The Stencil Consulting Knowledge Centre covers Admissions process and updates from all universities in the US. Here we have compiled articles, admission calendars and a whole host of information to keep you updated on the latest from the Universities.

Why Study in the US

In the 20th and 21st centuries the US has become the magnet for hundreds of thousands of bright, ambitious students around the world. The US is the preferred destination for Indian students because US higher educational institutions offer: academic excellence, cutting-edge technology, extensive support services for international students, generous funding opportunities, wide variety of educational options, flexible curricula and hands-on training (OPT and CPT).
In 2012, 764,495 students from almost every country around the world studied at higher educational institutions in the US. In the same year, over 100,200 students from India, which is over 13% of all international students, studied on American campuses.
If you are interested in studying in the US, we can help! Stencil centers are the source of information on higher education opportunities in the US. Educational advisers trained by the US Department of State are available to guide you through the process of applying to colleges and universities in the US.
How We Can Help You:

  • Read our website for extensive information on undergraduate and graduate studies, as well as short-term and post-doctoral options in the US
  • Visit our offices (Bangalore, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Chennai) to receive personalized advising services for a nominal membership fee
  • Use our libraries and computers to explore opportunities for study in the US and prepare for standardized tests
  • Receive advice over the phone about US study from our  Advising Help Desk +91 80 23462342/43
  • Attend specialized presentations on a variety of topics and meet US university representatives
  • Receive weekly emails about scholarship opportunities
  • Become a fan of our Facebook pages
  • Get your original student mark-sheets and certificates attested for a reasonable fee
  • Receive unbiased advice about the US visa process from a US Embassy Consular officer at our visa counseling sessions
  • Learn how to adjust to US academic life at our annual pre-departure orientation

How We Help US Higher Educational Institutions:

  • Provide a briefing on Indian educational policies and student trends
  • Connect with Indian schools and higher education institutions
  • Promote your institutions to prospective Indian students by organizing presentations at STENCIL
  • Connect with Indian students through digital video conferences or webinar series
  • Display promotional materials at our offices
  • Respond to emails with questions about Indian educational credentials
  • Encourage participation in our US university fairs
  • Provide STENCIL Institutional Memberships with additional benefits

How we Help Faculty and Teachers:

  • Conduct specialized sessions on the US application process
  • Conduct sessions on writing letters of recommendation
  • Conduct information sessions and/or mini-educational fairs at your schools

Our offices in Bangalore, Mumbai, Ahmadabad and Chennai too are open on Monday through Saturday.

For any query on US higher education, call us on our +91 80 23462342/43 anytime between 10AM – 8PM (Mon-Sat)

Getting Started

Many students (and parents) find themselves overwhelmed at the idea of applying to study in the US. The number of tasks to juggle can seem daunting – application timelines, standardized tests, choosing universities, obtaining letters of recommendation, applying for a student visa etc. and can cause even the bravest students to wonder whether they can manage it. Indian students must also balance the usual grind of high school assignments, board exams, and other work.
Don’t panic! We are here to help. Students living in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai, or Mumbai can start by attending a basic information session at a STENCIL office in India. Students living in other cities can attend an online webinar or call our STENCIL Advising Help Desk. And there is more than enough information and advice on our website.
Proper planning and timely execution is the key to managing the application process and achieving optimal results. Attending specialized sessions conducted by STENCIL can help clarify many issues. Attending the STENCIL FAIR and interacting with US university representatives enhances your understanding of different universities and their unique offerings.
Drawing up a practical timeline is essential to ensuring that you set deadlines and prioritize your work.


Application Timelines

Under ideal conditions, the process of applying for undergraduate study in the US will begin 1-1½ years before enrolment. For most students, this is during the winter of Grade 11.
Do not panic you if are entering Grade 12 and just getting started on this process. You will simply need to use your time more efficiently and work at a faster pace!
Please note there is a separate timeline for applying for sports scholarships through the athletic recruiting process. For more information, please CALL the STENCIL helplines on +91 80 23462342/43
1½ Years before Enrolment (Winter of Grade 11)

  • Begin by reading thissection of this website or the STENCIL centers
  • Check out the Why Study in the US section and make sure that study in the US is right for you.
  • Decide whether you want to do a four-year Bachelor’s degree or a 2+2 program (two years at a community college followed by two years at a 4-year institution)
  • Start researching and choose the 8-12 universities that you will apply to.
  • Learn about options to fund your studies, as well as the application process for US universities – Many students will choose universities based on availability of scholarships, cost of attendance and application components.
  • Attend a basic information session where STENCIL advisers  cover everything you need to know to apply for US universities – the application process, admissions exams, choosing the right institution and funding opportunities.
  • May 2013 – Registration opens for the SAT dates during the 2013-14 academic year
  • Early July 2013 – Registration opens for the ACT dates during the 2013-14 academic year

10-12 Months before Enrolment

  • If you have not done so already, register for and take the standardized test, such as the SAT or the ACT.
  • Attend a Basic Information Session at an STENCIL center if you have not already done so.
  • Narrow your choices to the 8-12 universities which you will apply to.
  • Contact your teachers for 2-3 reference letters.
  • Begin drafting your essays.
  • Alongside your admissions applications, plan for your expenses.
  • Mid-October/early November – Application deadlines for Early Decision (legally binding) and Early Action deadlines.
  • December/January – Regular application deadlines.

