Study abroad in the United States of America

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Lin Thu Thu Tun

When most students consider studying abroad, the USA is the top option for them because they can receive quality education, unique curriculum, multicultural environment and great opportunities in the US. There are 50 states in the US and approximately 5300 universities in the whole country.

Here are the things you should know if you are planning to study abroad in the USA.

US education system in brief

US education system can be broken down into-

  • Elementary school (Grades K-5)
  • Middle school (Grades 6-8)
  • High school (Grades 9-12)

Normally, high school students from the US take AP classes but there are many alternatives to it such as IB diploma or GED. GED is taken by students who want to finish their schooling early. Students who didn’t receive traditional highschool education and sometimes high school drop-outs also take GED.

Pathways after obtaining a high school diploma

Leading universities like Harvard, Princeton and Stanford in the US require A level/ AP/ IB diploma or any equivalent qualifications to them for admissions. However, there are some colleges and universities that accept the IGCSE qualification with the minimum of Grade C. Admission requirements can vary from uni to uni so students should look up their preferred university’s website for detailed info.Usually , the requirements are written in the “Admissions” section.You can also email them if you have a specific question that is not included in the infos section.

Because the US has a variety of students from all over the world with different qualifications, they have standardised tests to confirm that the students have acquired adequate knowledge to attend rigorous university programs . The most popular standardised tests are SAT and ACT. Students can choose to take whatever they prefer.(tom , link our articles about SAT/ACT) International students are also encouraged to take English proficiency tests. (E.g. TOEFL, Duolingo, IELTS) (link IELTS article)

Students with GED or IGCSE can also choose to go to community colleges for 2 years to get an associate degree and transfer to the universities for the remaining 2 years. That path is chosen by many international students because it is much more affordable than directly going to universities. (Tuition fees for community colleges are way cheaper than public/private universities) However , there are some downsides to consider such as credit loss while transferring.(The university you transfer to does not recognize some programs you took at the college.Thus, you have to retake the classes again) It might result in more years to graduate and hence cost more. Moreover , It is easier to get into Ivy Leagues with regular admissions rather than more competitive transfer students admission.(Ivy leagues only accept about 10-20 transfer students each year.)
Nevertheless , the process would be smoother if the college and the selected university are in the same state. (link GED , IGCSE article, soon coming community college article)

Process of studying abroad in the US

  • As a student who is willing to study abroad, a passport is an essential item. Therefore, make sure to get a passport beforehand as the process may take longer than you expected. If you already have a passport, check the expiry date. In most circumstances, you should have at least two years left before expiry in order to be able to study abroad.

  • Firstly, look for your options ( research which university, what degree programs you can apply for with your highschool diploma,standardised test certificates,language test certificates. Or research what certificates you should obtain to get into your preferred universities)

  • Finance your studies ( you should calculate the predicted cost for the whole course of study including accommodation fees to make sure that you can afford it. You can also choose to apply for scholarships or take out a loan.)

  • After making sure that you can finance your studies, complete your application.

  • When you get admitted, apply for a visa. (There are many types of visas, but students have to acquire a student visa. There will be more information about obtaining a student visa below.)

  • Finally, prepare for departure.

American student visa

Visa is necessary to get into the country. Even if you get admitted into a school, there are still possibilities of your visa getting rejected so you need to be very careful about applying for a visa. There are two types of student visas; F1 and M1. The type of visa you have to obtain depends on the school that you are going to and the degree that you are pursuing.

F1 visa is for students who are enrolled in academic institutes such as universities. M1 visa is for students who are enrolled in nonacademic institutes. (E.g- You are enrolled in a course to become a flight attendant. In that case, you have to obtain a M1 visa.)

Since this article is intended for students who are willing to receive formal education in America, only the process of obtaining a F1 is explained.This is the process of acquiring a F1 visa:

First of all, you have to fill in the DS-160 form on the official website of the American Embassy. Your passport must be valid for at least six months!

Afterward, there will be an interview by a counsellor officer to confirm that you are eligible for the student visa. Here are some of the documentations that may be required for the interview: Transcripts from your previous school Standardised test scores (SAT/ACT) Printed DS-160 form Interviewer will ask you about your intention to study in America. You will also be asked about your ability to read, write and speak in English. On the day of the interview, you will be required to pay visa fees; $160 in cash. Finally, you just have to wait for the result of your interview.

How much does it usually cost

1. Tutions fees

Public universities usually cost less than private universities. International students have to pay around $25,000-$35,000 at public universities and $30,000-$55,000 at private universities for each year.

2. Accommodations + extra spendings

These expenses may vary according to the state/ city where your choice of university is located. For example- It costs so much more in New York than in Indiana as New York is a home to high society and it is also densely populated.In fact, it is more affordable to live in a dorm than to live in an apartment outside campus in New York City. However, it is more affordable to live in an apartment outside campus in most of the states because dorms are quite expensive. They usually cost around $11,500 at public universities and $12,990 at private universities per year. Most scholarships only cover tuition fees, but students can work part-time to pay for their accommodations and extra spendings. Number of hours that students of a specific age can work depends on the state too.

Choosing university

When students choose university, it is not just the rankings that matter. You should consider many aspects so that you can have a full college experience and less troubles.

For example- students from Myanmar are not very familiar with cold weather. Thus, it is also very important that the university the student chooses is located in a state with warm weather even in winters.

Here are some of the important things you should consider while choosing university:

  • Weather- The US is a large country that is located in North America. Every state has a different climate. States such as Minnesota and North Dakota tend to have extreme weather. Students need to be aware of that while choosing university.

  • Campus- International students can take virtual tours of the universities. Campus is one of the most important parts of your college experience as it is the place that you would be spending at least two years at. It is important to make sure that you like the environment of the university you choose! ( For example- do you want your university to be modern or historical?)

  • Community- Students ought to look up whether the universities they are choosing have diverse cultures. For example- If the university has more diverse cultures, there would be more restaurants of different cultures and hence, it is easier to find a restaurant that fits your taste.
    Moreover, if you are a Burmese student , it will be easier for you to get adapted if there is a Burmese community at your school.

Tip- Different students have different priorities so create a checklist of your priorities to pick the most suitable university for you

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