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If you are keen on pursuing a foreign degree after Class XII, here is a walk-through of some important education destinations

A land of opportunities
More than 3,500 US Institutions offer aspirants an amazing range of options

The country’s USP
The United States of Americas is a land of opportunities. One of the advantages of the US higher educational systems is the amazing range of options offered by over 3,500 colleges and universities. These vary with programmes that differ in various ways, the choices of academic and research programmes, types of institutions, size, cost, diversity in student bodies, selectivity, campus ambience to location. US universities boast world-class faculty, quality programmes, latest technology, equipment and cutting-edge research. Moreover, the choice of courses in flexible. According to the US Educational Foundation in India (USEFI), “US institutions are known for their generous award of financial assistance to international students.” Also, institutions provide support systems to these youngsters as each campus hosts an International Students’ Office and a Foreign Student Advisor. Indians are the biggest contingent of foreign students in the US. But lately, due to different causes, there has been a 4.9 per cent slump in 2005-06.

Hot for what?
Engineering, MBA and Computer Science are still the host favorites among Indian students. There is, however, considerable growing interest in Biological Science, Health, Art, Economics, Media and Entertainment studies, Law and Aviation.

Top institutes
1. University of Southern California
2. Purdue University
3. SUNY Buffalo
4. Illinois Institute of Technology
5. University of Texas at Arlington
These lead the list of institutions with about 900 to 1500 Indian students.

Tuition fee
The average tuition fee is US$12,000 (Rs 4,91,341) a year.

Session commences
Entry dates vary from one institution to another and from one department to another. Standard admission is made for the fall session. Which usually starts in August/September. Optional entry can be in January/February (Spring). Occasionally, you may find programmes for which candidates are admitted in the winter quarter (November/December) and in summer (May/June).

Cost of living
The estimated average cost of living is US$8,000 (Rs. 3,27,592). The cost (tuition charges plus living expenses) varies from US$20,000 (Rs 8,18,980) to US$50,000 (Rs 20,47,490) and depends on the type and the location of a college.

Scholarships
Colleges and universities offer fellowships scholarship and tuition fee waivers. USEFI too, grants fellowship. Besides, assistantships and internships are available.
Accommodation
Some colleges are residential especially for the freshman class. IN general, all US institutions offer on-campus as well as off-campus housing.

Part-time jobs
International students, with F1 visas, are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week on campus, for the first nine months. After this period, they may do off campus jobs. During the vacations, they can work as long as 40 hours a week.

Student visa
An F1 student visa is valid till one retains full-time students status. For the fall August the same year.

Job opportunities
The Optional Practical Training enables foreign graduated, on completing their programmer, to work up to a year on an F1 student visa in the US. Institutions generally offer career placement services that include advising, counseling, job fairs, training for interviews and resume building.

How to apply
Send your application along with required additional documents such as academic credentials, writing samples, recommendation letters, professional resume and interest essay to the selected institutions.
Prospective undergraduate (UG) students should apply to 10-15 institutions and Masters aspirants from eight to 10 and doctoral candidates from six to eight.

When to apply
For the Fall 2008 session, apply anytime from November to March 2008.

Deadline
For the Fall semester, application deadline are usually from November of the preceding year to February 1 of the year admission is sought. For spring admission, application deadline range from July to October of the previous calendar year.

Application processing time
Institutions send admission decision from April 1 to June/July.

Application docket
US universities usually provide a checklist of all the documents hat are required with applications. Include a cover nothing detailing what all is enclosed and in what order. IF a specific, necessary document is not attached, explain in the nothing why it is not there and by what date it will be dispatched. Overall, the Statement of Purpose (SOP) or the college essay should tell the admission committee about yourself and hat sets you apart from the rest. Spell out your academic or career goals clearly. Give an objective assessment of your expectations and the institute’s strengths, and say if two complement each other and so on.

Standardised test scores
There are no qualifying tests in the strict sense but general requirements include a Test of English as a Foreign Language (www.toefl.org) score to demonstrate adequate proficiency in English. For UG aspirants, SAT I (Scholastic Aptitude Test: www.sat.org) is more or less mandatory whereas SAT II (subject tests) are required by selective schools and programmes and are also useful while applying for financial aid.
For graduate aspirants in non-professional field, Graduate Record Examinations and A-GRE (subject Tests: www.gre.org), and Graduate Management Admission Test (www.gmat.org) for admission to business schools.

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