Study in USA: A Complete Guide for International Students

The United States of America (USA) is one of the most preferred study abroad destinations in the world. The country has more than a million international students studying at the top-ranked universities. The US, for many years, has been a truly international space to be where people from all the countries and ethnicities come to, and stay with their own cultures. This makes the USA a diverse society to live in. If you are an aspiring international student, here is all you need to know about studying in the USA – why study in USA, education system, eligibility criteria, application process, costs, scholarships, and visa process.


Study in USA

A Complete Guide for International Students


Co-authored by Dhruv (



Why Study in USA


The country being a pioneer when it comes to the quality of education is one of the most prominent reasons to study in USA. More than 150 Universities in the USA are ranked among the top universities of the world by QS rankings 2020. That alone speaks for itself for education.


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All of us have heard about the Ivy League Universities of the US. Along with the higher standards of education, the research facilities and the sports are an important feature of USA’s academic culture. The USA is a land of opportunities, as it is home to some of the largest companies in the world. Therefore, even after studying at a US university, there is a chance to grow in the country. But for now, here is more on the Education system in the USA.


Interviews with Students and Faculty Members about Academics, Admissions, and Jobs in USA


  1. Student Blog on Masters in Data Science after Double Major in Economics and Statistics at Cornell University
  2. Interview with Indian Student about Business Studies at USC after Class 12
  3. MS Analytics at North Carolina State University: Interview with Admissions Head
  4. Interview HOD at Drexel University (MS Business Analytics)
  5. Interview with Program Director at the University of Illinois at Chicago (MS Biotechnology)


Education System in USA


The education system in the USA consists of Elementary, Middle School, High School, and Higher Education. The higher education, which most of the students choose, has four levels of education. Associate Degrees, Bachelor’s Degrees, Master’s Degree (professional and academic), and doctoral degrees.


The Associate degrees are for two years, and they are mostly job oriented. The candidates opting for these courses look for jobs straight away after completion. An Associate degree can also be counted as the first two years of a bachelor’s degree.


A bachelor’s degree is a more academic path compared to an Associate’s degree. The duration for these courses is 3 to 4 years, which are chronologically called Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior year. They can be a stepping step to a Master’s Degree (MS) in USA.


A professional Masters takes the first-degree holder to a skill that will be more job-oriented, and a detailed study of one field of study. An academic Masters in the USA is a great foundation for PhD and Doctoral Programs. Quite often, students also opt for integrated MS-PhD in the US. Length of the professional Masters is 1 to 3 years, where an academic Masters is generally of two years.


A doctoral degree can run for 5 to 8 years typically and it is a research done under the supervision of a faculty.


Articles on Success Stories (Study in USA):


1. MS Computer Science Admits at Cornell and Georgia Tech for Indian Applicant after Multiple Rejections

2. MS Biomedical Engineering Admits at Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, Cornell, Rice for Indian Applicant with Management Consulting Background

3. MS Business Analytics Admits at UT Dallas, UConn for Indian Applicant with NGO Experience

4. Feedback of Parents and Students who Got Admissions at US Colleges


Admission Intakes in USA


There are two main intakes in the USA – fall and spring. The Fall Intake starts in August, and it has the most number of courses available. Fall Intake in USA is the most favorite among international students.


The Spring (or Winter) Intake starts in January, and the students who might have missed the fall intake in USA can choose to study in Winter Intake, though not every course that is available in fall would be available in winter. There is a Summer Intake (May), too, however, it has a very limited number of courses on offer.


Eligibility Criteria and Application Process for Study in USA


Good Academic Track Record


A solid GPA is a must in order to study in the US. A limited number of backlogs is also desirable (ideally, no backlogs if you are aiming top universities), and some other requirements that can be asked by the universities for specific courses.


Recommended Article: How to Convert Indian Grades (CGPA/Percentage) to US Grades (4.0 Scale)


Standardized Tests


Students who are looking to study Bachelors’s in the US must appear for TOEFL or IELTS. If you are aiming for the top 100/200 colleges in the US along with financial aid, you should also opt for the SAT or ACT. For the most selective schools like Ivy League schools and top 25 – 50 colleges, you should also appear for SAT Subject Tests and/or AP exams. For graduate studies, you must appear for GRE or GMAT, along with IELTS/TOEFL.


