Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How to Apply for Higher Studies (Especially to US Universities)

I have been thinking of writing this article for so long, but couldn't manage time to do so. I am not writing the article on how to apply for higher studies, as many people have already done so, this article is actually a compilation and direction to the articles I found useful. Before starting I will like to clear that this article is not showing you the short-cut way to get an admission with scholarship, but showing what you need to know and how to prepare yourself for an admission to a US university that will be of your category. I am a Computer Science student, so my suggestions/articles are most on Computer Science graduate studies, but students from other disciplines can also get the benefit, e.g. Engineering, Economics, Natural Science, etc.

My personal focus was PhD program, but a prospective MS student can take benefit from this article as well. Although I am writing for applying to US universities, similar preparation will enable you to apply with ease to any other universities in the world.

Applying to US Universities, an overview

The first thing you need is an overview of the whole process. There are many such great articles, forums that discuss about it in details. You should start with CMU's Mor Harchol-Balter's article "Applying to Ph.D. Programs in Computer Science" <http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~harchol/gradschooltalk.pdf > or <http://www.naushadzaman.com/gradschooltalk.pdf >. This is a big article but the best article written in this category.

There is another article that is very useful for Bangladeshi students. It was written by a Chinese for Chinese students. As US education system is different from ours, it is useful to understand their education system first before applying to USA. This will help you to understand what you should focus in applying to US universities. This is BeBeyond's 9 step guide <http://naushadzaman.blogspot.com/2007/07/bebeyond-9-step-guide-for-applying-at.html >.

Another very useful guide for applying to US is available by Natalia <http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~natalia/studyinus/guide.htm > from Caltech. Her guide on every step is very useful.

Yet another article that also did the same as what I am trying to do in this article; compiled all steps. You can check it here: <http://www.techenclave.com/forums/guide-applying-engineering-grad-schools-us-63834.html >
in case you cannot find the post in this link, check <http://naushadzaman.blogspot.com/2007/07/httpwww.html >

There are few popular and resourceful forums, e.g. <http://www.urch.com/forums/ > <http://www.edulix.com/forum/>. You should check these forums for each step of your preparation.

Timeline Applying to US Universities is a long process. Conversely, for an admission to a university or any other educational institution in our country, we just need to appear at an admission test and at best face an interview, nothing more. For an admission to a US university, you need to prepare for GRE exams, prepare your SOP (Statement of Purpose), and collect LOR (Letter of Recommendation) from Professors as well as submit financial statements in some cases. And as we need visa for US, we need to prepare scores of things for visa, which is another big hassle. So to catch up Fall Semester (starts in September), you need to have more than a year in hand to prepare everything. Well, there are no hard and fast rules, rather mostly depends on you, but it is better if you start early.

Now the question is, exactly how many days one needs to prepare for applying to US. It depends from person to person, but I will try to give a guideline in general. Let's start with our deadline. For the best universities the deadline usually is between December 15 and January 15. After that other mediocre universities follow. I will give timeline based on earliest deadline, presuming that you can make your own timeline. Before proceeding to that I will let you know what you need to do to prepare for applying to a US University.

i. Prepare and appear at General GRE (Target scores should be Verbal: 560+, better if 600+; Maths: 750+, better if 800, for applying to most A grade universities. But there are exceptions, I only had 360 in Verbal section! But definitely it helps to have a higher score, so target for more.)
ii. Appear at TOEFL (Target scores should be 90+ on iBT)
iii. Research which universities are good match for you
iv. Write SOP (Statement of Purpose)
v. Collect LOR (Letter of Recommendation)
vi. Prepare and Appear at Subject GRE (Optional but highly recommended for top-tier universities)

You will need to get qualifying score in GRE for applying to most of the schools in US. Even if you don't need GRE for a particular university (very exceptional; MIT doesn't want it and few others sometime don't), it is better to take GRE exam for your visa! Not kidding, a visa officer told so in a seminar. Reason is, usual US students qualify GRE and apply to more than 1/2 universities. So they expect you to go through the same process and they take it as a proof that you are a bona-fide student and really serious about studying in US, so you did whatever it takes to get the admission. In this regard my suggestion is, at first complete the GRE and TOEFL whenever you manage time. Go through the GRE/TOEFL section for suggestions regarding preparing for those exams. If you study seriously and regularly for 2-3 months, you can get good scores in the General GRE. 3rd and 4th year of your undergraduate studies are good time for taking the GRE exams. So, try to complete these steps well before thinking of other things (Usually GRE remain valid for 5 years). But still, if you have already passed the 3rd and 4th year, then start now and spend 2/3 months.
For TOEFL you will just need to know the format, nothing else. I suggest you to complete the TOEFL exams after the General GRE, it helps.
Top ranked schools highly recommend/require for Subject GREs. It's better to complete the subject GRE as well. I didn't and I don't have regrets for that as I am happy with my admission. But if you don't want to risk then you should complete the subject GRE as well and its good to appear at the subject GRE just after completing the undergraduate studies, as everything is fresh in your mind at that time.

