Things to know before studying in USA
Updated on Jun 1, 2016 - 8:50 a.m. IST by Bedasree Das #United States of America
Applications Open Now
Study Abroad Opportunities with IELTS

Things to know before studying in USA
- While some students dream of pursuing their passions abroad, many still single-mindedly vie for the American dream. “Since, I was in the ninth standard, I have had dreams of studying in America,” says Juhi, an MBA aspirant who is currently working in the IT sector. “It is not just about studying MBA, for me the States offers more than study opportunities. I want to experience life in the country. There is nothing that one cannot do in USA!”

Juhi is only part of an increasing number of international students waiting to explore USA and its study opportunities. Currently, there are over 6 million international students in the world, majority of whom are enrolled in US universities.

Appearing for standardised tests, applying to US universities and getting your visa is vital, but it does not stop there. Before venturing out to the land of opportunities, it is equally important that you are aware of the various lifestyle hacks of the American people. 


Here are the things to know before studying in USA:


How are classes held?

If you have been researching about studying in US universities, you must have come across terms like Spring, Summer and Fall. Being an international student, chances are you will apply to start your studies in the Fall semester.  Fall semester starts in August or September and continues till January followed by Spring semester till May and Summer, which lasts till July. Interestingly, your degree matters not on the semesters or years of classes but on the credit points that you earn. In fact, the most important element in the degree granting process in the USA is credit points earned by the student. Credit points are, basically, the number of hours you give to a particular course.  “You can finish a two-year programme in less time if you can earn the required credits in less than a year,” says Mr. Kent D Thomas, Assistant Vice President, International Programmes, Missouri State University.


Besides, US universities offer huge flexibility in their courses, which enables you to select your choice of subject from a variety of topics. In your undergraduate studies in US, many colleges let you to take classes in a variety of subjects in the first 1-2 years before you decide on your major.


Also, in your graduation, classes are held mainly through discussions and seminars. Your grades depend mainly on your assignments and how you have been able to cope with the discussions. Also, there is no stress on attendance in US universities. Nobody in the US will ask you to attend classes or keep a particular track on how are you managing your classes. That depends on you. However, what would matter is the number of hours you are giving to a specific subject. Further, classes in USA can be rather competitive. You would be expected to be well prepared and take initiatives rather than wait for the professor to give you lectures. Also, the best part is your professors would be accessible almost all the time. There is a lot of interaction among teachers and students and it is expected that the student would pose new questions in the class.


Click to read: ‘US classroom is informal but rigorous’


Things to know before studying in USA - The USA is vast and diverse:

One of the things to know before studying in USA is that it is a vast country. So, your life as a student there depends on the location the university is in. Therefore, you should be ready for a big difference if you are studying in New York University or the Texas A&M University. While the former is located in the centres of New York like Manhattan and Brooklyn the latter is located in a remote area where students have less accessibility to the city, though they have the advantage of huge and picturesque campus.  Also, like many other countries, the USA too has a very diverse culture. There are huge gaps in the language and mannerisms of people from two different states. So, try to understand the local lingo of the region you’ll be studying in. For example, if you want to get a bottle of cold drinks you would have to ‘pop’ in North America while just ‘Soda’ or ‘Coke’ in Southern USA.  Hence, you have to make sure you research about the city you are travelling to in detail.


What should you know:

Now, social etiquette is one of the most important things to know before studying in USA. After all, you’ll be spending years in your new destination. In terms of social beliefs, the USA is a very relaxed country to be in since it has a huge pool of international people leading to a potpourri of beliefs and behavioral patterns. However, there are certain things that you should know:


Tips all the way: One of the vital things to know before studying in USA is that you should have your dollar bills stacked in your pockets because tipping is a regular affair in the country.Make sure you are ready with tips at restaurants and for bell boys at the hotels you would be putting up at. Usually,restros fix around 15 to 20% of the bill for tips, but of course, it all depends on you!


Turn right: Among the vital things to know before studying in USA you should remember that traffic in the USA runs on the right hand side of the streets. So, if you are from a country which drives from its left, and plan to take up driving in the USA, make sure you adjust yourself to this position first. Also, honking is prohibited in many states unless necessary.


Clothes cost beyond the listed price: Yes, if you thought your tee costs $30 because the label says so, you are wrong. You see, the label price doesn’t include sales tax. So, get ready to fish out at least 4 to 6% extra for the clothes that you buy.


