantially more crowded than the nation as a whole. In 2017, 94.7 million people, or 29% of the US population, lived in counties directly on the shoreline, a figure that is expected to increase. The most populous US state is California, with 40 million people, but the most densely populated state is New Jersey. Compared to many other developed countries, however, the population density of the US remains relatively low.

The US is an ethnically and culturally diverse country whose current population is a result of original settlement, colonization, and immigration. Except for Native Americans, most people living in the US are either immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, beginning with the English who colonized the country in the 1600s.

Brookings reports that “nearly four of 10 Americans identify with a race or ethnic group other than white … the 2010 to 2020 decade will be the first in the nation’s history in which the white population declined in numbers.” Further, they note that in 1980, about 80% of Americans identified as White; by 2019 that proportion had fallen to 60%. Americans identifying as Hispanic/Latino made up 18.5%, as Black 12.5%, and as Asian-American 6% in 2019. Diversity is more pronounced in younger Americans: among Americans under the age of 16, Latino or Hispanic and Black residents combined compose almost 40% of the US population.

Native Americans – America’s original inhabitants – today number approximately 6.8 million people. Following European contact in the 17th century, nearly every Native American community was negatively affected by deadly new diseases – to which they had no immunity – as well as the seizure of their homelands. It is estimated that disease epidemics alone devastated Native populations by 50–90%.

But over the last five centuries Native Americans have been strengthening and rebuilding their cultures. Today, they are diverse peoples, belonging to around 500 tribes, speaking some 175 languages, and residing throughout the US. Native Americans balance modern lives with various degrees of traditional language, history, spirituality, and customs.

Most people speak English in the United States, the official language of many states. Nevertheless, many Americans speak other languages. More than 43 million people are native Spanish speakers, making the US the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. The next most commonly spoken other languages are Chinese (with 2.9 million speakers), Tagalog (1.6 million), Vietnamese (1.4 million), and French or French Creole (1.3 million). Despite the prevalence of English, international students will hear Spanish in Miami, French around New Orleans, and even German in some Midwestern and Western areas.

Freedom of religion is one of the founding principles of the United States and a guaranteed right in the US Constitution. Americans are open to a range of religious viewpoints and most have a tolerant approach to faith. Students should not hesitate to seek out opportunities to practice their religion if they wish to do so.

Americans tend to be more religious than their counterparts from other Western nations. Close to half belong to a place of worship such as a church, synagogue, or mosque. About 20% of the population, however, has no religious affiliation.

Culturally, Americans define themselves in many ways – through the arts, ethnicity, faith, work and play, home life, and community.

Native Americans and immigrants have each contributed their own customs and traditions to the US, creating a multicultural society that has sometimes been referred to as a “melting pot.” Each of America’s regions has its own identity as well, characterized by distinct food, history, attitudes, and culture. Every year, that diversity is celebrated and recognized through events and celebrations large and small, national and local, including Cinco de Mayo, Martin Luther King Day, and Chinese New Year.

Above all else, Americans believe in individualism (a value that prioritizes independence, freedom of thought, and self-reliance), even though many also strong family ties and loyalties to groups. From a young age, Americans are encouraged to see themselves as responsible for their own destiny. Many Americans place a high priority on personal achievement, and they don’t see social and economic status as being barriers to success in life.

Americans also have a good sense of teamwork and value equality in their social relationships and society at large. More than a quarter of them volunteer their time to help others or a cause. Friendly and informal, Americans are comfortable striking up a conversation, and quick to use first names. They are often open and direct in their dealings with others, and encourage the expression of opinions, including in a classroom setting. American college and university life is known to be particularly vibrant, with a wealth of social opportunities, sporting events, and clubs to choose from.

The US has a thriving arts and culture scene, and American artists and creators – such as painter Georgia O’Keeffe, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and director Steven Spielberg – are known worldwide. While students may be most familiar with American TV shows and Hollywood movies, the contemporary arts scene in the US also includes modern dance, avant-garde visual art, independent theater, literature, and other artistic practices. And popular music has long expressed what it means to be American, from folk songs to jazz, rock and roll, hip-hop, and country.

Some say that what really draws Americans together is sports. Baseball, American football, basketball, ice hockey, and car racing all have millions of fans in the US. Soccer (known as football in some other parts of the world) is also gaining in popularity at the professional level and is one of the country’s most popular youth sports.

Perhaps not surprisingly, foods such as apple pie and hamburgers often come to mind when one thinks of American cuisine, but the country offers an array of dining options – from fast food to fine dining. Americans have mixed food cultures to create their own, and food from around the world – for example, Japanese sushi, Mexican tacos, and Indian curry – is readily available.

Many traditional American foods originate from a specific region. For example, the Cajun gumbo and grits (ground corn cooked to a porridge-like consistency) was first created in the South; and clam chowder and Boston baked beans are associated with New England. Cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is a tradition for many American families. Coffee is also an extremely popular beverage in the US and students will find coffee shops everywhere – from cities to university towns.

