United States of America

 

INTRODUCTION

USA is the most renowned and prominent country for higher study by both the number of international students in the US also the quality of universities as well as funding opportunities. Students seeking higher study in abroad choose US as their first choice. Although it’s highly competitive to study in the US with funding but it’s not as hard as we think. A little planning and organization of your resources will enable you to win this competition. As a summary, the United State of America is the best country for higher study, job, living or any purposes. It has the world’s best universities, faculties, technologies as well as peoples.

Official Name: The United States of America (USA)

Capital City: Washington, D.C (District of Columbia)

Number of States: 50

Largest Cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Austin, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Columbus, Charlotte, Seattle, Detroit, Fort Worth, Denver, Boston, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Louisville.

Area: 9,833,517 km2 / 3,796,742 sq mi.

Coastline: 19,920 km (12,380 mi)

Coastal Borders: Atlantic at east, Gulf at the west, Pacific at the south, Arctic at the north.

Language: English, Spanish (second).

Neighboring Countries: Canada at the north, Mexico at the south.

Currency: US Dollar

Population: 309,349,689 (2010)

GDP: 57000 USD [per capita]

Population Growth Rate: 0.7% (2013)

Life Expectancy: 78.74 years (2012)

Time Zone: UTC−4 to −12, +10, +11, Summer (DST)- UTC−4 to −10

Office Hours: Monday to Friday. Most of the banks, government offices and the majority of private companies operate between the hours of 09:00 and 17:00.

Food-Beverage: There is a rich diversity in food preparation throughout the United States. It varies from state to state and people to people depending on their origins. But each and every kind of food items are available in USA.

National Holidays: New Year’s Day, Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inauguration Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day these are the year round federal holidays.

Water: Tap water is perfectly safe to drink. Although majority of people use filters before drinking.

Electricity: 220V. Standard US type double plug is used.

Health Services: 58% of US community hospitals are non-profit, 21% are government owned, and 21% are for-profit. 64.3% of health spending was paid for by the government [2013].

Visa: While there are about 185 different types of visas, there are two main categories of U.S. visas: Nonimmigrant visa – for temporary visits such as for tourism, business, work or studying. Immigrant visa – for people to immigrate to the United States.

Tele-Communication Services: Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile US, Sprint Corporation are the largest service providers in USA. All standardized on 4G LTE as their wireless communication standard. Verizon and Sprint uses the CDMA whereas AT&T and T-Mobile uses GSM technology.

International phone code: +1

WHY USA?

THE LEADER OF THE WORLD

Actually there’s no reason to ask why not USA. Especially for higher study or building a career. People all over the world has a tendency to come to the US to change their fate. It’s the host country to the maximum number of international population. It has a vast social, cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious diversity among people despite living together with unity and prosperity. World’s great leaders are produced and trained here. World’s great organizations and institutions are located here. Now a days the country who is ruling the world intellectually is obviously the US. By both the technology and manpower the US has a distinguished priority over other nations in the world. And for individuals, it’s a country which cares for its inhabitants more than anything. There are more, so why not USA…….?

A WORLD OF FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

This is the main factor which enables students to take their decision for higher study in abroad. And for the US, funding in other word scholarship is the key feature of educational systems which attracts international student mostly. Although there’s a clear distinction between funding and scholarships here, majority of the graduate students study in the USA without paying a penny. Studying here is like a job for the students. You will study and get a degree, you’ll be paid at the same time by which you can afford your family. And after getting the degree you’ll certainly get a better job. So, many international students consider studying in the US as an alternative of prestigious job in their native country.

A PLACE FOR LIVING!

According to ‘Business Insider’, USA is ranked seventh among best countries in the world to live in. Although the rankings do not depict all the real scenarios but it could be said without any doubt that the US is one the best countries to live in. The variety of weather, multi-language, cross culture and diversified nature of society made this country not just for the natives but also for every person from any corner of the world. Everybody is welcomed and helped by the US citizens and they will enjoy the same privileges as the native citizens. Strict law, balanced economy, clean environment and better employment opportunity are the key factors why people choose US for living. Also getting citizenship here is much easier than most of the countries in the world. So, international student consider the US not only for studying but also for their future safe habitants.

