Undergraduate Studies In USA – A Comprehensive Guide

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Must Knows before you embark on your journey towards undergraduate studies in USA?

Pursuing an undergraduate degree abroad is now much easier as compared to just a decade ago. If you begin early and build your profile, you can exponentially increase your chances of making it to a top school. When they begin, most people consider America (USA) as their top choice for bachelor’s studies abroad. This choice is quite understandable. After all, USA has the widest variety of educational institutions and majors. It is also the world’s biggest economy, so top jobs are there for the taking after one graduates. US universities also lead the world when it comes to research, innovation, and curriculum design. Some of the top universities and college even have Nobel Prize winners teaching as professors. With these factors in consideration, the USA often becomes the top destination of choice for college studies.

Undoubtedly the degrees provided by US universities are outstanding and esteemed, they are also worldly renowned and accepted. The range and options of courses & programs provided by the Universities give importance to not just academia, but also to the applicant’s entire profile – high school grades, community service work, personal and group projects, recognitions, leadership opportunities, extracurricular activities, internships and online courses, etc. They help to familiarise students with the current trends and opportunities in technical, modern, research and other fields. The college atmosphere teaches a student to be holistic and an all-rounder.

Undergraduate studies in USA typically involve four-year programs which result in a bachelor’s degree. You can pick either a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science based on your interests and preferences. It is possible to pursue business studies at the undergraduate level as well which will lead to a bachelor’s degree in business.

As a student who is in high school or secondary school, what options do you have?

The scope of undergraduate studies in USA

An undergraduate degree introduces the students to a basic understanding of the subjects. This helps lay the foundation for future studies or the right employment for those who choose to work. While there is a lesser focus on research (which is picked up later in a Master’s program), the curriculum allows you to explore various subjects. If you are undecided about a major or specialization, you can continue to explore the subjects until you are sure of the same.  

There are quite a few students who would like to pursue employment right out of college and picking the right major will most certainly play a part in being successful. For instance, biomedical engineering is a sought-after program and the four-year programs give you what you need to make the right impact in the pharmaceutical industry.

The best colleges in USA

The Times Higher Education World Rankings ranks the top colleges in the USA as follows:

Stanford University: It is hard to ignore Stanford as it is considered the Holy Grail when it comes to programs in Computer Science. Students enrolling here can choose from a wide array of subjects such as Artificial Intelligence, Computer Engineering, Human-Computer Interaction and so on. Located in Silicon Valley, graduates are known to draw salaries close to USD 90,000. Some important facts about Stanford:

  • The average SAT score is 1465 and 8.8% of the class is international
  • The financial cost of attending Stanford is USD 69,109 per annum.
  • As far as subjects go, Stanford ranks #2 in both Computer Science and Information Technology, Engineering and Technology

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): It is hard to think beyond MIT when it comes to STEM. It can give you the perfect head start that you are looking for in this field. It is no wonder that top STEM applicants from across the world prefer MIT as their top choice for college education. Combining rigorous academics with their Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the course sets you up for a master’s or the right employment opportunity. For instance, MIT Game Lab holds a ton of promise for tech enthusiasts where scholars, creators, and technologists come together to develop and use groundbreaking methods to use the latest technology in gaming.

  • Without any aid, the cost of studying here will be $ 67,430 per annum.
  • They are ranked number 1 in numerous Engineering fields such as Aeronautical; Chemical; Civil and Structural; Mechanical, and Electrical. While it may seem unusual (as MIT is known for the STEM specialization), their undergraduate business programs are ranked number 2.
  • The average SAT score is 1540 and the percentage of international students is 10.1%

California Institute of Technology or CalTech:  If research is your goal, then you would most certainly want to pursue Caltech. Caltech’s undergraduate programs in Life Sciences, Biology, Chemistry, and Natural Sciences are ranked quite high. With exceptional faculty and amazing opportunities in various industries, this program may be perfect for you.

  • You will be paying $68,901 per annum if you sign up for one of these programs.
  • Their acceptance rate is currently at 8% and the Average SAT score is 1560.
  • Almost 60% of the students receive some form of aid.

Harvard University: The chemistry and the chemical biology departments at Harvard University have 5 professors who have received a Nobel prize. If you are looking at the faculty and the knowledge they bring, then it cannot get better than this! The labs such as ‘The X-Ray Lab’ and ‘The Imaging and Analysis Facility’ are just a couple of the numerous facilities on campus.  Apart from facilities, those considering employment right after completion will be happy to know that the median starting salary of the alumni is $66,500. The more popular programs at Harvard are – Social sciences, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences

  • With an acceptance rate of 5.2% and an average SAT score of 1530, you will have to work hard to gain entry. But once admitted, you can get the best possible start in your career.
  • The tuition fees are $53,604 per year and about 55% of the full-time students receive some kind of need-based financial aid.

Princeton University: Looking for the ultimate inspiration? How about the fact that Albert Einstein walked the halls of Princeton University and you can do the same? Or that John Nash, the legendary inventor of Game Theory and the subject of the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’ studied, researched, and taught at Princeton too! Are you a whiz with numbers? Well, not everyone has nightmares when you speak of Math! Situated in Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton is a dream college if you would like to major in Math, Humanities, or the physical Sciences.

  • 10.3% of its students come from different parts of the world.
  • It has an acceptance rate of 6.4% and the average SAT score is 1460.
  • It is ranked number 7 in Mathematics and will cost $ 67,100 per year.

