The United States of America (also referred to as the United States, the U.S., the USA, or America) is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district. The country is situated mostly in central North America, where its forty-eight contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the capital district, lie between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, bordered by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. At 3.79 million square miles and with over 310 million people, the United States is the third or fourth largest country by total area, and the third largest both by land area and population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The U.S. economy is the world's largest national economy.
Indigenous peoples of Asian origin have inhabited what is now the mainland United States for many thousands of years. The current United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 its ratification the following year made the states part of a single republic with a strong central government.
The USA is a top university destination choice for study abroad and hosts more international students than any other country in the world. Her’s why:
US degrees are recognized around the world for their academic excellence and enhanced learning experiences. American universities include many prestigious institutions that are respected globally. In the 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities:
Getting an American degree is the key to a successful future. The connections you make and the many work experience opportunities will open the door to a prosperous and rewarding career.
The USA has one of the world’s best university systems, offering flexible education opportunities at over 4,000 institutions. With ROYAL, there are routes to bachelor’s degrees for both high school and undergraduate (transfer) applicants, and graduate student options leading to fast-tack master’s degrees, graduate certificates, and prestigious MBAs.
Bachelor’s degrees in the USA include core courses, such as math, history, literature, and communications in the first 2 years. This gives a broad-based knowledge across many disciplines – essential for competing in the global workplace. American curricula are flexibly designed to allow students to change their ‘major’ after 1 or 2 years. There is a huge choice of elective courses so students can tailor their degree to their interests and strengths.
It is also common for students to change university after 2 years of study in the USA, or to transfer into a US university after studying in another country. It’s not necessary to complete all 4 years at the same institution in order to get a degree from there. This flexibility means students can improve their grades for transfer to a more selective institution.
There will be many opportunities for you to gain practical, career-related experience during your US university studies. Cooperative (co-op) education and internship programs are widely available and often integrated into program curricula to make it easy for you to build up your resume before graduation.
Studying on an F-1 visa also allows you to gain temporary employment authorization through Optional Practical Training (OPT), either during or immediately following your degree studies. Through OPT, you can work:
Many of these opportunities are paid, allowing you to start paying down the cost of your US education soon after graduation.
Studying in the USA and exploring a culture different from your own will help you gain essential life skills such as improving your confidence, communication and social skills. You can choose to travel around, see world famous attractions and immerse yourself in the American culture and language.
As you begin your school search, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the American education system. Understanding the system will help you narrow your choices and develop your education plan.
The U.S. academic calendar typically runs from September to May and can be divided into two academic terms of 16-18 weeks known as semesters. Alternatively, some schools may operate on a quarter or trimester system of multiple terms of 10-12 weeks.
More than 4,500 accredited institutions make up U.S. higher education in the United States. Unlike many countries, U.S. higher education institutions are not centrally organized or managed, but are accredited on a national or regional level by independent accrediting bodies.
Prior to higher education, American students attend primary and secondary school for a combined total of 12 years. These years are referred to as the first through twelfth grades.
Around age six, U.S. children begin primary school, which is most commonly called “elementary school.” They attend five or six years and then go onto secondary school.
Secondary school consists of two programs: the first is “middle school” or “junior high school” and the second program is “high school.” A diploma or certificate is awarded upon graduation from high school. After graduating high school (12th grade), U.S. students may go on to college or university. College or university study is known as “higher education.”
A student who is attending a college or university and has not earned a bachelor’s degree, is studying at the undergraduate level. It typically takes about four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. You can either begin your studies in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree at a community college or a four-year university or college.
Your first two years of study you will generally be required to take a wide variety of classes in different subjects, commonly known as prerequisite courses: literature, science, the social sciences, the arts, history, and so forth. This is so you achieve a general knowledge, a foundation, of a variety of subjects prior to focusing on a specific field of study.
Many students choose to study at a community college in order to complete the first two years of prerequisite courses. They will earn an Associate of Arts (AA) transfer degree and then transfer to a four-year university or college.
A “major” is the specific field of study in which your degree is focused. You will be required to take a certain number of courses in this field in order to meet the degree requirements of your major. You must choose your major at the beginning of your third year of school.