COST OF LIVING AND STUDY

The cost of study and living is one of the main concerns for international students while choosing appropriate country for higher study. Compared to other international student destinations, cost of living and study is much higher than other countries. But it’s reasonable as it has balanced economy and cost to income ratio. Other than you are a self-funded student or unemployed person, you will be paid much more than the cost of everything. You won’t lead a luxurious life with the student funding but a decent life with the fulfilment of basic needs is ensured for your family. If you are self-funded and belong to middle class family, it would be tough to pay the tuition or house rent unless you manage a part time job or any kind of employment. But for the citizens, if anyone is unemployed and unable to pay the tuition or rent, the govt. agencies will take care of them.

A DOOR TO YOUR DREAM JOB

After completion of any degree from an accredited university of the US, it’s very unlikely that a person has to struggle for a decent job inside or outside the US whatever his background is. Most of world’s best multi-national companies operates in the US. Even before graduating students work part time or even full time in those organizations. Students with self or partial funding also have opportunities to be enrolled on campus or off campus jobs in most of the universities. Presently, some states allow dependents (holding F-2 visa) to students to work also. Least but not the least, most of the US university graduates work as a researcher or professor in future.

QUALITY OF EDUCATION

According to Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranking for the year 2016-17 among top twenty universities US alone has eleven. Below is a map showing location of top fifty universities according to USNEWS which shows that USA alone has more universities than others all.

So, it goes without saying that in education sector no other country is even nearer to the US. USA is the undefeated champion and pioneer in higher education. It has world’s best research institutes as well as faculties. And it invests much more money for education purposes than any other countries. As of 2012, the latest figures available in 2015, the US has a total of 4,726 eligible, degree-granting institutions: 3,026 4-year institutions and 1,700 2-year institutions.

UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY COOPERATION

Following are some statistical data to show the university-industry cooperation in the United States-

  • Universities perform 13 percent ($36 billion) of total U.S. R&D and 54 percent of basic research
  • Industry share of academic R&D funding—7 percent
  • Academic R&D is 1.3 percent of industry’s estimated self-funded R&D ($177 billion)
  • Federal share of academic R&D funding—59 percent
  • Industry philanthropy to universities and college—$1.5 billion (cash and in-kind) (2003)
  • University licensing revenue—$1.1 billion (2004)

 

ACCOMMODATION

Almost every university in the US has on campus housing or dorms opportunity, but it’s not a mandatory requirement for students to stay on campus. Although a limited number of universities have requirements for freshman (newly admitted/first year student) to stay on campus for at least one year specifically for undergrad students. On campus housing has some definite advantages over the off campus housing, but evidence shows that it’s much expensive and of course they have more regulations and restrictions than the off campus communities. One having family is unable to live in on campus housing and sometimes on majority of off campus housing too. This is because they have a restriction of one person per bedroom. In that case neighborhood apartments are better options. Normally house rent in the US varies from state to state but if shared the house rent is very reasonable. And I’m not meaning to share your room, just share the apartment. Some apartment community has rent discount for people having low income like a student with dependents (unemployed wife or children). To find a better accommodation near university campus or a desired place, there’s a lot of social media groups and websites. You can book your accommodation even from outside the US through the website. Although most of the resident housing requires a Social Security Number (SSN) for applying for housing, some has exceptions and the student housing community doesn’t require an SSN.

HEALTH

Here, in USA you must have to have a medical insurance otherwise it would be very expensive to get medical services. Some health center doesn’t even provide services without insurance and some provides at high cost. Most of the universities cover medical insurance for full funded students. While getting the financial offer letter you must ask to know about the coverage of your medical insurance.

