Study in USA

The United States Education Sector is very large and it facilitates top notch resources and qualitative education for wide variety of courses that enable students to pursue world-class education at the most renowned locations. For every student aspiring for an education in USA it is essential to be familiar with the structure of educational system in USA. The system comprises of 12 years of primary and high school education, which is mandatory for getting admission in any graduate college, university, or for any professional and technical schools. It is not compulsory to accomplish these 12 years of elementary education within United States. Therefore students from overseas are also welcomed for higher education in United States.

Primary/Elementary School

Normally the education for Americans starts at around 5 years of age. The tenure of primary schooling will be about five to six years. In this level students will be completing five grades of their education. Students have choice to select their education held either in public schools, or private schools, or home school.

High/Secondary School

Upon completion of five grades of education in primary school, students will enter high/secondary school. The tenure of secondary school will be about six to seven years, by which students will be completing their 12 grades. After completion of their secondary education, successful students will be obtaining a high school diploma which gives eligibility to get admission in any college or university. International students applying for graduation in U.S should have an equivalent grade of this diploma.

Undergraduate School

On successfully completing the high school diploma, students may join colleges or universities to pursue their undergraduate course of study. The Under Graduate studies may be available as an Associate Degree or as a Bachelors Degree. Know the difference between these two types of degrees :

Associate Degree:

An Associate degree is of two years duration. The program is mostly offered by Community, Vocational and Junior Colleges. On completion of this program a student can seek a transfer into the third year of the four-year Bachelors degree either in 4-year colleges or universities. Studying for an Associate Degree is cost effective option available for both American and International students, since the tuition and fees are very low when compared to other types of colleges.
Most colleges require a good score in TOEFL or IELTS (for establishing English proficiency) and in SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) Reasoning scores for admission to their Associate Degree programs. In some colleges, admission is also possible with just a TOEFL score and good academics in 12th class. Note: For some top universities in addition to the SAT Reasoning Test score a good score in the relevant SAT Subject Test (like in Mathematics, Languages, Biology etc.), is required.

Bachelors Degree:

This is a four-year program at the undergraduate level. Most international students especially a large number of students from countries such as Japan and China prefer to start their education in USA from this level. Statistics from India indicate that less than 10% of students join at this level, however this number is increasing as more and more students are seeking global education and their families would also like to give their young ones an early advantage. This is the first degree with which most students plan their career or profession. Hundreds ofmajors (or specializations) in all the fields are offered at the Bachelors level, which makes education an attractive proposition for students all over the world.
In the U.S, the first year of Bachelors degree is called the Freshman Year, the second one, the Sophomore Year, the third, Junior Year and the fourth, the Senior Year.

Professional School

In the US unlike in India, students can take up professional programs only after they complete their Bachelors degree. Professional programs such as Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy etc., are offered by US universities leading to degrees such as MD (for Medicine), Pharm D (for Pharmacy) Doctor of Physiotherapy (DPT for Physiotherapy) etc. These are known as the first professional degrees, completion of which entitles the students to practice as professionals in their respective fields (after meeting other requirements). Admission into most of these professional programs are based on good performance in entrance tests such as MCAT (for Medicine), PCAT (Pharmacy), LSAT (for Law) etc., after completion of a Bachelors degree in related subjects. In near future, US universities are considering to convert the Business Administration program into a professional degree, by offering a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) as the first professional degree.
In India, UK and some other countries students can take up professional degree programs right after completion of their secondary (+2) education, while students in the US have to first complete their Bachelors (a four-year degree) and then take up professional degree programs.

Graduate School

US Graduate Schools and specialized colleges (like College of Engineering, College of Management etc.) offer various degree programs such as Engineering, Arts and Sciences at the post-graduate level, leading to Masters and Doctoral level degrees. These degrees are called theMaster of Arts (M.A), Master of Sciences (M.S), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Duration of these programs range from one to five years, depending upon the course and level of study. Most of the Masters level programs are of two years and Doctoral level are of four years duration.

Admission into Masters level program is possible with a four-year degree from India. It is also possible to seek admission into the same, with a three-year degree from India. Some universities may ask to take additional pre-requisite courses to compensate for the fourth year requirement. Others ask applicants to complete aBridge program comprising a few additional courses, while simultaneously doing the Masters program. SuchBridge programs are mainly offered in the fields of Computer Science, Information Systems, IT and Business Administration. Also, some universities do directly accept the three-year degrees as equivalent to their Bachelors degree and enroll students from India into their Masters programs, especially in MBA.

Pre-requisite tests that are required for admission at the Masters are

  • For MS and MA programs TOEFL and GRE General Test
  • For MBA and other Management related programs TOEFL and GMAT

Note :For some programs at top universities a good score in the relevant GRE Subject Test is required in addition to the GRE General Test score.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is becoming popular in the US too and is being accepted by many universities now. For more information,
please see : http://www.ielts.org/pdf/USA_Recognition_List.pdf

Admission into Doctoral level programs is possible normally after completion of Masters. However, US universities are flexible in admitting even those with a Bachelors degree. But, the length of program might be longer than for those with a Masters degree. Typically, the duration of Doctoral level programs is between 3 and 6 years, depending on the field of research and university.