A very unique characteristic of the American higher education system is that you can change your major multiple times if you choose. It is extremely common for American students to switch majors at some point in their undergraduate studies. Often, students discover a different field that they excel in or enjoy. The American education system is very flexible. Keep in mind though that switching majors may result in more courses, which means more time and money.
Presently, a college or university graduate with a bachelor’s degree may want to seriously think about graduate study in order to enter certain professions or advance their career. This degree is usually mandatory for higher-level positions in library science, engineering, behavioral health and education.
Furthermore, international students from some countries are only permitted to study abroad at a graduate level. You should inquire about the credentials needed to get a job in your country before you apply to a postgraduate university in the USA.
A graduate program is usually a division of a university or college. To gain admission, you will need to take the GRE (graduate record examination). Certain master’s programs require specific tests, such as the LSAT for law school, the GRE or GMAT for business school, and the MCAT for medical school.
Graduate programs in pursuit of a master’s degree typically take one to two years to complete. For example, the MBA (master of business administration) is an extremely popular degree program that takes about two years. Other master’s programs, such as journalism, only take one year. The majority of a master’s program is spent in classroom study and a graduate student must prepare a long research paper called a “master’s thesis” or complete a “master’s project.”
Many graduate schools consider the attainment of a master’s degree the first step towards earning a PhD (doctorate). But at other schools, students may prepare directly for a doctorate without also earning a master’s degree. It may take three years or more to earn a PhD degree. For international students, it may take as long as five or six years.
For the first two years of the program most doctoral candidates enroll in classes and seminars. At least another year is spent conducting firsthand research and writing a thesis or dissertation. This paper must contain views, designs, or research that have not been previously published.
A doctoral dissertation is a discussion and summary of the current scholarship on a given topic. Most U.S. universities awarding doctorates also require their candidates to have a reading knowledge of two foreign languages, to spend a required length of time “in residence,” to pass a qualifying examination that officially admits candidates to the PhD program, and to pass an oral examination on the same topic as the dissertation.
Most international students in the United States hold an F-1 visa, which is the U.S. non-immigrant student visa. F-1 students are allowed to work in the United States, but only under certain conditions and in accordance with complex guidelines and restrictions issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
With all employment is contingent on remaining within the terms and restrictions of your F-1 visa, there are several categories of employment during the term of your stay as an F-1 student in the United States.
On-campus employment is the most freely available, and then there are four categories of off-campus employment
On-campus employment is the category most freely permitted by the USCIS regulations, and it does not require USCIS approval. However, although F-1 status includes an on-campus employment privilege, on-campus employment opportunities at most schools are limited. Even if you can obtain a job on campus, you may not rely on it to prove financial resources for the year, and often these jobs are not related to your studies. Many schools do require that you obtain permission from the International Student Office prior to accepting any on-campus employment, and may not permit such employment in a student's first semester or year.
International students in the U.S. in valid F-1 immigration status are permitted to work off-campus in optional practical training (OPT) status both during and after completion of their degree. Rules established by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) govern the implementation of OPT, and all OPT employment requires prior authorization from USCIS and from your school’s International Student Office.
You can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least 9 months, but you cannot begin employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and you have been enrolled for at least a year. You do not need to have a job offer to apply for your OPT EAD, and your OPT employment can occur anywhere in the US.
Start early—USCIS takes up to 90 days to process your application—and make sure you work closely with your school’s International Student Office. As with everything you will do while in the U.S., permission is based on maintaining lawful F-1 status and your International Student Office is there to help you maintain that status throughout your stay.
Students can be authorized for 12 months of OPT for each successive level of degree achieved – for instance, you can do 12 months of OPT after receiving your undergraduate degree, go back to graduate school, and then do 12 months of OPT after receiving your graduate degree. Pre-completion OPT (students are still in school) and post-completion OPT (students have completed their degree) each have different rules:
One Final Note – Be mindful of the travel regulations governing F-1 students on OPT. If you leave the country after completion of your degree, but before receiving your EAD and obtaining a job, you may not be readmitted. You can leave the country after completion of your degree if you have your EAD and a job, but make sure you bring everything that you’ll need to get back in (including valid passport, valid EAD card, valid F1 visa, all your I-20s with page 3 endorsed for travel by your international student advisor within the past 6 months, and a letter of employment, including dates of employment and salary).
