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UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION

 

The U.S. Bachelor's Degree

One of the most attractive features of the bachelor's degree program in the United States is that it is highly flexible. You can usually choose from a wide variety of courses and create your own unique program of study. The degree is awarded after you complete a specified number of credits, which are usually completed in four years of full-time study. The first year is called the freshman year; the second is called sophomore; the third, junior; and the fourth, senior. You may read that students in the United States often take longer than four years to complete their degrees. This may be because they change majors and need to accumulate enough credits in the new major field to earn the degree. Or it may be because they take less than a full-time course load per term for academic, personal, or financial reasons. International students, however, cannot study part-time and must maintain full-time status. Courses taken in the first two years are known as lower division courses, and courses taken in the final two years are called upper division courses. College catalogs usually assign a number to a course, which indicates the level of study as follows: 100 – 199 Freshman, 200 – 299 Sophomore, 300 – 399 Junior, 400 – 499 Senior

 

APPLYING TO STUDY
Colleges and universities in the US have their own criteria for admissions. However, most of them usually require the following:
- Application Form/Financial Documents
- Application Fee ($30 - $100 depending on the college/university)
- Official transcripts – grades
- Standardized test scores (iBT TOEFL, SAT I, and some SAT II)
- Academic/ Professional letters of recommendations
- Personal Statement/Essay
- List and description of extracurricular activities you were involved

 

TIMETABLE AND CHECKLIST FOR UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION IN THE US
24 TO 18 MONTHS PRIOR to the academic year in which you hope to enroll, begin to consider, research, and do the following:
• What are your reasons for wanting to study in the United States?
• Which universities will meet your needs?
• Will you need financial assistance?
• Find out application and financial aid deadlines. This will affect when you take the standardized tests required for admission since test results must reach admissions offices no later than these deadlines. The tests should be taken in advance of submitting university application forms.
• Register to take standardized tests if required by the universities to which you are applying.
• Begin narrowing down your choices of schools to approximately 10 to 20 institutions.

12 MONTHS PRIOR to enrollment, complete the following (months indicated are estimates, based on fall enrollment):

 

AUGUST
• Contact universities for application and financial aid forms and catalogs.
• Obtain test registration forms or register on the web to take the TOEFL, and SAT I and SAT II, if necessary.

 

SEPTEMBER – DECEMBER
• Continue narrowing down your choice of schools. While some students apply to more, 5 to 10 well-researched choices are sufficient.
• Request an official transcript from your school.
• Request letters of recommendation from your teachers.
• Submit completed application forms (for admission as well as financial aid).
• Double check that transcripts and references have been sent.
• Take the necessary admissions tests.
 

JANUARY – APRIL
• University application deadlines must be met; note that these are for regular admission — early admission deadlines will be sooner.

 

APRIL – JUNE
• Letters of acceptance or rejection arrive. Decide which university to attend, notify the admissions office of your decision, complete and return any forms they require.
• Send letters of regret to those universities you turn down.
• Organize finances: arrange to transfer funds to a U.S. bank; make sure you have funds for travel and expenses on arrival.
• Finalize arrangements for housing and medical insurance with your university.

 

JUNE – AUGUST
• Use information from your Form I-20 or DS-2019 to fill out the SEVIS Form I-901 and pay the $100 required SEVIS fee
• Upon receipt of your I-20 and SEVIS I-901 payment receipt, apply to your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa. This should be as far in advance of your departure date as possible
• Make travel arrangements.
• Contact the International Student Office at your university with details of your arrival plans, and confirm details of any orientation for new students held by the university.

 

 

 

GRADUATE EDUCATION

 

The two graduate degrees offered in the United States are the master's degree and the doctoral degree; both involve a combination of research and coursework. Graduate education differs from undergraduate education in that it offers a greater depth of training, with increased specialization and intensity of instruction. Study and learning are more self-directed at the graduate level than at the undergraduate level.

 

Graduate courses assume that students are well-prepared in the basic elements of their field of study. Depending on the subject, courses may be quite formal, consisting primarily of lecture presentations by faculty members, or they may be relatively informal, placing emphasis on discussion and exchange of ideas among faculty and students. Seminars involve smaller groups of students than lecture courses, and students may be required to make presentations as well as participate in discussions. Class participation, research papers, and examinations are all important.

Degree requirements are stated in terms of "credits" (sometimes called "units" or "hours"), and each course usually earns three or four credits, generally reflecting the number of hours spent in the classroom and the amount of other work involved. A student will usually accumulate up to 48 credits per academic year if the university operates on a traditional two-semester system.

 

Master's Degrees

The master's degree is designed to provide additional education or training in the student's specialized branch of knowledge, well beyond the level of baccalaureate study. Master's degrees are offered in many different fields, and there are two main types of programs: academic and professional.

Academic Master's: The master of arts (M.A.) and master of science (M.S.) degrees are usually awarded in the traditional arts, sciences, and humanities disciplines. The M.S. is also awarded in technical fields such as engineering and agriculture. Original research, research methodology, and field investigation are emphasized. These programs usually require the completion of between 30 and 60 credit hours and could reasonably be completed in one or two academic years of full-time study. They may lead directly to the doctoral level. (See "Important Difference" below.)

