International Student Issues

This section discusses the various issues faced by international students applying to the U.S. for education. We discuss here eligibility criteria for US colleges, accommodation, health insurance and rules for taking up employment while studying.

The three most important criteria for both graduate & undergraduate courses are :

1.  Consistently Good Academic Record 
2.  Financial Support 
3.  Proficiency in English

Other eligibility criteria :

Undergraduate Programs (BS, BE, BA etc)

Most Colleges all over the U.S. require a minimum of 12 years of formal education. In the Indian context, it implies qualifying in class 12th examination or junior college, as applicable.  The acceptable degrees include: Indian School Certificate, Intermediate Certificate, Higher School Certificate, Higher Secondary Certificate, All India Senior School Certificate.

Graduate Programs (MS, MA,MBA etc)

Most schools require qualifications comparable to a U.S. Bachelor’s degree (Four-Year Degree Program) or a minimum of 16 years of formal education. In the Indian context, this implies qualifying in either a professional four-year course like engineering or other such courses.

If you have completed a 3-year degree program in India, the advisable plan of action to maximize eligibility for U.S. graduate schools is to apply for a Post Graduate degree in India. A one-year university affiliated program will make up for the fourth year of a U.S. Undergraduate degree.

Students who apply are also required to take standardized tests like GRE, GMAT, LSAT and TOEFL etc. depending on the course or program chosen. For more details on these, check out the Tests To Be Taken section. The minimum TOEFL score required is usually 550 (Paper-based test) or 220 (Computer-based test) for graduate courses. But for financial aid, a minimum score of is 600 (Paper-based test) or 250 (Computer-based test) is usually required. 


  • Professional programs like the CA, ICWA, part time diplomas such as those in management or communication may or may not be accepted. Though many universities, especially Business Schools, have started recognizing the Indian CA.
  • Independent certificate courses offered by private institutions like Aptech, NIIT, etc. may or may not be accepted based on each individual university’s evaluation.
  • One-year education of a two year degree course (like M.Tech, MA etc) may not be accepted by most schools. The full course has to be completed for qualification, unless there is a recognized university exam at the end of one year.

No standardized policy exists regarding the acceptance of such programs. Some universities may accept the three-year Indian Graduation Degree for a few programs. Confirmation can only be obtained by either writing directly or formally applying to the universities concerned.

Each institute has its own policy for housing and may offer a range of options for single and married students. In case of universities that do offer accommodation, you will be sent a description of the on- and off-campus options available as well as the actual housing application form.

Since most campuses have limited on-campus housing, it is extremely important to submit the application form early.   University housing facilities may range from a dormitory, which may be shared with other students to an apartment for a family. Some undergraduate universities may require students to live in a dormitory on campus.

Most graduate students live off-campus either by themselves or in small groups.

Students applying can contact various Indian Students Associations in the universities they are applying. Most Indian students manage to find other Indian students for shared apartments. 

For a rough idea, check out Expenses for International Students

Rents vary greatly from state to state, depending on the location. All details can be found out from the associations.

This is another very important criteria for financial planning. Most U.S. Institutes require that all students including international students be covered by an insurance policy that will protect them against medical, hospital bills if they get sick or are injured while studying at the college, as health care is very expensive in U.S.  The insurance policy is approximately about US $ 600 per year.

The international student office of the college you choose to attend will supply the detailed information on insurance policies and the procedure to obtain proper coverage.

Part-Time Work/Jobs


Employment opportunities for international students are limited.  You should not plan on earning substantial money from a part-time job to help pay for your studies.

On campus : Though international students are allowed to work on campus, these jobs are often difficult to obtain and do not provide sufficient funds to sustain education costs. Students with good academic standing have a better chance.

Off campus : It may be possible to for students to avail of limited off-campus employment, which is subject to strict regulatory guidelines. It requires approval from US Immigration & Naturalization Service. This approval is not easy to get and depends on a special need.

Practical Training : In addition, there may be opportunities for practical training which entail a period of authorized employment, designed to allow foreign students to have professional work experience related to their field of study. For further details, contact the foreign student adviser at the university, after you are enrolled.