Yale: Offering numerous courses in Liberal Arts and Sciences, Yale has a long list of distinguished and famous people in the list of Alumni. Impressive as it may be, what you must consider is the ranking. They are ranked number 3 in the national universities and are well-known as one of the best colleges for Arts and Humanities.

  • The tuition costs are $53,430 per annum. At Yale, almost 50% of full-time students are given some form of need-based aid.
  • 73% of the classes in Yale have fewer than 20 students, meaning the student to faculty ratio is 6:1. Some of the more popular majors in this college are Social Sciences, Engineering, and History

University of Chicago: Located in Hyde Park, Chicago, this college is well-known as the home of Barack Obama. He spent more than a decade here teaching at the Law School. With quite a few “Study Abroad” courses at the undergraduate level, students can have a truly international experience. The faculty to student ratio in the classes is at 5:1. This proves their commitment to closer and more positive interactions between faculty and students.

  • The fees for the courses are just under $55,000.
  • The college has unparalleled resources set in a 217-acre campus and is quite well-known for its law program.

Johns Hopkins University: With the tuition fees at $53,740, studying here can be expensive. However, about 51% of the full-time students receive scholarship or aid of some kind. The most popular undergraduate programs here in this college are Business, Public Health; Economics; Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering, and International relations and affairs. There are about 6000 students enrolled in the undergraduate programs currently. The college offers many opportunities by featuring on-campus organizations and internships in numerous sectors including finance and consulting.

  • This college is ranked number 10 among the national universities and is highly rated as one of the most innovative schools.
  • The most popular specializations in this college are General economics, International Relations and Affairs, and Public Health.
  • The college has quite a competitive process for applications and your acceptance will be based on SAT scores, the supplemental essay, and transcripts.

University of California, Berkeley: Are you looking to kickstart your journey into the business world?  Well, this is definitely the right place for it. There are over 20 Bachelor programs in Berkeley dedicated to business and management. You can choose from certifications to comprehensive programs that can ensure that the stage is set for you as a strong contender in the business world.

  • The overall tuition costs for the undergraduate program are $43,232 per annum. The living expenses are not included in the same. Berkeley does offer financial aid and 46% of the full-time students are eligible for some form of need-based aid.
  • The business program is ranked #2 and Berkeley is ranked #3 among the best undergraduate engineering programs

The application process for undergraduate studies in USA

When to apply – how to plan for college applications abroad

One of the most intimidating aspects of the application process is understanding the timelines and making sure you meet the deadlines. Despite the fact that universities here offer three sessions (Summer, Spring, and Fall), the fall academic sessions are the most popular. Ensuring that you start early means that you will have the time necessary to prepare yourself along with the necessary finances for the start of the program. Since deadlines for the applications vary based on the college and department, you must begin by creating a list of the desired programs and the respective deadlines. Here’s a quick look at how you can plan your applications:

Timeline Tasks
May-June (the year before application) Research options and shortlist colleges
October Take the PSAT if you wish to polish your skills and test preparedness for the SAT
November Plan for SAT subject tests, if required, and plan for taking them.
Feb-June (application year) Take the ACT or the SAT . Take SAT subject tests (if needed). Sound out recommenders.
June – September Work on your essays. Get recommendations done. Prepare applications.

Applications to be sent in (Early Action / Early Decision)
December-Jan Applications to be sent in (Regular Decision)
February and March Responses from colleges begin
April onwards Analyze scholarships, apply for loans if necessary, and prepare finances
May-June Visa Application

Considerations to keep in mind to build your profile and prepare

Navigating the lengthy processes to pursue undergraduate studies in the USA is not easy. However, understanding the process will go a long way in ensuring that you do not miss anything.

  1. Foreign applicants must show proficiency in English by taking TOEFL or IELTS. Apart from this, almost all schools require the SAT or ACT scores. In fact, some top schools may also require a subject SAT. It is best to peruse applications in detail for the same.
  2. Making sure you have a consistent and strong academic score in 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th will improve your chances as some applications and acceptances are done based on these scores as well.
  3. Considering the stiff competition, you must present a well-rounded application that features any extra-curricular activities or other achievements. So, consider displaying examples of leadership skills or intellectual depth rather than just participation as this will help you to stand out.
  4. Apart from the above, letters of recommendation and essays are also typically a part of the application form. These can vary from common essays used across multiple apps (such as those in the Common App or Coalition or ApplyTexas prompts) to several school-specific supplements. This is going to be the most critical part of your overall candidature when you apply, and you should schedule 2-3 months for it at least (see timeline above).

The Visa Process for undergraduate studies in USA

As of 2018, there were about 12 lakh (1.2 million) students pursuing an education in the US. These students are either on an F1, J1 or M1 visa.

The F1 visa allows you to pursue undergraduate studies in USA. The visa is limited only to the college that has confirmed your admission. Any changes will require the submission of additional paperwork. Under this visa, students can stay in the US for up to 12 months after graduation. That is only if they are able to gain employment in the same field (In cases of students pursuing STEM this period can be extended by a further 17 months).

J1 visas are specifically issued where practical training is involved. Such a program needs to be approved by employer, government or one that is part of an exchange program between the countries.

The M1 visa is provided to students signing up for vocational studies. Students coming to the US in this category cannot work during this visa period.

It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark! So, plan ahead and you will find success! Professional help can go a long way in ensuring your success, so check out our services for undergraduate applications here.


Want to check out more on Undergraduate Program?

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