Americans lead a variety of lifestyles and there are important differences between rural and urban areas, and between social classes. The US has one of the world’s highest standards of living. The median household income is around USD$68,700, though this varies by region, ethnicity, and other factors.

Material success, however, is not everything for Americans, who also appreciate the cultural, spiritual, and human aspects of life. The United States placed among the top 20 countries in the world in the latest World Happiness Report, a United Nations survey that rates respondents’ overall satisfaction with life.

In 2019, the United States was ranked in the top 20 on the UN Human Development Index. The US also ranks highly regarding overall quality of life among industrialized democracies, according to the OECD’s Better Life Index.

Situated in the center of North America, the United States covers a total area of 9 million square kilometers and is the third largest country in the world after Canada and Russia. The continental US is made up of 48 states and the federal district of Washington, DC, which is the nation’s capital. Alaska – the largest US state – is located northwest of Canada, and the islands of Hawaii are found southwest of the US mainland in the Pacific Ocean.

The continental US stretches from east to west, bordering both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. To the north, it shares an 8,893-kilometer land border with Canada, and to the south, a 3,145-kilometre border with Mexico. In-between its borders, the US boasts a staggering range of landscapes, including forests, swamps, farmlands, beaches, and deserts. Its notable mountain ranges include the Rocky Mountains, Cascades and Coast Ranges, and Sierra Nevada Mountains in the west; and the Appalachian and Adirondack Mountains in the east.

There are over 3.5 million miles of rivers and streams in the US, including the great Mississippi River, which is one of the world’s major river systems. The country’s almost 40 million acres of lakes and reservoirs serve as a major water resource. The five Great Lakes, which the US shares with Canada, are the greatest expanse of fresh water on the planet and a major part of America’s physical and cultural heritage.

Utah’s Great Salt Lake, with an area of 4,400 square kilometers, is the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere and just one of the natural wonders found in the US. Others include the immense and majestic Grand Canyon, the world’s tallest trees in the Redwood Forest, and the sand dunes of the Mojave Desert.

With such landscape, it is perhaps not surprising that taking a road trip – embarking on sightseeing adventures by car – is a timeless American tradition.

The United States is made up of 50 states and one federal district. According to different sources, there are anywhere from 4 to 14 regions in the US, but for the purposes of this course, we have identified six main areas:

  • New England
  • The mid-Atlantic
  • The South
  • The Midwest
  • The Southwest
  • The West

New England: Situated in the northeastern corner of the United States, the states of New England include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. New England is an intellectual, cultural, and economic hub in the US. It is home to four of the eight Ivy League Universities – Harvard, Yale, Darmouth, and Brown – as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The region is known for its seaside villages, lighthouses, and colorful fall foliage, as well as the bustling city of Boston. Its seafood is also justifiably famous! 

The mid-Atlantic: This region includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC. It is home to the US centers of government and finance, as well as the bright lights of Broadway, world-renowned cultural institutions, and historic monuments. Today, some of the region’s largest cities are New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, but the mid-Atlantic is more than just skyscrapers and steel. It also offers dense forests, soothing parklands, and gorgeous scenery – from the peaks of the Adirondacks to the beautiful views along the Delaware River.

The South: This region is renowned for its friendly culture, giving rise to the term “Southern hospitality.” Southern states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The South is the birthplace of blues and rock and roll, and home to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Southerners also have a musical way of speaking, and their cuisine – from barbecue to bourbon – is legendary. The region has a complicated history, marked by slavery in its early centuries and segregation in the 20th century. In more recent decades a “new South” has emerged, attracting many to its warm climate and laid-back lifestyle. The South is now America’s fastest growing region with just over 14% of the nation’s population. 

The Midwest: The Great Lakes and much of the Mississippi River are found in the Midwest. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin are all midwestern states. Architecturally stunning Chicago is the region’s largest city, followed by Indianapolis, Columbus, and Detroit. In virtually every city there are clubs and bars where you can hear jazz, blues, or rock. States such as Illinois and Indiana are well known for their residents’ love of high school basketball. The Midwest has been called the “nation’s breadbasket,” as its fertile earth makes it the country’s agricultural powerhouse. However, the region offers a diverse range of landscapes, from big open skies and grasslands, to tree-lined mountains and Mount Rushmore – the world-famous mountainside sculpture featuring the carved likenesses of four US presidents.

The Southwest: Home to prairies and deserts, the Southwest is culturally diverse, rich in history, and artistic. It is made up of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, although other states are sometimes considered part of this region as well. The Southwest is home to some of the world’s most incredible natural wonders, such as the Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns.

