Want to study in USA? Stop now and read this first

Want to study in USA? Stop now and read this first

About 750,000 foreign students enter the United States of America each year. It is the most preferred destination for students all over the world. While USA does not have the world’s oldest university (that distinction goes to University of Karueein, Morrocco), all of the “Ivy League” universities in the US are over 250 years old. While students’ dream to study in the US has a very long history, their pursuit to get admitted to a US university is often mired with confusion, unfocussed effort, and lack of proper planning, often leading to failure. Here’s how to actually convert your dream into reality.

Each country has a unique national culture that defines that nation, and USA is unique in that it aspires to be the most diverse and foreigner-friendly society in the world. And that in turn shapes the procedures and policies followed by the admission committees of US colleges. Let us look in detail how you can present a convincing application that would give you a very high chance of admission in a US university.




A common mistake that many aspirants make is that they assume that they can study for free in the US. Education is not free anywhere. Someone is paying for cost of teachers, classrooms, laboratories, etc. In Europe, some countries have an education system that is subsidized by the taxes. Citizens pay taxes, which pays for teacher’s salaries, etc. If you are a foreign student in such a welfare country, you must be thankful to its citizens who are paying for your higher education. In USA, most of the subsidized education is typically for American citizens, and foreigners almost never qualify to receive that educational subsidy. Before you begin your GRE/GMAT/TOEFL/SAT study, make sure you know how you are going to pay for the college fees and living expenses. While student loans and family savings are obvious options, if you are a smart and successful student, chances are that you don’t need to take loans and you could study without taking money from your family.


Working at a restaurant


It is illegal to work on a student visa in most countries. You are granted visa to study. If the authorities discover that you are working illegally, you may face deportation and lose all future prospects of coming back to USA. We often get queries “but my cousin is working as a waiter while he is a studying”. That may be true, but if the authorities ever come to know, not only will your cousin face deportation charges, but the restaurant may also face penalties for hiring someone illegal. There are other consequences of doing illegal part time job. For one, you could be paid grossly lower than the market rate. And secondly, your studies and grades will suffer. Most students finish their bachelor’s degree in 4 years and master’s degree within 2 years. If you work illegally, you will not only increase that time but also graduate with poorer grades and ruin your job prospects for the rest of your life. Our advice – do not do anything illegal while studying.




While subsidized education is almost impossible for a foreign student in the US, you can get scholarships and assistantships. But as you would have guessed it, there is heavy competition. Scholarships are only given to the best and the most qualified. One example of a scholarship is Carnegie Fellows Scholarship at Stanford. This scholarship provides a monthly salary of about $3,000 and is open to all nationalities. As a rule of thumb, top universities tend to have more scholarships than lower ranked colleges. So you should check what scholarships you can apply to while you shortlist your universities. Information about scholarship is generally published in the university website.




This is one of the most common ways in which students from all over the world can help fund their education. With an assistant, a student helps the department with some specific academic tasks, which are often related to the student’s area of study. For example, a student could be asked to teach a junior class and help a professor with grading. A professor might need a few students to help with research, or to design and build something that the professor is working on. Assistantships are not automatic. Your admission offer letter will mention if you have received an assistantship. You could also request an assistantship after you have started your study, but only if you put in the effort to find the professors and departments who need them. There are many more assistantships than scholarships, but there is still some competition. The best way to find assistantships is to send your resume/CV to professors related to your area of study and mention how you can help the professor. You should do this months before you have shortlisted the universities you want to apply to.


US Student Visa


Most students assume that they will receive a student visa. This is not necessarily the case. You must make an independent assessment of whether you will get a US student visa. The student visa is granted by the US Government. The Government agency makes an independent assessment of you as a student. There are a number of cases in which students received admission offers but their student visa was denied at the embassy. One of the foremost criteria is money. If you have a scholarship or a guaranteed assistantship, you have a very high probability of getting a visa. If you are paying fees out of pocket, the US Government wants proof that you can really afford to pay all fees. You must present an honest case at the embassy about who is really funding your education. The interviewers at the embassy know how to identify illegal student workers. If they get a hint that you might work illegally at a restaurant, your visa will be denied immediately.


The Application itself


Well, first of all, let us congratulate you. If you have successfully figured out the answers to the questions above, the application process is now a mere formality. Yes, you would have to take some tests. In all likelihood, you would have to take TOEFL and possibly one more test depending on what you wish to study in USA. But, at this stage, the process is fairly simple, and similar across all universities

  • Report your test scores to the university
  • Take two or three letters of recommendation from your academic or work supervisor who can vouch your quality of work or your educational background
  • Write a personal essay where you describe your life and tell the university how unique you are and what new perspective you bring to that university.

A note of caution regarding your personal essay – remember that the admission committee reads thousands of essays each admission session. They have read thousands of stories from all over the world, which includes many stories about how the applicant was the best student in their school or city. So, just being the smartest student in your school does not make you unique. Your essay should be like a Sherlock Holmes novel, be able to grip the attention of the admissions committee from the very first sentence. It should be your own, true story that really makes you unique, a story that will make each admission committee member think, “I really want this person at my university!” This is where the diversity factor comes in. After all, the person who is reading your application form is a human being, and is making a quality judgement of your overall application packet. An excellent test score but a mediocre life story may not grab the attention of the reader, while a mediocre test score but a story that grips the reader like a Sherlock Holmes novel will increase your chances substantially. Don’t even think of outsourcing your essays to a consultant—they simply cannot tell the story of your life.

Do not attempt to begin filling the application form unless you have solved the pieces the puzzle described earlier in this article. If you need more information, there are friends at www.ivyties.com who would happily provide more guidance and share personal stories how they have gone to the US for education.

If you happen to be related to Queen Padmé Amidalaof Nabooor, if you have studied in the Jedi ways, your journey to a university in USA might be different from the one described above. However, for those who do not have the force behind them, the process described above has a fairly good success rate.