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Essentials in USA

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Have you lived outside India for more than 182 days in the financial year (Apr-March)? If yes, then for tax purposes, you are an NRI (Non-Resident Indian). As per FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) guidelines, it is illegal for NRIs to hold savings accounts in their name in India.

Instead, you will have to convert those accounts into NRO (Non-Resident Ordinary Rupee) accounts. Additionally, it is a good idea to open an NRE (Non-Resident Rupee) account as well. These accounts are needed only when an NRI wants to have a bank account in his/her own name in India to hold savings, earn/invest in India and wants to freely transfer funds between US and India. (If you don’t have any Indian bank accounts, you can still send money to someone in India via money transfer services, wire transfers or Telegraphs, or buy something in India with International Credit Cards).

What is the NRO account?

The NRO account is a savings or current account held in India for NRIs to manage their income earned in India. All income which is receivable in India such as rentals from property, investments, pension etc have to be deposited in this account. Any payment towards insurance premiums or EMIs on loans which you availed while in India also has to be mandated from NRO account.

You can apply for an NRO account jointly with a resident Indian in which the bank will give you both an NRO debit card each. Alternately, you can add a mandate holder for the account who can carry out certain operations of the account on behalf of the NRI like drawing cheques to make local payments, make and renew fixed deposits, and invest in avenues open for NRIs. Any foreign currency deposited into the NRO account will convert to Indian rupees.

Even though funds from NRO account are now repatriable up to $1million (with a certificate from a Chartered Accountant for payment of taxes and other repatriation fees), it is advised to keep these India based earnings in India, in the NRO account. Note that interest earned in the NRO Account is subject to TDS (Tax Deductible At Source) at 30.9%.

And what about an NRE account?

The NRE account comes to the rescue, for NRIs wanting to transfer funds between US and India. One can deposit only foreign currency earned abroad in this account, which gets converted into INR at the time of deposit. Therefore, you may repatriate the money in this account (plus interest earned) any time without incurring income/wealth/gift tax. The benefit of repatriation and taxation is the main benefit of the NRE account. Some Indians move their US savings to the NRO accounts, invest in India in high yield instruments, and re-transfer and use that money in the US. Transferring funds between and NRE and NRO account is straightforward and simple. Additionally, with the NRE account, you will receive an international debit card that enables you to transact and withdraw money at any time (withdrawal in INR).


However, a joint NRE account can be opened only with another NRI. You cannot use your NRE account for receiving funds/income/interest in India. To make local bill payments, purchase property, etc. in India you will have to move funds from your NRE to NRO account first. This is how the government regulates the inflow of foreign money to India.

Please contact your Indian Bank now for details on opening and managing your NRE and NRO accounts.

To read more about related topics, check these out:

1. Top 10 tax mistakes made by immigrants - https://www.homeis.com/in-ny/posts/top-10-tax-mistakes-made-by-immigrants-5c61eda5c988d7001094fde7

2. How to open a bank account - https://www.homeis.com/in-ny/posts/how-to-open-a-bank-account-5beb28980503910013602255

3. Creating healthy financial habits - https://www.homeis.com/in-ny/posts/creating-healthy-financial-habits-5ce49c02b259fb001363e3c9

4. Money Transfer options - https://www.homeis.com/in-ny/lists/money-transfer-options-5bf47c801bde6e0014c12956

...Read All
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Whenever you plan to move out from your country and pursue a higher degree in a foreign land it’s mandatory to obtain a visa. If you wish to enter the United States, your 1st step should be applying for the student visa. Your course of study and the type of school you plan to attend determine whether you need an F visa or an M visa.

Qualifications & Admissions

What is M visa 

M visa is just a study visa. Generally, it belongs to ‘full course study’ which means studying in college with at least 12 semester or quarter hours with the only exception that “The M student visa” holder needs a smaller course load to complete the study. This means this is not principally academic in nature at an established vocational or other recognized non-academic institution such as a post-secondary vocational or business school. The M visa is classified into M1 and M2 visas. M1 visa is used by a person who wishes to do the non-academic or vocational courses. The M2 visas are given to the dependents for spouse and unmarried minor children.

The M1 visa allows some employment with restrictions. M visa holders are only allowed to work on campus, part-time when school is open and full-time during breaks. The maximum amount of time you can work is 6 months.