Parts of the region have large Native American and Hispanic populations, and both groups have influenced the development of southwestern food, art, history, and culture. Houston, Texas is the region’s largest city and the most racially and ethnically diverse city in America. The Southwest has a history of attracting eclectic people – artists, hippies, and stargazers – as well as tourists who are drawn to its quirky galleries, peaceful retreats, Native American fairs, and general sense of mystery.

The West: The era of the “Wild West” is a huge part of American folklore. Today, however, visitors are more likely to encounter a snowboarder than a cowboy in America’s West. This diverse region includes Alaska, Colorado, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. It features pristine wilderness, desert stretches, snowy mountains, and beautiful beaches, and is a popular sports destination. From year-round skiing in Oregon to surfing in Hawaii, there’s something for everyone. Food-lovers will adore California, well known for its fusion cuisine and award-winning wines. The most populous city in the region, Los Angeles, boasts the largest Mexican population outside of Mexico, and the Chinese community in San Francisco is the biggest in North America. The West’s three fastest growing urban areas are Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and Portland. 

The climate in the US varies by place and time of year. Mostly temperate (i.e., mild), it can range from tropical in Hawaii and Florida, to freezing cold in Alaska, and extremely dry and hot in the deserts of the Southwest.

Florida has the highest average annual temperature at 21°C, followed closely by Hawaii at 21.1°C, and Louisiana at 19.1°C. At the other end of the scale, Alaska – not surprisingly – has the lowest average annual temperature at -3°C, followed by North Dakota (4.7°C), and Maine (5°C). In the middle is Indiana with an average annual temperature of 10.9°C.

The US has four seasons: summer is generally understood to begin on Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) and end on Labor Day (the first Monday in September). Spring begins in March and ends in May. Fall goes from September to November, and winter from December to February. But not all regions experience the changing seasons this way. Much of the central and southern US experiences consistent weather, and warm to hot temperatures – sometimes year-round. Northern states have much colder temperatures and more extreme weather variations, including heavy snowstorms in winter.

Agents should encourage students studying in the US to learn about the typical climate in their respective state and plan accordingly – whether that means investing in sunscreen for the summer months, or warm boots, coats, and gloves for the winter ones.

For more detailed information visit the website of the US National Weather Service.

The climate in the US varies by place and time of year. Mostly temperate (i.e., mild), it can range from tropical in Hawaii and Florida, to freezing cold in Alaska, and extremely dry and hot in the deserts of the Southwest.

Florida has the highest average annual temperature at 21°C, followed closely by Hawaii at 21.1°C, and Louisiana at 19.1°C. At the other end of the scale, Alaska – not surprisingly – has the lowest average annual temperature at -3°C, followed by North Dakota (4.7°C), and Maine (5°C). In the middle is Indiana with an average annual temperature of 10.9°C.

The US has four seasons: summer is generally understood to begin on Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) and end on Labor Day (the first Monday in September). Spring begins in March and ends in May. Fall goes from September to November, and winter from December to February. But not all regions experience the changing seasons this way. Much of the central and southern US experiences consistent weather, and warm to hot temperatures – sometimes year-round. Northern states have much colder temperatures and more extreme weather variations, including heavy snowstorms in winter.

Agents should encourage students studying in the US to learn about the typical climate in their respective state and plan accordingly – whether that means investing in sunscreen for the summer months, or warm boots, coats, and gloves for the winter ones.

For more detailed information visit the website of the US National Weather Service.

more about the US. Agents and students may want to consult some of its online resources, including About the United States of America. It provides details on US history, culture, laws, and holidays.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services also offers a Newcomer’s Guide in 14 different languages.

Several organizations, such as the Institute of International Education (IIE), provide information about funding for US study online. See the “Costs of studying and financial aid” section in this course for more details.

Across the world and for many years, students and parents have recognized the benefits of obtaining a US education. The best accredited US programs at every level offer an approach to education that encourages students to develop their own capacity and passion for learning with the support of cutting-edge instructional resources and facilities. Graduates of such programs emerge not only with job-ready skills, but also with a foundation for learning and success that serves them their whole lifetimes.

Some of the hallmarks of the US education system are:

High quality: Across the range of American schools, from Ivy-league to smaller colleges and vocational schools, students can find programs taught by leading experts in their field – experts in the US and often the world. Such experts have a natural inclination toward best-in-class research and practical applications of knowledge, both of which encourage rich learning experiences for students.

Large variety: The US education system has often been said to be the most diverse in the world, in terms of:

  • Size of student population (from only a few hundred to tens of thousands of students);
  • Admissions criteria (from highly competitive to completely open);
  • Setting (from world-famous metropolises to lovely small-town campuses, and from desert-hot to northern climates);
  • Programs (in terms of duration and field of study, as well as approach, for example vocational or academic);
  • Delivery (from physical campuses to blended delivery models and entirely online programs);
  • Culture (from rigorous and specific academic programs to arts-focused, sports-intensive, or technically oriented programs).