Academic Year

US universities follows a semester system, the main one being the Fall semester, which starts in August/September. Most universities offer admission during the Fall semester. Many universities offer admission during the Spring semester, which starts in January. Very few universities offer intakes during the Winter semester, starting in November and also during Summer semester (in April). Colleges offering admission during three terms are known to be operating on a trimester system and those offering during all the four terms, on a Quarter system.

Maximum number of programs are offered only during the Fall semester and many others during both Fall and Spring. While Intakes for the Summer is possible in a few universities, Winter intakes are very rare. The top universities generally offer only one intake during Fall, especially for MBA programs. And, some universities start their professional programs during Summer! It is best to check which program is offered for which semester(s) in the universities you plan to seek admission.

It is best to select admission during the Fall intake, since that is the most popular semester and the possibility of securing financial aid is more during this semester and the Faculty is at its full attendance. However,due to fewer number of faculty members available during other terms it may be difficult and you may not be able to obtain credits during Summer and Winter semesters. It is important to note that the Visa process could be a problem if one seeks admission during these two off-beat semesters as very rarely applicants prefer to go during these terms though it could turn the other way around too.

Transfers

Changing a course of studies at any point of time is quite feasible in the Education system in US as it allows students to seek atransfer from one program to another (within the same university) and one university to another. During such transfers, whatevercredits the student obtained during their previous study will be transferred to the new course/university depending upon the policies of the new university.

The same privilege is also available for international students who seek a transfer. For example, if a student who has completed a three year degree and wants to enroll in a Bachelors program in US, he/she could take a transfer into the third year of the Bachelors degree. While this may entail a loss of one year, that helps students to choose a specialization during the last two years at the Bachelors level and continue with their professional or career-oriented education.

Credit System

Academic standing of students are based on the evaluation of their performance.This is evident by the number of credits they obtain during their academic semster. These credits are calculated depending upon the performance in semester-end examinations, class room preparation, seminar participation, laboratory hours etc. In certain cases,units orsemester hours are used instead of credits. For every course of study, students will earn a particular number of credits per semester. Professors and advisers assist the students in organizing their course schedule for their academic year.

To complete a Bachelors degree, students are usually have to require 112 to 120 credits (24/30 per year) for four years. At the Masters level, students have to complete at least 36 credits (18 per year) for a two-year program. Please note that in order to maintain the legal status as astudent, USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) specifies that a particular number of credits have to be enrolled for, by international students. For example, a minimum of nine credits per semester have to be enrolled for, at the Masters level.

Grades

Sometimes, a student would be given Grades based on his academic performance. After completion of a particular course successfully, the professors would award a letter Grade for each course.

For every course/unit, the university will pre-determine the number of credit hours. For example, for most courses the no. of hours to be completed are THREE Credit hours. For some, however, even FIVE may be assigned. These letter grades will be assigned with a numerical value, as follows :

Grade Equals to Percentage
A = 4 which is equivalent between 90 - 100%
B = 3 which is equivalent between 80 - 90%
C = 2 which is equivalent between 80 - 70%
D = 1 which is equivalent between 70 - 60%
F = 0 [ Fail ] which is equivalent between < 60%

A Grade Point Average (GPA) will be computed based on the number of courses, number of credits (for each course) and the numerical value of a grade. The numerical grade for each course will be multiplied with the number of credits taken by the student and the total points thus obtained will be divided by the total number of credit hours.

Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) is the average of Grade Points obtained over all the semesters.
Except for some Engineering Institutions this practice is not followed in India, therefore it is neither advisable nor possible to convert the percentages or grades (given in India) into the GPA under the US System.

It is best to indicate the percentage or grade as given by your institution in your qualifying examination. However, if universities insist on conversion or equivalence, one option is to get the credentials evaluated.

Credentials Evaluation

International students who have completed their education outside of the U.S., might have to have their credentials evaluated in order to have them understood and recognized by educational institutions, employers, licensing and certification Abroads in the U.S. This sort of evaluations are carried out by organizations such as Worldwide Credentials Evaluation Service (WES), Foreign Academic Credential Services (FCAS) Academic and Credential Records Evaluation and Verification Service (ACREV) etc. A WES evaluation, which is very popular, will provide you with the U.S. academic equivalents for your credentials and allow you to pursue further education or seek employment in the U.S. There is no U.S. government agency that evaluates credentials. Credentials are evaluated by universities and by private organizations such as WES.

A number of academic institutions have employees who evaluate international credentials. Many other colleges and universities require that international credentials be evaluated by an expert service such as WES. A WES evaluation compares your credentials with their U.S. educational equivalents by providing a document by document evaluation and/or course by Course evaluation. For more information,
see : www.wes.org , www.acrev.com and www.facsusa.com

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