What is F 1 visa 

F 1 is full-time student visa. Most of the students apply for this visa. It’s mandatory for F-1 students to maintain the minimum course load for full-time student status. The F1 student visa holder can remain in the US for up to 60 days and beyond the length of time to complete its academic course. F visa is classified into F1 and F 2, the F2 visas are given to the dependents for a spouse. 

Steps for issuing a student visa

Applying to universities

Of course, before applying for the Visa you need to apply to different universities that offer your course of interest. Every university has different requirements for application and you should check on the university's website for them. Get in touch with your university and they will tell you the required documents in order for your application to get accepted.

Also, it’s mandatory to show you have enough money to support your education and living expenses in the USA. You may have to show health insurance in order to cover any medical expenses should you need any medical assistance. Once the university has determined that your application is complete and you are academically eligible, they will issue an I-20 form to enable you to apply for your student visa. 

Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee:

Once you receive your I-20 from your school, go online and pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. The fee is 200 USD for F-1 students, and you can pay it by credit card. 


Forms Required

Visa Application Form Ds-160 & Interview Scheduling

You need to compete online visa application known as form DS- 160, right after that you need to print the application page and bring those pages along with other documents for the interview. 

There are several steps to apply for a visa. It’s always advisable to visit the official website of USCIS before applying for any visa. There are certain rules which may vary at different US embassies, read all the instruction carefully before applying for any visa. Follow the link for more information.

Embassy or consulate website

Be it F or M, visas for new students can be issued up to 120 days in advance of the start date for a course of study. Also, you will not be allowed to enter the United States on your student visa for more than 30 days before the start date of your academic course. 

Documents required for a student visa 

  • Passport - Your passport must be valid for at least six months 
  • Online application form DS- 160 
  • Application fee payment receipt
  • Photo(mostly it’s taken in the consulate on the day of bio-metrics, get in touch with the embassy for more information on this )Photograph Requirements
  • Official original I- 20 issued from the school. You and your school official must sign the Form I-20.  
  • Transcripts and diplomas, a degree from the previous school you have attended in your country.
  •  Test scores that you have applied to get admission in your respective school. (GRE, TOFEL, IELTS)
  • Financial documents to show you can support your education and living expenses in the states.
  • Last and important your intent to return to your homeland after completing your studies.

It’s always advisable to take as many documents as possible its acts as evidence to show your ties to your home county. Such evidence can include

  • Ownership of property
  • Proof that you have your family in your home country such as your parents, brothers, sisters.
  • Evidence of a mortgage payment
  • Letter from a future employer stating that you have a job offer when returning home
  • Assets, a car or anything else that can show that your intention is to return to your home country. 

Pay the VISA application fee:

You have paid the SEVIS fee, and you have to pay the visa application fee to schedule your interview. The fee payment methods vary based upon your country of residence, so make sure ti check it. In person at an approved bank — is the most common procedure for paying your visa application fee. And, don’t forget to keep the fee receipt with you on the visa interview day.

Interview Stage

  • This is the final step — either you will be getting your visa or it will be rejected. Before you attend make sure you have all the required documents with you. These documents may include:
  • Passport valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the US.
  • Signed SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019 (including individual forms for spouse/children)
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • DS-160 application confirmation page with barcode and application ID number
  • VISA fee payment confirmation receipt
  • Printed copy of visa interview appointment letter
  • 1–2 photographs in the format explained in the photograph requirements. Should be printed on photo quality paper.
  • Your particular embassy may require additional forms and documentation, such as:
  • Official transcripts from colleges/universities you’ve attended
  • Diplomas/degrees from high schools/colleges/universities you’ve attended
  • Standardized test scores (if required by your US school)
  • Proof of sufficient funds
  • Proof of your intent to depart the US at the end of your program

Please arrive on time for the interview — late applicants may be asked to reschedule for another day. You will go through a rigorous security check and your digital fingerprints will be taken as a part of your application process just before the interview.

The purpose of the visa interview is for the consular officer to determine your credibility for getting the F1 visa. You will be asked regarding your academic background, the program in the US to which you have been admitted, about your research plan, your ties to your home country, proof of financial resources, and, obviously, your plan after your graduation.

Getting A Student Visa

Your VISA has been approved!!!

