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The Process

Students from all over the world apply to American universities for admissions. They belong to different educational backgrounds and different grading systems. In order to compare their aptitude on a common platform, the universities in the United States require all the international students to take SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) for undergraduate studies i.e for post HSC programs in USA. Also, in order to ensure that the student wanting to study in USA is capable of understanding English, all universities in the United States require their applicants coming from non native English speaking countries to take TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).So, if you want to study in USA after HSC, you have to take SAT & TOEFL as two tests.
The scores of TOEFL are valid for two years and score of SAT are valid for 5 years.

 Training :

 The training part consists of the students preparing for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and TOEFL.

 a. Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)

The SAT tests the students' reasoning based on knowledge and skills developed through their course work. It measures their ability to analyze and solve problems by applying what they have learned in school. The SAT Reasoning Test is a measure of the critical thinking skills you’ll need for academic success in college. The SAT assesses how well you analyze and solve problem, skills you learned in school that you’ll need in college.

The SAT has following three sections:
- Critical Reading
- Mathematics
- Writing

Each section of the SAT is scored on a scale of (200- 800) , with two writing sub-scores for multiple-choice and the essay. The SAT includes a Critical Reading, Math, and writing section, with a specific number of questions related to content.

In addition, there is one 25-minute unscored section, known as the variable or equating section. This unscored section may be a critical reading, math, or writing multiple-choice section. This unscored section does not count toward the final score, but is used to try out new questions for future editions of the SAT and to ensure that scores on new editions of the SAT are comparable to scores on earlier editions of the test.

The 25-minute essay will always be the first section of the SAT, and the 10-minute multiple-choice writing
section will always be the final section. The remaining six 25-minute sections can appear in any order, as can the two 20-minute sections. Test takers sitting next to each other in the same testing session may have test books with entirely different sections.

The SAT is developed and administered by the US-based College Entrance Examination Board. This implies that College Board sets the questions, conducts the test, and sends each examinee the score report. In India, SAT
is conducted at Bangalore, Calcutta, Cochin, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kodaikanal, Mumbai, Mussoorie and New Delhi.

b. Test of English As Foreign Language (TOEFL)

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) measures the ability of nonnative speakers of English to use and understand English as it is spoken, written, and heard in college and university settings. The TOEFL tests all four language skills that are important for effective communication: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The test helps students demonstrate that they have the English skills needed for success. TOEFL also emphasizes integrated skills and provides better information to institutions about students’ ability to communicate in an academic setting and their readiness for academic coursework.

The TOEFL test is developed and administered by the US-based “Educational Testing Service” (ETS). This implies that ETS sets the questions, conducts the test, and sends each examinee the score report. For the conduct of the test, ETS has appointed Testing Agencies in various countries, which act as franchisee for ETS. In India, this agency is the “Prometric Testing Services Pvt Ltd”

The TOEFL test is offered in different formats depending on your location.
Paper Based TOEFL: Bangalore, Hyderabad, Trivendrum
Internet Based: Ahmedabad; Allahabad; Bangalore; Calcutta; Chennai; Cochin; Coimbatore; Dehradun; Greater Noida; Gurgaon; Hyderabad; Indore; Jaipur; Kurukeshetra; Mumbai; Nagpur; New Delhi; Panji; Pune; Ranchi; Secunderabad; Surat; Trivandrum; Vadodara; Visakhapatnam.

Computer based TOEFL test is held all-round-the-year. Unlike other exams, you can choose your own date and time for taking the TOEFL test! The test is administered in the above cities five-days-a-week (Monday through Friday), twice-a-day. September to December is the high season for TOEFL test, so in case you intend to take
the test during this period, you need to register very early (say 90 days in advance) to get a date of your choice. Otherwise, registering at least three days in advance is mandatory. The test lasts roughly four hours.