Lead up to Enrolment (Spring/Summer of Grade 12)

  • From March: Receive admissions and university funding decisions by post or e-mail.
  • Evaluate all your admission offers and decide which university you want to attend. Seek the advice of an  STENCIL adviser if you can.
  • Spring: Gather paperwork for your I-20 (F-1 Student visa)
  • Attend a Pre-Departure orientation conducted by the STENCIL center closest to you, or failing that, read the Tips Before You Go to the US section of our website to prepare for your arrival in the US.
  • Typically by May 1, notify the universities of your decision and pay a non-refundable deposit to hold your place.
  • After accepting your place, submit your paperwork for the I-20 or DS-2019 and apply for your US student visa
  • Summer: Complete your visa interview at the US Embassy at the consulate closest to you.
  • Mid-August/early September: Attend new student and international student orientations before classes begin.
  • Travel to the US and embark on the greatest adventure of your life!

Standardized Tests

Most colleges and universities in the US require scores from one or more standardized admission tests. Standardized tests are one way in which US universities will assess your academic potential, in tandem with your academic results reported on your transcript. These tests serve as a common denominator to help US admission staff compare US students and international students from different educational systems.
Admissions tests will be considered in determining both admissions and merit-based scholarships from the university. However, good scores are not sufficient to guarantee admission and are ideally paired with good marks. Students should visit individual college websites for information on admission requirements.
English Proficiency Exams

International students whose native language is not English may be required to take a test to establish their English language proficiency. Students should visit individual college websites for more information. Options include:

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
  • PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English Academic)


US universities may require students to take either the SAT Reasoning Test OR ACT. The most competitive US universities may require students to take the SAT Reasoning Test and 2-3 SAT Subject Exams OR the ACT with Writing. Some US universities do not require any admissions tests.
If the US universities to which you apply accept both the SAT and ACT, it is a personal choice as to which to take. Choose the test that you will do best on.
AP Exams

Advanced Placement Exams are college-level undergraduate exams that test an applicant’s knowledge of a particular subject. Participating US colleges and universities may grant college credit to Indian students who score well on these exams. USIEF administers the AP Exams in May.

The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is a standardized test that provides an opportunity for international students to practice taking the SAT. The PSAT is administered by USIEF.
Please check the websites of individual universities to learn which tests are required for admission. It is important that you begin test preparation well in advance. An examination fee needs to be paid to take each of these tests. Check the websites of the admission tests for detailed information.


Shortlisting Universities

Students are often confounded when they realize the enormous choice they have when choosing an undergraduate degree program in the US. It is virtually impossible to thoroughly research all of the 4500+ higher education institutions in the US that offer undergraduate programs.
Some of the factors to consider when choosing a program are listed below. Discuss these with your parents, teacher or other trusted well wishers. To help guide this conversation, download this handout on choosing universities in the USA.
After you set your priorities, use a university search engine (list below) to college guide to narrow your search to 15-20 universities meeting your criteria. The most up-to-date information about a university will be on its website. We suggest you do a thorough review of the universities’ websites. Begin with the international admissions page for information on their selection criteria, application process, deadlines and ively. Read the financial aid page for information on costs and funding options. The student services pages will provide you with information about campus life and activities. If you know your intended major, you may also wish to check out the department website as well.


Factors to Consider

Students and parents should discuss their expectations and goals for university study, as well as priorities for ing a university, before beginning to use university search engines.
After ing the type of university and degree, there are many other factors to consider including majors on offer location and campus setting/size campus life competitiveness of admission cost of attendance and funding and accreditation and reputation. How you prioritize these factors is an important decision. We suggest students and parents carefully consider which factors are their top priorities and then begin their search.
Majors on Offer

Although you do not have to decide your major at the time of application, you will want to make sure the university offers degrees in your areas of interest.  You may wish to consult the advice offered by STENCIL at their centers.

Location and Campus Setting/Size

The US spans over six time zones, offering a wide range of geographic and cultural diversity, climates and ways of life. It is important to take into account the location of a university, since this is where you will be living for the next four years.
Generally speaking, the East and West Coasts of the US may seem the most familiar (socially and culturally). In terms of the weather, expect hot and humid summers with mild winters in the South, but mild summers and cold winters in the Northeast. The South and Midwest are known for their more laidback lifestyle, friendly atmosphere and lower cost of living than the Northeast and West Coast. The West Coast is famous for its carefree and more liberal lifestyle. The region also generally boasts nice weather and beautiful outdoor scenery.
You will also want to consider the campus setting (urban, suburban or rural) and size, some universities are as small as 1,000 students and some are larger than 30,000.

Campus Life

Each university has its own distinct atmosphere. It is important to choose the place that is the best fit for you. You may want to consider what type of experience you are looking for – an academically rigorous experience in which you are constantly challenged and kept on your toes or more of a balance between your academic demands and extracurricular interests. You will also want to make sure the universities you have your desired organizations, clubs, athletics, community service opportunities and facilities.
International students also have the option of attending a specialized institution, such as a women’s college, historically black college or university, performing arts college, or technical institution. If you are interested in attending a women’s college, download our handout on Women’s Colleges in the US.

Competitiveness of Admission

Please keep the minimum admissions criteria in mind while shortlisting universities.
Some of the top-tier US universities have an admission rate of less than 10%. To help ensure you receive several admissions offers from which to choose, you should a well-rounded list of universities. We recommend applying to a maximum of 2-3 highly-competitive universities and pairing these selections with 2-3 universities at which you fall on the upper end of the average SAT scores and Grade Point Averages of last year’s admitted students. This information is usually published on the university website.
If you require university funding in order to be able to attend university in the US, you will want to read the section below. Merit-based funding will be reserved for top applicants and so consider applying to 1-2 highly-competitive universities and pairing these selections with 3-4 universities at which you fall on the upper end of the average SAT scores and GPAs of last year’s admitted students.