Everyone after the interview would like to hear that. However, the consular officer might put your name on further background check — which is known as administrative processing, which requires you to to wait additional time for receiving your visa. This administrative processing times vary depending on country. You will also be informed how and when your passport with the visa will be returned to you.

Other Important Information:


In conclusion, the process is a s follows:

  • Shortlist the universities you want to apply to.
  • Send your applications based on the requirement criteria for each university.
  • get an Admit from a university along with the form i-120
  • Make sure your bank accounts show the required funds for the course. In many cases an approved loan from a bank will do.
  • Apply for the Visa category best suited to you by filling the form DS 160
  • Pay the fees
  • Appear for the interview

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Connection and communications have become the guiding force for this generation. But to stay connected anywhere, you need good Internet. So, if you’ve recently landed here in the United States or are confused about how to get an internet connection here, or which deal should you choose, this guide is for you.

Ways of connecting to the Internet in the US:

Below are the different ways through which you can connect to the Internet in the U.S.:

1) Dial-up Connection:

No longer used. This was used in the early days of internet when your phoneline was connected to your system and it used to take ages to get online. Remember those days when you had to shout at your sibling to hang up the phone while you were trying to “research” for a school project. Dial-up is not functional even in India, so that settles the topic.

2) Broadband DSL Line:

DSL is a wireline transmission technology that transmits data faster over traditional copper telephone lines already installed to homes and businesses. DSL-based broadband provides transmission speeds ranging from several hundred Kbps to millions of bits per second (Mbps). The availability and speed of your DSL service may depend on the distance from your home or business to the closest telephone company facility.

3) Cable Internet:

Cable modem or just Cable Internet is the way your cable operators can provide internet to you using the same cable that they use to transmit pictures and sound to your televisions. Most cable modems are external devices that have two connections: one to the cable wall outlet, the other to a computer. They provide a decent transmission speed between 20-100 Mbps. Subscribers can access their cable modem service by simply turning on their computers, without dialling-up an ISP. You can still watch cable TV while using it. Transmission speeds vary depending on the type of cable modem, cable network, and traffic load.

4) Fiber-Optic Internet:

Fiber optic technology converts electrical signals carrying data to light and sends the light through transparent glass fibers about the diameter of a human hair. Fiber transmits data at speeds far exceeding current DSL or cable modem speeds, typically by tens or even hundreds of Mbps.

Most internet consumers now use DSL or cable internet, but accessibility of the much faster fiber-optic internet is improving – BROADBANDNOW says 25% of the US can access fiber-optic internet. You’re most likely to be able to access fiber-optic internet in Rhode Island (97.9% of the population covered), Oregon (76.7%) and New Jersey (62.2%).

Mobile Internet?

Very simply, Internet accessed through your mobile phones, is mobile Internet. Without explaining what the technology is, let’s just dive into details. Smartphones are ubiquitous across the U.S. and they are being used more for daily tasks than ever before. The rise of mobile applications and mobile websites (even this is a thing of the past now) has led to a thriving mobile based economy too.

The U.S has good 3G and 4G LTE coverage throughout most of the country. The speeds are also quite good and with the advent of the new 5G coverage, the speeds will get even better.

Mobile data providers in the US:

The four biggest mobile data providers in the United States are

  • Verizon Wireless
  • T-Mobile
  • AT&T
  • Sprint

All the above 4 providers offer varied plans for their customers and you can select the one based on your needs. Students have an advantage of securing Student Discounts too.

Mobile data prices in the US:

Mobile phone contracts in the United States are slightly expensive to what you were used to in India – courtesy Jio. Prices have been driven up by lack of competition and lack of regulation. You can easily expect to pay between $20-$50 per month for a cell phone plan.

Leading Internet providers:

There are a lot of ISPs in the United States. However, only a few have national coverage and below is the list of the biggest internet service providers in the US:

  1. Comcast
  2. AT&T
  3. Time Warner Cable
  4. Century Link
  5. Charter
  6. Verizon

With the vast amount of internet providers in the USA, it can be hard to choose which one. But you need to be clear of your needs and then it becomes easy to zero in on a choice. Once you choose your service and provider, you have the chance to select either self-installation or installation by a technician (usually for an additional fee). If you choose self-installation (which in most cases isn’t complicated) you should receive your kit in a few days. All companies offer phone and online support to their clients.

