Unlike in most Asian countries, admissions are not rigidly based on cut-off percentages in high school grades. Owing to large population in those countries, Asian students are used to a method of elimination rather than selection whether it be admission into school or being selected for a professional college.

At the same time, it is not necessary that your points on the SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test) or GRE (Graduate Record Examination) alone will get you into an American institution. When we talk about selection we are not referring to a C-grade university where getting in may be quite easy, but about the type of select universities which we have listed at the end of this book, where you can get top quality education along with high possibility of financial aid. In such universities admission is not a cakewalk.

Minimum requirements for undergraduate admissions

Twelve years of education is the minimum requirement for admission to an undergraduate course in the US. So whether it’s a state board or the CBSE, the ICSE or the Singapore Educational Council you’re passing out from, what you need is twelve years of schooling, excluding your nursery and kindergarten years!


On the other hand, there are no minimum marks requirements, nor any specific subject requirements. TOEFL is the only proof you need to show that you know English well enough to cope with the anyway atrocious American accent.

Admission to internationally known institutions is highly competitive. You will need to have excellent academic records and high scores on academic entrance examinations and the TOEFL examination, if you apply to such institutions.

Entry to some fields of study is also highly competitive. To apply for study in these fields, which are also some of the most popular fields that US students pursue, you will need outstanding grades and test scores.

You know, Dustin Hofman once said in a movie, “If you can’t fight ’em join ’em!” And so it almost always happens that Asian students leave their Hindi and Mandarin and Chinese accents and acquire an unavoidable American accent, inviting derisive comments upon return (if ever!) to their home country, like “He sounds like the fellow on VOA”! (Voice of America).


The most highly competitive fields

  • Engineering
  • Pre medicine
  • Computer Science
  • Marine biology
  • Pre-law
  • Architecture

Types of educational institutions

Various undergraduate degree programs generally offered at the following types of colleges.

Associate degree


2-year community colleges or junior college! (Public or private)

2-year program at a 4-year public or private college and universities

Bachelor’s degree

4 years at a liberal arts college for arts, sciences, and social science


4 years (five for some programs) at universities which also have graduate programs?

Two-year public colleges are usually called community colleges. Pre-professional programs include degree programs in fields such as architecture, education, engineering, and business. Universities, on the other hand, are institution that include undergraduate colleges and at list one graduate division; some also have first professional degree programs in fields such medicine and law.

There are about 1,350 community and junior colleges, plus 2,000 colleges and universities in the United States that offer some or all of these degrees.

Community, technical and junior colleges


These colleges offer academic programs which culminate in Associate degrees which are co parable to the first two years of university and can be applied toward a 4-year college degree. In addition, community colleges unique in also offering general education courses, technical education and vocation training courses which prepare students immediate employment upon completion of the course.

Since their goal is to offer education to eve­ryone in a local community, community col­leges usually admit most students who meet basic requirements, offering a wide variety of options at relatively low tuition cost. Most, though not all community colleges, admit for­eign students. Private junior colleges offer similar programs, but may emphasize academic preparation for 4-year colleges over technical studies.

Why many foreign students find two-year colleges attractive

During 1989 to 1990, nearly 50,000 foreign students attended community, technical and junior colleges in the United States. There are several reasons why many foreign students find these colleges an attractive option for the first two years of undergraduate work. The low cost, the faculty’s emphasis on teaching (as opposed to research), and attention to individual learn­ing needs are often cited as advantages.


Many two-year colleges offer a full range of services to foreign students, including English as a second language programs; others do not. Since most students live nearby, community colleges usually do not offer campus housing. Also, not all community colleges are authorized to issue Form 1-20, the document necessary to apply for a student visa.

From a two-year college to a Bachelor’s degree

If you are planning to study beyond the associ­ate degree, you must find out and ensure that your academic credits based on the two-year degree from the community or junior college will transfer toward a bachelor’s degree to the four-year College or university you are consider­ing.

Typically, most community colleges within a particular state have transfer (articulation) agreements with the public colleges and uni­versities within that state. Private colleges and universities might not accept all community college credits for transfer. Before applying to a two-year institution, therefore, check with the registrar’s office at the four-year institution(s) you are interested in attending, if they will honour credit for the particular courses you plan to take at the community college.

Many community colleges have agreements with nearby four-year colleges, or with universities, to insure that appropriate academic credits earned at the community college will be auto­matically accepted for transfer toward a bache­lor’s degree program.