Student centered: The American school system, like US values in general, is centered on a belief in individualism, on personal growth, and on opportunity for anyone – regardless of race, class, or other differences – to achieve a quality education. From an early age, students are encouraged to voice their opinions, and to participate actively in their learning. They receive a broad-based education from the day they first enter school as children to high school and even into the first years of college. Extra-curricular activities and social skills are prioritized alongside academics.

Well rounded: Students are viewed as individual human beings most of all, and while grades are important, American educators believe strongly that students being active in social, sports, and cultural activities is crucial to their well-being and eventual success in their lives and careers.

Before we outline how the US education system is organized, it’s important to describe briefly who makes decisions about education in America. Different than in many countries, the national (federal) government does not make most of the decisions about American education.

The federal government influences policy and some of its broad-based initiatives (e.g., No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top) ensure that schools are following national laws and guide states and local school districts, but most decisions are made by individual states and local school districts. So there are state-to-state and district-to-district differences what students can expect from studying in the US. Also, American universities have similar organizational structures but each institution runs differently according to its resources and strategic priorities.

As stated in Understanding American Schools, it is the states, not the federal government, that decide:

“What subjects to teach, what teaching methods to approve, when a child may graduate from high school, what kind of special education to offer, which books to use, how to judge the progress of each child’s education, how many days and hours of school to require, and the like.”

Funding for public schools at every level is variable across the US, and education budgets are very different depending on the state in question.

Even within a state, schools will have unique funding structures and different rules governing how they use the state budget they have access to. They will have their own strategies for how they operate under their funding allowances. For example, they might have other ways to obtain money in the case of low state support, and different school districts might prioritize different programs (e.g., the arts, or STEM subjects) than other districts. which programs they prioritize). The quality of the education they are able provide is in many ways affected by how much budget they have to work with.

Whatever their state and school district contexts, both public and private higher education institutions offer financial assistance and scholarship programs to students and may have some reserved specifically for international students. We will cover scholarships more fully in an upcoming section.

The implication for agents and counselors is that they need to understand the state context and the individual character of each school when speaking with international students and their parents. They should have a list of contacts they can contact to get accurate, up-to-date information. 

Pre-School and Kindergarten

American students begin either in preschool or kindergarten for one to three years before progressing to elementary (primary) school. In most states, the age at which a child must start school is six.

Most school districts offer a free year of kindergarten before the starting year; in most cases, children must be five years of age to enter kindergarten. If you are counseling a family planning to have a child under the age of six attending school in the US, make sure to ask the kindergarten schools under consideration about their cut-off birth dates for turning five, as this varies by school district.

Elementary (Primary) and High School (Secondary School)

Children attend elementary (primary) school for varying amounts of time. In most cases, they attend elementary until Grade 6. They then progress to one of the following: a junior high school for two years, a combined junior/senior high school (generally Grades 7–12), or a four-year high school. Please note that high schools can also be called secondary schools.

School-aged students in the US have the option of going to public schools (free) or to private schools (where they must pay tuition or be on scholarship). The vast majority (88%) attend public schools; nation-wide, 9% attend private schools, but this percentage is much higher in some regions and cities, and among Caucasian Americans. Three percent are home-schooled, in which case parents and/or caregivers provide education to children provided their practices meet the education laws of the state. 

International students tend to attend K-12 private schools at a much higher rate than public schools, especially because public high school schools allow international students to study for only one year. Private schools have no such limit.

Graduating High School

There is no federally set national examination determining whether a student has successfully graduated high school in the US. However, as of this writing, 25 states require that students take a high-school exit examination for graduation, and three additional states have legislation that will see such exams required in the future.

Whether or not a national examination is used in assessment, American high schools issue high-school diplomas to students who have completed their curriculum.

As we have discussed, because different states and school districts determine what is taught in schools and how, the courses that must be completed to earn a high-school diploma will vary from one school and state to another.

American students normally graduate high school at age 17 or 18.

Post-secondary Options

The US offers a wide variety of higher education options for the diverse requirements and goals of domestic and international students. This variety encompasses:

  • Types of institutions (e.g., private vs. public, academic vs. vocational, etc.)
  • Length of programs (e.g., one year, two years, four years, etc.)
  • Levels (e.g., associate, bachelor’s, master’s, post-graduate)
  • Types of credential (e.g., non-degree, degree, micro-credential)
  • Delivery models (e.g., online, hybrid, in-person)
  • Tuition fees (from very affordable to extremely expensive)
  • Location of institutions (e.g., urban vs. rural, west vs. east, etc.)

The US government notes that there are currently:

  • 124,000 public and private schools in the US;
  • Over 2,000 postsecondary non-degree career and technical schools (CTE);
  • Over 4,000 degree-granting institutions of higher education.

They explain: “Of the higher education institutions, over 1,600 award associate degrees and some 2,400 award bachelor’s or higher degrees. Over 400 higher education institutions award research doctorates.”