There’s just one more step before all this. Please make sure that you negotiate with your provider.


You know how they say; customer is king. Out here, a “new customer” is always the king. Indians are notorious for bargaining and we try to keep that instinct in check here. But it is important here. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. You can easily cut some costs or get extra services by using your natural ability to negotiate. Knowing what other providers are offering you is always an advantage.

Internet providers will be willing to offer you a lot of deals and offers to get you on board. Typically, a discount of $20 or more off the monthly price for the first year is a norm.

But this promotion has an expiry date. Make sure you keep a note of the date the promo expires; else you’ll keep wondering why your monthly bill just shot up. Basically, read the fine print.

There you go. You are now equipped to select the best Internet plan for yourself and your family. Reach out to us if you have any other questions. 

The next step is to get a good, cheap cable connection. How to do that? Well, here's the guide for it.

Here are a few more Guides and Lists that you may like:

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In some cities, it is relatively easy to get around without the use of a personal vehicle. In others, it is very difficult. Let’s look at the factors that cause car dependence (and independence), and which cities are the best and worst at limiting the need for you to get in your car to go anywhere within their boundaries.

The United States has a unique relationship to the car

The United States of America is a very large country. From its founding more than 200 years ago, its history has been guided by the drive to expand, and to populate the country from coast to coast. Car ownership has been attainable for the average U.S. citizen for over a century, helped by installment loans for purchasing vehicles.

Automobile fuels have always been lightly taxed here, and this has promoted the development of larger, more powerful cars that could cover long distances in comfort.

As the United States developed, the automobile’s popularity was a major influence. Cities grew larger by sprawling in all directions, with new roads built to connect them. Later came the Interstate Highway System, providing the nation with a network of wide, high-speed arteries to carry people and goods efficiently in every direction. The automobile became the default transportation choice, with most people using their cars for even very short trips of less than a mile. Why walk when you can drive?

As more and more people lived farther from the city and town centers, commercial venues were built in the suburbs. Shopping centers and malls grew in importance, each with huge parking lots to accommodate their shoppers. Without a car, it was difficult to access these places.

Widespread vehicle ownership, combined with an extensive highway system and low fuel prices, made it easy to live a long distance from where you worked. The term “commuter” was coined. Increasing numbers of people chose to live in less densely settled and more affordable places, while driving to their workplaces in more built-up areas. Traffic congestion followed, adding “traffic jam” and “long commute” to our vocabularies. With a total of 250 million cars on our roads, most cities have been adversely affected by this state of affairs. What can be done about our severe case of car dependence?

What are the downsides of car dependence?

In addition to all that time wasted in traffic driving to and from work, there are other factors and costs to consider, including:

-Exhaust emissions.

-Traffic noise Insurance and vehicle accident costs

-Fuel usage and costs.

-Depreciation of your car’s value from extra miles driven.

-Cost of car repairs and servicing Costs of road building, repairs, and maintenance.

Some cities have been able to become less dependent on cars

Residents of some American cities have been able to move around easily without the need for a personal vehicle. Most of these cities are extremely dense, were well-developed before the creation of the automobile, and have had well-thought out mass transit systems built into them. These cities have made it possible to easily move around by using trains, subways, and buses.

Travelling within these cities does not require you to get into your car. The top ten cities with the largest number of transit commuters are:

  1. New York
  2. Chicago
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Philadelphia
  5. San Francisco
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. Boston
  8. Seattle
  9. Jersey City
  10. Baltimore

Some cities have been unable to become less dependent on cars

There are many cities in the USA that were created and have grown significantly during the Age of the Automobile. The presence of cars dictated how these cities were designed, and how they evolved. Places like these have sprawled across their local landscapes, making it difficult (and expensive) to add mass transit systems that can practically and cost-effectively serve them. These are the places that are most dependent on cars. They also have the lowest numbers of households without any vehicles. Here are ten of the top larger cities in this category:

San Diego, California – 6.5% of Households do not have a car.

Charleston, South Carolina – 7.7% of Households do not have a car.

Albuquerque, New Mexico 7.7% of Households do not have a car.

Boulder, Colorado 7.7% of Households do not have a car.

Houston, Texas 8.2% of Households do not have a car.

Phoenix, Arizona 8.7% of Households do not have a car.