Undergraduate study at four-year colleges and universities

Four-year colleges and universities offer pro­grams that lead to a Bachelor’s degree. The first two years are usually spent studying English, history, science, mathematics, languages, and social science and depending on your chosen field of study. The final two years are devoted to your major field. Five years of undergraduate study may be required for some fields, such as pharmacy or architecture.

There are over 2,000 traditional four-year colleges and universities in the United States, and each has a unique identity. Each college determines its own goals, emphasis and admis­sions standards. Liberal arts colleges, for exam­ple, emphasize excellence in teaching basic subjects such as humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and languages.

Minimum requirements for graduate admission

Graduate minimal require a Bachelor’s degree, which can be completed after at least sixteen years of education.

So, taking the example of India where there is a 10+2+3 year educational system, and where you can get your Bachelor’s degree in Arts or Science after fifteen years of education, you will always be ineligible for a Master’s degree course in the US immediately after such a BA or BSc degree. In such a case you will first have to earn your Master’s degree in India by studying for two more years and only then will you be eli­gible for admission into a graduate program in the United States.

Please also note that you remain ineligible for admission to a Master’s course in the US after completing the first year of an Indian MA though that completes a total of sixteen years of study. Most US universities require that a student must not only complete sixteen years of study but also hold a degree that can normally be earned after at least sixteen years of study.

It is therefore a colossal waste of money and time trying to secure admission to a US uni­versity after completing 3-year BA, BSc. or B.Com, plus your first year of Master’s. Even if you are exceptionally talented and do somehow obtain admission, US consulates are known to refuse visas in such cases.

Bachelor’s degrees that qualify for graduate admissions

Diploma holders such as Chartered Account­ants, though they may have completed only fifteen years of formal study, can directly apply for admission into an MBA or even Ph.D. in accountancy or management.

Holders of AMIE (Associated Member of Institution of Engineers) from India are also eligible for direct admission into American MS and MBA programs even though they may have no formal college attendance whatsoever.

Similarly, students holding a BE, B.Tech or a BSc in Agriculture or Architecture, i.e. students who have spent four years for their Bachelor’s degrees, can directly seek admission into an American college of their choice for an MA, MS or MBA program.

A special note about medical and law study

Medical study at all levels is highly competitive Students in the United States are never admit­ted to medical school, as in many Asian coun­tries, including India. Students first enter pre medical studies and complete a bachelor’s de­gree. Only then can a student apply to media school.

For law, veterinary and dental studies, students also must complete a bachelor’s degree before admission to a first professional degree program.

Law students from other countries rarely study in the United States until they have already become licensed as attorneys in their own countries and then only at the postgraduate level.

Types of graduate degrees

Graduate study follows the completion of undergraduate education at the bachelor’s degree level. Graduate study leads to the master’s and doctoral degrees.

  • A master’s degree in the US generally requires one or two years of full-time study.
  • Doctoral degrees require at least three years of full-time study.

First professional degrees in fields such medicine, law, and dentistry are usually earned after completing the bachelor’s degree.

Unlike other master’s programs, first professional degree programs generally require least three years of study after the bachelor’s degree. Admission to certain programs all degree levels can be very competitive, and some first professional degree programs limit admission to applicants from US colleges only.

Types of Master’s degrees

Most universities award Master of Arts (MA) degrees in arts, sciences and humanities and master of sciences (MS) degrees in applied fields such as engineering. The master of business administration (MBA) equips students with a credential for entry into the business world.

Increasingly, master’s degrees are acquiring new names and initials as more and more pro­fessional fields design master’s degrees as cre­dentials for entry into the field. Please note that such master’s degrees, which include the name of the field of specialization as part of the title, usually lead to eligibility for professional certifi­cation rather than preparation for doctoral study or teaching.

Thus, if you are planning to study toward a Master’s degree, decide whether you want to emphasize professional certification with an applied “terminal” or professional master’s de­gree leading directly to employment in the field, or to prepare for teaching or for doctoral study and research with an academic master’s degree. These distinctions matter, because many master’s degrees cannot be used as the basis for doctoral study.

For instance, a master of business admini­stration (MBA) program designed for immediate employment cannot be applied toward a Ph.D. in business. Before you apply to any MBA program, therefore analyze the programs at the universities you are considering, to make sure that you choose a program that meets your goals and preferences.

As mentioned above master’s degrees may require one to two years of courses (30-60 credit hours) concentrated in the field of study with other courses from closely-related fields. Usually a grade average of “B” must be maintained to receive the degree. Master’s degrees may or may not require a thesis in ad­dition to course work.