Application Process

The application process to American Universities is a long and complicated affair. It involves extensive research on the net, knowledge about the working method of American universities, accurate documentation and correct timing, to list just a few factors. The following steps are involved in the applications process.

a.      Selection of Universities 

b.      Selection of Program   

c.       Academic Documentation

d.      Financial Documentation

e.      After applications

f.        Once you have been accepted

Ø       Admissions Counseling, what we offer at FACT            

a. Selection of Universities

Selecting universities is a very time consuming and important process not only from the admission point of view but also because applying to universities is expensive by Indian standards. The application process itself costs about Rs. 25,000/- to Rs. 30,000/- towards examination fees, postage, university application fees etc. Therefore, be very careful while applying to the universities.

The best university for you may not be the famous ones, but those that offer you your field of study as well as meet the other criteria important to you. The range of academic options as well as available universities are so wide that it is not possible to select the best in one go and it may take some time.

The basic steps involved in the process of selecting universities are

  • Decide on the field of education in line with your likings and past academic background

  • Assess your financial ability and budget

  • Now, select 20 to 30 universities based on the following criterion:

    • Program Offerings

    • Research programs

    • University Rankings

    • Program Length

    • Cost Tuition, living expenses etc

    • Availability of Financial Assistance to International Students

    • Entrance Requirements

    • Tests (SAT,GRE,GMAT, TOEFL etc and minimum scores)

    • Accreditation status (Professional accreditation for some programs)

    • Student Profile

    • Enrollment Total available seats and the size of the school

    • Location (climate, semi-rural, metropolitan city etc)

    • Facilities Library, housing, student associations etc.

    • Type of Institution Public or Private

These are the usual criteria. You could prioritize your criteria out of this list and shortlist the number of universities on that basis to about 10. You could further shortlist your choice on basis of specific issues like tuition fees, availability of financial etc.

Your past academic record is one of the most important deciding factors in getting admission to a college abroad. Most schools require you to have a reasonably good academic record especially for technology programs and courses. Each university has its own minimum requirement for its programs, which are flexible depending on the candidate profile. It is advisable not to convert your marks in the Indian system of grading to the American Grade Point Average system or any other system since the conversion may not be accurate. You may attach an explanatory note from your college to indicate your rank in your class and/or university. The letter may also indicate your place as compared to the class and the university average and the number of students in the class and the number of colleges and students in the university. You may also provide any other information or documents that you feel may help you in the admission process.

Every university has its own minimum requirements and scores with respect to standardized tests. Check out the requirements of the universities and short-list the ones that will accept your scores.

Most Indians are concerned about the high cost of education abroad and seek information on opportunities for financial assistance. The expenses for education abroad include tuition fees, living expenses, health insurance, transportation etc. This is an important criterion for selecting the courses as well as universities.

It is important to understand that most universities offer financial assistance to international students based primarily on merit and rarely on need. The amount, and type of assistance offered varies based on the university, department and level of study.  Also funds are more likely to be available in fields like Engineering, Physical Sciences and Biological sciences.
Once you start receiving application forms and material, go through in detail for the various requirements and deadlines like the application deadline, minimum scores required in the standardized tests, recommendation letters needed and other such information. 

 Tabulate all these requirements and compare them with your objectives. FACT can help you select universities that are best suited for your requirements.

b. Selection of Program

Selection of university and selection of program usually go hand in hand. But one must remember that even the best-known universities are not the best for every single program offered in that university. Similarly, a particular university may not be very high ranked, but a particular program in that university may be excellent for your requirements. Therefore, it is necessary to study each program very carefully.

c. Academic Documentation

Transcripts, Recommendations and Statement of Purpose are the academic documents required for application process.

Transcripts: Students who are applying to American Universities would be required to submit a detailed report and transcripts (report cards) of all the years of higher studies in India. The report form should be filled out by a college official like the principal, counselor or headmaster. This form should introduce you in the context of your whole school experience in relation to the other students in your class. Admission committees will be interested in learning how you have performed in your own educational system. The transcript should talk about your accomplishments and provide a prediction of your chances for success in university-level studies.

Since there is a variation between the styles of scoring used abroad and the ones used in India, ask your college to include a guide to the grading standards used in your educational system and your school. If your college ranks students by their level of academic achievement, make certain that the ranking is included with the other details. Also send the school / junior college leaving certificate as and when it is available. The transcripts must be in English only.