Self or partially funded or funded students without insurance coverage must have to buy a medical insurance to be enrolled in the graduate program. This is a yearly based contract that means you have to pay for the whole year at a time. There are different types of insurance offering various services. Among them anyone can choose one with reasonable price. Although the insurance covers any medical appointment or prescribed tests, it might not cover all of your prescribed medications. Most often ‘over the counter (those don’t require a prescription)’ drugs are not covered by insurance. Whatever it is, it’s better to ask the insurance provider about which service they will be paying for.

For dependents of students, anyone can buy insurance for them. Otherwise almost in every state, there are some non-profit health centers who provide medical assistance and medications at a very low price compared to the US for low income personnel. What you have to do for this is to show proofs of your low income.

In case of any emergency like accidents or labor pain or anything just call 911 and provide your address. They will take you immediately to nearest hospital and do whatever it takes. Even they’ll bring a doctor if you are unable to move or seriously injured to be taken to hospital. In case of emergency, don’t be bothered with the bills. They will provide you proper treatment and you have to pay nothing initially. After being released, an invoice of bill will be sent to your address if it’s not covered by the insurance or you don’t have an insurance. If you are unable to pay that bill just apply for medical assistance with proof of why you are not able to pay the bill, they will waive most of the bills.

If you have a child born in USA and you are a low income person [like student], the state will bear your child’s medical expenses plus they will provide food stamp worth almost 200 USD per month for buying any kind of food.

EXCHANGE PROGRAMS

Although US has diversified student exchange programs, most of the students are interested for funding in the form of assistantships or fellowships. If your university has a bilateral agreement with your chosen US University, you are ready to be an exchange student. Although majority of students prefer assistantships, the percentage of exchange student not too low in the US. And almost every well ranked university has an exchange agreement with the US universities. Under this treaty, student can transfer credits or enroll in a program very easily just fulfilling the minimum requirements. But this transfer will not ensure your financial assistance, you have to ensure thus separately. Some exchange programs cover everything of a student. These programs are designed not only for students but also for faculties, researchers and different professionals. Some of these programs are specified for specific countries and some are universal. Some programs are only available for some specified universities. Some university separately offers some exchange opportunities which is only available in that university. For more information about exchange programs, please visit https://exchanges.state.gov/non-us.

THE FULBRIGHT PROGRAM

Among all other exchange programs, Fulbright is the most lucrative and demanding to the students. The Fulbright Program is an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Its aim is to foster mutual understanding between the people of the United Stated and the people of other countries. This program has different subdivisions for different group of students and professionals. Of those, the ‘Fulbright Foreign Student Program’ is most attractive to students seeking higher study in USA. It enables graduate students, young professionals, and artists from abroad to research and study in the United States for one year or longer at U.S. universities or other appropriate institutions. For more information for country specific Fulbright scholarship, please visit https://exchanges.state.gov/non-us/program/fulbright-foreign-student-program. Without any exception, Fulbright scholarship covers every cost of the student including tuition fee, living, fare, medical insurance and others.

FINANCIAL ISSUES

Tuition & Fees

While the US remains the world’s most popular destination for international students, it’s also among the most expensive choices. Like most of other countries, there are two major types of universities in the US- public and private. The tuition fees at private universities are significantly higher than the public universities. There are some other kinds of universities like community college or nonprofit private university where fees are less than the former types.

There are two types of tuition fees in the US public universities, in state and out of state tuition fee. Generally it depends on the location of the students applying to a university. The education system in the United States is controlled by individual states, rather than by the federal government. Each state has its own ‘public’ institutions that are run and funded by the state. Funding for these schools comes from the state residents in the form of taxes. As a result, these state residents are able to attend the public institutions at a lower cost than people who are not residents of the state. This cost to the state residents is referred to as in-state tuition. The cost to residents from other states is known as out-of-state tuition. Normally, the international students are considered for out of the state tuition fees.

The difference between in state and out of state tuition fee depends largely on individual state and university. As a random guess, normally out of state tuition fee is more than the double of the in state tuition fee but for the private ones both are the same. To get more idea about their difference please visit https://www.heath.gwu.edu/state-vs-out-state-tuition. Although the fees are supposed to be dependent on the location of applicants, for international students it’s largely dependent to the decision of university authority. Note that, maximum of international students got in state tuition waiver that means they don’t have to pay any tuition fee. Otherwise, it’s very high for them whether it’d in state or out of state. Normally the funding covers tuition fee, semester fee and medical insurance.

 

Estimated annual tuition fees*

Tuition fees could vary from $5000 to $50000. Although there are so many factors, the annual tuition fees vary widely depending mainly on the nature (public or private), state (where the university is located) and quality (rank) of the university. Here is an average estimation of the fees.

Undergraduate programs

  1. Public Universities:

In State: $9,000

Out of State: $23,000

  1. Private Universities: $31,000

 

Graduate Programs

  1. Public Universities:

In State: $ 12,000

Out of State: $ 25,000

  1. Private Universities: $ 35,000

*The above rates are estimated depending on different online sources which might not represent the actual scenario. It’s better to see the costs from respective university because it differs significantly from university to university.

ADMISSION

The acceptance rate at American University is 43%, you have to be smart to lie in this 43%. The admission process is easy and straight forward but it may be different from one university to other. One would have to apply individually to different universities as it does not have a centralized admissions process. The benefit of US universities is it employs a holistic admission process that means the admission decision is not dependent to only grades rather it’s reflects all qualities a student might have. Another advantage is although there’s specific deadlines but early or late admission is often offered in the authority wants. That indicates a flexible admission process with specific rules and requirements. Getting admission in the US universities is not so tough, but the thing which enables one to study those universities is funding (scholarships).

Application Requirements:

Application process often involves a lot of tasks within a specific period of time. So, one should have enough time to finish all those steps before deadline. And evaluation of application is more or less ‘first come, first served’ basis in almost every universities. So, applying earlier increases the chance of getting admission. Despite of being common in nature, the admission requirements for undergraduate and graduate programs in the US has clear distinctions. Like standardized test (SAT, GRE, TOEFL) requirements, CGPA requirements, funding opportunities, deadlines etc.

Undergraduate Admissions

The best thing of the undergraduate study in the US is, colleges (undergrad institutions are called colleges in US) offer a variety of majors and don’t require students to declare immediately. Students can attend university as an ‘undecided’ major – up to the end of their second year, in some cases. So, one has enough time to observe and decide his/her major.

After selecting the semester and checking eligibility, following things may be required of applicants who wish to apply for undergraduate study in USA. To ensure, please contact the respective university to figure out which documents or exams are required by the selected program.

 Online/Mailed Application form (Intl. student)

 High School (12th Grade) Diploma

 Official High School Transcript (In English)

 High School GPA:

Minimum GPA to be eligible is 3.0 in a scale of 4.0.

 SAT test score:

SAT-I is required for almost all Courses and Universities. A few Universities may require you to take SAT-II (two or three subject tests). There’s no absolute SAT requirement at American University, but they really want to see at least a 1250 (new 1600 scale) or 1740 (old 2400 score) to have a chance at being considered.

 ACT test score:

A few Universities may also require you to take this test. Minimum ACT score to be considered is 16 in a scale of 36. The average score is 21.

 Language Proficiency (TOEFL/IELTS) Score:

The minimum score required by most universities for admission is 80 (TOEFL iBT) and 6 (IELTS).

 Letters of Recommendation (Where Applicable)

 Resume or personal profile

 Statement of Purpose (SOP) or Essay

 Financial Aid or Statement:

You must submit a financial aid application if you desire financial help for your graduate studies in a US university. Otherwise you have to submit financial statement showing solvency to pay tuition and other fees.

 Application Fee:

Ranges from $30 to $110. Some universities waive this fee for students from specific countries.

 WES Evaluation:

Some university requires to convert foreign GPA through WES evaluation.

All documents regarding application must be submitted to the respective university no later than the application deadline announced on the Academic Calendar.

Graduate Admissions:

Most international students apply for graduate programs due to the funding availability and acceptance rate compared to undergraduate programs. After eligibility check, following things may be required of applicants who wish to apply for undergraduate study in USA. To ensure, please contact the respective university to figure out which documents or exams are required by the selected program.

 

 International Student Application Form (Online/Mailed)

 Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree/Diploma

 Official Transcript (English)

 CGPA:

Minimum 3.0 for MS and 3.25 for PhD in a scale of 4.0.

 GRE/GMAT/LSAT:

Normally, GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) is required for Business school applicants and LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is required for students who wish to enroll in law school at JD (Juris Doctor) level. But GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is required by and accepted by all universities and programs. The minimum requirements varies from university to university.

 Language Proficiency (TOEFL/IELTS) Score:

The minimum score required by most universities for admission is 80 (TOEFL iBT) and 6 (IELTS).

 Letters of Recommendation (LOR)

At least three or two (depending on university requirement).

 Resume or personal profile

 Statement of Purpose (SOP) or Essay

Very important part of the application. It increases the chance of admission in spite of having low profile.

 Financial Aid or Statement:

You must submit a financial aid application if you desire financial help for your graduate studies in a US university. Otherwise you have to submit financial statement showing solvency to pay tuition and other fees.

 Application Fee:

Ranges from $30 to $110. Some universities waive this fee for students from specific countries.

 WES Evaluation:

Some university requires to convert foreign GPA through WES evaluation.

 

All documents regarding application must be submitted to the respective university no later than the application deadline announced on the Academic Calendar.

 

Funding (Scholarships):

The term ‘funding’ is generally used to indicate any kind of financial support in the US in the form of grant, scholarship, assistantship or fellowship. Normally, funding covers every expense a student supposed to pay including tuition fee, medical insurance, living and other costs. Although USA offers some government scholarships and exchange programs, funding is the main source of financial support for international students. Funding opportunities are largely available for graduate students although there’s a number of fully funded international undergraduate student studying in the US. Of course, you can try for undergrad funding if you are prepared otherwise be better prepared and try for graduate funding.

Funding types:

Funding is commonly offered in the form of tuition waiver, assistantship, fellowship, medical insurance etc. Depending on the nature of job assistantship is of two kinds- Research Assistantship and Teaching Assistantship. Research Assistants (RA) work in different research projects under the supervisor as part of their degree fulfilment. Generally, this fund comes from projects which might be sponsored by federal fund or private institutions, sometimes by university. Teaching assistants (TA) help professors taking the course by taking exam, evaluating exam sheets, delivering lectures, providing support to students to understand the course, final grading and other duties asked by professor. Generally, this fund is provided by university itself. Fellowship is similar to that of research assistantship is sense of responsibility but the remuneration is much higher than RA.

Depending on the amount and coverage one could be fully funded, partial funded or self-funded. Generally, fully funded students all university costs are covered and an amount is offered for living by assistantship. For partial funded student, a portion of tuition fee or other fee is covered and an amount is offered as TA or RA that means he’ll paid for an amount and he have to pay an amount to the university. For self-funded student, university won’t pay anything. These are generic rules but you always have to cross check with the University directly.

How to get Funding?

Getting fund is very competitive but easy if you are well prepared and follow the steps properly. For being in the safe side, you have to create a high profile with decent CGPA, competitive standardized & language test score, publication, research or job experience etc. After being prepared, you have to follow the chronological steps like taking standardized & language tests, emailing professors, completing application, writing SOP, and collecting LOR etc. if you are well prepared and follow this steps accordingly, there’s no reason to get funding, although sometimes fate matters.

Preparation

The preparation phase includes getting a good CGPA, Publication, GRE, TOEFL, Research/Job experience etc. These are all evaluated as combined package in a holistic manner for the admission and funding decision. They won’t just focus to a single point/quality but doing something extra ordinary in part will definitely recover any discrepancy. So, if you are deficient in a certain quality, you can counter balance with the others. To better prepare oneself, the process should be started from the beginning of undergrad/college study to get a decent CGPA. And then other achievements should be accomplished one after another.

CGPA:

CGPA is the most important part for higher study applicants. Although US universities set a minimum limit of 3.00-3.25, the admission and funding always favors students with high CGPA. It’s the background of your academic life through which you will represent your academic achievements. To get a good CGPA, you have to be in the track since your first semester at college. Due to unawareness most of the students fail to obtain a creditable CGPA. For those who are not too late please try to keep it above 3.50 for at least last four semesters. It’s positively remarked if your GPA is not good at first but improved at final 3/4 semesters. And also core departmental courses, research, thesis, internship, industrial training etc. are performed at final semesters. So, good grades at those semesters will make your profile more acceptable. Normally, for fellowship or Fulbright scholarship it’s not required but recommended to have a CGPA above 3.75.

Publication:

In academia there’s a dialogue very popular- ‘publish or perish’, that means you have to publish your works and accomplishments otherwise you’ll be perished. For higher study, what you need for a successful career is to publish your works in a renowned journal or book. So this is another very important tool to enrich your profile. Sometimes it plays more important roles than the other factors. If you have low CGPA or low GRE score but you have one or two paper published in a famous journal with high impact factor, you’ll must be benefitted than others having high CGPA/GRE. So, you should have as much publication as possible or at least one. For publication, you can just submit your research paper or work for a different topic related to your future research. Although it’s better to publish something related to your desired field of study, but any kind of publication is advantageous for this war of higher study. Normally publishing in a journal is a strenuous and time consuming process but the easiest way to publish a paper is to go for a conference. Keep track of any conference related to your field and try to publish and present your paper in a conference near you.

GRE:

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a unique requirement for the US universities which enables student to cover up all academic backlogs they already have and gives them the opportunity to prepare well within a very short time. Yes, it takes only three months (based on experience) to prepare for GRE in order to secure a good score. GRE is required for almost every university and every program in the US, regardless what background you have. Business school and law school may sometimes require GMAT/LSAT, but they also accept GRE score as an equivalent.

In addition, if you are from pure science background or willing to study pure science, you can take the subject GRE, if you are afraid of general GRE test or you want to amplify your profile in excess of the general GRE score. Different universities has different minimum GRE score limit but this limit doesn’t ensure admission nor funding if you don’t have any extraordinary achievement in any other field. For STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related programs, quantitative score caries more weightage than verbal score and vice versa.

Generally the minimum requirement of GRE score is 300 combined. For STEM program often the quantitative score is required over 160 and the verbal score of 145+ is okay most of the cases. But for IV league or top ranked universities, the quant score if often 166+ and combined score is 330+. Finally it’s better to have good score on GRE, but whatever the score is there’s always space for the dedicated one unless it’s less than 300.

The best time for taking GRE is within the final semester of your college (Bachelors) study or when you are prepared. Students are seen taking GRE at the semester gap before the final semester. The benefit of appearing in the GRE before completing your Bachelor’s degree is, it’ll enable you to apply universities even before passing the bachelor’s degree as US universities allow students to apply with seven semesters (except the final one) result. Thus you can confirm admission and funding within the time of your graduation and just after graduating you can go for higher study, there will be no loss of time. But if you have a plan for job or post-graduation research, you can take your time to prepare for GRE and appear at your favorable time. But as soon as you finish the GRE test, apply to universities. Without the GRE you will not be able to apply majority of the universities in the US.

TOEFL

Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a language test and doesn’t carry much significance unless you are applying for a language course. International students whose native language or medium of study is other than English, are required to take TOEFL to show language proficiency. Although it’s been said that if the medium of study is English then it’s not required to take TOEFL, but in reality it’s seen then almost every student take TOEFL if he’s from a non-English speaking country.

IELTS is equivalent to TOEFL and sometimes more beneficent than TOEFL as almost every university of the world accepts IELTS. On the other hand some university might not accept TOEFL although all North American university accept TOEFL. Higher TOEFL score is better but don’t be bothered with low score unless it’s beyond the minimum requirement. Generally, the minimum TOEFL score requirement for US universities is 80. For TA (Teaching Assistant) funding, you have to secure a minimum of 24 out of 30 in speaking section of TOEFL.

The best time for appearing in the TOEFL exam is just after taking the GRE as most of the preparation for TOEFL is accomplished by GRE preparation. Although a minimum of one week gap is preferred. As it’s a basic requirement for students from non-English countries, you can not apply without TOEFL score unless you get any waiver of language test.

Job/Research Experience:

Although not so demanding, it’s better to gain some real life knowledge on your targeted subject by job or postgraduate research. It also helps you by publication opportunity. Professors always seek students having basic or deep knowledge about his future research. Also they evaluate experience in a different way than the fresh graduates. Sometimes it’s hard for someone engaged in a job to prepare for GRE/TOEFL and get back to higher study, so be careful. Actually the purpose of both experience and research/publication could be served by taking job in a research oriented institution.

STEPS

The steps to getting fund also starts from the beginning of college study. Being well prepared is the first step of your way to get funding. Being prepared means having a handsome CGPA, standardized test (GRE/TOEFL) score, publication, job/research experience etc. After these you have to follow the formal procedure for applying and getting fund. It includes emailing professors, applying based on the response of professors and profile matching, statement of purpose (SOP), letter of recommendation (LOR), mailing academic records etc.

Emailing Professors

To manage fund, emailing professors is the most convenient and easiest way if you don’t have a very rich profile. Students with very rich profile normally get the offer for admission and fund together although they don’t have to knock professors personally. But for the students with medium or low profile (the majority of students lie in this range), the scenario is not like that. Albeit they get some offer of admission, funding is far away unless he managed any professor. In most of the universities, the board decides the admission and funding is totally at the hand of professors. In a few university the board decides both the admission and funding.

Convincing a professor to get fund through email is the only chance for low profile students otherwise they would have to study with self-fund. Even, for partial fund you have email professors. Sometimes, emailing a professor after getting admission is effective. But most of the time emailing professors prior to apply works better and safe.

Emailing professors and getting positive feedback is too challenging now a days. There are too many students from all over the world knocking the same persons and the professors are too busy to read all those emails as well. So, to win this war to reach the professor and manage fund from him, you have to study a lot about his research, funding availability, future projects, and analogy of your research interest. Then you have to learn some effective emailing techniques. You will get some idea with from these websites http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/advice/prospective.html and http://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/16721/how-much-detail-to-include-in-first-email-to-potential-phd-supervisor.

While emailing try to keep it short and precise but convey your message properly. Try to make the subject lucrative as they look at the subject first and if it’s convincing they go further. You also have to diagnose the feedback response by separating the generic reply from the specialized ones. Although, the specialized replies are not unique but these are your hot cakes. This process is full of uncertainty and diversion, so unique response is not pragmatic. From your point of view, you email lots of professors and apply several universities for being in the safe side, so do the professors.

This process of emailing is strenuous and disappointing as you might not get any reply after sending hundreds of emails. Throughout the process, you have to learn profoundly and upgrade yourself at every steps. You have to know the drawbacks of your previous efforts and overcome them in upcoming steps. Finally, success embraces those who keep trying with patience until success comes.

Applying

Based on the feedback of emails to professor and matching your profile with universities, you have to make a short list of universities you are going to apply. Note that, some professor reply just for courtesy and some send generic replies. For profile matching, you can visit this website http://www.msinus.com/content/profile-evaluation-ms-us-261/. While selecting university make sure to check the accreditation of the university/program. Without accreditation your degree is worth nothing but waste of time and resource. You can check accreditation from here http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.aspx. Ranking also plays important role for selecting university to apply. You can see the ranking of universities based on the program here http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-engineering-schools. Admitted and funded students share their profile here http://thegradcafe.com/survey/index.php. So take a look to get more knowledge about where to apply. Be serious to applying because this costs around $30-$110 per university plus other expenses like sending GRE/TOEFL score, mailing hard copies of document etc. A few university has application fee waiver for certain applicants from certain country or having specific criteria.

Almost all of the universities have online application system. You can fill your application form there, upload all necessary documents and pay there. Only a few university requires hard copy of your academic records. You have to finish all these tasks within the posted deadline. Although it’s not wise to finish just before the deadline because as soon as you submit your application, the evaluation process starts. So, it’s not impossible that when you apply, the funding positions are already filled up. Try apply as early as possible unless you have an agreement of funding with any professor.

Statement of Purpose (SOP)

While applying to a university you have to fill up a long application form describing your academic history and intent of study. Among all the components of an application SOP is the most important part which secures your admission. It’s also called statement of intent, personal intent or personal essay. Here you have describe your purpose/intention of higher study, future long term plan, brief academic achievement, publication, extra ordinary achievements, your experience in proposed research topic, current research, reason for choosing the respective university or program etc. It’s good to refer a professor (from whom you got a positive feedback of funding) along with one of his papers which resembles your research interest most.

Some universities have specific format or word limit for SOP. Read them out first. Otherwise the format and style is same. A one to two page SOP is preferred most of the cases. Before starting writing an SOP, do an extensive homework first. Read out others SOP thoroughly. Remember, the more you spent your time in SOP, the better the SOP will be. These websites miht be helpful to write a successful SOP.

http://grad.berkeley.edu/admissions/apply/statement-purpose/

https://www.princetonreview.com/grad-school-advice/statement-of-purpose

You have to start in an attractive way so that reader is interested to read further. Make it short, precise, comprehensive, non-repetitive and non-superfluous. You can start with a quote or a memory / history or directly mention your intent. Again don’t write a single word which doesn’t carry significant meaning or describe anything improperly. Finally revise your SOP by two or more experts. Once you finalize your SOP for a university, you can use the format for others making the necessary changes. Anybody fulfilling the minimum requirements of university and having a cogent SOP is very likely to get admission. Although admission is not the last port of this journey.

Letter of Recommendation (LOR)

Majority of the universities require three letters of recommendation, some require two. The LOR could be from faculty/teacher, college senior or lab instructor but not a friend. It’s not mandatory to collect LOR always from a professor, associate/assistant professor or lecturer is also good. Someone having an institutional email not generic (Gmail, yahoo etc.) email and knows the applicant for a noticeable period is preferable. The recommender will describe how he knows the candidate and evaluate him from his point of view and on the basis of his experience with him. It’s not hard to collect LOR from faculties, but if you apply to 10 universities and they require 3 LOR each then you have to collect 30 LORs and obviously that’s very painstaking. Try to collect it prom your supervisor, advisor, faculty who taught you at least two courses or a faculty with whom you worked very closely in a project. Most of the cases you have to prepare your own draft of LOR and then your recommender finalizes it. This process kills much of your time so plan accordingly to finish everything before touching the deadline.

Mailing Documents

Some university requires the hard copy of academic records while applying although most of them has option to upload online. But after admission you have to submit the hardcopies of transcripts and certificates prior to starting classes in any university. And for this purpose, you have to have those documents signed and sealed in a closed envelop by your graduating educational institution. This process could take from a week to month depending on the institution. So, first make sure how much hardcopies you need and collect those signed and sealed copies as soon as possible. Also it takes some time (normally a week but varies depending on carriers) to mail those documents to the respected universities.