How to save money on studying in the USA?
Coming to terms with the fact that my family was unable to pay tuition at an expensive and prestigious educational institution, we found an alternative. It is important to know that in the United States there is an opportunity to get a bachelor's degree not only after graduating from a university, but also after some colleges, which also have four-year bachelor's programs. But you can go full Ebenezer Scrooge. If you go to a community college (which you might know if you watched the show Community) and put actual effort in your studies, then in two years after graduation you will receive an associate’s degree with the opportunity to enter the third year of a bachelor's program. Of course, it sounds like some overcomplicated scheme, until you realize that this way you can save up to 20,000 USD in two years and still get a bachelor's degree.
Requirements for admission to American colleges
The greatest advantage of two-year colleges is that they are very easy to enroll into, even if you have issues with the language. I thought that everything was fine with my English, but my TOEFL results were a little worse than expected: the stress and lack of a language environment affected me. My score would not be sufficient for admission to the university, and I would have to suffer the reexamination. But for the chosen Community Colleges of Spokane, my score was enough. So, I decided to apply there to the faculty of information technologies.
It was time to collect the documents. They had to be submitted no later than March. Since I did not have a certificate yet, I had to send an academic transcript. Plus, I took characteristics from teachers at school, wrote and sent a motivation letter on the topic "Why I want to study in the USA and why I chose this particular specialty".
How much money does it take to attend an American college?
As for the tuition and living costs, I can give an approximate list of my expenses (if you practice very strict savings, you can deduct another 1,000 USD, but I do not recommend it):
- Tuition fee — 8,500 USD;
- Accommodation (in a dorm) and meals — about 12,000 USD;
- Textbooks — 1,500 USD;
- Insurance — 1,500 USD;
- Other expenses — 3,000 USD.
As a result, we have about 26,000 USD per year. Your biggest expenses will be accommodation and food. Of course, the amount is not small, but it could well have been twice the amount, had I decided to go straight to a university.
I chose Spokane College (in fact, this is an association of three colleges) because it has connections with many strong universities, which you can apply to after graduation. In addition, Spokane is a provincial American city (from here you can reach the Canadian border — about 180 km or Seattle — 270 km). Life here is significantly cheaper than in state capitals. Last but not least, Spokane is a very quiet city with a low crime rate, so my parents could let me go there with peace of mind.
Features of studying at a college in the United States
The entire process of studying in the United States is built on the system of credits. Each subject you study is "worth" several credits. My task was to gain about 60 credits in two years of study. This would give me the opportunity to transfer to the third year of the university bachelor's program.
The academic year is divided into four quarters (semesters) 12 weeks each. As a rule three semesters a year are devoted to studies, one for rest. However, if you want to save time, you can study without any breaks: this way you can complete a two-year program in a year and a half. The fee is paid for each semester. As I learned later, you can start training here from any quarter.
All subjects are divided into general education and specialized. Some of the general education subjects are compulsory, and others you can take at your discretion, but remember: you need to collect 60 credits. Try to choose what you might actually need in the future.
The assessment of academic performance is carried out in a way that reflects the student's activity throughout the semester: doing nothing for the whole semester and memorizing the material before the exam will not work. If we take the entire grade as 100%, then, for example, 10% can be homework, 40% — the last exam, and 50% — consist of the results of final and midterm tests. Evaluation is carried out on a four-point scale: A (4 points, 90-100%, excellent), B (3 points, 80-90%, good), C (2 points, 70-80%, average), D (1 point, 60-70%, poor). The average score of the diploma is also calculated on this scale.
At first I wanted to study without taking a break, but it turned out to be too difficult for me: the pace of learning is quite high and it would add stress to my studies and would probably negatively affect my GPA. A word of advice, if you are like me and want to enter Spokane take some warm clothes with you, you can thank me later. Also buy or bring a laptop this saves a lot of time during lectures. Plus, it's easier to carry one laptop with you than ten notebooks.
Now I am in my sophomore year and am considering which university I will apply to after graduating from college. But that is a story for another time.
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