Flexibility in the System

International students may decide to begin at one type of institution (for example, a community college) and then move to another institution or level. Many higher education institutions have agreements that allow students to transfer credits achieved at a two-year institution to a degree program at a four-year institution. Students who choose to “mix and match” their study programs often do so because it can be more affordable.

Important note for agents: Not all two-year programs lead seamlessly (through transfer credits) to four-year institutions. It is important to ask if there are agreements in place for international students interested in this kind of progression.

Is there a difference between a “college” and a “university”?

In the US, the terms “college” and “university” often – but not always – refer to the same kind of higher education institution (HEI), and as pathway provider Shorelight points out:

“Some are even called institutes (e.g., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology). Within larger universities in the United States, there are different colleges or schools that represent different academic areas of study (e.g., College of Engineering, School of Business).”

WENR concurs but adds a bit more clarification on characteristics a “university” must have but that a “college” may or may not offer:

There are no nationally standardized definitions of “university” or “college,” and the name of an institution alone may not indicate exactly what type of institution it is. That said, a university, at minimum, offers bachelor’s programs and at least some master’s programs.”

The term “university” may also indicate that an HEI is relatively more research-intensive (e.g., with more postgraduate degrees) than other types of post-secondary education.

Types of College/University

One way of understanding post-secondary options in the US is to look at how they are funded.

Public universities (also known as State universities) receive at least some of their funding from the state government. Many belong to a state university system, which is a larger group of public universities spread throughout a US state that are connected in some ways through administrative functions but that operate separately from each other. Examples are State University of New York (SUNY), City University of New York (CUNY), and University of California (UC).

Community colleges are also supported by public funding, and they mainly specialize in offering two-year degree programs (associate degrees).

Private universities receive most of their revenue through students’ tuition fees, which are often higher than those charged by public universities. These institutions are often highly ranked and with very selective admissions requirements, include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard, and Yale. 

Liberal arts colleges offer mostly (though not exclusively) undergraduate courses focus on teaching undergraduate-level courses in the liberal arts and sciences (although some also offer graduate-level programs and more vocational subjects such as medicine, business administration or law).

For-profit private universities and colleges. Unlike other types of university, for-profits operate as business ventures, aiming to make money for their shareholders as well as providing a good education for their students.

Carnegie Classification System

A useful tool for understanding the different types of higher education institution (HEI) that international students can attend in the US is the Carnegie Classification System:

  • Doctoral universities: HEIs that awarded at least 20 research/scholarship degrees in the past year that are not professional practice doctoral-level degrees (such as the JD, MD, or PharmD).
  • Master’s colleges and universities: HEIs that awarded at least 50 master’s-level degrees and fewer than 20 doctoral degrees during the past year.
  • Baccalaureate colleges: HEIs where at least 50% of degrees were awarded in the past year at the bachelor’s level or higher, comprising fewer than 50 master’s degrees or 20 doctoral degrees. In other words, bachelor’s degrees are these institutions’ primary focus.
  • Baccalaureate/associate’s colleges: HEIs that mostly award associate degrees but that also have at least one baccalaureate (four-year) degree program. Associate degrees must make up at least 50% of all degrees awarded in the past year.
  • Associate’s colleges: HEIs at which the associate degree is the highest level of degree awarded to students.
  • Special focus institutions: Institutions where a single field or set of fields (e.g., music, art) dominate the focus of the institution and degrees awarded are linked to this field. These include
  • Faith-Related Institutions, Medical Schools & Centers, Other Health Professions Schools, Engineering Schools, Other Technology-Related Schools, Business & Management Schools, Arts, Music & Design Schools, and Law Schools. For more on such institutions, please click here.
  • Tribal colleges: International students are not eligible to attend these colleges because they are reserved for Native (Indigenous) Americans.

As well as understanding the Carnegie Classification System, agents should also know that there are many excellent vocational programs in the US delivered through Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools and community colleges. This is increasingly important because research shows that there is growing interest among students across the world in shorter, practical programs.

