Study in USA
There are over 4,000 accredited colleges and universities in the US, ranging from large research universities to small private colleges, state universities, community colleges, and specialized and technical institutions. Many US universities are ranked among the world’s best, consistently dominating the top tier of global rankings. For the fifth year in a row, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was ranked #1 in the 2015/16 QS University Rankings, one of 10 American universities found in the QS top 20. The 2015/16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings placed 14 US universities in the top 20. And 16 universities in the ARWU top 20 (Shanghai Jiaotong University) World University Rankings are American. Dozens more American universities place in these ranking systems’ top 100 universities.
The US Is One of the Most Well-Educated Countries in the World
Over 40% of American citizens between the ages of 25 and 64 have a post-secondary education. The US is also ranked among the top 25 countries in the world when it comes to the science, reading, and mathematics abilities of its secondary school students. American industries have been judged to have the second best collaboration with universities in the world.
The US Is Diverse and Multicultural
Spanning six different time zones, the US is geographically and ethnically diverse. It is a country of immigrants that is shaped by the cultures of the world. Although English is the official language of most US states, more than 60 million Americans speak a different language at home. Many US cities – including Houston, New York, and Los Angeles – have large and vibrant African-American, Hispanic, and Asian communities. According to the US Census, one in eight US residents is foreign-born. In 2013–14, 974,926 international students were studying in the US, adding to the nation’s diversity.
The US Is a Highly Competitive and Powerful Economy
The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world. It ranks in the top three countries in the world on the measure of competitiveness, thanks to its financial sector, commitment to technological innovation, and successful companies according to the IMD 2016 World Competitiveness Rankings. The US also ranks 4th out of 189 countries when it comes to ease of doing business.
The US Is a Creative, Innovative Nation
Since its inception, the US has been an innovative nation driven by ideas, traditions, and talents that foster achievements in science, technology, the arts, and other fields. From Thomas Edison – who invented the long-lasting light bulb in the 19th century – to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of today, Americans have been known for their inventions and creativity. A new study from researchers at the University of Toronto puts the US in the top three most creative countries in the world, where creativity is defined as the product of three measurable variables: technology, talent and tolerance.
The US Values Openness and Equality
The US has a strong democratic tradition that regards all citizens as equal, and a Bill of Rights that legally confirms their fundamental rights. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, speech, the press, and peaceful assembly and petition. Americans believe strongly in the rights and freedoms of people, and equality in their social relationships.
Around 325 million people live in the United States, making it the third most populous country in the world, after China and India.
The majority of Americans – just over 80% – live in urban areas. Many American cities are thriving thanks to multiculturalism, artistic offerings, and greener lifestyles than in the past. As of 2012, the largest US cities are:
- New York (8.4 million)
- Los Angeles (3.9 million)
- Chicago (2.7 million)
- Houston (2.2 million)
America’s coastal areas are substantially more crowded than the nation as a whole. In 2010, 123.3 million people, or 39% of the US population, lived in counties directly on the shoreline, a figure that is expected to increase. The most populous US state is California, with 38 million people, but the most densely populated state is New Jersey with 465 people per square kilometer. Compared to many other developed countries, however, the population density of the US remains relatively low.
The US is an ethnically and culturally diverse country whose current population is a result of original settlement, colonization, and immigration. Except for Native Americans, most people living in the US are either immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, beginning with the English who colonized the country in the 1600s.
Most Americans’ ancestors are European. In the 2000 census, over 15% of Americans identified their ancestry as German, followed by Irish (10.8%), African (8.8%), and English (8.7%). More recent Census data shows that the US is becoming increasingly diverse. People who identify themselves as Hispanic are America’s second-largest ethnic group and one of its fastest growing. In 2011, Hispanics numbered approximately 52 million people; African-Americans, 44 million; and Asians, 18 million nationally.
Native Americans – America’s original inhabitants – today number approximately 6.3 million people. Following European contact in the 17th century, nearly every Native American community was negatively affected by deadly new diseases – to which they had no immunity – as well as the seizure of their homelands. It is estimated that disease epidemics alone devastated Native populations by 50–90%.
But over the last five centuries Native Americans have been strengthening and rebuilding their cultures. Today, they are diverse peoples, belonging to around 500 tribes, speaking some 175 languages, and residing throughout the US. Native Americans balance modern lives with various degrees of traditional language, history, spirituality, and customs.
Most people speak English in the United States, the official language of many states. Nevertheless, many Americans speak other languages. Almost 38 million people aged five and over speak Spanish at home, making the US the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. The next most commonly spoken non-English languages are Chinese (with 2.8 million speakers), Hindi, Urdu or other Indic languages (2.2 million), French or French Creole (2.1 million), and Tagalog (1.7 million). Despite the prevalence of English, international students will hear Spanish in Miami, French around New Orleans, and even German in some Midwestern and Western areas.
Freedom of religion is one of the founding principles of the United States and a guaranteed right in the US Constitution. Americans are open to a range of religious viewpoints and most have a tolerant approach to faith. Students should not hesitate to seek out opportunities to practice their religion if they wish to do so.
Americans tend to be more religious than their counterparts from other Western nations. More than half consider religion to be very important in their lives. About 20% of the population, however, has no religious affiliation and church attendance is on the decline.
Culturally, Americans define themselves in many ways – through the arts, ethnicity, faith, work and play, home life, and community.
Native Americans and immigrants have each contributed their own customs and traditions to the US, creating a multicultural society that has sometimes been referred to as a “melting pot.” Each of America’s regions has its own identity as well, characterized by distinct food, history, attitudes, and culture. Every year, that diversity is celebrated and recognized through events and celebrations large and small, national and local, including Cinco de Mayo, Martin Luther King Day, and Chinese New Year.