Recommendations: Letters of reference or recommendation letters play a very important part in your admission. A recommendation letter is a signed statement from a person who has taught you in a subject that is related to the course you are applying to. It should list your positive and negative qualities, strengths and other such information. The teacher must indicate his position, how long he/she has known the applicant and in what capacity. He/she should briefly discuss the need, importance and usefulness of the study the applicant proposes to undertake. Authors are usually asked to rank applicants in their letters of recommendation, which helps admission officers to interpret the academic credentials of foreign students. Students should obtain letters of recommendation from teachers who know them as a person as well as a student. You may like to request your author to give concrete examples that may show your qualities.

Statement of Purpose
: The personal essays, and/or statement of purpose, play a very important role in the process of evaluating your application for both admission as well as financial aid because it gives the faculty assessing your application their most significant impression of you as an individual. This section is the key to distinguish your application from other suitable candidates and a chance to market yourself. A personal statement should include your reasons for choosing a particular course, the suitability of your education and experience for the chosen course, your personal interests and career goals. Some courses like Business school courses will have their own essay questions and format. Others may ask for a resume or reasons for applying to that particular course.

d. Financial Documentation

You must submit a financial aid application if you desire financial help for your studies in a US university. Financial assistance for non-US citizens is very limited. The evidence of financial support is required by universities to issue the documents needed for visa application. Although it is a requirement for application, it is usually not taken into consideration into factors that determine admission. Most universities make their admission decisions without regard for the source and amount of financial support. You would be required to submit documentation of your family's financial resources to help schools assess your need. Most of the universities have their own financial aid form, which you would have to complete. You would also be required to submit a bank statement demonstrating your financial capacity to support your education in US. Some US state institutions offer tuition waivers to international students in return for some type of educational contribution.

e. After Applications

Universities usually inform students of their admission decisions well in advance of the beginning term. If you have received admission in more than one university, you will have to decide which one you want to attend. At this stage, you should compare a few objective and mostly more subjective criteria. The points you should focus on are program curriculum, length of program, choice of courses, funding offer or best program with respect to costs, Cost of living, Strength of related departments/program etc.

f. Once you have been accepted:

Each college will tell you exactly what steps to follow to confirm your acceptance of their offer of admission and how to prepare for your first term.  This information will be included with the letter of admission or in materials that will be sent to you shortly thereafter. You must respond with a "Yes" or "No" for each offer of admission. You may also be required to submit a financial deposit to the institution that you plan to attend. This is to guarantee your place in the class. Make sure you do not miss any deadlines.

Visa :

a. Requirements of students visa

This is the last and the most delicate of the steps while planning to study in the United States. Most students
are scared and tensed by the time they reach this stage. But they need to understand that by being tense,
they are increasing the chances of failure rather than reducing it. Instead, if they collect all the relevant information, make thorough preparation, and feel confident, there is nothing that can stop them from achieving their objective.

b. What Visa Officers look for while issuing visa

The consular officer may not issue a student visa unless satisfied that the applicant:
(1) has a residence abroad (India),
(2) has no intention of abandoning that residence, and
(3) intends to depart from the United States upon completion of the course of study.
Applicants generally establish their ties abroad by presenting evidence of economic, social, and/or family ties in their homeland sufficient to induce them to leave the United States upon the completion of studies.

c. How to Apply

All first time applicants of F-1 visa would need to make an appointment on the website www.vfs-usa.co.in. Refer the site for more details.

d. VISA Interview

Try and gather information on the current trend, what the visa officer is expecting, why visa is being
rejected, etc. Look for decisions and experiences particularly in the consulate where you will be appearing for
the interview. Knowing what to expect helps!

When you go for the visa dress well. Speak slowly and clearly. Don't appear tense and don't look
desperate. Showing self-confidence helps. They should never feel that you will have any sort of
difficulty language, finance, racial, religious, etc.

e. Risk of VISA rejection

Yes. It is true that if your visa is rejected, all your efforts and money put into the process of studying in the United States go waste. But you can always apply for a second time and get your visa approved. As per the
new rule, you can apply as many numbers of times as you want. (the application fee is to be paid every time).
But the best way is to go well prepared right in the first time.