Costs and Availability of Funding

Tuition and fees rates can vary significantly from university to university. The cost of living can vary drastically as well, by location. For more information on funding options and expenses, please see the paying for US education section. If college affordability is a key consideration for your university selections, you may wish to try some of these strategies for choosing universities:

  • Consider public universities to minimize the initial tuition and fees rates charged
  • Choose universities at which there is a lower cost of living, such as universities in suburban or rural areas or in the South and Midwest
  • Choose universities that offer significant need-based financial aid. For information on universities that offer full or partial scholarships to international students, contact the  STENCIL offices at USIEF.
  • Choose universities that offer scholarships for Indian/international students. You can find a list of the universities that offer this type of scholarship in the handout on university funding for undergraduate study Scholarships announcements are also available at the STENCIL centers.
  • Choose universities at which you will be a top student: If you think you would be eligible for academic merit scholarships, you will want to make sure you apply to universities where you are well above the average SAT and marks of admitted students, since funding is often reserved for top students.
  • Attend a community college. Community colleges prepare students to pursue a Bachelor’s degree and community college graduates can easily transfer to a four-year university after completing two years of study in a two-plus-two arrangement. Community colleges are often a low-cost option and have less competitive admission requirements than a four year university.

Accreditation and Reputation

“Keep an open mind about all US schools. While statistics and reputations of different institutions are important, nothing is more valuable than the instinctive feeling about a university.” – Colette, University of Virginia
Indian students should make sure that universities that they are shortlisting are accredited by a CHEA-recognized accrediting body and/or are listed in the Council for Higher Education Accreditation database and/or the US Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Programs and Institutions.
As you conduct your search, keep in mind that there is no centralized, authoritative ranking system of US universities. Unofficial rankings, such as US News and World Report and Princeton Review’s rankings, will give you a general idea of the academic reputation and relative prestige of a university. However, it is important to realize that a top 20, or even top 100, list of universities covers only a small percentage of the universities available. You should read the fine print on how rankings are determined. Rankings are not always based upon factors that could impact you most, such as class size, teaching quality, student advising, faculty access and opportunities for research, internships and campus activities.
Resources to Research and Choose Universities
You may wish to use the university search engines on any of the following websites:

The STENCIL maintain libraries with comprehensive references on applying to US colleges and universities, including print university directories. The STENCIL fairs offer an opportunity to meet with US university representatives in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmadabad  and Delhi while you finalize your university selections.

Applying to US universities

Applying to US colleges and universities is a very different process than applying to Indian universities. Most applications are online and students have a fairly wide window of time during which to complete their applications. Take your time in understanding the applications requirements before starting the process of applying to US colleges and universities.
The main costs during the application process are: standardized tests, application fees (range from $30 to $100 per university), and postage/courier expenses.
Students applying to US undergraduate must submit their applications directly to individual universities. Use of the Common Application, an undergraduate admissions application used by approximately 450 universities, can streamline the process since the member institutions all use the same core application. However, most institutions will request supplemental essays tailored to their university.
Examples of other common applications are:

  • The University of California application for admission to its various campuses.
  • The University of Texas application for admission to its various campuses

Each university will set their own application deadlines and fees, as well as admissions requirements. Fortunately, most application forms follow a similar format that allows you to reuse or adapt some of your application materials.
A difference between the US and other countries is that you are applying for admissions to the institution rather than to a specific department within a university. The undergraduate admissions office, rather than faculty members of academic departments, will likely be responsible for admissions decisions. It is crucial that you keep this audience in mind when drafting your application materials. The following requirements are common to most US colleges and universities:

  • Electronic application – this can be from 2 to 8 pages, and seeks information about the student from biodata to family information
  • Test scores – SAT General, SAT Subject, TOEFL, and AP
  • High School information
  • Application Essays
  • Teacher Recommendations
  • Application fee
  • Interview – required by some competitive universities


Paying for US Education

For most students and their families, the cost of paying for a US degree is the most important factor in the US university admissions process.
Students and their families should not make the mistake of applying for admission first and then scrambling to find enough money later! To avoid the disappointment of gaining admission but not having sufficient funding to take up your place, consider funding as you choose a university and explore funding options as you complete your applications. An understanding of the finances required for applying for admission, as well as for every year of study is essential. As the cost of higher education increases everywhere, it is important for parents and students to know what costs to expect and to develop a plan to cover these. Finding funding for undergraduate study in the US is a challenge for both American and international students alike. The key is starting early choosing universities appropriately and putting in the necessary time and effort to seek out and apply for scholarships. Also keep in mind you will need to demonstrate access to funding for the first year of study in order to apply for a visa.
Tuition and fees rates can vary significantly from university to university. The cost of living can vary drastically as well, by location. Annual undergraduate tuition costs at US schools range from $3,000 to $40,000. Annual living expenses depend on local conditions and range from $7,000 to $24,000.
Generally speaking, there are four types of funding for study in the US:

  • Personal/family savings – no matter how large or small! Even if you receive a scholarship from a US university, you may still have to pay for your visa or airfare..
  • Loans from a US or Indian lender
  • Scholarships from US universities
  • Scholarships from external funding bodies (i.e. Rotary, Tata Group, etc)
  • Sports scholarships

The good news is that every year international students receive significant amounts of financial assistance toward their studies in the US.  The most recent report produced by NAFSA: The Association of International Educators estimates that $7.223 billion was received by a large percentage of the over 690,000 international students studying in the US in 2009-10.
If college affordability is a key consideration for your university selections, you may wish to try some of these strategies for choosing universities:

  • Consider public universities to minimize the initial tuition and fees rates charged
  • Choose universities at which there is a lower cost of living, such as universities in suburban or rural areas or in the South and Midwest
  • Choose universities that offer significant need-based financial aid: Many US universities offer financial aid based upon need, as well as merit. Keep in mind the universities that offer need-based scholarships to international students are usually very competitive. For information on universities that offer full or partial scholarships to international students, contact the STENCIL CENTERS
  • Choose universities that offer scholarships for Indian/international students: Some universities will offer scholarships specifically for Indian and/or international students. You can find a list of the universities that offer this type of scholarship in the handout on university funding for undergraduate study. Scholarships announcements are also available from the  STENCIL Facebook page.
  • Choose universities at which you will be a top student: If you think you would be eligible for academic merit scholarships, you will want to make sure you apply to universities where you are well above the average SAT and marks of admitted students, since funding is often reserved for top students.
  • Attend a community college. Community colleges prepare students to pursue a Bachelor’s degree and community college graduates can easily transfer to a four-year university after completing two years of study in a two-plus-two arrangement. Community colleges are often a low-cost option and have less competitive admission requirements than a four year university.

Transferring to a US university

It is possible to transfer from an Indian university to a US university, as well as between US institutions, without losing all of your previous academic credit or starting over. The flexibility of the credit system at US universities allows coursework completed at one institution to be recognized by another, provided certain criteria are met. Over one million students every year, including international students enrolled at a non-US institution, transfer to a new US university each year.


In general, the recommended timeline for transfer applicants mirrors that of prospective first-year students. Prospective transfer students should begin the application process at least 12 months before the date they wish to enroll at the new institution.
One notable difference in the transfer application timeline is that application deadlines will be different than the typical deadlines for first-year (freshman) applications. Transfer applicants applying for autumn entry will submit their application materials in early spring (typically February or March) and those applying for spring entry will apply by early autumn (typically October). Alternatively, some institutions may have no deadline, but rather “priority dates” for which you should aim. It is very important that students contact the individual universities to which they will apply for further information.

Application Process

The transfer application process differs slightly from that of first year applicants. In addition to the typical application requirements, such as the application fee, transcript and letters of reference, transfer students may be asked to submit a transfer application form and/or supplemental information.
In addition to the standard admissions essays, transfer students are usually required to write a personal statement outlining their reasons for wishing to transfer. This additional essay should not be a negative statement about your current institution, but instead detail why the university to which you wish to transfer will be better suited to your academic needs.
Most transfer students will not be required to sit an admissions exam. However, we recommend you check with the institutions to which you are planning to apply to confirm.

Admissions Criteria

The majority of US universities and colleges prefer students to have completed a minimum of one year of study before they enroll as a transfer student at their institution; however, this requirement varies from university to university. Most universities have a two-year residency requirement prior to graduation. This means that a student must spend at least two years studying at their new institution in order to graduate and be awarded a degree from that university. Most transfer students are in their sophomore or junior (second or third) year when they arrive at the new university.
Beyond meeting the basic university entrance criteria, transfer applicants are expected to have performed well at their current college. It is important to note that transferring is not an easy way to gain entry into the more selective universities; in fact, many of the more competitive colleges have even more demanding admissions standards for transfer students than for first year applicants.

For any query on US higher education, call us on our STENCIL hotline +91 80 23462342/43 (Monday-Saturday 10AM-8PM)

Student Visas

Generally speaking, the process for Indian citizens to apply for a visa to study in the US is straightforward. Make sure that the application is completed in a timely and accurate manner. The US Department of State and US Embassy offices welcome visa applications from international students. The US Department of State issued 715,093 student, exchange, and vocational visas in the fiscal year 2010 and the worldwide application acceptance rate was over 86%.


Types of Visas for US Study

The two most common visas for US study are the F-1 Student Visa and J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. Please note you will not have to choose which visa to apply for. Your university or sponsoring organization will determine your visa type.
F-1 Student Visa: Most students pursuing full-time study at an educational institution recognized by the US government will enter the US on an F-1 Student Visa. Spouses or children accompanying F-1 visa recipients will travel on an F-2 visa. Please note that spouses are not able to work but may accompany and/or apply for their own visa to the US to work or study.
J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa: The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is for students, visiting scholars or lecturers pursuing an exchange program. For example, Fulbright scholars and many students on short-term study abroad programs from Indian universities will travel to the US on a J-1 visa. Spouses or children accompanying J-1 visa recipients will travel on a J-2 visa. Please note that spouses are able to work when permission is obtained in advance.
General Steps to Apply for an F-1 or J-1 Visa


