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How to study undergrad in the USA after Class 12th?

As of January 2021, more than 1 million Indian students are studying in 85 countries. More than 50% of Indian students study in North America. However, most students used to go abroad to pursue their Master’s level education. In this article, we examine how somebody can go abroad, especially USA, for their college or undergrad level education itself.

Why study undergrad in USA?

One has higher chance of success if he or she pursues undergrad (as called in USA) or graduate (as called in India) studies from top colleges in USA or Europe. Some direct benefits are-

  1. A Bachelor’s education from a top institute may mean that you don’t require Master’s education anymore – so you save two years of time and money
  2. Getting into a TOP 10 college is much easier at Bachelor’s level than at Master’s level
  3. Not having to face the ridiculous competition of Indian exams – IITs accept less than 2% students who give the exam, IIMs accept ~0.5% of the candidates, 40,000 biology students compete for 1 Million medical seats. The bottomline is cut-throat competition in entrance level examinations. Not performing well on the day of the exam can mean you have to wait another year to do what you want in life.

Once you have decided to seek overseas education options for your child’s college studies, let’s dive into the undergraduate study ecosystem in USA.

2-year community college vs 4-year college

If you wish to study undergrad in the USA after class 12th, there are many options available. Associate degrees, community colleges, and full degrees are offered in the USA. Undergraduate degrees of both 2 and 4 years are offered by various universities in the USA. Both types of degrees are equally recognized and renowned. Such programs are designed to provide maximum knowledge to the students in 2 or 4 years. The decision to take admission in a 2-year community college or a full-fledged 4-year degree should also be taken based on financial resources. Students who have financial issues can opt for a 2-year associate degree and then transfer to a 4-year program 

Some of the major differences between 2- and 4-year college are: 

2-Year Undergraduate Program4-Year Undergraduate Program
These degrees are offered by a community or junior collegesThese degrees are offered by both public and private universities
Associate degrees are awarded e.g. Associate of Science, Associate of Arts.Bachelor degrees are awarded e.g. Bachelors of Arts (B.A), Bachelors of Science (B.S)
Basics of various subjects are taught in associate degreesStudents opt for a major in Bachelor degrees 
Minimum 60 credit hours of study must be completedUsually, 120 credit hours of study are completed. 60 credit hours can be transferred from a 2-year degree as well.
Students get basic knowledge about their areas of interest. After completing a 2-year degree, credits can be transferred to pursue a specialized bachelor’s degree.Makes it easy for the people to get a job in a specialized field after completing a bachelor’s degree
The average cost is $8,500 per annumThe average cost is $33,500 per annum
2 yr vs 4 yr programs in USA

Also read: Cost of college education in USA

Popular majors for Indian students for undergrad in USA

There are lots of options for Indian students to choose to study in the USA. Some of the most popular choices are:

  • Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Information Technology (IT)
  • Commerce and Management
  • Mathematics
  • Social Sciences
  • Fine Arts
  • Humanities
  • English Language and Grammar

Application Timelines

Ideally, students should start gathering information about studying in the USA about 1 to 2 years before sending their application. The majority of the Indian students start this process during the break of Grade 11.  

Even if you are starting your application late in Grade 12, you should use your time productively to prepare a captivating application. The application timeline also depends on the type of admission and scholarship you are applying to. For example, the timeline for admission on the quota of sports is different than the regular applications.

The breakdown for the application process is given below.

During the Vacations of Grade 11

  • Start the process of applying to a university in the USA by getting the information from the relevant resources like authentic websites and the website of the respective university.
  • Make sure that you can afford to study in the USA and familiarize yourself with any scholarship or financial aid programs you will be needing.
  • Decide if you want to pursue a two-year associate degree or a four-year full bachelor’s degree. You can decide about which option is best for you after reading about the major difference between these two programs in the previous section.
  • Research the universities thoroughly and apply to at least 10-12 universities to increase your chances of achieving your dream of studying in the USA after 12th class. 
  • Learn about the procedure of applying to various scholarship programs, along with the application process of the USA universities. Moreover, learn about the standardized tests that you will have to take to apply to a university in the USA.
  • Select the universities which are suitable based on availability of financial aid and degree programs related to your area of interest.

9-13 Months Before Admission Application

  • Take the standardized test that you need for getting into an international university. Most of the USA universities accept the SAT as the standard test.
  • Get the reference letters from your instructors as they enhance the chances of your admission. 
  • Start writing the first draft of your essay.
  • Finalize your budget and expenses for the initial months at the university. 
  • Keep the admission deadlines in mind and prepare the documents according to these deadlines.

During Class 12th

  • After March, you will start getting the response from the majority of the universities you applied to.
  • Assess the admission offers and narrow down your choices. 
  • By May, you should finalize your decision and start making the traveling arrangement.
  • After your admission is finalized, apply for the USA student visa immediately.
  • During the summers, your visa application process should be completed.
  • The semester starts in August or September. You should attend the orientation classes to get to know about your surroundings and become comfortable with the new environment. 

Process for undergrad applications in USA colleges

Every university has its own set of requirements in the application process. Generally, the following documents are required in all of the universities.  

  • Standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT
  • TOEFL or IELTS to assess the proficiency of the applicant in the English language
  • Certificates or diplomas in extracurricular activities
  • Criminal record, if any
  • Academic transcripts

For latest requirements, visit EducationUSA website.

Following steps should be kept in mind while completing the application:

  • Try to complete the application a few days before the deadline to avoid any problem
  • Make sure you have attached all the required documents with the application
  • Test scores, personal essay, recommendation letters, and academic transcripts must be attached to the application. 
  • Many universities require a Financial Certificate as well. It is used to assess your position in financial aid schemes.  
  • Marksheets along with a detailed transcript of the college must be attached
  • Personal essays make a huge difference in the admission selection process. It helps the selection committee to know the applicant personally and determine if she or he is eligible for admission
  • 3 to 4 letters of recommendation are essential to make a good impression

Transferring to US College from Indian College?

It is conceivable to shift from an Indian university to a USA university. You can also transfer between USA institutions, without losing the number of credit hours you have already studied.

Credits systems have made it very flexible for the students to shift from one institute to another as the credit hours follow the same criteria all over the world. According to studies, more than one million students enrolled at a university transfer from one institute to another. Therefore, if an Indian student wishes to transfer to a USA college, he should consider the following factors:


Usually, the transfer applications are taken at the same time as new applicants. The process of transfer should be started about a year before shifting. Starting the process early will make sure that the transfer is easy and smooth. 

The transfer applications are generally submitted at the end of February or in March. However, these dates may vary from university to university, so you should keep visiting the concerned websites to make sure you do not miss the important deadlines. 

Application Process

During the application of transfer, the students must submit all of their information and documents just like they did at the time of admission. Along with the documents, additional information like the reason for transference, application fee, and reference letter must be submitted. A personal statement is also required from the students in which they have to write the reasons for their transfer. This statement must be written clearly and comprehensively as many applications of transfer are rejected if the personal statements are not up to the mark.

Admissions Criteria

Before transferring to another institute, the student must have completed at least one year of studies from a recognized university. Some universities allow the transfer even after a semester of 6 months. Such requirements vary from university to university. 

Other than the components of transfer application discussed you should consult the colleges in India and USA to get comprehensive details about the transfer process of transferring from an Indian college to a USA college.

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