The Ultimate(Fun) Guide to Studying in the USA

Yeah, I like to focus a bit too much on the fun part. But hey, what’s life without a bit of moolah?

Here I am, an Indian, ready to guide you on how to fulfill your pipe dream of studying in the States. Why should you believe me, you ask? Well, I’m not saying that you ought to. Although, it would make both our jobs a hell of a lot easier if you just do.

Getting down to business.

I would say that the USA is arguably one of the top destinations on international students’ list. The charm, the attraction of the American dream, the magnetic pull of the Ivy League universities and all the pizzazz that comes along with it, sure, its going to empty all your pockets, but the deal that you get in return is unparalleled and unprecedented.

Just to be sure, it is not a cakewalk. You don’t just decide to go to the US for further studies on day one and make it happen by day five. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Believe me, I have been part of many such confusions in life.

And there’s one thing I’ve learned, repeatedly.

You do not want to end up on the wrong end of the marathon vs. sprint spectrum.

Going to study in the dreamland, as is with any other big project, takes an insane amount of planning, preparation, finances and time, not to mention the countless small things that need to be get done along with all the formalities.

Oh, I can already sense the fear creeping in. Don’t worry, I, uh, won’t be able to make it go away, but I’ll do the next best thing: teach you how to live with it.

You’re going to need steps, obviously. Instructions. The user manual of the “Study in USA” appliance. I’m here to provide you just that, I hope.

So first and foremost, we have…

  • Choosing the right university/college.

Now, the USA has a few different types of institutions for different study levels, so be sure not to get confused about which institute offers which course.

  1. Universities- these are the big dogs who own the yard. They are the most prestigious and prime institutes in all of the world, their name a brand on the global stage, with magnanimous colleges like Stanford, Caltech, MIT all stemming from them. As mentioned earlier, the elite group of colleges is known as the Ivy League, perhaps the 2nd most sought after league in America, just behind the Justice League. These are both public and private, with a considerable difference in tuition fees, public ones obviously being cheaper.
  2. Community colleges- these are the institutes that offer certificate/vocational programs to students, usually of a shorter duration, such as 2 years. These are understandably less preferred by international students because let’s face it, better options might be available in one’s homeland itself.
  3. Liberal arts colleges- these provide undergrad degrees in the fields of liberal arts and sciences. I would assume that most of the people reading this are grads, so I would not delve too deeply into the scheme and working of liberal arts colleges.

So, pick your poison, but keep an antidote handy.

Once picking an appropriate school is done, there’s the small matter of…

  • Checking the requirements for admission and applying.

Being international students, you can’t just waltz into an American institution and be granted admission on the spot. If this would have been the case, I would have been on the next plane to Boston, believe me. I think, not just American schools, this notion is true with any school in the world, for obvious reasons they only want the best of the best, so they check up on you before they make you a part of their history.

My plan of action here would be-

  1. Getting into contact with the international office of the university/school under consideration.
  2. Checking up on all the exams/certificates/documents needed to apply to the university. Communicate well with the school on every little nuance. Do not neglect the small things.
  3. Preparing the application with all relevant certificates, exam results, LoRs, and the likes.
  4. Applying before the deadline. Duh!

And now, we wait.

Institutes receive a large number of applications for every course, so it will take time to process them all. If you get selected, the institute will be in contact with you and give you details on the further steps to be taken.

Keep in mind, you must start preparing all this well in advance, especially any qualifying exams that you have to take so that you have adequate time to prepare and clear the exam and have your scores handy at the time of application.

Moving on…

You get a mail. “Congratulations on making it into *insert college name here*!…” Good! Now what?

  • Get yourself a visa and hop on to a plane.

Once the acceptance letter is received, and a document known as I-20 from the college/university, take that, and all other required documents to the consulate. Apply for the respective student visa for the USA. There will be an interview too, so do make sure to prepare well, do your research and all that good stuff.

  • Once you get there… then what?

Then it’s just the small matter of starting your studies, finding a place to live, catching up on the local flavors of the state and such. Most students also go for a part-time job to support their studies, so that they can lighten the burden of debt on their shoulders, because, let’s face it, studying in the States is going to leave a pretty big hole in your pocket. By law, students can work 20 hours a week of part-time jobs to support their studies. So, if you want to lessen the debt, and maybe get a bit of money to blow, then you must handle this added pressure.

That’s all, folks! I wish you have a gala time during your adventure in the US of A! Remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.