Application process for a bachelor’s degree in the US
Why is a US degree such a big deal? Why is it most sought after by students across the globe? There are many substantial reasons. Studying in a US university not only enriches your academic profile but also gives you a great personal experience. Universities in the US constantly work towards the growth of their students during the course period. State-of-the-art infrastructure, libraries equipped with most relevant books, high-end and well-funded research labs, top researchers in the respective fields taking lectures are just some of the many features that a US university offers. Research, which is the focus of these universities, is backed by various public, private and corporate grants. The programmes offered are highly flexible and have various options to choose from as per your area of interest.
A Bachelor’s Degree course (undergraduate programme) is a four-year long programme. Students generally pursue this course after the completion of 12th grade. During the course of the programme, a student is required to choose a major and a minor from a list of subjects.
Majors include subjects like Physics, Mathematics, Chemical Engineering or Marine Biology, and have to be chosen by the end of the second year of undergraduate studies.
Professional courses such as law, medicine and dentistry can only be pursued at the Master’s level and are not offered at the undergraduate level. Any student with a bachelor’s degree can pursue a degree in such courses by completing the pre-requisite courses. As per his/her interest, a student may select a minor. The number of courses required in a minor is comparatively lesser than in a major.
How to apply to a university
Step 1: Course selection: There is an array of courses that you can choose from. The various options in the field of engineering are Aerospace Engineering, Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Fire Protection Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering etc.
Other areas include Arts, Natural resources, Humanities, Literature, Accounting, Mathematics, Architecture, Behavioral Sciences, Environmental studies, Geography, Languages, Films, finance just to name a few.
Step 2 : List of universities: There are various websites, magazines and other sources that provide different rankings of various universities. While choosing a university, you must not blindly follow these rankings. Instead, consider various factors such as location, placement, quality of course provided, research conducted at the university and the likes. This is where a counselor steps in. Don’t hesitate to take the guidance of an experienced counselor, as these are life-changing decisions.
Step 3: Review the admission requirements for the course & universities of your choice.
Step 4: Selection of the appropriate entrance exam: After having decided on a bachelor’s programme in the US, the next step for a student is to decide whether to take the SAT I (scholastic aptitude test) or the ACT. If you think you have the skills focus, aptitude, vocabulary and writing, go for the SAT I. However, the ACT (American college testing) is based on what you’ve learnt in school. It tests complex skills in Math and has a science reasoning section that tests your ability to read graphs. It also tests your time management skills.
Alternatively, you may also take the SAT II (SAT subject) test in the subject of your specialization.
You are also required to take the TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language. The TOEFL is an Internet- based test that checks your proficiency in English language. Students from countries where English is not the native language are required to take this test to prove their language proficiency, so as to study in an English-speaking country.
Step 5: Requirements for application approval –
1. The Statement of purpose or Goal statement. Why is it important?
You require a Satement of Purpose along with other documents. It is a statement or essay about your purpose of applying to a particular graduate school. Students are required to write an essay explaining their main goal or purpose in life, which would support their decision of joining that college. Most universities give tips on what they would like to read in the SOP, and how long it should be.
An SOP must be written by keeping in mind various factors such as clarity of thought, proper line of reasoning for choices made, goals and your personal traits that will help you achieve them. It is important to be precise without being too flashy. It has to have content, your objectives and goals and should be relevant to the course you are applying for.
A graduate school needs to understand your purpose of studying there. They want to determine whether you will be a value addition to their school. Hence, an SOP is a very important document to determine if you will get an admission.
2. The letter of recommendation (LOR)?
Letters of reference or recommendation letters play a very important part in your admission especially in courses that earn you a master’s or doctoral degree. A recommendation letter is a signed statement from a person who knows you well or has taught you in a subject at school or college. It should list out your positive and negatives and give pointers about your academic or non-academic achievements.
The recommenders must indicate their position, how long they have known the applicant and in what capacity. He/she should briefly discuss the need, importance and usefulness of the study the applicant proposes to undertake. Recommenders are usually asked to rank applicants in their letters of recommendation, which helps admission officers to interpret the academic credentials of foreign students.
Students should obtain letters of recommendation (often on the prescribed forms sent by the institutions) from teachers who know them as a person as well as a student. Concrete examples can be given by the professor/teacher to demonstrate the skills of applicant, which will increase their chances of selection.
Many universities have their own format and questions that have to be answered by the person who is writing the letter of recommendation on your behalf. Letters have to be relevantly informative and should cover all the points required by the university to ensure the admission is done smoothly.
Step 6: Submit your application: You would need to create an online account on the university’s website. You will have to submit all the forms and documents. Nowadays most forms and documents can be uploaded online, some may ask for a physical package. The application fee can be paid online as well. You should keep an eye on the application deadline and prepare accordingly.
Selection process followed by colleges/universities:
The college admission committee is on the lookout of students who will enrich and benefit from the campus-learning environment, and thereby benefiting the entire student body. The college admission process is a tedious and a rigorous process.
The committee understands that there is more to the student than just the academic and SAT/ACT scores. Hence other than the educational performance of a student, they also consider various other factors. A student’s potential to promote a better outcome of the course, contribute to the campus and the community life, his potential for success based on his past records; his persistence and commitment towards his projected goals are given a lot of consideration.
Step 7: Waiting for an admit from a university and the I-20: I-20 is a strictly confidential and crucial document that is issued to the students directly by the university upon granting an admission. A letter of admit along with the I-20 is sent to the student upon being accepted for a particular course. The I-20 is a crucial document that is required for the visa application.
Step 8: Visa process: Students who wish to study or conduct research at an accredited U.S. college or university have to apply for the F1 visa. You can only apply after you have been accepted by a recognized university for a full-time course and have the required financial support for your stay in the U.S. The F1 visa is given with a condition that the holder must not work in the country apart from any work as part of the course.
Step 9: Before you go to the US: You ought to read and understand about the destination/location where you are going to be living in the US. For this purpose you may utilize the online services provided by newspapers in that area. Read about and understand the American culture to avoid any cultural shocks. You may learn a few local slangs, idioms and abbreviations. These little things will come in pretty handy in the first few days.
Step 10: Plan your travel: Unless you want to land in the US a day before your first lecture, do plan your travel on advance. You can do this online through travel sites to get competitive prices according to your budget.
The international services available to the US are:
American Airlines (AA) (www.aa.com),
Continental Airlines (www.continental.com),
Delta Air (www.delta.com),
United Airlines (www.united.com), and
US Airways (www.usairways.com).
However, you may choose for yourself which airlines/ travel agency serves you the best.