With US universities having a flexible course curriculum that offers students the opportunity to change streams multiple times, the country continues to be a preferred destination for Indian students to study abroad.
The number of Indian students going to the US for higher education has increased two-fold over the last decade. A rise of 5.37% was seen in 2018, with as many as 1,96,271 Indian aspirants heading to the US to explore educational opportunities. In 2017, the total number of Indian students visiting the US was 1,86,267.
Why switching helps
“When you are 18 or 19, you might not have a clue as to what is your true calling. A student might land up in the US wanting to become an engineer, but after getting exposure to a wide range of courses, he or she might get interested in something completely different. They may realise their potential to excel in that field. Hence, by giving the opportunity to switch majors more than once, US varsities offer a complete learning experience to its international students,” said Karl M Adam, Deputy Cultural Affairs Officer, Embassy of the United States of America at the fifth annual Student Visa day in New Delhi.
Adam added that there are 4,700 schools and universities in the US in which 70% of the students enrolled are from foreign countries. “Switching majors and in fact blending major and minor courses are common among international students, including those coming from India.”
The course duration of an undergraduate (UG) programme is 4 years while that of a postgraduate (PG) programme is 1-2 years. Students who consider switching majors or changing minor subjects during their course can do so after consultation with their respective university. However, the maximum duration of a UG degree including the change of majors cannot exceed five years. Most Indian students enrol in UG programmes ranging from Designing, Liberal Arts and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) streams.
STRONG Indian presence
According to the Open Doors report 2017, Indian students consist of 17% of the total population of international students in the US, second to China, which has a maximum representation of 32.5%.
“Almost half of the entire population of foreign students in the US is divided between India and China,” said Adam, pointing at the possibility of India soon taking over China, in international students’ inflow. South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada feature in the third, fourth and fifth spot, respectively, among the top five countries of origin of foreign students.
Speaking about the reforms in the immigration and H-1B visas, George H Hogeman, Consul General, Embassy of the United States of America, says, “Our primary goal is to keep the US safe and secured while providing the best educational opportunities to our international students.”
The US embassy in New Delhi and its four other visa-issuing posts in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad welcomed more than 4,000 Indian aspirants from different states of India in a single day, who applied for a student visa to study in the US.
Mantra to crack visa interviews
Hogeman pointed out that during visa interviews, candidates must listen to the interviewer minutely and give authentic answers. Rehearsed answers are always seen on a negative light. “Every year, Mumbai and Hyderabad receive maximum visa applications, followed by Delhi and Chennai. Kolkata represents only a small number of applicants,” added Hogeman.