Undergraduate Degree in the USA

The USA is the leading study abroad destination for undergraduate aspirants. Let us understand what makes it a preferred destination for undergraduate aspirants.

Best Destination for Colleges/Undergraduate Courses

Excellent academic curriculum & faculty, a wide array of electives, impeccable research focus, high quality of campus life and high student satisfaction make the USA colleges rank higher among undergraduate applicants. A USA undergraduate degree is valued several notches higher than a similar degree from any other destination. Top-ranked colleges in the USA offer world-class UG degrees. Undergraduate students can pursue their bachelor’s in subjects ranging from architecture, biological & biomedical sciences, computer & information sciences, engineering, English language & literature, health, history, liberal arts and humanities to psychology. They can pursue their under graduation in atypical courses like agriculture; citizenship activities; ethnic; cultural, gender and group studies; library science; personal and culinary services etc.

High Ranking Institutes

As per the World University Rankings 2023 by QS, 9 USA universities feature in the top 20 list. The USA boasts of the most highly-acclaimed colleges in the world – Ivy League colleges, MIT, Stanford, Caltech and UCs etc. It is also home to highly-acclaimed liberal arts colleges such as Williams College, Amherst College, Swarthmore College and Pomona College.

Academic Flexibility in Choosing/Customising/Changing a Major

The USA is highly popular for the academic flexibility available to undergraduate students in changing their major after commencing their undergraduation. For the first two years, USA undergraduate students undertake core courses to identify their interests and even change their major later if needed. They can join with an undecided major if unsure of the choice of major. Most degree programs require a certain number of classes in a discipline but let students customise the rest of their schedule. E.g. for two students studying International Relations at the same college at the same time, one might decide to minor in Philosophy or Chemistry; the other might change the major to Anthropology after a year of study.

Excellent Networking and Research Opportunities

Studying in the USA offers countless networking opportunities that can lead to lifelong professional and personal connections and ultimately result in lucrative internships and job opportunities. It also provides opportunities to collaborate with professors and brilliant minds in a field to conduct path-breaking research. Such research collaborations could also lead to future referrals and work-study opportunities.

Global Career Opportunities and Exponential Increase in Earning Potential

Studying in the USA prepares students for a competitive international career. With technology advancing quicker than ever in a global economic set-up, irrespective of the field, a wide range of knowledge and agility is a skill sought-after by employers everywhere. Undergraduate students in the USA will enjoy an exponential increase in their earning potential and career trajectory.

Popular UG Courses in the USA

  • Architecture
  • Communication (Digital Cinema & Television, Ethics and Social Responsibility in Communication, Journalism and
    Strategic Communication)
  • Design [Communications (Graphic Design), Environments (Physical & Digital) and Products (Industrial Design)]
  • Engineering
  • Fine Arts (five areas of concentration – Ceramics, Digital Media, Painting, Photography and Sculpture)
  • Marketing
  • Nursing
  • Philosophy
  • Public Affairs (Criminal Justice, Emergency Management, Health Policy, Homeland Security, Political Science, Public Administration, Public Communications, Public Policy)
  • Social Work

Quick Facts to Know

Types of Higher Education Institutions in the USA for UG

Ivy League CollegesThese colleges focus on undergraduate education of liberal arts; admission is supremely competitiveBrown UniversityColumbia UniversityCornell UniversityDartmouth CollegeHarvard UniversityPrinceton UniversityUniversity of PennsylvaniaYale University
Liberal Arts CollegesThese colleges endorse liberal arts study in humanities, sciences and social sciences. They are known for their high academic standards.Amherst CollegeCarleton CollegePomona CollegeSwarthmore CollegeWilliams College
Public (State) UniversitiesPublic universities are funded by the state government; tuition fees are lower than private universities. Some popular universities are:Georgia Institute of TechnologyPurdue UniversityUniversity of California, Los AngelesUniversity of Illinois, Urbana ChampaignUniversity of Michigan, Ann ArborUniversity of Texas Austin
Private UniversitiesPrivate universities run via private funding such as faculty research grants, alumni donations and tuition fees. Their tuition fees are higher than public universities. Some popular universities are:Duke UniversityHarvard University (also Ivy League)MITStanford University
Technical InstitutionsThese institutions offer engineering, science and research programs. Some institutions under this category are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), California Polytechnic Institute, and Georgia Institute of Technology
Community CollegesThese colleges offer higher education, granting certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, and lower-level tertiary education to impart vocational skillsDe Anza College and Bellevue Community College fall under this categoryCommunity college students can transfer their associate degree credits to pursue two more years in a full-time bachelor’s degree program at a degree-awarding college/university

Top Universities for UG in the USA

According to the 2023 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the following are the top universities in the USA for Undergraduate Degree programs:

