The United States is huge. Its size, its culture and its influence in the world are all gigantic. The state of Alaska alone is about the size of Western Europe. It’s also by far the largest Anglophone country in the world. This makes the United States the ideal place to study abroad.
Summarizing the United States can be tricky. From the beating urban hubs of New York, Miami, Boston and Los Angeles, to the vast, wide open plains and peaks of Montana, to the volcanoes and hidden valleys of Hawaii, there’s just so much to see, do and experience. It’s this versatility that makes it the perfect place to study, regardless of what your major is, or your interests are. The diversity of the United States also adds to it. The country has a long history of immigration – and this makes its more than 300 million inhabitants one of the most diverse populations in the world.
The United States is made up of fifty states, plus the District of Columbia. Each state has its own unique character, traits, sights, and sounds to explore.
United States – Quick facts & figures
Capital : Washington DC
Language : English
Population : 328 million
Area Size : 9,833,520 km²
International Students : 1 million
Academic Year : September – June
Currency : US Dollar ($)
Calling Code : +1
Time Zones : GMT-5 – GMT-10
The United States consistently ranks high in the top 10 places to study abroad, especially when it comes to the access to higher quality teaching. The American higher education system also allows you to explore your interests as it lets you earn qualifications through amassing credits from standalone courses, as well as by following set programs. You can do this at some of the best schools in the world, including; MIT, Harvard, Yale, UCLA and Columbia. These are but a handful of the world-leading schools in the United States. The United States is also home to highly-specialized technical schools. For example, you can study arctic science in Alaska, seed agriculture (plant production) in Wyoming or astronautical engineering in Florida. Whatever you’re hoping to get out of your time spent studying abroad, the US is sure to have something to meet your needs and whet your appetite.
Compared to other higher education systems around the world, higher education in the United States is largely independent of government regulation and highly decentralized. This means that students are granted a wide-variety of choice. Pick from public or private universities, universities with small or large population, or religiously affiliated universities. Geographically, universities are just as diverse. Whether you prefer urban, suburban, or rural environments, there’s a perfect location that fits every taste.
American higher education is particularly popular given its strong emphasis on independent research, quality, diversity, and accessibility. Hence, more than 16 million students are enrolled in a university program every year in pursuit of either an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree.
What’s the difference?
An associate degree program is designed for students interested in learning a skill or trade, and typically takes two years to complete. This degree option is ideal for individual’s who want to enter the workforce quickly or are looking to change careers. Associate degrees are usually offered at local community colleges where tuition is cheaper, and access is easier. Bachelor’s degree on the other hand, are offered at nearly every university in the United States and take three to four years to complete. Acceptance into a bachelor’s program is more competitive than an associate’s program and often requires a student demonstrates prior academic achievements including standardized test scores. You need to amass 120 credits through completed courses to be awarded a bachelor’s degree.
Master’s and doctorate degree are the most competitive degrees and require that a student has completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree program prior to applying. The length of study varies but can take anywhere from two to five years to complete. During their studies, master’s and doctorate students often gain practical experience and stipends via teaching opportunities through the university.
Have you considered studying business in the biggest economic engine of the world? Pursuing an MBA in United States will teach you how to work on real-world case studies, test your limits, cooperate with diverse groups and master your interpersonal and business communication skills. If you are ready to become a leader, then MBA studies in the United States is the next move you should make!
No matter where or what you study, degrees in the United States are almost exclusively taught in English, unless you’re studying another language. Therefore, strong English-language skills are highly recommended. If you’re not a native English speaker, you may also be required to prove your proficiency through a standardized test like TOEFL or IELTS. That being said, studying abroad in the United States is a great chance to improve your English skills which will be helpful during your studies and when you’re looking for a job after graduation. As for how you actually study, it is the same as in most countries. It is a mix of lectures, readings and independent study. If you are studying a practical subject, like engineering or microbiology, then you will also spend time in a lab or workshop.
If you want to study in the United States, then you’ll need a visa. The American visa system is strict, so you’ll need to make sure that you have the exact visa for your needs. If you don’t, you won’t be allowed into the country.
However, if you’re a Canadian citizen or are from Bermuda, you can enter the United States to study with only a completed I-20 form and confirmation of enrolment.
There are three different types of study visas: an F visa, an M visa and a B visa.
If you’re studying abroad, you’re most likely to need an F visa.
- F visas cover long and short-term courses, most types of programs and language training programs. F visas are normally valid for the duration of your program. But, once you’ve finished studying, you must leave the United States within sixty days.
- M visas cover vocational training programs – but, importantly, not language programs. These visas also cover non-academic study, for example, an unpaid internship or placement.
- B visas cover short courses. If, for example, you’re heading to the United States to sharpen your English-language skills for two or three weeks, then a B visa might well be the way forward for you.
These three visas all share some common requirements. First and foremost, the school that you’ll be studying at must be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Your school will then need to issue you an I-20 form. The information on this form must exactly match the information on your ID documents. You’ll also need to pay the I-20 fee and present a receipt when applying. Once you have this form, the receipt, proof of enrolment, your passport and two passport-sized photos to hand, you’ll need to fill out the DS-160 application form online. You can do that here. Print the confirmation of completion at the end. You’ll need to bring this along to your visa interview. You can book an interview appointment online at your nearest American embassy or consulate that’s able to process visa applications. Wait times for appointments can sometimes be more than a week, so do bear this in mind.
At the interview appointment, you’ll need to pay the visa processing fee. This varies depending on your citizenship, but it’s generally around the $160 mark. Whether or not a visa is issued to you, you’ll need to make your own arrangements to get your passport back to you. Sometimes, additional documentation, like academic transcripts, will be required. If this is the case, you’ll be told before your interview.
Remember, that you cannot study in the United States in any way, shape or form on a visitor visa or under the Visa Waiver Program.
Housing & Living Costs
The cost of living varies widely across the United States. For example; the cost of living is generally lower in Idaho than in neighboring Washington. Equally, if you study Kansas City, Missouri, the cost of living will be lower than in Oakland, California.
International students in the United States can find themselves in small and large cities. But this section will focus on the cost of living in a major city, Atlanta, Georgia, to allow for budget planning in more expensive places. Do be aware that cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles can have a significantly higher cost of living than elsewhere in the United States.
Some average living costs in Atlanta are:
Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment): $1100 *
Utilities (monthly average): $160 *
Monthly public transport pass: $95
Meal (inexpensive restaurant): $14
Milk (1 liter): $0.80
Vegetables (1kg): $2
Eggs (dozen): $2
Water (1.5 liter): $1.80
Chicken (1kg): $10
Wine (bottle): $15
Bread (loaf): $2.70
* Don’t worry too much about the cost of rent and utilities on that list. Most students in the United States live in dorms. These are known as halls or corridors elsewhere in the world. In the US, it’s common to share a dorm room. This keeps costs a lot lower and generally means that you’ll only have to make one monthly payment for rent and utilities.