Five Important Facts About the Post-Secondary System In the US

  • There are both public and private colleges/universities in the US. Most of these are operated by the states and territories.
  • As noted earlier in this section, “college” and “university” are often used interchangeably, but they sometimes do mean different things to different people. For example, a university can sometimes indicate a more research-oriented orientation than a college, and sometimes universities are broken down into different “colleges,” whereby “college” indicates a unit or sub-section of the university. Still, it is important that agents research a college/university thoroughly to understand its educational approach and range of programs, as the word “college” or “university” in a name does not always mean the same thing.
  • Top-notch higher education institutions in the US come in all shapes, sizes, and types. Successful alumni graduate from community colleges, liberal arts colleges, research-oriented universities, public and private institutions – not just the most elite, Ivy-League schools. Excellent programs can be found across the country.
  • Quality assurance and accreditation for institutions and programs in the US is carried out by private, non-governmental organizations. The US Department of Education provides oversight of these accrediting organizations. There are 19 recognized organizations that provide regional or national accreditation for institutions, and 60 that provide accreditation for individual programs. To obtain an F-1 visa, students must enrol in an accredited institution. Agents must make sure that an institution and program is accredited before recommending it to students for the purposes of quality control. For more on why this is, and for The Council of Education (CHEA) database providing information about over 8,200 institutions and over 44,000 programs in the US, please click here. [ https://www.chea.org/about-accreditation ]
  • Each HEI will have different admissions practices. Generally, shorter degree programs and certificates have lower admission standards: some even offer “open admissions” in an effort to be as inclusive to every type of student as possible. However, as the need for professional and technical skills grows in economies across the world, there are increasingly more competitive admissions policies for in-demand fields such as engineering, nursing, and other healthcare fields.

Factors for Students to Consider

While many international students and their families want to know about an HEI’s overall placement on world rankings, there are other factors that can be equally important to their experience:

  • A vibrant campus is often one with a large international student population; check out this U.S. News article for American colleges with the most international students in 2020/21.
  • Location is also important. The US is made up of a variety of regions and climates, each with their own culture. Some students may want a big city experience, while others may prefer the relative quiet of a smaller town.
  • A major priority for international students is their career after graduation. There are ways of checking out whether a particular institution is known for strong career services, internships, and good post-graduation employability rates. For example, here are Best Colleges rankings of the best college career services, based on graduation and career placement rates reported to the U.S. Department Scorecard. QS also has a resource showing how employers rank US universities on the basis of “most employable graduates.”
  • Affordability: There are excellent affordable post-secondary options in the US that deliver value for money. Some of these offer great cost-of-living advantages because they are in smaller towns. Check out this StudyPortals article for examples of affordable institutions.

US Government Advice for Students

The US government advises that international students consider these questions when deciding where to study in the US:

  1. Academic questions: What do I want to do with my education and life, and what subject(s) interest me? If I am entering higher education at the graduate level, in what specific subject specialization do I want to conduct research? Have I checked to be sure that the institution in which I am interested offers the program I want? Is it accredited by a recognized accrediting agency? Have I checked with experts in that field about the institution and its program, regardless of whether I or my friends have heard of it or whether it appears on some commercial or popular ranking list?
  2. Lifestyle and learning style questions: What are my interests, values, and needs? Will the school or higher education institution I am interested in, and its community, accommodate my needs? Will its teaching style, requirements, and support services help me to succeed? Does the school or community have a significant number of international students? If I am bringing dependents (family) with me, will they find the support and services they need?
  3. Practical questions: Is the school or institution affordable? Have I checked to see if it provides scholarships, other types of funding, or campus work for which I may be eligible and which will not compromise my visa status? Are my qualifications sufficient to give me a chance at admission? And, have I reviewed what it may cost to live in the community where the school or institution is located?

 Focus Questions:

  • What are US visa officers looking for when they evaluate a student’s visa application?
  • What kind of evidence can students provide to show they have the intention of going back home after they finish their studies?

Obtaining and abiding by the rules of an international student visa is of utmost concern for international students. This section outlines student visa options in the US, as well as possibilities for immigration for interested students.

NB: Information regarding visa rules and processes for international students coming to the US may change; for the most up-to-date information please check the US State Department websiteNAFSA also provides regular updates on any changes affecting international students’ ability to enter the US on visas during the pandemic.

A very important step in being able to study at a US school is obtaining the appropriate visa and abiding by all work and immigration regulations according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If a student is well-prepared and qualified, the visa process should not be overly stressful. The important point is to prepare the documentation required properly and in good time, making sure not to leave out anything or miss any deadlines.

Visa officers will want to see evidence that the student lives abroad (evidence of residence abroad), and that they have stable ties in their home country. In particular they will look for:

  • Evidence the student has no plan to abandon their residence abroad;
  • Evidence the student intends to leave the US after their course of study is completed;
  • Evidence the student has enough money to pay for their studies and living expenses.

Students should prepare evidence of financial, social, and familial ties in their home country in the interests of showing they have every reason to return after their studies are over in the US.

This section outlines student visa options in the US, as well as how to apply and maintain good immigration standing.

F and M Visas

The first step for a student wanting a US F or M student visa is to apply to an SEVP-approved school. This is the link to find out whether a school is SEVP-approved.

Once they receive notification of their acceptance by the US school they plan to attend, students will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

They must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee, which is a one-time fee for each program in which the student or exchange visitor participates. To learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS fee (including cases where it does not have to be paid), visit the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). If the plan is for the student’s spouse and/or children to accompany the student to the US while he/she is studying, each family member must obtain an individual Form I-20. However, they will not have to pay the SEVIS fee. 

