Guides to U.S. Study
A look at the resources offered by EducationUSA and how educational advising has evolved in India.
For students aspiring to go to the United States for higher education, the U.S. Department of State operates EducationUSA, a network of over 400 international student advising centers in more than 170 countries. These centers offer comprehensive and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. Experienced advisers guide students on how to select the right institution, complete their applications and fill out financial aid forms.
Renuka Raja Rao, who recently retired as the country coordinator of Educational Advising Services at United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF), talks about how these services have evolved through her career spanning 14 years.
Excerpts from an interview.
Please tell us about the EducationUSA network in India. What kind of assistance can students planning to go to the United States for higher studies expect from it?
EducationUSA is a global network of advising centers, supported by the U.S. Department of State. EducationUSA centers disseminate accurate, current and comprehensive information on higher education opportunities in the U.S.
There are seven EducationUSA centers across India—five run by USIEF in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad, and two independent centers in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad.
Students interested in pursuing higher studies in the U.S., and their families, are urged to visit the EducationUSA center closest to them and browse the resources available. The libraries at the centers include program guides, software to help in prepping for tests and for finding the right-fit universities, and regular information sessions on various aspects of the application process.
EducationUSA centers offer membership services to students who need one-on-one or more personalized advice.
“The best and the most underrated part of a business school education in the U.S. is how it molds you to become a global citizen. I get to meet people from all over the world and learn from their different experiences and cultures. One of the highlights of the M.B.A. program was the opportunity to help local businesses in developing countries. I got to work with a shoe manufacturing firm in Guatemala. The project helped me learn more about doing business in Guatemala and experience the culture firsthand. These opportunities help enhance my leadership skills and make me a better person.”
—Dhanya Jayagopal is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at Kelley School of Business, Indiana University.
“I joined the University of South Florida in 2012 with the nanomaterial’s research group. Initially, with little to no understanding of how research is done, I fumbled in front of my team and professors. My professors picked me up, encouraged me to articulate my ideas and provided great guidance. This helped boost my confidence. My professors and my peers (Ph.D. students) took time to hear me out, and this opened up opportunities for me to discuss my ideas further and implement them. These experiences helped me grow, not only as a skilled researcher, but also as a person.”
—Srikanth Gunti is a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at the University of South Florida.
How have EducationUSA advising centers evolved during your tenure?
EducationUSA advising has undergone a tremendous change in the past decade. From low-key, largely manual and in-person advising, it has morphed into an exciting format, with digital communication and modern technologies making authentic advice available at a click, and at the convenience of students.
Technology has democratized the availability of information, and is no longer the preserve of the well-heeled and well-connected.
Have students’ concerns changed over the years?
Students have been worried about similar things throughout the past decade—How do I choose universities? Will I get admission? Will I be able to afford the cost of a U.S. degree? Will I be able to get an internship? Will I get a job after all that hard work and expenditure?
New concerns are over safety and possible changes to the student visa program.
How have the Internet and social media impacted EducationUSA’s work in India?
The Internet and social media have moved to the center of EducationUSA’s advising efforts. The phenomenal reach of social media and the ubiquitous accessibility to the Internet have resulted in a tectonic shift in advising. EducationUSA’s mission in India is to provide 24/7 advising, so that news, information and advice are available to students when and where needed.
What would you say about students’ awareness level regarding U.S. higher education?
An Indian student looking to study in the U.S. is different now than a decade ago. The most important question for students today is, “How do I study in the U.S.?” not “Why study in the U.S.?”
Students often surprise us with their level of awareness and the research they do before coming to us. However, there can be wide regional variations, with some students being extremely aware of the nuances of U.S. higher education, and others being practically ignorant of even the basics.
All EducationUSA centers conduct sessions for beginners to the process as well as advanced sessions covering the “5 Steps to U.S. Study.”
Have you seen any change in the type of students who wish to go for higher studies in the United States?
When students from India first began going to the U.S. for higher education, they were those who were well-connected and had deep pockets. What has changed is that now, information and advice are easily available. In addition, the banking sector in India has made education loans easily available, so that credible and qualified students have access to the funds they require.
What are the financing and scholarship options available to students?
Scholarship options and avenues for funding are priorities for most Indian students. Doctoral candidates usually get priority for funding at U.S. research universities. There is limited funding for masters students. Undergraduates may get funding from private universities and liberal arts colleges. Scholarships and funds are given out on a very competitive basis—the majority of students from India are self-financed.
What kind of feedback does EducationUSA get from students and parents?
EducationUSA in India is recognized as the official source of information on U.S. higher education. Students and families are confident the information and advice they receive is authentic and unbiased. The feedback EducationUSA gets is extremely positive and enthusiastic.