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Guide to Study in USA for International Students? Part 1 – Planning

Recently one of our readers asked for the complete sequence of steps for studying in USA as an International student. This post is just a check list and each step will be a link to article on how to do effectively do that step in future. Imagine this page as table of contents for a book. It will take time for me write these articles…you have to stay tuned 🙂

I am assuming international students will have 16 years of Education in their home country before they come to USA for education. Please do NOT be scared at the list. It is not as bad as you think. Just trying to put in every detail so that you do NOT miss on anything and be at disadvantage.

Want to Study in USA? Goals?

Imagine you are in the 2nd year of your 4 year degree (typically engineering) and you look at your seniors in final year getting admissions (I20s) to study in US. A spark ignites in your mind that you want to study and live an American Dream! Some of you might have goals to study in US even before entering college. This is the ideal time to start laying strong foundation… “ Rome was not Built in a Day”

If you decide, it is a very risky move to study in US financially or it is not ideal for you and you are not ready. You can stop here and do not worry about below sections. If you have decided to study in US, then read the rest of the article.

First steps for Studying in USA:

Taking the Standardized Tests:

  • Book the Dates for GRE and TOEFL based on your plan
  • Research US Universities of your interest
  • What are your dream schools in US ? Check their Average GRE / TOEFL Scores ?
  • Set targets for GRE and TOEFL Scores.
  • Importance of Leadership and extracurricular activities for USA Application.
  • How to improve your profile by Volunteering, Student Organizations, etc?
  • Preparing for GRE
  • Preparing for TOEFL
    • What is TOEFL ?
    • TOEFL Pattern ?
    • Books for TOEFL ?
    • Should I watch Movies for English listening ?
    • Is TOEFL Easy than GRE ?
    • How to improve your listening skills?
  • Last week preparation for GRE and TOEFL
  • Tips for the exam day of GRE and TOEFL tests.
  • Universities list  for submitting on GRE/ TOEFL day (NOT Final list)

Test Scores and Universities Selection:

Just for sake of clarity and not making this post too long, I am breaking down the article into multiple posts. Check the  Part 2 : Guide to Apply to US schools. Admission and F1 Visa process for International students.

Image Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lumaxart/2137729748/


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  1. i want to pursue my further studies in the field of Master in marketing and advertising.this year i will be completing my graduation in bachelors of commerce,so that completes 15 years of education and as far as USA is concerned they need 16 yrs of education,hence i am not eligible to apply,but i have already given my IELTS exam on august 9,2014 and scored a 6.5 band and if i finish with my GMAT exams by june 2015 and apply for the the fall intake next year with a completed diploma course in advertising and marketing communications by april or may 2016 is it possible for me to start filling out application by august 2015?and a job experience during my graduation years,will that be take into account?
    OR is a 15 years of education enough to apply for colleges aroad?

  2. i am graduation student and i want to go other study for usa
    any idea for go to usa and . two try for consulate in visitor visa but i m fail this visa and i want to go to student visa for usa

  3. I completed my MBA in India .i want to do MS in HR in usa do I need transcripts of under graduation also to apply for colleges…orelse only MBA are fine

  4. Sir iam pursuing b.tech 2nd year EEE and I want to study in usa. the main problem is I am poor. Can you please suggest me a better way to study there.

  5. hi
    i am in 4th yr of my engineering and planning to study in U.S.A. . I know its too late to do so.
    do i have any hope left to pursue my dream ? or should i just the drop the plan ?

  6. I m last yr electronics engineering student gre 321 toefl not yet given upto 3rd yr avg score 63% 10th 94% 12th 86% but want to take gap of one yr and go for ms , is it advisible ? as want to do some courses take some experience pls advice .

  7. Hii sir;
    If i have b.tech percentage with 55% and above can i get visa & admission in US other countries and myself graduation in E.C.E

  8. Hello, I am in 12th class right now. I wanna go abroad for further studies. What are the processes that i have to follow for applying?? Can I apply for all the countries??

  9. Hello, I am in 12th class right now. I wanna go abroad for further studies. What are the processes that i have to follow for applying??

  10. Hi. I’m an undergraduate student of computer engineering. I happened to have an year down in my first year due to the rule of my university for carrying at the most 3 backlogs in second year. I had four backlogs. However, I’ve been scoring excellent after the year down from second year. What are my chances of getting scholarships for masters in USA and UK? Please reply. Thanks.