The school will provide students with a Form I-20 to present at their visa interview with the consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate once the student has proved they have sufficient funds to pay for the course of study. Before their interview, students will complete an online visa application known as the Form DS-160 which is available here [ https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/ ].

Berkeley College defines it like this:

“The I-20 is a multi-purpose document issued by a government approved, U.S. educational institution certifying that (1) a student has been admitted to a full-time study program and (2) that the student has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the U.S. The I-20 is officially titled the “Certificate of Eligibility” because with it, a student is “eligible” to apply for an F-1 [or M-1] student visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.”

F-1 and M-1 student visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of students’ start date, but students will not be permitted to enter the United States in F-1 or M-1 status earlier than 30 days before their start date at the school. The US Department of State notes three important cautions:

  1. The order of steps required for applying for a US student visa can be different depending on which US Consulate/Embassy the student has access to. To be sure of what is required, the student should request an appointment with the Consulate. The Consulate will then send a confirmation notice about the appointment; the student should print this out and take it to the appointment to be able to attend the meeting.
  2. “There is no guarantee you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until you have a visa.
  3. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States.  A visa only allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States.  After you present your passport, visa, and Form I-20 at the port-of-entry, a CBP official will make this decision.  Once you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will provide an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.”

For more on how to apply, including application fees and estimated wait times, please visit this US State Department page.

Students requiring a J Visa (J-1 or J-2) will be given a Form DS-2019 for their visa interview. This form contains information about the program, including its costs and start and end dates. The school – generally via the International Office/Department – will explain to students the amount of support they need to document and how to document the support.

If the plan is for the student’s spouse and/or children to accompany the student to the US while he/she is studying, each family member must obtain an individual DS-2019.

What is the DS-2019?

The Department of Homeland Security defines it like this:

“The Form DS-2019 or “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status” is the basic document used in the administration of the exchange visitor program. This form permits a prospective exchange visitor to seek an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in order to obtain a J visa to enter the United States.”

Please visit this page for detailed information on the DS-2019)

Working in the US

The study visa that an international student is on is the biggest determinant of what work options, if any, there are for the student in the US during studies and after.

As such, international students who want to work must abide by the rules and regulations on their visas. Limited work permission is possible for students in F-1 and J-1 status. But, employment is not guaranteed and cannot be used as part of students’ financial support for visa purposes.

 Focus Questions:

  • Who is not eligible for practical training?
  • Who can offer CPT (Curricular Practical Training) work to international students?
  • What forms are required for CPT work to be authorised?
  • How many months of OPT could an international student in a STEM field be eligible for?

On-Campus Employment

International students on F-1 status can work on campus 20 hours a week while school is in session, and full-time during scheduled breaks, such as winter and summer breaks. This work can occur on the school’s campus or at an off-campus location “educationally affiliated with the school.”  In the latter case, the work must be “associated with the school’s established curriculum or related to contractually funded research projects at the post-graduate level.”

Here are some more details about on-campus employment for F-1 students according to US Immigration and Customs.

  • It can be “work that takes place at the student’s school location (such as at an on-campus commercial business, like a bookstore or cafeteria, as long as the work directly provides services for students)”
  • It can be work with an employer that is contractually affiliated with the school is on-campus employment even if the work site is not located on the campus (such as a research lab affiliated with your school)
  • An F-1 student may begin working as much as 30 days before the start of a program of study. They should inform the DSO before they begin work. They do not have to wait a full year before being eligible to work on campus.

Off-Campus Employment

There are not many opportunities for F-1 students to work off campus. The government notes,

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will authorize off-campus employment only in cases of severe economic hardship occurring after a student’s enrollment in an academic program and after the student has been in F-1 status for at least one full academic year, or in emergent circumstances as defined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).”

However, there is an opportunity for some F-1 students to work with an international organization. These students will have been offered employment under the sponsorship of an international organization, as defined by the International Organization Immunities Act.  For more information check this government website.

Practical Training

Practical training is available to F-1 students who have been attending a college, university, or conservatory full-time for at least one academic year (in other words, nine months). High-school and English-language program students are not eligible for practical training even if the program is part of a college or university.

F-1 students can participate in employment directly related to field of study by obtaining practical training authorization. There are two types of practical training: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training program (OPT).

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

During their degree program, students can participate in Curricular Practical Training (CPT), which is training that must relate to their field of study – it must be an integral part of their curriculum and major. Students need the approval of their Designated School Official (DSO) for CPT. (The DSO is the SEVP-certified school employee whose job it is to assist and oversee enrolled F and M students).

The work can be “alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” CPT can be part time or full time.

Authorization is for only one employer and for a specific period of time.

Employment of 20 hours per week or less is considered part time. Anything over 20 hours a week is considered full time. For the most part, only part-time CPT is permitted for undergraduate students while they are studying unless the CPT is part of an internship component of their program. Full-time CPT is generally permitted only when school is not in session.