Above all else, Americans believe in individualism (a value that prioritizes independence, freedom of thought, and self-reliance), even though many also strong family ties and loyalties to groups. From a young age, Americans are encouraged to see themselves as responsible for their own destiny. Many Americans place a high priority on personal achievement, and they don’t see social and economic status as being barriers to success in life.
Americans also have a good sense of teamwork and value equality in their social relationships and society at large. More than a quarter of them volunteer their time to help others or a cause. Friendly and informal, Americans are comfortable striking up a conversation, and quick to use first names. They are often open and direct in their dealings with others, and encourage the expression of opinions, including in a classroom setting. American college and university life is known to be particularly vibrant, with a wealth of social opportunities, sporting events, and clubs to choose from.
The US has a thriving arts and culture scene, and American artists and creators – such as painter Georgia O’Keeffe, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and director Steven Spielberg – are known worldwide. While students may be most familiar with American TV shows and Hollywood movies, the contemporary arts scene in the US also includes modern dance, avant-garde visual art, independent theater, literature, and other artistic practices. And popular music has long expressed what it means to be American, from folk songs to jazz, rock and roll, hip-hop, and country.
Some say that what really draws Americans together is sports. Baseball, American football, basketball, ice hockey, and car racing all have millions of fans in the US. Soccer (known as football in some other parts of the world) is also gaining in popularity at the professional level and is one of the country’s most popular youth sports.
Perhaps not surprisingly, foods such as apple pie and hamburgers often come to mind when one thinks of American cuisine, but the country offers an array of dining options – from fast food to fine dining. Americans have mixed food cultures to create their own, and food from around the world – for example, Japanese sushi, Mexican tacos, and Indian curry – is readily available.
Many traditional American foods originate from a specific region. For example, the Cajun gumbo and grits (ground corn cooked to a porridge-like consistency) was first created in the South; and clam chowder and Boston baked beans are associated with New England. Cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is a tradition for many American families. Coffee is also an extremely popular beverage in the US and students will find coffee shops everywhere – from cities to university towns.
Americans lead a variety of lifestyles and there are important differences between rural and urban areas, and between social classes. The US has one of the world’s highest standards of living. The median household income is around $51,000, though it varies by region and ethnicity.
Material success, however, is not everything for Americans, who also appreciate the cultural, spiritual, and human aspects of life. The United States placed among the top 20 countries in the world – ahead of the UK, France, and Japan – in the second World Happiness Report, a United Nations survey that rates respondents’ overall satisfaction with life.
In 2015, the United States was ranked in the top ten on the UN Human Development Index. The US also ranks highly regarding overall quality of life among industrialized democracies, according to the OECD’s Better Life Index. Americans are also more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 83% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day than negative ones.
The climate in the US varies by place and time of year. Mostly temperate (i.e., mild), it can range from tropical in Hawaii and Florida, to freezing cold in Alaska, and extremely dry and hot in the deserts of the Southwest.
Florida has the highest average annual temperature at 21°C, followed closely by Hawaii at 21.1°C, and Louisiana at 19.1°C. At the other end of the scale, Alaska – not surprisingly – has the lowest average annual temperature at -3°C, followed by North Dakota (4.7°C), and Maine (5°C). In the middle is Indiana with an average annual temperature of 10.9°C.
The US has four seasons: summer is generally understood to begin on Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) and end on Labor Day (the first Monday in September). Spring begins in March and ends in May. Fall goes from September to November, and winter from December to February. But not all regions experience the changing seasons this way. Much of the central and southern US experiences consistent weather, and warm to hot temperatures – sometimes year-round. Northern states have much colder temperatures and more extreme weather variations, including heavy snowstorms in winter.
Agents should encourage students studying in the US to learn about the typical climate in their respective state and plan accordingly – whether that means investing in sunscreen for the summer months, or warm boots, coats, and gloves for the winter ones.
For more detailed information visit the website of the US National Weather Service.
The American university system is diverse – with over 4,000 degree-granting institutions delivering a wide range of programs and offering unique experiences for international students.
Part of the reason the higher education landscape is so diverse in the US is that, as mentioned in Section 2, the federal government is not involved in recognizing educational institutions, programs or curriculums, or degrees or other qualifications. The education system is “decentralized” as a result: state governments are responsible for overseeing the activities of higher education institutions.
Most public universities are operated by the states and territories, usually as part of a state university system (which is a group of public universities supported by an individual state). Each state supports at least one state university and several support many more. California, for example, has an 11-campus University of California system, a 23-campus California State University system, and a 109-campus California Community Colleges System.
Local cities and counties may also support colleges and universities.
The federal government manages only the five “service” academies (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine) that are public; there is no “national” university.
It is very important to understand, therefore, that the use of the term “national” in a university names does not indicate federal support or stature. For example, National University of San Diego, California, is a private university. Similarly, the use of a state or city name does not automatically imply that an institution is public. Murray State University is a public university; the University of Pennsylvania, by contrast, is a private institution.
Public universities are often larger, and require international students to pay out-of-state tuition; but, they are often less expensive than private universities.
Private colleges and universities are those that do not receive their primary support from the government. Among these, some are secular while others have a religious affiliation (e.g., Roman Catholic, Judaism, etc). In general, religiously affiliated institutions welcome students of all faiths, and religious courses are minimal or optional.
Private institutions are either non-profit or for-profit. For-profit institutions are often more focused on careers and technical education.
The University of Phoenix is a prominent example of a private, for-profit institution. Private universities are often more expensive than public ones, but they sometimes have more financial assistance set aside for international students.
Whether they are public or private, US colleges and universities vary in terms of what their overall focus is.
Some emphasize a vocational, business, engineering, or technical curriculum; others emphasize a liberal arts curriculum. Many institutions combine some or all of the above.