Orlando, Florida 8.8% of Households do not have a car.

Dallas, Texas 9.7% of Households do not have a car.

Las Vegas, Nevada 10.4% of Households do not have a car.

Los Angeles, California 12.1% of Households do not have a car.

Los Angeles gets to be on both lists as a city that has always been car dependent, but in the 90’s started enhancing its public transit to draw more people away from the freeways.

How can cities become less car dependent?

There are a number of strategies that cities can use to reduce their dependence on the automobile, and to reduce the ill effects of all that vehicle traffic. Some are aimed at reducing the numbers of cars that drive into and within the cities:

  • Convenient and pleasant mass transit options connecting suburbs with cities Car sharing services like ZipCar and Car2go Congestion pricing, which is a toll you must pay to enter the city during peak hours.
  • Limiting access by commuters to city centers during peak hours.
  • Parking restrictions which limit the amount of on-street parking.
  • Availability of last-mile solutions, like e-scooters and e-bikes Bicycle-friendly initiatives like separate and protected bike lanes.
  • Car-free zones for the exclusive use of bicycles and pedestrians

Others are focused on encouraging more people to live in the cities instead of commuting:

  • Mixed land use, so that you can live near where you work.
  • Higher density building, to reduce sprawl and make room for more city dwellers.
  • Improved mass transit systems that make it easier to move around within the cities

Only time will tell how well these measures will reduce the car dependence of the many cities across the USA. It has taken more than one hundred years of living with the automobile to get us to this point, so any changes to the present state of affairs will take time, money, and a serious change in people’s attitudes toward their cars.

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Your conduct as a permanent resident can affect your ability to become a U.S. citizen later. The process of becoming a U.S. citizen is called naturalization.

As a permanent resident, you have the right to:

● Live permanently anywhere in the United States.

● Work in the United States.

● Own property in the United States.

● Attend public school.

● Apply for a driver’s license in your state or territory.

● Join certain branches of the U.S. armed forces.

● Receive Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare benefits, if you are eligible.

● Apply to become a U.S. citizen once you are eligible.

● Request visas for your spouse and unmarried children to live in the United States.

● Leave and return to the United States under certain conditions.

As a permanent resident, you must:

● Obey all federal, state, and local laws.

● Pay federal, state, and local income taxes.

● Register with the Selective Service (U.S. armed forces), if you are a male between the ages of 18 and 26. See page 18 for instructions.

● Maintain your immigration status.

● Carry proof of your permanent resident status at all times.

● Change your address online or provide it in writing to USCIS within 10 days of each time you move.

By the USCIS

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So, you’re here in the United States to complete your studies. Congratulations, you’ve taken the first step. We know you might have thought of everything before coming here. However, there are still some challenges that you might face during your stay as a student here in this country.

Don’t worry. We’re here to help you at every step of the way.

Here are some challenges that you may face and some tips on how to tackle them.

Cultural Challenges:

This is one of the biggest challenges that you may face here. No matter how many English TV shows and movies you’ve seen, it won’t prepare you for the “Culture Shock” you might face here. India is a culturally rich country. We have our customs and traditions and so is the case with United States.

The language, accents, holidays, a completely different sporting culture, the customs, way of greeting, smiling, personal space – all of it might just seem very overwhelming at first. But slowly and steadily you’ll fit right in.

Here are some tips and solutions that may help you:

-         Be prepared for these challenges – For a Cultural Shock. We know how it sounds. That is no solution. But we really believe that if you are prepared for what is about to come, you will not be hassled when it is actually happening with you.

-         Teacher-student relationships are rather informal in the United States- particularly compared to the Asian education system. Get an understanding of how students and teachers interact.

-         Be open to making new friends as soon as you can upon arrival. Also look to your fellow study abroad students as a support network and a place to share and learn about common practices in the United States.

-         Read about tipping practices in the United States.

-         Figure out the different modes of transportation in the US

Financial Challenges

Let us first acknowledge the fact that studying in US is quite costly. With an approximate fee of 50k USD per year, you are already spending a lot of money. Especially for Indians as the value of Rupee is not so great compared to the US dollar.

Most of us have taken student loans back in India and are already trying to save every penny here. But your tuition fees in not the only cost that you’ll have to take care of. There are other additional costs that you’ll have to bear such as Food, Travel, Rent, Entertainment, Healthcare and other smaller miscellaneous costs.