In April 2008, the Department of Homeland Security updated their OPT requirements for students who are studying certain degree programs so that OPT can be extended for an additional 17 months, up to a total of 29 months of OPT. This was instituted to plug the gap between students who completed their OPT and did not have a chance to file for an H1B visa due to the time frames and visa caps that exist on the H1B visa. Students can now extend their OPT so they still have the opportunity to apply for an H1B visa.
The special extension of the OPT program is only available to those who are employed by companies who are enrolled in the E-Verify program, and you have to be studying one of the following subjects:
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an off-campus employment option for F-1 students when the practical training is an integral part of the established curriculum or academic program.
CPT employment is defined as “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” To qualify, the work experience must be required for your degree, or academic credit must awarded. You can get paid for CPT employment. Prior authorization by your school’s International Student Office and notification to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is required.
Your International Student Office must authorize you for CPT. Once you receive CPT authorization, you can only work for the specific employer and for the specific dates authorized (unlike with OPT or severe economic hardship off-campus employment, where you can work anywhere in the US). Your CPT authorization will also specify whether you are approved for part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) CPT employment. While in school, you can only be approved for part-time CPT.
Regardless of whether you are approved for full or part-time on CPT, there is no limit to how long you can work. However, if you work full-time on CPT for 12 months or more, you are not eligible for OPT. If you work part-time on CPT, or full-time on CPT for less than 12 months, you are still eligible for all of your allowable OPT. So make sure you watch the dates and hours closely – don’t jeopardize your OPT!
Many schools in the United States offer work and study programs that coordinate immediate employment through CPT programs. Not only does this give international students the opportunity to help cover the costs of their education, but they will at the same time gain valuable work experience and obtain their masters degree.
Any F-1 student suffering "severe economic hardship" as defined by USCIS is eligible to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and full-time during breaks.
The rule gives examples of the types of things that could be considered "severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control." These circumstances may include:
You must apply for an "employment authorization document" (EAD) with the help and guidance of your International Student Office -- you do not need a job offer before you apply for the EAD. But several forms and documents are required, together with fees and photos, etc., and processing can take up to 12 weeks or longer -- and you cannot start work until you receive the EAD. Once you receive the EAD, you may work for an employer at any job, anywhere in the United States. Employment authorization is automatically terminated when a student fails to maintain valid F-1 status.
The final category of employment for international students in the U.S. on F-1 visas is employment with a "recognized international organization." To qualify, an organization must be on the official State Department list, and listed organizations include the Red Cross, African and Asian Development Banks, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and many other similar but less well-known organizations. Because it does not have the universal application of OPT or CPT, this category of employment is often overlooked. Only students with a job offer and sponsorship from one of the listed organizations are eligible. However, for those lucky students who do have such sponsorship, there are clear benefits of this employment category.
If you meet these requirements, you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). You can start to work only after you receive your EAD, which can take up to 3 months.
Regardless of citizenship, applicants whose first language is not English must generally take one of the following exams and achieve the indicated scores in order to demonstrate English proficiency.
All applicants (including US citizens) whose first language is not English can prove English proficiency by one of the following:
*To be considered competitive, a 90 iBT score or above is recommended. Sub-scores for each section of the TOEFL should be 20 or higher.
**English speaking countries include: UK, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (except Quebec).
The general English Proficiency requirements for graduate study at American University are given below.
Please see your individual school or college for more information on the English Proficiency Requirement.
The visa category for most international students is F1, and we have more information on that and other categories below. International students visas are issued and regulated by USCIS, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, and the whole process of obtaining a visa to either study in the USA or to work can be quite daunting.
There are general requirements to gain entry into the USA, in addition to the specific requirements of each visa category. In general you must be:
The F1 Visa is the most popular/ common visa that is issued to incoming students into the USA. Generally it is issued to students who are coming to the USA to study on an academic program or to come to learn English as a Second Language. F1 students must maintain full-time student status.