  • Read the information provided by the US Embassy on F-1 Student Visas and J-1 Exchange Visitor Visas.
  • Once you accept an offer of admission, your university or sponsor will require proof of funds (bank statements, scholarship offer letters, loan documentation, etc.) for the first year of study. This figure will be based on the cost of attendance listed on the financial aid webpage of the university. Please note you may use any combination of personal/family savings, scholarships and loans to fund your studies. If you will be taking dependents (children, spouse) to the US, you will be required to show funds to cover their living expenses as well.
  • The university or sponsor will then send you the relevant certificate of eligibility form, the I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1). If you are taking dependents, you will use the same certificate of eligibility form.
  • After receiving your I-20, complete the SEVIS I-901 form to register with the international visitor database. You will also need to pay the SEVIS fee ($200 for F visa and $180 for J visa) online using a debit or credit card. Note: spouses and dependants do not need to pay the fee if they are going to the US on F-2 or J-2 visas. For more information about the SEVIS program, please see the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.
  • See http://www.ustraveldocs.com for more information on US student visa including SEVIS  fee, visa fee, mode of payment, scheduling biometics and visa interview.
  • All applicants for F-1 and J-1 visas are required to complete the new online DS-160 visa form. You can begin the visa application 120 days prior to your entry to the US. On the DS-160, you will be asked to upload a digital passport photo (use a proper photo following the instructions provided – i.e. not an informal Facebook profile photo). You should also save often, as the system times out after several minutes. Additionally, be sure to include all educational institutions you have attended since age 11 in the Education section, as well as your full criminal background if applicable. For more information, please note the US Embassy provides a list of FAQs on the DS-160 form, as well as a YouTube video and FAQs.
  • After completing the form, you will be asked to take a printed confirmation to your interview.
  • You may wish to prepare for your visa interview. Student visa applicants should be able to demonstrate three criteria to visa officers:
    • that you are completing a bona fide degree or study abroad program in the US
    • that you have funds for the first year of your stay in the US and a plan for the remaining years
    • that your activities are in line with the purpose (and in particular the non-immigrant intent) of the visa you will travel on

Although the interview is not a document review, you may wish to take documentation to support these criteria, such as a letter of acceptance for your university and the funding documentation you submitted to receive your I-20 or DS-2019. Be prepared to describe your reasons for studying in the US, your program of study and why you selected this particular university, your long-term goals and how studying in the US fits in with these goals, and your plans after you finish your degree program and return back to India.
Visa applicants are assumed to be intending to immigrate to the US and overstay their visas. You will therefore need to prove to the immigration officer that you do not intend to overstay your visa. You will be asked to demonstrate your significant personal, cultural or professional ties to India, the country to which you would presumably return after your studies.

  • Before your appointment, read the US Embassy’s information on security information and plan your journey to the Embassy. Gather the documents you need for your interview, such as your passport, appointment letter, I-20/DS-2019, MRV receipt, DS-160, photo, SEVIS receipt, etc.
  • Watch the US Embassy’s YouTube video on what to expect on arrival to the Embassy. You will go through security procedures similar to what you would expect at an airport. You may wish to take a book or magazine to read while you wait, but travel light, as you are not allowed to take electronics (iPods, phones, laptops, etc) into the Embassy.
  • You will then wait until your number is called for an initial processing procedure called intake. You will submit your visa application, passport and photo, as well as have your fingerprints taken. If your DS-160 is not completed correctly, you will be sent home and have to reschedule your appointment.
  • You will wait again until your number is called for your actual visa interview. Although the interview itself may only take a few minutes, you may be at the Embassy for a few hours in total.
  • You will leave your passport with the US Embassy after the appointment. Expect to receive your visa and passport back within an average of 5-7 working days. Average visa waiting times are available online.
  • After you receive your visa, book your travel to the US: F-1 visa holders may enter the US 30 days prior to the start date on their I-20 and stay on 60 days following the date of completion of your program listed on the I-20. J-1 visa holders may also enter the US 30 days prior to the start date on their DS-2019, but may stay on only 30 days beyond the date of completion listed on the DS-2019.
  • See www.ustraveldocs.com for more information on US student visa including SEVIS fee, visa fee,mode of payment, biometrics and sceduling interview date.
  • If for some reason your visa is refused, please see the information on the US Embassy’s website on visa refusals.


Spouses and dependent children under the age of 21 may accompany F-1 and J-1 visa holders, if they qualify for and apply for F-2 and J-2 visas respectively. Taking spouses and children with you can be an enjoyable way to share your international experience. However, there will be some logistical and financial issues to take into careful consideration. You will be expected to demonstrate financial support for your dependents. Additionally, as described in the work section, F-2 visa holders may not take up any paid work in the US, unless they apply for their own work or study visa.

For any query on US higher education, call us on our STENCIL hotline +91 80 23462342/43 (Monday-Saturday 10AM-8PM)


FAQs – Undergraduate Study

I’m just getting started. Where can I find general information on undergraduate study opportunities in the US?

Read the detailed information in the undergraduate study section of this website and follow the steps in the application timeline.

As you begin the process of applying for US study, consider taking advantage of our advising resources, many of which are free. Visit an STENCIL in Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai and Ahmedabad and attend one of our regularly scheduled free basic information sessions.

For any query on US higher education, call us on our STENCIL hotline +91 80 23462342/43 (Monday-Saturday 10AM-8PM)
I don’t want to go to an agent, how can I find accurate information about US study?
STENCIL operates 4 Education USA advising centres in BANGALORE, MUMBAI, and CHENNAI & AHMEDABAD. You can find authentic, unbiased information and authoritative resources on higher education opportunities in the US.



Who is eligible to apply to the US?

Anyone who has a consistently good academic record and proficiency in English is eligible to apply to the US for higher education. Please check the details of the program and the university to which you wish to apply since different programs have different sets of criteria for eligibility. You may be required to take admission tests. Planning should preferably begin 12 -18 months in advance.

When can I start undergraduate (bachelor’s) studies in the US?

To be eligible for admission to a US college or university, you must meet certain minimum entry requirements.  These include a secondary school diploma (12 years of school education) or examination results, English language ability, and in many cases a score from a standardized admissions tests (either the SAT or ACT).
The requirement that you complete 12 years of school education has to be fulfilled by the time that you start the Bachelor’s program. It does NOT mean that you should have completed it by the time of application. You can apply while you are still in the 12th year of your school education.