Here are some tips and suggestions to manage your costs:

-         There is a scholarship for nearly every topic of study and minority group. Other scholarships are merit-based (based on high achievement and extracurricular activity) or need-based (applied when an applicant meets certain financial criteria). Some are available for United States citizens only, but many are available for anyone. You can't get the scholarship unless you apply, so talk to your school's financial aid office for scholarships specific to your school and look at an online directory like Fastweb for more options.

-         Please have a good health insurance. Healthcare in the US is a bit messed up and you might end up with hefty bills if you don’t have good health insurance. We have a guide for this too.

-         Work a part-time job. Some on-campus jobs for students include positions in the school cafeteria, bookstore, library, or gymnasium. While it's unlikely you'll be able to earn enough to pay the majority of your expenses, a part-time job can help cover books, clothing, and personal expenses. Be sure to note U.S. working regulations for international students. You can check out our guide on the same.

Social Challenges

Starting out as a new student in a program abroad can feel intimidating and lonely, so try to step out of your comfort zone and get to know as many people as you can while you are getting acquainted with your new home for the duration of your studies.

Some Solutions:

-         Get to know other students in your program who are going through the same social changes. Attend optional meetings and outings and sign up for any weekend trips or excursions.

-         Get involved in student groups on campus- volunteer and academic groups are generally a great place to start. Your university should have a listing of all active student groups available.

-         Befriend local students, as they can help get you acquainted with the school and introduce you to new friends. Sit next to them in class and offer to partner with them on projects.

-         Attend local events. Free apps like Now and Like a Local can zero in on your location to help you find cool spots and happenings nearby.

Academic Challenges

With so much else going on, it can be easy to focus on everything but your school work, but remember that your academic experience is what brought you to the United States.

While your studies should always come first, this can be a challenge if you discover that U.S. language and classroom expectations are different than in your home country.

Follow these solutions, focus on your studies, and embrace your new culture so you can have an educational and fulfilling experience.

Some Solutions:

-         Talk to the professor. While it may be intimidating to talk to a professor who lectures in front of hundreds of students at a time, his or her job is to teach. Take advantage of office hours if you are unable to stay after class.

-         Ask your guidance counsellor for a student mentor's email address and connect with him or her.

-         If you are not clear on an assignment, talk to the professor, a teacher's assistant, or another student from your class. In America, study groups are common. Joining a study group for your difficult classes can help you learn better, collaborate with other students, and give you an opportunity to receive a little extra help clarifying assignments and coursework.


Ask most Indians what they miss the most and they’ll say Indian food. Though there’s a lot of Indian food available in most of the cities here in USA, you may not find everything to your liking and may also find it overpriced. Because – Dollars.

The only solution is to learn cooking. Trust us, once you learn how to cook, not only will you start saving a lot of money, but you’ll also add a life skill and you’ll never miss Indian food again anywhere you go.

Understanding Plagiarism and Academic Honor Code

Believe it or not, many times international students are unfamiliar with the term and concept of plagiarism, at least in the way that Americans understand it. Working in groups can be very confusing for international students as they believe they are completing the assignment together but may not understand that they cannot then copy verbatim their classmates work.

Unlike American students who have been told and guided through what plagiarism looks like since grade school, international students are starting with a blank slate.

Perceptions of plagiarism are mostly based on historical and cultural assumptions. Many of the policies and guidelines set for students may not be specific enough for a foreign population. The language barrier can play a role in this situation as well.

Some Solutions and Suggestions:

-         Speak with your professors often. Utilize them as a resource from the very beginning. Familiarize yourself with well-known American plagiarism guidelines sites like Purdue Owl Writing Lab.

-         Speak with your academic advisers to gain resources provided by the university. The university should be speaking openly early on with international students about plagiarism and the severity of breaking an academic honor code in the states.

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After high-school comes college, which is known as undergrad here. Another term for the same is Bachelor’s. Though a student attending college is usually referred to as an undergrad. This can be a bit confusing because in India the same this is called graduation (and the student – graduate).

Only with a high-school diploma, students can enroll in post-secondary education. It is important to know that colleges and universities require certain high school credits or tests (e.g. SAT) for admission, and students must plan their high school career with those requirements in mind.