Underage Drinking: This is perhaps one of the most important things to know before studying in USA for students. For all those international students who are going for their undergrad or below, drinking is a strict no in most places if you are under 21. And yes, they’ll check you IDs at the door.


Food: Like your food. Well, the US is the right place for you. Having people from all over the world means that Americans are well oriented with a diverse food culture. So, name any cuisine- Chinese, Mexican, Indian- you would definitely find a good restaurant somewhere serving these food. However, if you are a vegetarian, it could get a bit difficult for you. Though with veganism becoming a trend in the country, many places do serve vegetarian food, you need to make sure what you are ordering as in some places, especially, if you are located, in the outskirts, purely vegetarian food is hard to come by.


Also, a very interesting fact is that everything in the USA comes in huge proportions. People find it easier to buy in packs as they tend to be much cheaper compared to single items. If you are single person dining at a restro it is better if you avoid large sizes or anything, unless, of course, you appetite runs high!


How to save your money:

Well, the USA is not just one of the most developed but also one the most expensive destinations to study. This is reflected in the tuition fees and living expenses of international students. The average weekly rent in most states is around $1500, however, in places like New York, it can be upwards $3000. 

Take the subway:  Most of the cities in USA are huge so transportation could not only take up a lot of your time, but also a lot of money. In New York, citizens consider 2 hour travels to be mandatory to reach anywhere. However, the cab system in USA can be wildly costly, too. There’s a general saying that if you are late, avoid the cab. So, what do you do? Take the subway. It is one of the most important things to know before studying in USA. It will not only take you to your destination faster but your entire journey will be covered in half the cost.


Don’t keep you phone on roaming: It is the habit of some international students to keep their phone on international roaming. Don’t do that. Because the next thing you know you’ll have already run out of the most of the money for the month. What do you do? Get a sim. You’ll get those for around $50 and can easily speak to your family. Better still, install a calling app on your phone. Whatsapp, Skype are very popular among international callers.


Get a library card: This is a must for international students. Most universities charge you a library fee and give students a card at the start of the semester. So, make sure you have one. Because books like other items in US can be very expensive. In fact, many domestic students also depend on libraries to get access to books.  Also, most of the libraries in USA are technologically enabled and advanced. So, whatever information you need you just have to log in.


Also read:

Top 10 Engineering colleges in USA

Best business schools in USA

How to apply for MS in USA?

How to apply for MBA in USA?

How to apply for Phd in USA?

Stay tuned to for more news and updates on studying in USA

Explore Country

Applications Open Now

Study Abroad Opportunities with IELTS
Study Abroad Opportunities wi...
Arden University, Berlin
Arden University, Berlin
PTE- Pearson Test of English
PTE- Pearson Test of English
View All Application Forms

More like United States of America

Questions related to United States of America

Showing 19 out of 19 Questions

How to get admission in university to do phd (computer science).How to approach university.Can i do Phd after completion of msc?

Ina 6th Feb, 2020


Hope you're doing well.

Yes, you can do PhD after completion of M.Sc, Even you can do Integrated PhD while perusing your M.Sc. For PhD, you must need to complete your masters in the same area of specialization.

Most Universities/Colleges offer admission based on the score of CET (like UGC NET) or conduct their own entrance test (like JNU) for admission into Ph.D. courses hence students would have to make an application for such exams.

For Reference of colleges here is the link:

Thank you.

All the best for your bright future.


Top Hospitals in the USA which will pay higher for Neurosurgeons and their Salaries?

Sanjay Khandelwal 25th Jan, 2020
It is difficult to name which hospital pays more salary to neurosurgeon in USA, it will depend upon which city you are getting recuited or where you are living. Salary will depend upon the hospital, whether they are big well known hospitals or small in size. It will depend on many factors. So if you can tell me the city i can answer further.

Top cities in the USA where Neurosurgeons are paid higher?

prerna vats 25th Jan, 2020

Hello dear student !

Salary of neurosurgeons is quite good worldwide, especially in USA . In USA  also, the salary differ as per the cities and is different in different cities. The top cities in USA , as per the data, where neurosurgeons paid highest are :

San Jose , California

New York City

Los Angeles



Hope this will help you!

Never miss exam and college updates Login
The question have been saved in answer later, you can access it from your profile anytime. Access now

Download the Careers360 App on your Android phone

Regular exam updates, QnA, Predictors, College Applications & E-books now on your Mobile

Careers360 App
150M+ Students
24,000+ Colleges
500+ Exams
1500+ E-books