Many master's programs offer a thesis and a non-thesis option. The degree is the same in both cases, but the academic requirements are slightly different. Students in non-thesis programs usually take more coursework in place of researching and writing a thesis, and they take a written comprehensive examination after all coursework is completed. Students in degree programs that include a thesis component generally take a comprehensive examination that is an oral exam covering both coursework and their thesis.

 

Professional Master's: These degree programs are designed to lead the student from the first degree to a particular profession. Professional master's degrees are most often "terminal" master's programs, meaning that they do not lead to doctoral programs. Such master's degrees are often designated by specific descriptive titles, such as master of business administration (M.B.A.), master of social work (M.S.W.), master of education (M.Ed.), or master of fine arts (M.F.A.). Other subjects of professional master's programs include journalism, international relations, architecture, urban planning, public administration (M.P.A.), and public policy (M.P.P.).

Professional master's degrees are oriented more toward direct application of knowledge than toward original research. They are more structured than academic degree programs, and often require that every student take a similar or identical program of study that lasts from one to three years, depending on the institution and the field of study.

Professional degree programs usually require completion of between 36 and 48 units (one to two years of full-time study), and usually do not offer a thesis option. They do not always require that the bachelor's degree be in a specific field, but they may recommend a certain amount of prior study or coursework in the subject area.

 

Doctoral Degrees


The doctoral degree is designed to train research scholars and, in many cases, future college and university faculty members. Receipt of a doctoral degree certifies that the student has demonstrated capacity as a trained research scholar in a specific discipline.

At the doctoral level, the Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) is the most common degree awarded in academic disciplines. Other doctoral degrees are awarded primarily in professional fields, such as education (Ed.D. or doctor of education) and business administration (D.B.A. or doctor of business administration). Doctoral programs involve advanced coursework, seminars, and the writing of a dissertation that describes the student's own original research, completed under the supervision of a faculty adviser.

A comprehensive examination is given, usually after three to five years of study and completion of all coursework, and when the student and adviser agree that the student is ready. This exam is designed to test the student's ability to use knowledge gained through courses and independent study in a creative and original way. Students must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of their chosen field of study. Successful completion of this examination marks the end of the student's coursework and the beginning of concentration on research.

 

The Ph.D. degree is awarded to those students who complete an original piece of significant research, write a dissertation describing that research, and successfully defend their work before a panel of faculty members who specialize in the discipline. This may take an additional two to three years. To earn a doctoral degree, therefore, may take anywhere from five to eight years beyond the bachelor's degree, depending on the field of study.

In the United States, you will find a variety of nontraditional doctoral programs; these programs might have very different types of requirements from the traditional programs. Prospective students should be sure of what is required to enter any program they are considering, and what is required to obtain the degree. This information is usually available from university catalogs and websites or directly from individual departments.

 

 

TIMETABLE AND CHECKLIST FOR GRADUATE EDUCATION IN THE US

 

24 TO 18 MONTHS PRIOR to the academic year in which you hope to enroll, begin to consider, research, and do the following:
• What are your reasons for wanting to study in the United States?
• Which universities offer your subject and specialization?
• Will you need financial assistance?
• Begin narrowing down your choices of schools to approximately 10 to 20 institutions, and make sure they meet your academic, financial, lifestyle, and other needs.
• Find out application deadlines. This will affect when you take the standardized tests required for admission since test results must reach admissions offices
no later than these deadlines. The tests should be taken in advance of submitting university application forms.
• Register to take paper-based GRE Subject Tests if required by the universities to which you are applying.

 

12 MONTHS PRIOR to enrollment, start to complete the following (months indicated are estimates):

 

August
• Continue narrowing down your choice of schools. While some students apply to more, 5 to 10 well-researched choices are sufficient.
• Contact universities for application and financial aid forms and catalogs.
• Register to take the TOEFL and the GRE General Test, GRE Writing Assessment, GMAT, or other admissions tests, as necessary

 

September – December
• Continue narrowing down your choice of schools. While some students apply to more, 5 to 10 well-researched choices are sufficient.
• Request official transcripts from your undergraduate institution.
• Brief your recommenders and request letters of reference from them.
• Draft personal statements or statements of purpose and research proposals, if requested.
• Submit completed application forms (for admission as well as financial aid).
• Double check that transcripts and references have been sent.
• Take the necessary admissions tests.

 

January – March
• University application deadlines must be met.

 

April – June
• Letters of acceptance or rejection arrive. Decide which university to attend, notify the admissions office of your decision, complete and return any forms they require.
• Send letters of regret to those universities you turn down.
• Organize finances (arrange to transfer funds to a U.S. bank; make sure you have funds for travel and expenses on arrival).
• Finalize arrangements for housing and medical insurance with your university.
• Notify any sponsoring organizations of your plans.

 

June – August
• Use information from your Form I-20 or DS-2019 to fill out the SEVIS Form I-901 and pay the $100 required SEVIS fee
• Upon receipt of your I-20 and SEVIS I-901 payment receipt, apply to your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa. This should be as far in advance of your departure date as possible
• Contact your nearest EducationUSA information and advising center to let them know that you have been accepted to a U.S. institution.
• Make travel arrangements, planning to arrive in time for the university's orientation program.
• Contact the International Student Office at your university with details of your arrival plans, and confirm details of any orientation for new students held by the university.
 

 

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