Some institutions in the US do offer financial support to international students
We discussed EducationUSA’s 5-Steps to US higher education as they apply to master’s programme applications in our last column. The article outlined Step 1 of the 5-step process, including introspection and research to identify the ‘best-fit’ programme of study and institution for higher education in the United States.
Students must consider various factors while they are going through this Step 1 that leads to a shortlist of institutions for applications. Key information about the programme and university/college is available on the institution’s website. It is important to visit the international graduate school webpage and department webpages where students will find vital information related to master’s programmes offered, available specialisations, programme curricula, faculty profiles, ongoing research, research facilities, department size, eligibility and admission requirements, and application process/timelines. All of these are key decision-making criteria for students while they are identifying programmes and institutions for the maters-level study in the United States.
In addition to the factors mentioned above, students should also look up financial information, including tuition fee and other costs (e.g. cost of living, insurance, books, etc.). This information may be accessed through the admissions page of the university or the bursar webpage (bursar is the office of budget and finance at an educational institution in the US). Students should look at the tuition fee for non-residents given that they are international students. Some institutions in the US do offer financial support to international students and this information is made available generally through the financial aid or department webpages. In addition, students may also refer to websites www.fundingusstudy.org and www.finaid.org.
Students should also consider availability of international student services on campus while selecting institutions for their master’s level education in the United States. Campus life, also reflecting an institution’s campus culture, is yet another factor that students can look up by understanding about housing, campus safety, university police information, student clubs, etc.
Last but not least, it is extremely important for students to find out if the programme of study and institution that they have shortlisted is accredited or not, by visiting the database of accredited programmes and institutions published by the US Department of Education at https://ope.ed.gov/dapip/#/home or Department of Homeland Security at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/school-search.
Overall, students should remember that the process of shortlisting takes time and they must explore each institution’s website comprehensively to evaluate all aspects of the institution’s offerings and identify their best fit program of study.
— Monika Setia (Regional Officer and EducationUSA Adviser at the US – India Educational Foundation based at the US Consulate General Hyderabad)
Q. I would like to apply for distance education programmes outside India. Can you please share details regarding such programmes in the United States.
Ans. Online learning, also known as distance education, is a great way to experience the US educational system. International students are generally eligible for distance education courses offered by US universities.
The US institutions offer a variety of full-time degree programmes at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as individual courses. To receive credit from a US institution for distance learning, the student usually pays a tuition fee. In addition to full-time degree programmes or individual courses, some US higher education institutions offer part-time blended programmes that may be partially online and require occasional on-campus attendance, called “low-residency programs”.
To find accredited online distance learning programmes, please search the following website of the Distance Education and Training Council: http://www.detc.org/. The types of programmes/certifications offered and application process may be found on individual university websites.
There are options now also available for online learning such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that are usually tuition-free, but in most cases do not offer credit. A few prominent MOOC providers include Coursera, Edx, and Udacity. You may check the website of each provider to understand the process of enrollment. The US Department of State also facilitates a free in-person MOOC Camp programme in many countries. You may check https://eca.state.gov/programs-and-initiatives/initiatives/mooc-camp for further details.
Q. PhD programmes at US universities seem to be long and rigorous, taking five years for completion. Why are these programmes so long in the United States?
Ans. PhD programmes at US universities are designed for students to move towards their end goal of dissertation production in a gradual and progressive manner, involving various benchmarks that a student should achieve to proceed to the next level throughout the 5–7-year long programme.
While the process for PhD programme completion may seem stringent and comprehensive, the programme design allows students to complete the enormous task of producing an original piece of research in a stepwise manner. This eases off the pressure on students to write a long piece of original research work in one attempt. Also, students gain a better understanding of their subject and research methods through coursework before they start conducting research. Consistent guidance from their dissertation chair and committee and inputs from experts in the field further allows students to produce a well-researched and meticulous work as part of their PhD dissertation.
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