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Last Updated: July 05, 2021

Applying for Higher Studies in the US

Choosing a Course and Destination

For students who are planning to go for higher education, the first step is to decide the location of where they would like to complete their education. The most popular countries that candidates choose when they have international options are the US, UK, Canada, Europe, Australia. While all these places are great for education and living, the admission criteria, the cost of education and the student visa acceptance rate can vary significantly. In order to choose the course that one wants to do, there are also counseling options for higher education that can help students who are especially graduating from their high school and dreams big.

This also stands true for the different kinds of courses that are provided in different parts of the world. Most candidates also choose colleges on the basis of money or ranking according to what they find more important in completing their education. Candidates who wish to travel abroad for their higher education often look at all of these factors before deciding their destination only to find the different hurdles in completing each of these processes.

Acceptance Rate in Universities

The acceptance rate for international students may seem considerably lower to candidates due to the lesser number of seats that are made available to them especially at Ivy League Universities. This increases the competition that they face amongst each other for admission in coveted courses. The acceptance rate in the US for the year 2019 for international students was 45% according to the usnews. This percentage was calculated by considering 120 universities in all and a total of 500 international applications they received in the year.

While the acceptance rate may be considerably low when considering the average, if candidates are to look at the acceptance rates from institution to institution, they will know that some institutions have a far higher acceptance rate than others. This is why it is advisable to search Universities according to the courses they provide and then look at the acceptance rate of each of them.

Cost of Education

The cost of education for different courses varies from country to country, institution to institution and also with the duration the candidate opts for. The cost of attendance and the living expenses of the localities in which the college or university is located also affects the overall expenses the candidate might incur which are subject to variation. Candidates will also have the option of searching for the most affordable universities along with the courses offered by these universities in the countries they want to study in.

There are other forms of funding one’s education in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans that candidates can take. These methods of funding education require a lot of deliberation and research before candidates can apply for them and eventually receive them.

Applying to Colleges/ Universities

Once candidates have confirmed the destination of their study and their field of study, they will have to choose the colleges or universities they would like to apply to and the eligibility requirements for each course. Some colleges or universities will provide the option of Pre-Application where candidates will be able to fill out the academic achievements and their personal details to be reviewed by the admission office. At this phase, candidates will also have to choose the semester for which they want to apply. Universities offer both spring and fall semesters which can be chosen by the candidate according to the time they will require to process all the materials required for admission.

At this stage, candidates will also have to look for the procedures regarding transferring credits from their old courses if they have any. This is not applicable for candidates from a lot of countries but it is advisable for the candidates to enquire about the same along with the policies regarding transfer credit that the colleges they apply to will have.

Documents Required for Application

As is common for college applications throughout the world, applying for colleges in the US requires a few many documents. There are different ways in which each document has to be formatted and compiled. For international students, most of the document submissions will be online along with the separate requirements for obtaining their visa and immigration clearance. Preparing the admission application requires collecting the following documents and following the procedures that have been listed out by the university before submitting the application along with the documents. The main documents that every university or college requires are-


Transcripts/ Marksheets are documents comprising the details of the courses the candidate has completed to date. This will include the duration of their study, the courses they attended, the subjects they took under each course and the respective grades they received in each of the subjects.

It is necessary that candidates evaluate their transcripts by providing them to accredited agencies who will be able to confirm the authenticity of the report submitted and provide a report based on the same for the college/ university the candidate has applied to. Some colleges and universities also have the feature of evaluating the transcripts themselves but this is not the same for the majority of the universities in the US.

Letters of Recommendation

The letters of recommendation have to be obtained from teachers or mentors the candidate has worked closely with or has taught them a core subject in the past. Most universities require a minimum of 3 recommendation letters which has to be in the specific format provided by the university they are applying to. The format for the letter of recommendation will be available on the official website of the college in question. It is important that the letter provided is not informal in nature and has the college/ school header and seal along with the signature of the teacher/ professor/ mentor who is writing the same.

A minimum GPA

The GPA requirements of colleges and universities differ from place to place and according to the course the candidate has applied to. This is also dependent on the ranking of the school and the kind of students the admission officers are looking for. If the candidate is applying to Ivy League universities, it is to be expected that the GPA will be a 3.5 or above out of 4 along with proof of how the candidate excels in every other field necessary. But at the same time, there are colleges that take candidates with a GPA of 2.5 and above for their courses.

It is generally for the professional and competitive courses that the GPA will be the highest. Candidates opting for diploma courses or other courses of a shorter duration will be more flexible in nature. It is important that candidates convert their GPA using a GPA Calculator into the scale used in the US as will be mentioned by their university during the application process. This is to ensure that the candidates who have applied will have fair competition in the application process.

It is also true that the general cut off for undergraduate courses are lesser in comparison to graduate programs due to the lesser number of seats available and the field-specific comparison opted by the admission officers in most colleges. Candidates who have already completed their undergraduate course in their native country are also found to be comparing whether they should do another undergraduate course or a graduate course when moving abroad.

Statement of Purpose

Writing a statement of purpose is a task that the candidate has to undertake themselves. The purpose of writing a statement of purpose is to be able to speak beyond one’s grades and achievements that can be found on documents and explaining to the admission officers why the candidate is apt for the course. Communicating this message can be tricky and requires a decent level of knowledge in English. The readers will also take the statement of purpose as an opportunity to gauge the proficiency of language the candidate has apart from the scores that exams like TOEFL and IELTS might depict.

The format for the statement of purpose can be found on samples that can be found online and differs from course to course and degree to degree. A few tips that candidates can find suitable for their respective field has been listed below-


Candidates are often always required to submit their resume if they are applying for graduate or PhD programs. The resume is quite unlike a statement of purpose and is to be written in a particular format. It is supposed to be a summary of the experiences and achievements of the candidate including the information relating to the projects they have done. Though this is submitted mainly for internships and jobs, it is necessary for the US for candidates applying for courses like postgraduation and above to submit the same. The pointers to write a resume depends upon the field the candidate is applying for. It is mostly business schools and PhD admissions in scientific fields that require resumes compulsorily.


TOEFL or IELTS scores are mandatory for non-native English speakers who wish to come to English-speaking countries as part of their job or education. The proficiency level of language the candidate has plays a huge factor in them receiving the admission they require irrespective of their performance in other factors in the admission application. There are different forms in which candidates can take the test.

TOEFL provides a paper-based test called the TOEFL PBT and a computer-based test called the TOEFL iBT of which the TOEFL iBT even has a home edition allowing students to take the test within their homes. IELTS also provides a computer-based test and a paper-based test which is dependent on the location the candidate wishes to take the examination. The grades required for the proficiency test depends upon the college and will be listed out as part of their requirements.

SAT/ GRE Score

SAT or GRE scores are required mostly by undergraduate programs and colleges will often have a specific score range which will be provided by them or can be calculated according to their cut off from the previous year. The average SAT score and the average GRE score required varies according to institution but is always better to have a higher score since the competition around these two examinations are high.