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  18. my daughter studying in BE 3rd year in osmania university. i would like to send her to go USA for master degree with computer science. now she studying electrical engineering, if she can choose computer science in MS hoe many subjects additionally. please brief all the dougbts about this.

  19. Hello,
    can anyone guide me. I want to study in the US by obtaining a scholarship and want to prepare for it well in advance. I am going to Gr. 9 in Sept 2012. As of now i want to pursue in child speciality or VET. However, i also love business. So far my mind is not yet set. Just want to know what i need to keep in mind while working towards achieving a good scholarship in the US since i am of indian nationality and do not hold US citizenship. Basically i want to spend the minimum from my pocket on my studies in the US. Grateful if you can advise me please. Thank you…Lizi

  20. Hi, i want to ask a common question whether an average (Intellectual) student can pursue MS & get a descent job after completion of MS.

  21. i’m presently in 4-2 .want to go to US for this spring still i have a backlog log in 1 subject of 2-2.by the time i clear my back log and get the result it will be almost july 2nd week and my 4-2 res will cme by augest i heard that for spring applications we need to send our full degree percent so will it be late or will the percentage to send my rechos is enough till 3-2

  22. When applying for a student visa, would I have to apply for one in my home country or the country in which I want to study in or both?

    • Megzz,
      If you are currently out of US, then you need to apply for the F-1 visa at a US consulate in your home country. Or are you already in US?

      • I’m currently in my home country. I’m still in year 11 and I’m planning to study in the US. I’ve chosen which institute I want to attend. But I don’t when or where to register for the GRE test or apply for a student work visa.

        • Megzz,
          I don’t know where to register for GRE. You can search that online, or on this blog. BTW, student visa and work visa are two different things. There is nothing like student work visa.

  23. Hi Guys,

    I did an MCA 2009, Since 2 years I am working in Software Industry. Now, I am planning do MS in US. So, anyone can guide me to do my MS in US. Actually , this is my dream. How can I get the funding ? Can I work pa-rally in any IT industry in US while doing my MS. Could you please suggest me.
    Thanks in Advance…

    Best Regards,

  24. I have a problem whose solution i couldn’t find, so i decided to put on my question.

    I had a backlog in B tech ECE(2004 – 2008), but i was working as a graphic designer from 1 year. I have learned of my own with my interest.. Recently i got married and my husband he got H1B visa in USA and wants to settle there..

    He wants to take me on student visa.. Can i study with backlogs.

    I was interested in designing.. Can I get courses on designing.

  25. Hi sir,
    i am a btech(IT) final year student with 80% marks and I want study ms in us send me abt course what the steps to aply it etc. Plz thnku sir.

  26. I am Ravi finished my B>tech and planning for my MS in US…rather than GRE and TOFEL, is the only exam IELTS enough for entry into US unvs??…if so suggest me the best universities that offer intake on IELTS score.

  27. Hello kumar,

    I am B.Tech final year student with CGPA- 9.2. In GATE-2010, I got 98% but didn’t give this time as I got more fascinated towards MS course in US. I am having solid research background during UG programme with 3 articles accepted in IET/IEEE communication journals. I am opting for a year drop and planning to take admission in fall-2012 for MS.

    So my questions are …
    A)) If I write to the university by just stating that I want to do MS, so will I be granted monetary benefits to pay off my tuition fee and stipend by considering my resume…despite of the fact that I haven’t mentioned about my further interest in doing Ph.D or not?
    B)) Do I have to specifically mention about doing Ph.D for getting stipend + tution fee waiver?
    C)) Will I be released from monetary benefits …. if later during my MS course, I decide not to go for Ph.D?

    Kindly guide me through these questions.
    Thanking you in anticipation.

    • Amar, I wish I could reply early. Here are my thoughts
      A. No. It does not work like that. You need to find a fit for your research with right professor to get funding.

      B. No, if you get Ph.D admission, most of the times they offer full funding with stipend.

      C. Well, you are not bound by anything. But, school spends so much stipend on you so that you do Ph.D, it should not go vain…Consider from school perspective…

      Hope it helps, feel free to ask any questions.

  28. i am in the BE cse,registered for gre on 29 july.I have year down due to accident.I want to ask u is there is any criteria such that “no yaer down is allowed”.pls tell me.And which book should I use for qunt.

  29. hi kumar,
    thanks for your reply,
    (toefl four free university)
    but i did not get any application from the university
    is there any process to apply to the university for these four university

  30. i’m going to give GRE in feb 13th and i’m in 3rd year. I’m having 85% and 5 paper presentation.