Essays/SoP and Letters of Recommendation


Apart from academic transcripts and test scores, you are also required to submit college essays, a statement of purpose (SoP), and recommendation letters (LoR).


Recommended Article: What do Admission Officers and Colleges Look for in Essays and SoP


How to Apply for Studying in USA


The application process for USA will change for different universities, however, most of them follow the process of online application. Most of the documents like the scanned copy of your passport, academic transcripts, essays, etc. must be uploaded to the online application portal of the particular universities. For undergrad programs, you can also apply through CommonApp.


As discussed above, the Graduate courses will require the GRE, and management courses (like MBA or MS Finance, MS Business Analytics) will require GMAT scores. The undergraduate courses will require SATs and LSAT (for Law courses), MCAT (Medical Courses). The other major requirement is English Language Proficiency Test scores such as IELTS and TOEFL scores. All these scores must be reported officially through the conducting bodies.


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4 Common Mistakes to Avoid While Applying for MS in USA

How to Get into Ivy League Universities for MS from India

How to Write MS SoP for Ivy League & Top Schools (GRE 320 – 340 Scores)



Cost of Studying in USA


The US universities are not exactly known for their affordability, however, for the return on investment they provide, the cost of studying is completely worth it. The average cost of studying in USA for a public two-year college (Associate Degree) would be $3,660 for a year.


For four year degrees, the public colleges will cost $26,290 per year, whereas private colleges are $35,830 per year. There are additional charges for the Room and boarding at the universities.


For Masters (MS) programs, average costs are in the range of $28,000 to $40,000 per year. MBA programs are more expensive. You will need to shell out $70,000 to $150,000 to attend an MBA from a top business school in the US.


Recommended Article: How to Fund MBA in USA


The cost of living in USA would cost different for different cities and states. The coastal cities and states have a reputation of costing more than the inland USA that is also not universally true. It depends on the location and the lifestyle of the student.


Recommended Article: Top Student Cities in the US Outside the Silicon Valley for Tech Jobs


Scholarships for International Students to Study in USA


As an international student, you would be looking at an overall expense (fees & living expenses) of INR 80 Lacs to 1.5 Crore for an undergraduate degree or INR 45 Lacs to 85 Lacs for a Masters (MS) program. MBA programs will cost you INR 70 Lacs to 1.5 Crore. There are many scholarship and financial aid schemes are out there for international students. Below is the list of top scholarships to study in USA.


List of Universities that offer Generous scholarships to Undergraduate International students


American University Scholarships

Amherst College Scholarships

Berea College Scholarships

Clark University Scholarships

Colby-Sawyer College Scholarships

Columbia College Scholarships

Concordia College Scholarships

Dartmouth College Scholarships

East Tennessee State University

East West Center

Emory College Scholarships

Illinois Wesleyan University Scholarships

Iowa State University International Merit Scholarships

Michigan State University International Scholarships

New York University Wagner Scholarships

Oregon University Scholarships

Wesleyan University Scholarships

University of the West Scholarships


Recommended Article: 85 Best Universities that Offer Maximum Financial Aid to International Students for Undergraduate Studies


Top Scholarship Schemes for International Students for Graduate Studies (Master’s & PhD) in USA


Foreign Fulbright Student Program


The Fulbright student scholarship program is for students who want to study masters or PhD degree in reputed universities of USA. The entire scholarship will be sufficient for the tuition fees, textbook fare, airfare, health insurance, and the living stipend. This scholarship program is specially designed for non- degree postgraduate studies.


Humphrey Fellowship Program


The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program is also a USA Government scholarship program designed especially for experienced professionals. Additionally, the candidates need to demonstrate commitment towards the public services in either the public sector or private sector of different countries. This scholarship covers the maximum part of the expenses during the program.


Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship


The Aga Khan Foundation provides a limited number of scholarships each year for postgraduate studies to outstanding students (from developing countries) who have no other means of financing their studies. Scholarships are awarded on a 50% grant and 50% loan basis through a competitive application process. The Foundation gives priority to requests for Master’s level courses but is willing to consider applications for Ph.D. programs.