What are the advantages of studying in the US?
Some of the advantages of studying in the US are:

  • Variety of educational opportunities
  • Global acceptability
  • Flexibility
  • State-of-the-art research and training
  • Global exposure
  • Academic excellence
  • Financial aid opportunities
  • Internship opportunities
  • Warm and welcoming campuses

What’s the difference between a college and a university?

The terms, ‘college’ and ‘university’, are used interchangeably and mean the same thing in the US. As a general rule, colleges tend to be smaller and usually offer only undergraduate degrees, while a university also offers graduate degrees. Within each college or university, you will find schools, such as school of arts and sciences or the school of business. There are several exceptions to this general rule. Dartmouth College is a large research university and Ohio Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college.

What is the difference between state and private colleges & universities?

State colleges and universities, also called public universities, are subsidized by US state governments to provide low-cost education to residents of that state. These universities tend to be very large and generally admit a wider range of students than private universities. State university tuition costs are generally lower than those of private universities. International students, as well as those from other states, are considered out-of-state residents and pay a higher tuition than residents of the state in which the institution is located.

Private colleges and universities are funded by a combination of endowments, gifts from their alumni, research grants, and tuition fees. Tuition fees tend to be higher than state universities, but there is no distinction made between state and non-state residents, and scholarships are available. Private universities are usually smaller than public universities.

What is GPA and what is the US grading system?

Colleges and universities in the US commonly use letter grades to indicate the quality of a student’s academic performance. Each letter grade has a numeric value which is used to establish a grade point average (GPA).

Most colleges and universities use a GPA scale of 4.0. To work out your GPA, take the numerical value assigned to the letter grade you achieve for each course then multiply this number by the number of credits each course is worth. Finally, add these numbers together and divide by the total number of credits for all courses.

I have always been advised only to apply to accredited schools. Where can I find official information on US accreditation?

The US does not have a central government office that approves educational institutions. Instead it relies on a system of voluntary accreditation carried out by non-governmental accrediting bodies to ensure that schools meet standards.

For accreditation information see the following US Government website: 
. This web link allows you to search for a specific university or look up institutions by state.

Another website for accreditation information is: http://www.chea.org/

Should I apply to a two year college in the United States?

Two-year colleges in the US offer an alternative to the more traditional four-year bachelor’s degree programs. Known as community colleges, these institutions offer study in a wide range of subjects to post-secondary students of all ages and academic levels.  Students studying at a community college may either receive a stand-alone two-year degree (associate’s degree) or transfer to a four-year Bachelor’s program (2 + 2 program). In addition to educational flexibility, two-year colleges are also known for their affordability with relatively low tuition rates in comparison to four-year institutions.

International students interested in attending a two-year college and then transferring to a four-year bachelor’s degree program should consider the following factors: the articulation or guaranteed transfer agreements that the two-year college has with four-year institutions policies on transfer credit course requirements.

Is it possible to study law or medicine at the undergraduate level in the US?

No. Although some universities offer pre-law or pre-med undergraduate degrees, they are not sufficient to qualify to practice law or medicine. In the US, there are two postgraduate degrees in law: the three-year JD degree for training to practice law in the US and the one-year LLM for lawyers who are intending to practice law in their home country. Medicine is a four-year postgraduate degree. US students typically complete a degree in a related field at the undergraduate level before applying for these degrees.

What is the academic calendar for colleges & universities in the US?

The academic year will be slightly different for each university but normally runs from end of August/early September to the end of May. It may be divided into two terms of 18 weeks called semesters. Alternatively, the university may have “quarters” or “trimesters”, which are about 12 weeks in length. Many universities have 6-8 week optional summer terms. Summer course allow students to earn their degree faster, decrease their course load during the regular terms, and/or make up for courses not completed successfully during the regular academic year. There are at least two main holidays during the academic year: a 2-4 week break during the Christmas holidays and a one-week spring break sometime between early March and mid April.

What are the steps an international student must follow to apply to a US university as an undergraduate?

The timeline for the admission process is listed below:



  • Register for the standardized tests required by the institution to which you are applying
  • Take an English proficiency test. Forward your scores to the institutions to which you are applying
  • Based on your standardized test scores, revise your short-list and 7-8 colleges and universities


  • Write an essay or a statement of purpose. Use this to your advantage and make your application stand out
  • Organize your transcripts and get them attested
  • Request letters of recommendation. Teachers, professors, and supervisors generally write these letters
  • Complete all application forms

December – January
Upload the application electronically OR send via post


April – May

  • Receive acceptance letters from universities
  • Prepare the financial documents as required by the university
  • Review and analyze the offers made by universities
  • Confirm or decline the acceptance offer

May – August

  • Prepare for the visa process and apply as early as possible
  • Put together all the necessary financial documents
  • Apply for an appointment at the US Embassy (120 days prior to the start of studies).

July  – Sept

  • Make housing/travel arrangements

What standardized tests are required for admission to undergraduate programs?

Besides tests of English language proficiency (TOEFLIELTS, or PTE Academic), international student may be required to take:

  • SAT Reasoning Test: The SAT Reasoning Test measures critical thinking skills and assesses how well you analyze and solve problems. The test entails critical reading, mathematics and writing.
  • SAT Subject Tests: SAT Subject tests measure knowledge in specific subject areas.  Many competitive US colleges and universities either require or recommend one or more SAT Subject test scores for admission or scholarship consideration. Some colleges specify which subject tests you must take while others leave the option up to you.
  • ACT: The ACT measures English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning. The optional writing test measures skill in planning and writing a short essay. The ACT is an alternative to taking SAT Reasoning and Subject tests.