To study further after high-school, Americans have to usually give a test. This test is known as the “SAT reasoning test”. SAT tests a person on 3 skills namely: Maths, Critical Reading and Writing. Students who wish to get into a good college need to have a high score in their SATs.

The SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is owned, published, and developed by the College Board, a non-profit organization in the United States. The College Board claims that the SAT can determine whether or not a person is ready for college. The current SAT Reasoning Test takes three hours and forty-five minutes.

Your college admission is not just dependent on your SAT scores. It also takes into consideration your grades in school. During their high school years, students are given "grades" for all their courses, and these are recorded. At the end of 12th Grade, the pupil's grades are averaged out to provide a "GPA" or Grade Point Average, which will often be used as a selection criterion when they apply to college or university.


In the first 2 years of undergraduate course, students take courses that pertains to their core curriculum which will help them meet the prerequisite for their degree. These would be basic subjects like History, Literature, Science, Social Studies based on your course. For these 2 years, a student can either go to a college/university or attend a community college. After the 2 years the student will get an AA degree (Associate of Arts degree) and in third year, they must choose a major. This major is the field in which they intend to specialize.

The next 2 years is intensive education in their respective major.

When you pick a major. You are selecting a specific field where your degree and expertise will be focused.

Students can change their majors anytime, but that would require more tuition fees and more credits to be completed and may increase the number of years that they may take to complete their college.

Higher Education Options:

State Schools: A state school or a college is one that is run and supported by the state it resides in. each state has at least one and some have many. Some of these colleges are very good and getting into those colleges can be quite difficult and competitive.

Private Schools: as the name suggests, these are private colleges, have higher fees, fewer students but the students get more attention. There is usually an interview process to get into these colleges.

Community College: Community colleges offer two types of two-year Associate Degree programs.

There is an academic transfer option. Whereby you can take the courses necessary to earn an associate of arts or sciences. And then transfer those course credits to a four-year university. Where you will select your major and finish your degree. It’s important that you take transferable courses if you intend to use them at a state or private school.

You can also go to community college. And follow a degree track designed to get you into the workforce after completion. These courses are sometimes non-transferable. But the goal of the program is to help you secure employment with job-specific skills upon graduation.

Technical Schools:

If you want to go into a field that requires hands-on training. Like becoming a hair stylist or auto mechanic. You’ll need to attend a technical school. These programs vary in length. But when you complete them, you will be qualified to test and get licensed in your desired profession.

Graduate Studying or Master’s:

After obtaining your four-year degree. Then you have an option to extend your schooling to pursue a Master’s Degree. To further specialize in your field of study.

Graduate programs are traditionally a division of a college or university. And you will need to apply and take a graduate record examination (GRE) to be accepted. If you want to attain certain types of master’s degrees. Like one in law or medicine, you may also need to take specialized tests like the LSAT or MCAT.

Master’s programs are designed to take between one and two years to complete. And you will need to submit a research paper called your master’s thesis to pass.

After you’ve managed to finish all of this and still want study there’s a doctorate program, which is basically your phd. 

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If you’ve grown up and studied in India, understanding the American Education system can be a bit of a nightmare. We know it was easy for us, Pre-School, School, +2, College and Masters. That was the universal and most accepted language that everyone was familiar with. But here in the US, it is quite different. Yes, the basic structure is still the same, but there are different terms and one might just get overwhelmed with all the new terminologies.

Here’s a guide that may help you understand the basic Education structure here in USA.

Education System Structure:

Age Newborn to 5 years: Early Childhood Education -

Day Care is one form of early childhood education. Day Care refers to early childhood settings that focus their goal on substitute care for children while their parents are absent (i.e.: working or in school). They could involve academic training, or they could involve solely socializing activities. Day Care is not required and is not free; in fact, depending on the setting, it could be quite expensive.

Day Care programs usually offer daily programs, for up to 12 hours. Meals, depending on the school, may be provided by the family or by the school.

Transportation to and from the program is generally the responsibility of parents. Some private day care programs might offer private transportation, but these are the exception rather than the rule.

Parents’ degrees of use of Day Care services vary greatly across families, depending on their specific situation (i.e.: parents’ schedule, availability of funding, etc.).