Students are not limited in the amount of curricular practical training they may use. However, students who have engaged in one year or more of full-time curricular practical training are not eligible for Optional Practical Training. Students should ensure they track the hours they spend in CPT for this reason.

PLEASE NOTE: CPT requirements differ for undergraduate students and graduate students. Students should check with their International Student Office to be clear on all the details of CPT opportunities.

Internationalstudent.com says this about CPT:

“CPT is an opportunity for international students to earn extra money in US dollars, and to simultaneously get work experience in their field of study. Having international work experience immediately after graduation is immeasurably valuable when searching for a job and will allow you to establish global connections and references with professionals in your industry.”

There are two types of CPT: required and optional. If the CPT is required, it means the practical work training is mandatory for graduation. If it is optional CPT, the work experience is not required for graduation. 

Internationalstudent.com notes that there are restrictions to think about for students considering CPT:

  • “You must have been enrolled in school full-time for one year on valid F1 status (except for graduate students where the program requires immediate CPT)
  • The CPT employment must be an integral part of your degree program or requirement for a course for which you receive academic credit
  • You must have received a job offer that qualifies before you submit your CPT authorization request
  • Your job offer must be in your major or field of study.”

For more information about CPT, please consult this US Immigration and Customs Department website.

Optional Practical Training

During or after their degree program, F-1 students can participate in the Optional Practical Training program (OPT) for up to 12 months (with an extension of 24 months available to STEM graduates and a 12-month extension possible for all F-1 students who progress to a higher level of study). To participate in OPT students need a recommendation from the DSO and approval by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Their OPT program must relate to their field of study.

OPT is an opportunity for F-1 students to gain work experience to complement their academic program; as such, the work must be directly related to the student’s major area of study.

All F-1 students are entitled to one year of Optional Practical Training for each higher education degree they receive. The US government explains, “You can apply for 12 months of OPT at each education level, (i.e., you may have 12 months of OPT at the bachelor’s level and another 12 months of OPT at the master’s level).”

Students must have completed one academic year of their degree to be eligible for OPT.

Students who complete a degree on the STEM Designated Degree Program List may be entitled to a 24-month extension of OPT (36 months total). STEM refers to degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics and includes: 

  • Actuarial Science                                             
  • Computer Science (except data entry/microcomputer applications)
  • Engineering
  • Engineering Technologies
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Military Technologies
  • Physical Sciences
  • Science Technologies
  • Medical Scientist                             

To qualify for the 24-month extension the students’ employer must be enrolled in the E-Verify Employment Verification Program operated by US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

OPT for F-1 students can occur under four circumstances: 

  1. During the student’s annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session if the student is eligible, and intends to register for the next term or session;
  2. While school is in session provided that the OPT does not exceed 20 hours a week;
  3. Full time after the student has completed all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or the equivalent), if the student is in a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree program;
  4. Full time after the student has completed a program of study. 

The first three circumstances are referred to as “pre-completion” OPT while the fourth circumstance is called “post-completion” OPT.

To engage in OPT employment the student must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the DHS Service Center that has jurisdiction over the area where they live. The student’s DSO would enable this via a recommendation.

OPT employment must be related to the student’s field of study. A student studying communications, for example, is not eligible to work as a computer programmer on OPT. The student may not accept OPT employment until the DHS approves the application and provides the student with an EAD. This can take 90 days or more during the summer months.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Your FAQs Answered by Geniustudy - Your Global Education Companion

What are the benefits of studying abroad in the USA?

The USA offers world-renowned academic institutions, diverse cultural experiences, and exposure to cutting-edge research and technology.

How do I choose the right university in the USA for my studies?

Consider factors such as the academic programs offered, location, campus culture, and available resources. Research rankings and alumni reviews for insights.

What are the visa requirements for international students in the USA?

Typically, you’ll need an F-1 student visa. Requirements include a valid Form I-20, proof of financial support, and proof of ties to your home country.

How can I finance my education in the USA as an international student?

Explore scholarships, grants, and part-time work options on campus. Some universities also offer financial aid to eligible international students.

What is the cost of living for international students in the USA?

Costs vary by location, but generally include accommodation, food, transportation, and personal expenses. Universities often provide estimates for planning.

Are there English language proficiency requirements for admission?

Yes, most universities require standardized English language test scores such as TOEFL or IELTS.

Can I work while studying in the USA as an international student?

Yes, F-1 visa holders are generally allowed to work on-campus part-time during the academic term and full-time during scheduled breaks.

How can I adapt to the American education system and culture?

Attend orientation programs, engage with international student services, join clubs, and make use of available resources for cultural integration.

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT) and how does it benefit international students?

OPT allows international students to work in the USA for up to 12 months after completing their academic program, providing valuable work experience.

How can I extend my stay in the USA after graduation?

Explore options like applying for a work visa (H-1B), pursuing further education, or engaging in Optional Practical Training (OPT) extensions.

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