    Please answer for my question.
    Can i submit my application now itself( in 3rd year) . Can i get any advantage if i send it now?

    Waiting for your reply..

        • Mahesh, I dont think you will get any advantage if you do now. They wont even look at it…as long as you send before deadlines, you must be fine.

          • but some one told me that if i send the application as earlier. The university person has very good time to see whole of my profile. That is he will go through profile carefully.

            But if it is in deadline they don’t have chance know, because they have many students applying for the admission..

  31. hai i got a score of 1180 in gre
    and expecting a 90 in toefl
    and i agregate is 73% in btech and 10th 72%
    and intermediat 84%
    i am prepareing my sop’s and recomensation letters and what next?
    how should i apply for colleges in us??
    and waht should i do next ????

    • Nikhil, you sort out the schools you plan to attend by doing some research, then apply online and post applications to the respective schools. I am just giving a generic outline 🙂 I will try to write an article with step by step sequence.

  32. Hello kumar,
    can i get admission into a descent university with the
    fallowing profile…
    Myself Rajkumar,
    These are the my credentials….
    —For Jan intake
    —My background is Computer science.
    —No work experience.
    —I did my project in my college based on computer networking.
    —I had scored a 55% aggregate in my under graduation and i had 30 backlogs which i had cleared.
    —If i am eligible kindly tell me the tuition fees.
    —and what are the chances of visa acceptance is it depends on the academics or the answers which i give at the counselor.
    ——–please suggest me…………
    Thanking you.

    • Rajkumar, depends on how you define a decent school….I think you may be running late for Spring. Before you start to apply, What is your goal for MS ? Just study in US or Job or higher goals ? I think you need better scores for admission to good school. Browse the articles in section Decide MS or MBA to get some idea on goals and other info.

      • Thank you kumar for your kind reply,still with profile i had some good universities,actually the main thing is getting visa,after getting visa once we entered in USA then or after completion of first semester with the good score then we can change the university and also we will have chance to get an admission from good university,what do you say……

  33. hi
    i compleated my B.E in CSE this year with 61.22% aggregate.
    (my 10th percentage is 75.04 % and in 10+2 i have 59.33%)
    over all CGPA 6.5

    please answer few of my questions.

    1. Am i eligible for applying MS in USA.
    2. Is writing GRE enough to get through.
    3. What should be the ideal score in GRE to get through

  34. Hi brother,
    I am doing my graduation and i am planing to study in us.
    But,i have deep confusion on how much it expenses for the completion of masters degree.
    It means total fee strucure and leaving.

    • Well, for most of the schools, you need 16 years of education from your home country. Having said that, there are some schools that may accept 15 years of education. The trick is to convince the school that your 3 year BCA is equivalent to 4 year bachelors degree in US.

      • How do we convince the school?
        Do we talk to the Admissions office? Or send them the syllabus? Or get it evaluated by WES or similar agency?

        What if a person failed couple of course in the last year of a 3 year BCA program due to which he/she got the degree a year later. So, technically, can it become a 4 year degree. I know, the question sounds lame! 😛 But can it be well worth a try? I guess!

        Thanks for ur advice! 🙂

  35. i have completed my engineering this year with 60%. I am very much confused as to what i have to do next. i have given gre with a score of 1020 . will shortly write toefl. but im still not sure if i should take up MS in USA or do MBA in india. i have SC reservation,so that should be of great help in CAT. and i am very good at math and english. please help

  36. hiii i completed my btch with 71% backlogs(10), gre score 1010 toefl exam is on july24 expecting 85+ i want to apply for spring is there chance of getting funding… iam a graduate in mechanical engineering

    • Well, it is very hard to say about funding just with score and acads…There are lot of factors that play into picture…

  37. Would taking IELTS obviate the need of taking TOEFL?
    Because, If I take IELTS, I can apply to Canadian Universities too.


    • Aman, It totally depends on the school. In general, for most of the schools in USA, TOEFL is mandatory. I can see where you are coming from trying to avoid a test…but, my personal opinion, I would not recommend a school that do not even require TOEFL….For most of the decent schools, GRE and TOEFL both are mandatory for graduate programs.

  38. This plan is typically for people aspiring to pursue MS in USA , but not for MBA. A similar article for MBA aspirants will also be much appreciated.

    • Subhadeep, It depends on how you look at it….There are some tweaks that can be done to suit MBA…but in general this is a guide for Studying Masters in USA as an international student. I will write a plan for MBA as well including work experience and other things in future.


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