Destination USA: Understanding finances for bachelor’s degree

In our column last week we saw how bachelor’s programmes in US universities have different types of application timelines. Today, we talk about university selection and financial aspects of bachelor’s degree applications.

In previous columns published in September and October, we discussed how both self-introspection and external exploration are important steps to identifying “your best fit” universities and how multiple factors should be considered when shortlisting universities. We recommend readers to refer to those articles to understand the university selection and shortlisting process.

While selecting universities and before making the application, an important consideration for students and parents is the financials. This step involves both understanding the cost of attendance at a university and the sources of funding that are available. and the websites of universities under consideration are good sources to check tuition fees, cost of living, and other expenses involved.

Although financial aid for international students at the undergraduate level is competitive, there are different ways a student may seek funding. Many universities offer merit-based scholarships. It is advised that students visit university websites to seek information on this aspect. Other websites that a student may refer to are and

Students need to provide a few documents as proof of finances for admission to a US college or university. Most colleges and universities include a form called a Declaration and Certification of Finances or Affidavit of Financial Support in their application packets. This must be signed by student’s parents or whoever is meeting their college expenses and must be certified by a bank or lawyer. Keep a copy of this form since it is also needed to apply for a student visa. Schools usually need to know that the student has at least the first year’s expenses covered, although many may also ask you to indicate the source of income for the entire period of study. Please note that the university will issue the relevant certificate of eligibility for a student visa only if a student is able to document fully the source(s) of income to pay for expenses.

For students who are US citizens, there is some federal student aid available to them through the US Department of Education. However, students have to meet certain eligibility criteria to receive this aid, including demonstration of financial need. It is advised that students check the website for further information on eligibility for this aid. To apply for federal student aid, students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) available at

Next week, we will talk about the components of undergraduate applications to US universities.

– Monika Setia (Regional Officer and EducationUSA Adviser at US – India Educational Foundation, based at the US Consulate General Hyderabad)


Q1. What is the length of an MBA programme in the United States? What is the GMAT? How important are GMAT scores in the MBA admissions process?

– Raghava Raj, Manikonda

A. MBA is traditionally a two-year programme in the US, though there are some one-year intensive programmes. Please check university websites to identify the length of the programme before submitting your application.

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardised assessment designed to predict how applicants for MBA programmes and other business-related graduate degrees will perform academically. The scores are used by schools to make admission decisions. The GMAT exam measures basic verbal, mathematical and analytical writing skills. It does not measure your knowledge of business or your job skills. The GMAT exam consists of four main parts: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning. You have three and a half hours to complete the GMAT exam. Total GMAT scores range from 200 to 800 and official scores are made available within 20 days of test date. For further information on GMAT’s structure and overview, please visit:

Each graduate business school develops and implements its own policy concerning the use of GMAT scores in making admissions decisions for MBA programmes. Many schools select students by combining GMAT scores and undergraduate GPA. Moreover, admissions officials consider subjective factors such as work and other relevant experience, recommendation letters, application essays (personal statements), and reports of personal interviewers.

Q2. I am pursuing an MS in the US. I am planning to transfer to a different school here. Do I have to pay the SEVIS fee again?

— Shanta Reddy

A. If you are transferring between approved schools at the same educational level, you do not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. If you are an F-1 student, your I-20 will have Initial attendance at this school, but your SEVIS records will show that you have maintained your status and are continuing your education. If you are changing your educational level while transferring, you still do not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.

few examples of such change include – you graduated from high school and are going directly into college or you received your Master’s degree and going directly into a doctoral programme. We recommend you to contact the international students office at your university and ask your Designated School Official (DSO) on campus to put Continuing student – transfer in the remarks in the SEVIS form. This will help prevent issues with visa issuance, re-entry into the United States, and fee payment, etc.


Every question has an answer. And ‘Destination USA’ will strive to provide the right answer to all those youngsters who dream of studying in the US.
Mail your questions and doubts to [email protected] to have subject matter experts answer them, right from the degree and programme of study you can pursue to what the application process entails, on universities, how to prepare resumes, financing your studies and even how it is like to live and study in the US, all are welcome.