World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program


The scheme is open to women and men from developing countries with relevant professional experience and a history of supporting their countries’ development efforts who are applying to a master degree program in a development-related topic. The scholarship provides tuition, a monthly living stipend, round-trip airfare, health insurance, and travel allowance.


AAUW International Fellowships for Women


AAUW (the American Association of University Women) awards International Fellowships for full-time study or research in the United States to women who are not United States citizens or permanent residents. Both graduate and postgraduate studies at accredited institutions are supported.


Abbey Road Summer Scholarships


Abbey Road offers US scholarships worth of US$1,000 to literature and Arts students. “Summer enrichment” is another scholarship program which will grant about US$500 for the students in various universities in the USA.


Civil Society Leadership Awards


In this program, students from the eligible countries will be provided with the fully funded scholarship for their Master’s degree in the USA.


The NextGen Scholarship Fund


Scholarships are provided to the students who have at least 3.0 GPA in their graduation level. In this program, the student has to enroll at an accredited university within Washington DC, Maryland or Virginia. The scholarship worth about USD $1,000.


Tortuga Backpacks Study Abroad Scholarship


The Scholarship worth is about US$1,000. For passionate students, this scholarship is given twice a year.


David P. Shapiro Autism Scholarship


This scholarship is a one-time scholarship program. This program will be awarded to prospective students who are studying in the US.


Preply Scholarship


Basically, this program is a competitive based scholarship in which 3 students will be awarded a sum of $2,000. You need to be in the age group of 16 – 35 are in order to be eligible for this scholarship. To get this scholarship the candidate has to submit an essay of 500 words. “The importance of multilingualism to personal and professional development” is the topic of the essay.


Rotary Peace Fellowships


Rotary’s Peace Centres such as at Duke University or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill award scholarships to the students who wanted to study for their master’s degree in the US.




GotChosen scholarships are specially designed to help the students to meet their financial needs for their higher education purpose. This scholarship program is considered to be the highest scholarship program in the US as $40K is awarded to the eligible students. This award is not based on academic performance. It is completely based on random selection.




In MindSumo scholarship program, the business and engineering students have to solve the challenges given in the competition. The winner of the competition will get a scholarship. MindSumo programme is a partner with Fortune 500 companies.


Capex American Scholarships is a portal which offers various scholarships that are available for students in various universities in the US. The candidate has to apply through the portal to get the scholarship while applying to the university.


College Week Live


College Week Live scholarship is granted to the students who work on research in collages. To get this scholarship the student has to login into CollegeWeekLive, select a college based on the interest to do the research. The winner of this competition will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship every month.


Global Scholarships for International Students


Global Scholarships for International Students is a scholarship database for international students. This database has a list of all the popular scholarships around the world including the US. This is basically a website that provides the complete details about the scholarship information, application date, the link to the application form, and brief description of the universities in every scholarship articles that they publish.


Recommended Article: 15 Best Affordable Public Universities for International Students to Study MS in USA


Student Visa in USA


Most of the students who are willing to study in USA need to apply for an F1 visa. The process to get an F1 visa is straightforward, and it is given below:


  1. Get Accepted into a SEVP (Student and Visitor Exchange Program) Approved University
  2. Pay SEVIS I-901 fees and the university will provide you with form I-90, which will be presented by you at the visa interview.
  3. Apply and complete the visa application to the consulate or embassy you are subjected to, and print the form DS-160, which will let you appear for the F1 Visa Interview.
  4. Prepare the Documents Required:
  • Passport
  • Forms DS 160 and I-20
  • Payment Receipt for the F1 Visa
  • Passport Photos
  • Proof of Monetary funds required
  1. Appear for the Visa Interview


The visa interview decides the outcome of your visa, therefore it is important to have the right documents and be prepared for the Interview Questions that might be asked during the interview.


Recommended Article: New H1-B Rules (Applicable from April 2019) to Give Priority to MS and Ph.D. Degree Holders



About Dhruv: Dhruv is a Content Writer at He is fond of words and everything related to them. Writing about different things from around the world gives him immense pleasure, and a very healthy by-product is sharing of the information and helping others in the process.



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Original Source of Featured Image: US Embassy & Consulates (India)

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