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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Undergraduate Studies in US

Undergraduate Studies in US

In a new trend, more Indian students are going to the US to pursue their undergraduate studies.

   In the last couple of years, the Indian higher education sector has been going in for a makeover, trying to work towards an international model. From introducing the grading and semester system to adopting an interdisciplinary approach, Indian colleges and universities are also re-examining their curricula to suit the changing needs of a 21 st Century generation. 

   However, despite radical steps and bold decisions, more Indian students are leaving for the US to pursue their undergraduate studies. While the US has always been the first choice for Indian students, it was usually at the Master's or research level. Till yesterday, going to America for one's undergraduate studies was rare. While colleges were tight-fisted about funding, it was a given that you complete your Bachelor's in India and then move on to the US for a niche specialisation. 

   Things have changed. This year, Venkata Shiva Mandala, who is going to the Oberlin College in Ohio for a Bachelor's in biology and computer science, has received a scholarship from the university to the tune of Rs 16 lakh per-year, equivalent to 75% waiver of the fee. 

   Also, students today are more mature and focused. In fact, Mrinalini Sinha, all set to go to New York University (NYU), had decided to go abroad for her college while she was in school. So she did her 'A' levels instead of taking the Indian exams. It is a four-year Bachelor's programme, and Mrinalini is majoring in economics. The course gives her the opportunity to spend two years in London and two years in New York. 

   An early awareness comes from the fact that several schools in metros are going for student exchange programmes and overseas tie-ups. "Hence, students get a taste of overseas academics and start planning way ahead. Also, education loans have made things easier for parents, who want to give the best education to their children," says Vibha Shah, a parent.


According to Open Doors: Report on International Educational Exchange, published annually by IIE (Institute of International Education), in 2009/10, 104,897 students from India were studying in the US, with 14.5% of them going for undergraduate studies. 

   While the numbers can be attributed to a rise in income and high aspirations, there is more to it. As overseas counsellors point out, it is also a question of flexibility and unconventional course combinations. 

   For instance, Medha Dutt, who scored 93% in class XII, is going to Parsons The New School for Design in New York to study design. With a range of interests such as design, music, drama and writing, she wants to build on them. "At Parsons, I can choose my own courses," she says. 

   Another student, Alessandro Saini, is all set to pursue a Bachelor's in music with a major in music performance and a minor in audio production at the Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music in Hollywood, California. "The course suits me not just because I am interested in music but because California is known as an entertainment hub. It will provide me with an interesting combination — I can make my own music as well as work in a studio," he says. As to the new trend, Renuka Raja Rao, country co-ordinator, Education USA Advising Services with USIEF, (United States-India Educational Foundation), says, "Indian undergraduate programmes are fraught with a few pitfalls — dependence on a single exam, stiff competition, and stereotype courses, which in comparison, is radically different in the US. Not every 17/18 year-old can decide what he/she wants to study for the rest of his/her life. The US system recognises this and students have to 'declare a major' only in the second year." 

   Finally, as Mallika Seth, ready to join the Georgia Institute of Technology to pursue a Bachelor's in aerospace engineering, says, "Above all, a holistic and stimulating learning environment is likely to be more challenging." 

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