The J1 Visa is issued to students who need to have practical training as part of the academic program; however, there is also a large program called the “Work/ Travel Program” under the J1 Visa where students can come to the USA for three to four months to gain employment and travel the USA.
An M1 visa is issued to a student who is going to attend a non-academic or vocational school.
If you are applying for an F-1 Student Visa from your home country, you will begin by selecting a school in the U.S. where you want to study and applying to the school. You may also want to begin looking into housing information at this time.
If your application is accepted you will obtain Form I-20 from the DSO (Designated School Official) and pay the I-901 SEVIS receipt. You will be added to the SEVIS database with an individual ID number.
After the school enters your information into the SEVIS database, you will receive Form I-20 and schedule the "Initial Entry Visa Interview" with your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
A prospective foreign student is required to demonstrate Proof of Availability of Funds when he applies for F-1 student visa in or outside of the United States. USCIS or an Officer at the local US Embassy need to be sure that the student can live in the US and pay his tuition without working, which is permitted for foreign students only under rare circumstances. Proof of Availability of Funds can be demonstrated either by the prospective student directly, or through Sponsorship.
The official title of SEVIS form I-20 is "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – For Academic and Language Studies." This form tells USCIS who you are, where you live, what you want to study, when your classes begin, how long your studies are going to take, and how you are going to pay for your tuition, room, and board while you are in school. If you are granted F-1 status, your form I-20 is the most important document you will posses, in addition to your Form I-94. Current form I-20 also serves as evidence of the legality of your presence in the U.S.
Each school approved by USCIS to educate foreign students must have at least one Designated School Official (DSO) who is responsible for the school’s compliance with the USCIS rules regarding foreign students and foreign applicants. The DSO creates and updates an electronic record for each foreign student in SEVIS. The DSO is involved in enrollment, change of major, change of school, practical training, visa extension, visa reinstatement, school completion, and school withdrawal processes concerning the foreign student. The DSO issues and signs all necessary SEVIS forms including form I-20. Every foreign student interacts with the DSO either directly or through the Admissions of Foreign Students office staff.
Both the tuition costs to study in the USA and living costs vary considerably between different universities/colleges, educations and cities. Tuition is usually between $5,000 and $50,000 per year. Costs for food and living are normally between $5,000 and $11,000 dollars per year. In addition to paying tuition, you need money for travelling, course literature, and personal expenses.
There are three accommodation options for students in the United States:
If you have completed a qualification where English was the primary language of instruction, you may be eligible for an English language exemption. Check our Guide to English Language Requirements (PDF, 123 KB) to find out if you qualify for an exemption
If you fall into one of the following student categories, you are exempt from providing evidence of English language proficiency requirements with your visa application:
Packaging English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) There is no limitation on the maximum duration of ELICOS study that can be undertaken. Genuine students are able to undertake as much ELICOS study as either a standalone course or prior to their principal course, as required.
There are several classes of student visas for Australia - the one you need depends on the type of study (eg: English language course, graduate degree, vocational training,higher education, etc.) you are planning to undertake.
Student visa (subclass 500) If you intend to study in Australia, you will need to apply for the Student visa (subclass 500).You can apply for the following types of study on this visa:
The student visa you need depends on your chosen course of study. As a guide, the typical key requirements you will need to meet are:
As it is a very popular study destination, applying for scholarships in Australia is highly competitive. If you are planning to finance your studies yourself, you should be aware of the costs associated with studying and living in this destination.
As with most other countries, the cost of education in Australia is dependent on the type and duration of your studies.
The list below gives you an indication of the range of course costs for different types of qualifications.
Note: This does not include high value courses such as veterinary and medical. Please visit institution websites directly to see costs for these courses.
The Australian Government and Australian Universities provide a large number of scholarships for international students wanting to study in Australia
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I always had dreamt of studying at the USA, and I got the support and guidance to fulfill my dream at ROYAL. Thank you to the counselors at ROYAL for grooming and preparing me for my student life ahead, at US. My study and stay at University of Bridgeport has been wonderful. Thank you ROYAL once again!