California Institute of TechnologySix academic divisions with a strong emphasis on science & technology teaching and researchIt has a high research output and alongside many high-quality facilities, both on campus and globally. It includes:Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCaltech Seismological LaboratoryInternational Observatory Network
Stanford UniversityOne of the largest campuses in the United States with 18 interdisciplinary research institutes such as the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; Graduate School of Education; School of Engineering; School of Humanities and Sciences; Law School; and School of Medicine.
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyIt is organised into five schools: Architecture and Planning, Engineering, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Management and Science. Scientific discoveries and technological advances accredited to MIT include the first chemical synthesis of penicillin, the development of radar, the discovery of quarks, and the invention of magnetic core memory, which enabled the development of digital computers
Princeton UniversityOne of the world’s foremost research universities with connections to more than 40 Nobel laureates, 17 winners of the National Medal of Science and five recipients of the National Humanities Medal
Harvard UniversitySituated in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the campus has 12 degree-granting schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced StudyThe private Ivy League institution has impressive alumni of 45 Nobel laureates, over 30 heads of state and 48 Pulitzer Prize winners
Yale UniversityA private Ivy League research universityIt comprises 14 schools, and students follow a liberal arts curriculum, covering Humanities and Arts, Sciences and Social Sciences before choosing a departmental major. Students also receive instruction in writing skills, quantitative reasoning and foreign languages
University of ChicagoAn urban research university with an interdisciplinary core curriculum and programs focused on developing critical, analytical, and writing skills in studentsFaculty, researchers, and alumni have earned 90 Nobel Prizes and 50 MacArthur “genius grants” along with numerous other national medals and fellowships

USA UG Courses Duration & Cost of Education in the USA

DurationCost of Education (Tuition Plus Living) per annum
Associate degree: 2 years durationBachelor’s degree: Usually four yearsBachelor of Architecture Degree, Doctor of Medicine(MD), Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Juris Doctor(JD) may take four to six years to complete Tuition: $20,000-$35,000 per annumLiving: $10,000-$18,000 per annumTotal: $30,000-$53,000 per annumThe tuition fee will depend on whether the university is public or private.

Eligibility Criteria for Undergraduate Programs in the USA

Academic CredentialsStandardized Test ScoresExtra Curriculars
Strong academic credentials; consistent academic performance from high schoolDigital SAT/ACTTOEFL/IELTSDigital SAT II, AP (Optional)Strong Extra Curriculars at State/National/International Level – Declamations, Model United Nations, Olympiad, and several moreExtra-curricular activities ranging from sports to leadership are given very high weightage in the undergraduate admissions process.

Application Portals – The Common Application (CommonApp) is an undergraduate admission application accepted by more than 900 institutions, including some institutions outside the USA. It helps streamline an essential part of the admissions process for students. Applicants will need to fill out details like name, address and extracurricular activities only once. Applicants can apply to a maximum of 20 colleges via the Common Application. All Ivy League colleges (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the UPenn, and Yale) and top colleges such as Stanford, Caltech, Vanderbilt and Rice accept the Common Application. MIT does not use the Common Application but its application portal called MyMIT. University of California’s campuses have their application portal for UG; the same is with University of Texas campuses.

Important Documents Required for Application

Apart from the entrance exam scores, some important documents required to be submitted are:

  • Transcripts/Final Marks Sheets (Class 9, 10, 11 and 12)
  • Official Test Score Reports
  • Scanned Copy of Passport
  • Financial Documents
  • Essays (CommonApp asks for a 650-word essay; most of the universities ask for supplemental essays as well)
  • Letters of Recommendations
  • Portfolio for Fine Arts programs like Architecture, Dance and Music (If applicable)

Know more about the Entry Requirements f`or USA Universities.

Intake & Application Deadlines

US universities have two intakes throughout the year- Fall and Spring. However, Fall is the most preferred and primary intake.

  • The Fall semester typically starts in August and ends in December
  • The Spring semester commences in January and ends in May. The Fall intake is the preferred starting point for international students for three reasons:
  • In the Fall, the entire student body on campus comprises new students that makes it easier to adjust
  • The weather is also milder in August as most states in the US have a bitter winter
  • There are higher chances of securing financial aid and scholarships in the Fall intake. The deadlines for each intake are usually a few months before the start date. Hence, applicants must commence their application process and preparation 9-12 months in advance for the targeted intake. For e.g., if they are targeting the September 2023 intake, they need to take the required standardised test(s) and shortlist universities by August-September 2022. Transcripts and recommenders for LORs need to be arranged. Significant time and effort will need to be made on application documents like SOPs, LORs, essays and resume to ensure the submission of impactful and qualitative applications. One must avoid submitting applications on the day of the deadline or in the final minutes to avoid technical glitches. Universities generally take about 8-10 weeks to process the applications.

Early Action, Early Decision and Regular Decision Deadlines

Early Action deadlines are opted by undergraduate applicants for the USA if they wish to apply early and receive an early admission decision (by December); it is not legally binding. The Early Action deadlines usually fall in November.

Early Decision deadline is opted by undergraduate applicants for the USA in case they are clear about the university they wish to study in and expect an early admission decision (by December). It is legally binding.

Regular Decision deadlines are the usual deadlines targeted by most of the applicants. They usually fall at the beginning of January. Admission decisions are rolled out by March or April.

Know more about the Upcoming Intakes to Study in the USA.

Work While Studying: After the first year in college, students are eligible to work on campus for 20 hours a week. During breaks and vacations, there is no restriction on the work hours.

Student Visa: An F1 student visa is required for studying in the USA. Know more about the Student Visa Assistance for the USA.

Average Median Salaries for UG Graduates

  • Physician Assistant – $97,000
  • Registered Nurses – $70,000
  • Research Scientist – $67000
  • Software Engineer – $81000
  • Public Affairs Officer – $65000
  • Business Analyst, IT – $55000
  • Design Architect – $60000
  • Marketing Manager – $64000

Top Industries to Choose

  • Technology
  • Life Sciences
  • Pharma
  • Home healthcare services
  • Educational services
  • Financial and Banking services
  • Consumer products and services
  • Mining/Oil and Gas
  • Leisure and Hospitality
  • Retail

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