Doctoral degrees

Doctoral degrees include, for example, the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in the arts and sciences, and the doctor of education (Ed.D.). Doctoral programs almost always require origi­nal research leading to the defense of a doctoral dissertation. Students may enter some programs with the equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree and take courses for one or two years before beginning dissertation research.

In such a case a student may or may not earn a master’s degree upon completion of course work. Other doc­toral programs begin after the master’s degree with little if any course work required. Some programs require that students pass a compre­hensive oral and/or written examination to at­tain candidacy for the degree.

If you are interested in a research degree, particularly a Ph.D., investigate the definition of your field as it exists in the United States and choose your research emphasis. Rather than specifying your field broadly, for example, “Civil engineering,” define your research inter­ests as clearly as possibly, for example, “dry-land irrigation methods.” Talk to local professionals in your chosen field, especially those who have studied in the United States, and ask about centers of excellence in your particular field of study.

These do not correspond necessarily with various rankings of universities as a whole. If you can, attend a conference in your field or go to the library and scan journals published for your field. Look at the papers in your special­ized field of research to see who is active in your field and to which university they belong. If your application reflects that you have tried to match your interests with those of the de­partment, your chances for acceptance and for departmental funding increase dramatically.

Types of institutions

Graduate degree programs also are offered at several types of higher education institutions. Master’s degrees can be earned at some four year colleges as well as at universities and insti­tutions that offer only graduate study. These programs usually take one or two years of full- time study to complete. Doctoral and first professional degree programs are offered at uni­versities and graduate-only institutions. Doc­toral degrees usually require a minimum of three years beyond the bachelor’s degree. First professional degrees require a total of at least six years, including at least two years of undergraduate study.

There are about 1,100 universities in the United States that offer graduate level programs; 430 of these offer doctoral degrees. As observed earlier in this chapter, educational institutions are usually called universities in the US if they offer graduate study, emphasizing research as well as teaching. Most also offer undergraduate studies. Some have professional schools, such as law or medical schools,

Although graduate students usually take some formal coursework as part of their degree requirements, research is an important part of most graduate programs. Graduate students do independent research in consultation with a supervising professor (often called the “major professor” or thesis adviser) or a committee of professors who help to set up research plans and schedules. Research must be original and creative.

Can i join Master’s after a break?

Unlike in most Asian countries, the idea of working for a couple of years or even more, actually a much accepted and encouraged idea in many American colleges. The practical experience gained along the way will not only enhance the chances of your admission but will also help in boosting your chances for assistantship.

In fact, several schools stipulate work experience before you are fully eligible for a master’s degree in some fields. Your experience in the actual field and evaluation of your employer’s recommendation forms will considerably enhance your chances of success.

“Are correspondence courses recognized?”

Prospective Asian students are often in doubt about their eligibility for further studies based on MA or M.Com degrees they may have ob­tained from a university by distance education or through correspondence. Though it’s sur­prising how little value is accorded to these de­grees in their own home countries, these de­grees, so long as they are awarded by a univer­sity, are perfectly acceptable to the American universities and are treated absolutely at par with the degrees obtained by regular college attendance.

However, diplomas offered by computer training outfits such as NIIT and Aptech and similar educational centers and computer insti­tutes are not recognized by any US college, though Aptech, for example, has a tie-up with Pace University, so it could help in getting some advanced credits in some courses. But these courses do count towards computer liter­acy and will definitely improve your chances of getting financial aid in the form of some on- campus job assistantship.

“What if my parents studied in the US?”

If either of your parents were educated in the US, then most probably the university at which they studied will not only give you ad­mission. Quite easily but will also charge you in-state tuition instead of out-state interna­tional tuition even if you are not an American citizen.

If this is the case for you, in Dakota you will have this concession available in all state-owned universities.

Visitors from America

You will find admission officers of some American universities following the lead of their Australian counterparts in holding free seminars at leading hotels in India, Singapore and Hong Kong to woo gullible prospects. It is essentially a well-planned strategy to lure un­suspecting Asian students to relatively lower- quality and less-preferred colleges which lack funds to even offer the mandatory assistantships which are otherwise claimed by the more in­formed American students as a matter of right.

You would be wise to attend their free semi­nars, enjoy the chocolate pastries they offer to “guests” and listen to their spiel. Though some of it may be useful information, but avoid all these institutions while applying, since these are limited resource universities on their way to building bigger financial resources for them­selves, and no or little financial assistance can be expected from them.