Going to the United States for higher studies can be a complicated, unfamiliar and expensive process. There are over 4500 accredited colleges and universities in the U.S. and they vary in terms of quality, competitiveness, size, character, and cost. To help prospective students understand the process of applying more clearly, answers to the most commonly asked questions are outlined below.
How can I go to the U.S. to study?
There are many steps involved in going to the U.S. to study. First, you must have a strong academic background, solid financial support and very good English language skills. If you plan to apply for a Bachelor’s degree program, you must have completed at least 12 years of primary and secondary school or the equivalent of an S.S.C. and H.S.C. in Bangladesh. If you want to apply for a Master’s degree program, you must have had 16 years of education in Bangladesh (the equivalent of the U.S. Bachelor’s degree), i.e. an M.A. degree, a B.Sc. in Engineering or Agricultural Engineering or an M.B.B.S.
Next you must decide which colleges or universities you want to apply to. There are over 4500 accredited colleges and universities in the U.S. Your selection will probably be based on several factors: does the school offer a good degree program in your field, how competitive is it, how much does it cost, does it offer financial aid, how big is the school, where is it located, and is it accredited? EducationUSA @ The American Center has many reference books and university bulletins to help you compare institutions and make the best choices for you.
After you have selected approximately 10-15 institutions that interest you, you should write to each university requesting application forms and more information about admission requirements and the specific program you’re interested in. This process should be started at least one year before you plan to enroll. Most students enter U.S. universities in August/September, but some universities also admit students in January and March.
You will need to register for any examination the college or university requires. All students should take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) depending on institution requirements. Test preparation guides of all the standardized tests are available at the EducationUSA @ The American Center’s Educational Advising Office.
Finally, after you have received information and application forms from the universities, you need to select your most desired schools to officially apply to. Send completed application forms, along with all other required documents, directly to the college or university. Be sure you know each school’s application deadline date. Required documents usually include certified copies of your school transcripts (Certificates and mark sheets), test scores, letters of recommendation, the application fee, and documents showing you have enough money to pay for your education and living expenses. Transcripts should only be certified by the Ministry of Education or the issuing institution where you studied. There is also usually a fee for applying to an institution, whether or not you are accepted or enrolled.
When you have submitted everything the school requires, you will eventually receive a letter from the college or university either accepting or rejecting your application. If you are accepted, the college or university will send you a letter of acceptance and an I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility for Student Status Visa). You must have this form before you can apply for a visa.
What do the terms Undergraduate and Graduate mean?
An undergraduate is someone studying for a U.S. bachelor’s degree at a college or university. A graduate student is someone who is currently studying for a U.S. master’s degree, a Ph.D. or a professional degree in such fields as law, medicine, etc. The term ‘a graduate’ usually means someone who has received a B.A., and M.A. or a doctorate from an American college or university, i.e., “She is a graduate of Harvard University; he is a Stanford graduate”.
How much money do I need to study in the U.S. for one year?
The amount of money you need depends on which college or university you chose to attend. Average tuition fees for one year at most universities are now between U.S. $15,000 and $20,000. Some of the most expensive private colleges and universities cost over $60,000 per year. Be sure your sponsor has enough funds available for at least your tuition and expenses during your first year in the U.S. Your sponsor should also know how he/she will support you for subsequent years of study.
Can I get financial aid from the college or university?
A quality combination of academic grades, standardized test scores, essay, recommendation letters, and extra-curricular activities is needed to obtain a financial aid for undergraduate students. The competition is intense and you must be an outstanding student. Usually only private colleges and universities offer financial aid to undergraduates. Financial aid seldom covers more than tuition, so a student must be prepared to pay his/her living expenses, and other costs including books, miscellaneous fees (U.S. $4000 to $12,000 per year) even if he/she does get a scholarship.
Financial aid for graduate students:
Students studying for a graduate degree (masters, doctorate) have more opportunities for financial aid from both public and private universities. Often the financial aid comes in the form of research or teaching activities. These awards may cover tuition expenses and provide a monthly stipend.
When can I apply for financial aid?
Applications for financial aid should be made to the university at the same time as your application for admission. The deadline for financial aid applications is usually in the month of January or February preceding September admission.
Can I get a job while I'm studying?
No. The terms of your visa do not allow you to work unless you are employed in an on-campus job or in practical training sponsored or approved by the university. On-campus jobs are difficult to obtain and do not provide enough funds to cover tuition or living expenses.
Who can be my financial sponsor?
