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The important steps of the process are simple:

1. Take the SAT Exam and the TOEFL
2. Do a search for colleges in the U.S.A.
3. Ask for advice
4. Submit applications
5. Get a visa
6. Pack, grab a flight, and go


1. Take the SAT exam and the TOEFL

Before anything else, make sure that you register for and take the SAT exam. The SAT exam is a standardized test that most U.S. colleges use to determine whether students should be accepted into the institution. Some colleges may alternatively use the ACT exam.

The SAT examination can be taken at test centers in cities across India, including Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Kodaikanal, Mumbai, Mussoorie, New Delhi, and Pune, among others.

In addition to the SAT exam, it’s also important that you take the test that most international students are required to have on their records: the TOEFL. The TOEFL examination measures your ability to communicate in English. If you learned English in school, you’ll have an easier time taking the exam and getting a high score. However, know that you may still have to take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the college you attend, since all colleges have different language requirements for international students.

If you take the SAT examination but you don’t like your scores, you can always try to take it again on a different testing date. The same is true for the TOEFL examination.

2. Do a search for colleges in the U.S.A.

The second step for Indian students coming to a U.S.A. university is to research American universities using Peterson’s College Search, and making a list of universities that interest you.

The big name colleges of the U.S.A., the ones which likely could be considered among the top universities in the world, will probably be familiar to everyone, but you should keep in mind that competition for admission to these schools is fierce.

Applying to smaller colleges, public universities, or lesser known universities can increase your chance for admission, without hampering the overall college experience. You can still get a great education at these different schools, and they will provide exciting and unique experiences you will remember for the rest of your life.

Students looking for suitable schools should start looking into the area around potential choices. Attending a college located in an area with a diverse community, a lively culture, and interesting things to do will make a student’s experience in the United States a lot more pleasurable. Colleges in the U.S.A. located near big cities or suburban areas will be the best bet for a fuller set of activities to do in the nearby area, but this doesn’t mean that rural colleges don’t have their own charms.

Also, anyone coming to an American school is probably going to want to look into the student organizations and activities on campus. Specifically, American universities with clubs for international students from India may hold great appeal for Indian students. These organizations usually feature parties with traditional international fare, hold events for international or Indian holidays, and provide support for international students from India going through the same things as you.

Such clubs can also give you a chance to interact with students who share your background, culture, and interests. They can provide a support network for you, and that may come in handy even if you’re more interested in participating in American culture than you are in keeping pieces of your own close at hand.

3. Ask for advice on American universities

You might have friends or friends-of-friends who have studied in the U.S. Ask them how long the visa process took, what to look for in picking out colleges, what is important to bring with you, and anything else you can think of. Getting direct advice from someone you know can often be much more helpful to your specific situation than anything more generalized.

It might also be beneficial to join an online community that offers support during the college planning process. Online communities are a great way to interact with students who have gone through or are going through the same process you are. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet someone who is hoping to attend the same college as you!

4. Submit applications

Once you have your scores from the TOEFL and SAT exams, and have done some research, you can submit your applications to colleges in America.  It’ll be something of an involved process, and you’ll still have to do plenty of research and make plenty of decisions regarding where to apply, exactly.

The college list you made in step 2 will give you some help, but you’ll probably still have to narrow down that list and determine which schools, specifically, you are most interested in.

5. Obtain a visa for study in the U.S.A.

After gaining admission to a U.S.A. college, all international students must obtain a visa from a U.S. Embassy in their country. Indian students can obtain a visa from the embassies in New Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai, or Mumbai in order to be allowed to study in the United States.

Check the U.S. Department of State website and contact the U.S. Embassy near you to find out the basic requirements to obtain a student visa. You can also read more about obtaining a U.S.A. student visa specifically for Indian international students, and more about student visas for American universities in general, here on Petersons.com.

6. Pack, grab a flight, and go

Okay. You’ve been accepted to an American university and you have your visa.

What will you need to bring with you? You will be able to buy textbooks, basic items like a toothbrush or extra clothing, and food on campus or at stores near the campus. Do remember to bring items like a laptop, backpack for carrying books, and good sneakers to walk on campus or to get to the store. Don’t panic if you forget something, as you will be able to purchase these items in the U.S.

Besides practical items, bring pictures of family and friends from back home to decorate your dorm or apartment to remind you of them. You’ll probably want to keep the personal items you bring to a minimum, to avoid problems while traveling, but you want to make sure that wherever you’re living, it’s comfortable for you.