Where can I find a list of universities in the US?

Review the short listing universities section of our website for a list of US university search engines that will assist you in locating specific institutions that offer the degree you are seeking. Many students use the College Board or Petersons search engines to identify universities in the US.

Are there rankings available for US universities?

There is no centralized, authoritative ranking system of US universities. Unofficial rankings, such as US News and World ReportPrinceton Review and the THS-QS World University Rankings will give you a general idea of the academic reputation and relative prestige of a university. However, it is important to recognize that a top 20, or even top 100, list of universities covers only a small percentage of the universities available. You should read the fine print on how rankings are determined. Rankings are not always based upon factors that could impact you or your child’s quality of education most, such as class size, teaching quality, student advising, faculty access and opportunities for research, internships, campus activities, etc.

How do I find a university that is a good fit for me?

Selecting a university that is a good fit for you can be a challenging task, but also an exciting one! With over 4,500 universities offering undergraduate degrees, you may find the process of narrowing your search to 8-12 universities a bit overwhelming at first. It helps to start by thinking about the big picture first before doing university searches.

You will want to think about your priorities and expectations for undergraduate study and rank in order of importance the factors to consider when choosing a university. For example, are you looking for an academically-rigorous experience or a balance of academics and extracurricular activities? Is it more important for you to go to a ‘brand name’ university, or is finding a ‘best-buy’ and/or a university that can provide you with scholarship funding more important for you?

Next, you may wish to begin by using the university search tool or websites on the short listinguniversities page. These will allow you to search by as many or few search criteria as you like. They will likely provide profiles of universities, which will allow you to compare factors across universities such as size, location, degrees offered, average SAT scores and GPAs (marks) of the previous admitted class, funding opportunities and cost. Please note, guidebooks in our STENCIL advising centers have similar information in print format.

After you narrow your search further, you will want to visit the websites of each university. Their websites will provide comprehensive information about majors, extracurricular activities, funding opportunities, and campus settings. Most universities will list average test scores and GPAs, as well as their admittance rate. This gives you a better idea of the competitiveness of the program, as well as how strong your background is in comparison to last year’s incoming class.
For more information on choosing a university, as well as for links for university search engines.

For any query on US higher education, call us on our STENCIL hotline +91 80 23462342/43 (Monday-Saturday 10AM-8PM)


At four-year colleges, the following terms are used for students studying in different years:

  • First-year students: Freshmen
  • Second-year students: Sophomores
  • Third-year students: Juniors
  • Fourth-year students: Seniors

Here are other common terms used in the admissions process and on US campuses:
Academic Adviser: A faculty member who is assigned the job of advising and assisting a small number of students on academic matters.
Academic Year: The time period during which teaching and instruction (and exams) are conducted. Normally, the academic year begins during the month of September and runs through May. The academic year may be divided into semesters (two in a year), trimesters (three in a year), or quarters (four, including the summer quarter).
Accreditation: A system for recognizing educational institutions and professional programs, for level of quality, performance and integrity, based on published criteria and standards. It is purely voluntary and self –regulatory. There are two major types of accreditation –institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation is granted by regional and national accrediting commissions, while programmatic (professional) accreditation is granted by commissions managed by professional organizations in fields such as engineering, business studies, and architecture.
Advance Registration: Process of registering for courses, usually online, before arrival on campus. Popular courses may fill up quickly and so it is useful to be aware of the option of registering in advance.
Advanced Placement or Accelerated Programs: Allows you to complete your degree in less time by giving you credit for advanced or college-level course work completed before you enter college. University – or college – level proficiency can be demonstrated by taking AP exams before arriving on campus. It is possible to save time (and money) by taking this path.
Affidavit of support: A signed document pledging financial support to a student for studies. An affidavit is generally required of anyone other than the parents who undertake to support the student. It should include all the relevant details of the student and the sponsor.
Audit: To attend classes without receiving credit towards a degree. You can audit a class to get a flavor of the subject and decide whether you want to pursue it further.
Baccalaureate Degree: A degree awarded upon completion of approximately four years of full-time study in the liberal arts and sciences or professional studies.
B-School: Business school where one can earn an undergraduate degree, graduate degree, or pursue research.
Catalog or Bulletin: An official document that details the different programs and courses of study available at a college or a university, admission requirements and prerequisites, facilities and student life.
Coeducational: An institution that includes members of both genders.
Conditional Admission: Admission granted subject to certain conditions being fulfilled before starting a degree program.
Cooperative Education: A program of study during which students spend part of their time in a professional environment outside the university. Under this program of study, the duration of a bachelor’s degree may be five years. Students may be able to earn money working full–time during the co-op term.
Core Requirements: Mandatory course work required to complete the requirements of a degree.
Course: Regularly scheduled classroom sessions of one to five hours or more per week during term time. A degree program is usually made up of a specified number of required and elected courses.
Credits: Units of study that record the progress and completion of courses that are required. The college catalog indicates the value of each course in terms of credit hours or units. Generally speaking, a cumulative 120 credits are required over 4 years in order to get a bachelor’s degree. International students have to be enrolled in a minimum of 9 credits per semester in order to maintain their international–student status.
Credentialing: This term is used to include the broad establishment of standards for higher education and the regulation of professional practice.
Culture Shock: The feelings of alienation, loneliness and confusion that can often result from an encounter with another culture. International students experience culture shock to varying degrees.
Dorms or Residences: Housing facilities on the campus of a college or university. Generally owned and leased by the university, they include single-sex or shared accommodation, bathrooms, common rooms, gym facilities, etc.
Electives: Courses that students “elect” to take, outside of their core requirements. Elective credits count towards the completion of a degree.
F-1 Visa: The category of visa that most students are granted.
Fraternity: Fraternities and sororities are a unique feature of American campuses. These organizations are usually all male or all-female, but occasionally are mixed-sex organizations. Although these organizations sometimes have had negative publicity, membership is highly sought after, and is usually by invitation only.
The names of fraternities and sororities are usually a combination of two to four Greek alphabets. For example:”Alpha Theta Gamma” or “Gamma Phi Beta.” Because of this quaint system of naming themselves, fraternities and sororities are collectively referred to as “The Greek System.” It is common for American college students to ask about “Greek life on campus.”
Full -time Student: A full-time student is one who is taking the full load of courses. International students can enroll only as full-time students.
Grade point Average (GPA): An American system of recording academic standards. It is a numerical measure obtained by multiplying the numerical grade received in each course by the number of credit hours and arriving at the average.
The higher the GPA, the better a student’s academic prowess is assumed to be. A student with a GPA of 4.0 has received all A grades and is assumed to be at the top of her or his class.
Grading System: To calculate the GPA, the number of credit hours allotted for a particular course is multiplied by the number of points the student has earned. All the products are added up and the total is divided by the number of credit hours to arrive at the GPA.
For example, let’s assume a student completes 5 courses that had 3 semester hours each every week, and whose grades were 3As, 1B and 1C. The GPA would be calculated thus:

Course Grade Points X Credit Hours = Total Points for the Course
1 A 4 3 12
2 A 4 3 12
3 B 3 3 9
3 C 2 3 6
5 A 4 3 12
Total 15 51

The GPA would be 51/15= 3.25

Some universities refine the grading system by using a plus or minus after the grades –A+ or B- and so on. Grades are usually based on a combination of class participation and discussion, seminars, homework, quizzes, assignments, and final exams.
Grant: A sum of money given for a specific purpose –for research, scholarship, building a facility, laboratories, acquiring books for libraries, etc.
Greek life: A collection term used to describe life in sorority and fraternity organizations on US campuses.
Honors: A program of study wherein the entire cohort takes challenging and accelerated coursework. Students are usually invited to the honors programs by the college, after demonstrating superior academic achievement in their first two years of study.
I-20: The document issued by an accredited university college or university to international students and which is used to apply for a US student visa.
IRS: The Internal Revenue Service –the US government body that collects and supervises taxes from individuals resident in the US.
Major (declaring a major): The subject area in which the student will be taking the maximum number of courses and credits. Generally speaking, a student is expected to declare a major in the second year of college.
Minor: The subject in which the student takes the second greatest concentration of course work and credits.
Placement Tests: Tests that assesses a student’s academic knowledge in a subject, and is used to “place” a student ahead of the entering class. Credit may be given based on the outcome of the placement tests. Advanced Placement tests, also simply known as “AP tests” are one type of placement test.
Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the use of another person’s intellectual property –words, ideas – without acknowledging ownership and attempting to pass them off as one’s own.
Resident Adviser or Assistant: A person designated to assist students in campus dormitories and the first point of contact for anything connected with residing in the dorms. Most often, resident assistants are senior students who receive free accommodation in exchange for their work. International students may have the option of apply for a resident assistant position after the first or second year of study. This is a great option for lowering the cost of study.
Semester: A period of study lasting from 15 to 16 weeks, followed by a break. An academic year usually comprises two or more semesters.
SEVIS: Established in 2003, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) track and monitor international students, exchange visitors, and their dependents throughout the duration of their studies in the US. This system guarantees that only legitimate foreign students or exchange visitors gain entry to the United States.
Social Security Number: A Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued to US citizens, permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents, including international full-time students. Its primary purpose is to track individuals who earn income of any kind in the United States for taxation purposes. In recent years, the SSN has become a de facto national identification number and is accepted as such almost everywhere in the US. International students will receive detailed guidance from their International Student Office on how to apply for a Social Security Number. For further information, visit the Web site www.ssa.gov/pubs/pubs/10181.html
Sorority: See Fraternity
Transcript: An official document issued by an educational institution, which certifies the coursework completed by a student attending that institution, and lists credits earned by the student.
Transfer Students: Students who have completed some part of their studies at one institution and wish to transfer their credits to complete their education at another institution.
Tuition Fee: The amount that has to be paid to an educational institution, which covers instruction and training, but not the cost of books and other materials.
Undergraduate Study: Four years of study after high school leading to a bachelor’s degree.


Fields of Study

There are thousands of colleges and universities in the US that offer undergraduate degree programs. The US higher education system has programs available to meet everyone’s need.
One of the most attractive features of the bachelor’s degree program in the United States is that it is highly flexible. You can choose from a wide variety of courses and create your own unique program of study. You can apply to US universities as “undecided” about your major (field of study). Under the “liberal arts and sciences philosophy”, you have the opportunity to take classes in a variety of subjects during the first 1-2 years, before specializing in your major field of study. Students who already know what they want to study can complete a “double major,” degrees in two academic fields often completed within the normal four years of study or a “major” and a “minor”.
Although you do not have to decide your major at the time of application, you will want to make sure the university offers degrees in your areas of interest.
Unlike in India, degrees in law and medicine are not offered at the undergraduate level American students study law and medicine at the graduate level after earning a bachelor’s degree. Neither graduate program requires a specific undergraduate degree, although medicine has prerequisite courses that must be taken before enrolment.
Download the handouts below for information about applying to some of the most common fields of study in the US.


Common Fields of Study in the US: