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An Interview with Aashima Sethi

By Rajdeep Guha

The USA is one of the principal higher study destinations in the world. Indian students, in particular, have been enthusiastic about the American education system. Being a vibrant economy and a culturally diverse country, the USA promises a great value for money to students. In this interview, Rajdeep Guha speaks to Aashima Sethi, who is presently working as Manager and Advisor – Admissions, Erudion, Gurgaon. She shares her thoughts and some information regarding higher education opportunities in the US. She can be reached at

Could you give me an overview of the US education system such as the duration of the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes?

Bachelor’s: The four years spent as an undergraduate at a university are typically known as the Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years. Some of the most popular undergraduate (UG) degrees are BA (Bachelor in Arts), BS (Bachelor in Science), BFA (Bachelor in Fine Arts), BArch (Bachelor in Architecture) & B Engg (Bachelor in Engineering).

Master’s: It is a Postgraduate degree which students pursue to get trained in a specialized branch or field either academic or professional. Most programs offer a thesis and non-thesis option. Generally, it requires one to three years of additional study beyond a Bachelor’s degree.

Which are the top ranking universities in the US?

Some of the top ranking universities in the US are California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Harvard University, Stanford University, Yale University, University of Chicago and Columbia University. All the aforementioned universities come within the top 15 universities in the world according to World University Rankings 2014-15. For more details, please refer to the link: Times World University rankings

What about doctoral studies? How long does it take to complete a Ph.D.?

A Ph.D. is designed to prepare students for college faculty and research scholar positions, as well as for other careers that require advanced knowledge and research skills. A research degree may be academic (such as a doctor of philosophy or PhD), professional (such as a doctor of education or EdD), or doctor of business administration (DBA). A doctoral study program requires candidates to pass a comprehensive examination and complete a piece of original research leading to a dissertation. Usually, a Ph.D. candidate requires five to eight years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree. Some programs might require applicants to have completed a master’s degree. For more information, please visit: Graduate Education System

Are American degrees internationally recognised?

A lot of international students pick USA because of its strong reputation when it comes to higher education. With over 4000 universities across the country, the US higher education system is always held in high esteem. An American degree is extremely prestigious and exerts a powerful influence on the rest of the world. Undoubtedly, a degree from a top US university is like having a global citizenship. Gaining a US degree is an extremely impressive accomplishment as it is not only accredited with different organizations and professional bodies but is also recognized among all quarters of the industry throughout the world.

What about expenses?

Coming to the cost factor, an undergraduate (UG) degree tuition fee starts from as low as $19000 and goes up to $60000. A postgraduate (MS) degree programme tuition fee depends on the no. of credit one takes at the university. An MBA starts from as low as $50,000 and goes up to $100,000 or even more. Living expenses would range somewhere between $12,000 to $15,000 per annum.

Are funding opportunities available?

US universities have always been very generous in giving scholarships to exceptionally bright students. With a wide range of institutions to choose from in the US, there is a university for every student of any background that fits his/her budget. Scholarships are given to international students based on academic merit and distinction in other non-scholastic works. There are majorly two types of scholarships options available to choose from:

Merit based scholarship: Given to meritorious students who have demonstrated their academic or non-academic excellence throughout their academic career. In addition to this, exceptionally high scores in standardized tests such as SAT or ACT can also be taken into consideration.

Need based scholarships which are based on the financial capacity of deserving candidates. It is offered to those students, whose family resources (as calculated by a standardized formula) are not sufficient to cover the educational costs.

While there is a limited need-based aid for the international students, there are many merit-based scholarships for the world’s brightest minds. For more details, you can visit our website:

What kind of accommodation is available to students?

I suggest on-campus accommodation to my students in their 1st year so that they can get used to their environment.

Since American Education is very popular among all international students, staying on campus helps students in making new friends from all over the world. They can learn a lot about other cultures and communities and enrich their experience. After all, it is rightly said that the friends and experiences obtained during campus life are worth as much as education itself.

For many international students, living in a dormitory with other university students gives them an opportunity to meet new people from different backgrounds and thereby, forge lifelong bonds.

The US universities are also known for their vibrant campus life which offers a great mix of academics and extracurricular activities. Sporting activities play a major role in the US universities. Even if one does not take part in any sport they can always be part of many other social events on campus or be part of the student government, student clubs, university newspaper etc. Details can be found here:

Are students allowed to stay back after they complete their degree?

Students can work after they complete their degree. Every student gets a minimum of 1 year’s work permit. More information can be found here: Student visa. However, getting a PR is very difficult in USA and a lengthy procedure when compared to other countries.

How safe are US cities?

American cities are very safe. Policing system in the US is efficient and hence, crime rate is low compared to other countries.

Why do you think the American system of education outscores other countries?

One of the key aspects of the American Education System is that it encourages holistic development of the students. Prime focus is on the prolific development of the students through practical exposure and application based academics.

For Indian students, staying more than 7000 miles away from the homeland, the US provides both a conducive and challenging environment, which makes him or her much stronger individual and an extremely independent person. The exposure to the US, one of the most culturally diverse and inclusive societies in the world, along with its vibrant college campuses, is seldom replicated in those of any other country. The astonishing diversity of the nation makes students highly adaptable. As a result, distinct and positive personality traits develop in the students, which later becomes a major asset and drives the student towards success in this fast paced, globalized world.

What are the tests that a student needs to appear for so as to become eligible for admission to a university?

Coming to English proficiency tests, international students are required to have either a valid TOEFL or an IELTS score.

Additionally, for undergraduate degree programs, one must take SAT or ACT and along with that, SAT subject tests in at least 2 subjects if s/he is applying to top universities in the USA. For PG (MS and PhD) one needs to take GRE and GMAT for management related courses.

Does the US Embassy/USIEF help the student shortlist universities?
They do provide basic help but it’s always better to go to a private/personal US admissions advisor as they are able to provide much better personalised help.

Any particular website that you would recommend to aspiring students?
The following websites contain a plethora of information related to higher studies in the US.,,,

How many Indian students are presently studying in USA?
Surveys indicate that approximately 100,000 students from India get a student visa every year to study in the US.

Can a student work in the US after completing his/her degree there?
Yes, mostly all UG and PG students get 1 year of work permit after they complete their education. Students who pursue a degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) get an extra 17 months’ work permit. For details, you can visit: Visa extension for STEM

Could you please describe the visa application process?
The first step is to get an acceptance letter from the university. The university then issues an I20 which the student submits along with other documents to the American Embassy/Consulate for an F1 visa (student visa).

How long does it take to obtain a student visa?
If the documents are in order, the visa application is accepted and it just takes 2 business days to get the stamping.

Lastly, why would you recommend USA as a higher education destination to Indian students?
One of the main advantages of studying in the US is the world class infrastructure that almost every American university offers. Coupled with that, a student can learn from renowned teachers who most often are acclaimed researchers themselves. Additionally, American degrees are respected and recognised worldwide and, hence, students can practically tap the entire job market in the world after they complete their degree. For more details, please visit:


After completing an MA in English from the University of Calcutta, India, Rajdeep Guha went to the University of Otago, New Zealand to pursue an MA (Thesis) in English. He submitted his thesis on his chosen area of specialization and then, returned to India in 2013. Since then, he has been working as IELTS and TOEFL trainer in New Delhi, India. His e-mail id:


For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.

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