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The US higher education system explained

The US higher education system explained

The US higher education system offers a range of academic programs, a plethora of world-class institutions, unmatched flexibility, diversity in the classroom, access to cutting-edge research and an opportunity to connect with a global professional network.

With over 4,700 accredited higher education institutions, there is a college for every budget and academic interest, thus making the United States the most preferred higher education destination.

This is borne out by the fact that 914,095 international students are currently pursuing an undergraduate (Associate, or Bachelor’s) or a graduate (Master’s or Ph.D.) program in the United States.

Of this, 1,67, 582 students are from India and are pursuing a diverse range of programs and internships at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Here are some unique aspects of US higher education that continue to draw Indian students.

Flexibility: From joining as an ‘undecided major’ (without declaring a field of specialization/program of study), switching majors, to even customizing your major and curriculum according to your academic interests, US universities offer a great degree of flexibility at the undergraduate level. At the graduate level too, students can transfer from one university to another depending on various factors.

Diversity: The most valuable experience that US education offers is the opportunity to study with American students as well as international students from almost every country in the globe. This diverse and wholesome cross-cultural exposure and networking opportunity is invaluable and sets the stage for a global career.

Research focus: US universities provide students cutting-edge learning and research infrastructure, access to top academics and the chance to interact with highly talented research scholars and a competitive peer group.

Practical opportunities: Students can get first-hand experience in their field of study through practical learning opportunities such as internships, workshops, assignments, and community engagement programs.

Covid response: US universities recognize the challenges that the pandemic has posed for students around the world and have updated their admissions policies in many ways making it easier for students from other countries to apply:

Several universities have become test optional (not requiring standardized test scores such as SAT/ACT or GRE/GMAT) and are using a contextual review process that takes into consideration the students’ individual circumstances, their academic, extracurricular and community services achievements, rigour of their school / college curriculum and demonstrated intellectual curiosity.

Many universities are offering application fee waivers to students.

Colleges are offering highly immersive campus tours using virtual reality so that prospective students can visit the campus digitally and learn about campus facilities, academic programs, and admission requirements.

Covid-related essay prompts – Essay prompts in the application allow students to share the unique challenges that they faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how they coped.

Extended deadlines – Since the pandemic hit in 2020, some universities have extended their application deadlines to allow students more time to apply.

More time for document submission – Providing additional time to students to submit transcripts and documents considering school closures in India and postponement and delay in examinations (subjective to universities). Many colleges have also provided additional time for students to accept admission offers.

There is a wealth of free information and guidance available on EducationUSA’s website and social media channels. All you need to do is access these online resources.

Watch out for the next segment of this article which will outline the steps to apply to US universities and colleges.

You can interact with the writer of this article on Friday, November 19, 2021 from 6 pm to 7 pm through a free Manorama Horizon webinar. Register here: https://bit.ly/3o3H70f

(The author is EducationUSA Adviser at the United States-India Educational Foundation and can be contacted on email: chennai@educationusa.org or WhatsApp number: 9500084773.)

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