Most students are sponsored by family members living in Bangladesh or in other countries. A few students are sponsored by family friends or local organizations. Your sponsor must submit financial documentation showing that he/she has sufficient funds to pay for your educational expenses. In addition, your sponsor must state that he/she is willing to support you for your entire course of study.
Can I gain admission to a college or university without the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)?
All students from Bangladesh must take an English proficiency test. Almost all universities require the TOEFL/ IELTS/ PTE for foreign students from countries where the medium of instruction is not English. By preparing for and taking the TOEFL/ IELTS/ PTE, you will know your level of standard spoken English, and also have a chance to improve your English language skills before going to the U.S. Good English is a very important factor in success at an American college or university. In addition to this, it is always recommended to take an Aptitude test (SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT) based on the academic program to get a good scholarship from the institution.
What score do I need on the Standardized Tests to be admitted?
College and universities decide their own requirements for the standardized tests. The required scores for admission or scholarships totally depend on the institution and the program the student is applying in.
What other examinations do I need to take in addition to the English proficiency tests?
Each university or college decides what tests it requires. In addition to the TOEFL/ IELTS/ PTE exam, tests frequently required are:
- SAT I:This test is for undergraduate applicants. It tests general academic aptitude and educational background.
- SAT II:These tests are for undergraduate applicants and cover knowledge in a specific field. They are often required of engineering students, financial aid applicants, and those applying to very competitive schools.
- ACT: This test is for undergraduate applicants. The core components are English, math, reading, science, and writing (optional).
- The Graduate Record Exam (GRE):This test is for graduate applicants. It tests verbal, quantitative and analytical skills. GRE Subject Tests evaluate knowledge in specific fields.
- The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT):This test is usually required for graduate applicants in business administration or management. You must pay all examination fees in advance before the test.
Is it important for the university to be accredited?
Yes, very important. The U.S. government does not accredit or control colleges or universities. Instead, there are six regional accrediting associations which accredit institutions that have met basic standards in their academic programs. There are also professional associations which accredit individual degree programs at a university in fields such as engineering and business administration. These accredited colleges and universities are listed in the book Accredited Institutions of Post-Secondary Education published yearly by the American Council on Education.
Don’t assume the university is accredited, even if it says it is. Check to make sure in this book at EducationUSA @ The American Center. If the institution you choose is not accredited, your degree will not be considered valid and courses that you have taken will not be transferred to accredited universities. Your degree will be worthless. You may also experience difficulty obtaining a visa.
How do I go about getting a visa?
Visa applicants must appear in person at the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka with a completed Non-immigrant Visa Application form.
You will also need evidence that you or your sponsor have the dollar funds available to cover the full cost of tuition and living expenses for one year (listed on the I-20 form). You must also show that you have access to these funds. Keep a photocopy of your I-20 in order to receive a “No Objection Certificate” (N.O.C.) from the bank after you receive a student visa.
If the university is supporting you with a scholarship, fellowship assistantship, loan, or on-campus employment, you will need a letter from the institution indicating the amount and kind of support provided. This must match the information on the I-20 form. If a sponsor outside Bangladesh will pay your expenses, your sponsor will have to provide an affidavit of support and proof that he/she has sufficient funds.
You may apply for visa when all necessary documents are ready. Collect the visa application form from the Consular Office. In the visa application form (item #29) write the entire study period in the U.S. as it is given on the I-20 form. You must pay all visa fees. (See visa application process–non-immigrant visas)
So if I have a passport, an I-20, and funds for one year of study, will I get a visa?
This is not enough. You must also show the Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy that you are a bona fide student with the academic background and knowledge of English necessary to undertake a full course of study at the institution you have chosen.
Finally, you must show the officer that your permanent residence is in Bangladesh and that you intend to return to Bangladesh to live, after you complete your studies in the U.S. You can demonstrate that Bangladesh is your permanent residence by offering such evidence as family, social, professional, financial, or other ties or commitments here which ensure your return.
Isn't it true that even the best students are not given visas because the Consular Officer thinks they will stay in the U.S.?
No. There are many legitimate students who want to study in the United States and plan to return to Bangladesh who obtain a visa without difficulty. The U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section issues hundreds of visas each year to Bangladeshis planning to study in the U.S. However, admission to a university or college does not guarantee you a visa.
Where can I get more information?
Each student’s situation and needs are different. We recommend that if you want to study in the United States, you visit EducationUSA @ The American Center, U.S. Embassy Annex, Progati Sharani, J – Block, Baridhara, Dhaka. The Center can be reached by phone at (2) 5566-2000, ext: 2836, 2848 or email EducationUSA-Bangla@state.gov. There you will find catalogues, guides, test registration information, and advice regarding the application process.