Pre-School (also called Pre-K or PK or Pre-Kindergarten) refers to the first formal academic classroom-based learning environment that a child customarily attends in the United States. It begins around the age of three in order to prepare for the more moral and academically intensive kindergarten, the traditional "first" class that school children participate in.

Pre-Schools differentiate themselves by equally focusing on harvesting a child's

(1) social development,

(2) physical development,

(3) emotional development, and

(4) cognitive development.

They commonly follow a set of organization-created teaching standards in shaping curriculum and instructional activities/goals.

Pre-School is not required. On the other hand, it acts as a way to prepare children to better succeed in a kindergarten. Pre-School programs usually offer two- or three-hour sessions per day, a few days per week.

Children learn the alphabet, colors, and other elementary basics. Pre-School programs are not free: they have to be financed by the family. Meals, depending on the school, may be provided by the family or by the school. Transportation to and from the program is generally the responsibility of parents (although some pre-school programs might make busing available to families for a fee; these programs are the exception, rather than the rule).

To give you a perspective, Pre-schools is like the Nursery schooling in India.

Age 5-18 Years – K-12 Education.

K-12 education refers to all primary and secondary education, from Kindergarten prior to the first year (or 1st grade) of formal schooling, through secondary graduation (12th Grade).

Basically, it is from KG to +2. A student typically spends 12 years in school which is why it is named K-12. Yes, not so creative. We know.

It is further divided into different sections as follows:

-         Elementary school (K-5) – Primary School in India

-         middle school (6-8), - Secondary School in India. Though in India, secondary school is until class 10.

-         high school (9-12); This is the +2 of India.

U.S. children enter formal schooling around age 5. Elementary students are typically in one classroom with the same teacher most of the day.

Unlike schools in India, where students are in the same class the entire day and teachers change classrooms, out here it is the opposite. Here, during Middle School, they usually move from class to class each period, with a new teacher and a new mixture of students in every class. Students can select from a wide range of academic classes and elective classes. This is the most different thing here in US. Students are actually given a range of subjects to choose from and they can select them based on their like and dislikes. Unlike in India, where the subjects are fixed by the school. That’s a big positive according to us.

Families have the option to select before and after school programs < School-Age Child Care >, which are generally made available through the school. However, these programs are not free: the family will have to finance their cost. If the programs are in a location different from the school grounds, transportation from and to school will be provided by the school.

In High School, students in their first year are called freshman, in their second-year sophomore, in their third-year junior, and in their last and fourth-year senior.

There is an even greater variety of subjects than before. Students generally stay in the classroom an average of 7.5 hours and must earn a certain number of credits (which they get for a successfully completed course) in order to graduate and be awarded with a High School Diploma – there is no final examination like in many other countries. The number and combination of classes necessary depend on the school district and on the kind of diploma desired.

In the next part of this guide we deal with the undergraduate and the post-graduate structure.

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American bureaucracy can be challenging, confusing, and occasionally terrifying. So what to do when you have a question for a Federal Agency? Call one of these numbers.

If you have a question and do not know which department can answer it, call 1-800-FED-INFO (or 1-800-333-4636). If you are hearing impaired, call 1-800-326-2996.

You can also visit usa.gov for general information about federal departments and agencies.

U.S. Department of Education (ED)

Phone: 1-800-USA-LEARN

Phone: 1-800-872-5327

For hearing impaired: 1-800-437-0833


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Phone: 1-800-669-4000

For hearing impaired: 1-800-669-6820


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Phone: 1-877-696-6775


U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Phone: 202-282-8000


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Phone: 1-800-375-5283

For hearing impaired: 1-800-767-1833


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Phone: 202-354-1000

cbp.gov U.S.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ice.gov

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Phone: 202-708-1112

For hearing impaired: 202-708-1455


U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)

Phone: 202-514-2000


U.S. Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Phone: 1-800-829-1040

For hearing impaired: 1-800-829-4059


Selective Service System (SSS)

Phone: 1-888-655-1825

Phone: 847-688-6888

For hearing impaired: 847-688-2567


Social Security Administration (SSA)

Phone: 1-800-772-1213

For hearing impaired: 1-800-325-0778

socialsecurity.gov or segurosocial.gov/espanol

U.S. Department of State (DOS)

Phone: 202-647-4000

For hearing impaired: 1-800-877-8339


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