Deadline: 15 December [Earliest deadline]

Submit Everything: Before 15 November to 1 December [Deadline - (minus) 15 to 30 days: Submit as early as possible (especially if you need financial aid), so that if you miss anything you can update/modify it in the last minute. One thing you should understand that all of your documents must reach before the deadline. So it doesn't help if you had submitted before deadline, but it reached after deadline. You have to make sure and send everything using the fastest and safest mode of transfer such as prominent international courier services.]
Research universities, Write SOP, Collect LOR: October and November [2 months before submitting: You can do all these simultaneously. But you need to spend time for these as well, the way you spend time for GRE!]Complete GRE, TOEFL: September [You can spend one month for taking the exams, e.g. early September for GRE then one/two weeks later for TOEFL exam, which is end of September. In case you need to take the GRE again, you still have time. So try to sit for the exam even earlier.]Prepare for GRE, TOEFL: July, August [At least two months regularly and seriously practice GRE]

This is a very customizable thing and you can schedule in your own way. But many people asked me to give a template, that's why just sharing my own one. I hope you get the picture and can do your own.

In next sections, I will point out for articles that will describe how to prepare for each step.
How to GRE
General GRE: For general GRE I wrote an article after my exam. This article has my suggested pointers and my suggestions, so check if it interests you.

Subject GRE: I will not mention names, but I have seen students who were in probation (because of CGPA lower than 2.0) at my university, i.e. BRAC University, and went to other university and passed with CGPA 3.5+. So think how the admission committee of US and other university will be able to judge you and your CGPA, when they don't even know about your university! It's better to take the Subject GRE right after the completion of your undergraduate study. It is valid for 5 years, I guess. As I didn't take the subject GRE, I cannot give suggestions about that. Search for it, you will find many useful information. One thing I must tell you that, if your CGPA is low because of some problem during your undergraduate study then you can take Subject GRE and they will value your Subject GRE scores more than your CGPA.

For further suggestions, also take benefit from:
<http://www.urch.com/forums/ >

How to TOEFL
I wrote an article on my TOEFL experiences after my TOEFL exam as well. This article has my suggested pointers and suggestions, so check if it interests you. http://naushadzaman.blogspot.com/2006/10/how-to-toefl-ibt.html

For further suggestions, also take benefit from:
<http://www.urch.com/forums/ >

How to Research for Universities that are good match for you Every year thousands of Indian and Chinese students go to US for higher education and all of them are not the best caliber students. It's true that they have more people than we do, but we have many more prospective students with equal caliber, who should apply to US for higher education. The fact is, Indians and Chinese people have understood the applying process very well and there are people out there who can help and guide them, may be voluntarily or on payment. But they are getting the guidance. Now in the internet you can find every suggestion you need, and I tried to give links to articles that will be useful for you. But one of the most important parts of the application process is selecting where to apply. There are many universities with similar quality, but some are tougher than others to get in (may be some are more demanding because of geographical location, etc). Again, if you apply only to top 5 or 10 universities, you may end up not getting any admits. But if you apply to 5/10 universities wisely then you may get at least 30% acceptance. Bottom line is, you have to understand where you should apply and the Indians and Chinese people have mastered this technique, that's why they are getting more opportunities.

You should read two sub-sections from two articles for understanding the process of selecting universities.
- Check "5. Choose the Right Schools for You" section from <http://naushadzaman.blogspot.com/2007/07/bebeyond-9-step-guide-for-applying-at.html >
- Check the guideline from gradschooltalk.pdf's <http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~harchol/gradschooltalk.pdf > or <http://www.naushadzaman.com/gradschooltalk.pdf > "3.7 How many schools should you apply to?" and "5. Choosing the right PhD program for you" section.As these articles have described it so nicely, I won't write much here. But I will like you to remember few things.

- Don't just apply to top ranked or your category universities. You should apply to 3 categories of universities, your level, above your level and below your level. Your level is where students of your category get admitted (You can ask other students in the forums, <http://www.urch.com/forums/ > <http://www.edulix.com/forum/>); above your level is the ambitious university list, which you should apply so that if you get lucky you could go to a better place!; below your level is the safe list, which is the alternative. This category is where you are confident that you should get an admission. From each category you should at least apply to 1/2 universities, but more at your own level, may be at least 2/3 universities. Another thing is, visa is a problem for USA, even though this year I didn't hear about anyone getting rejected with student visa from Bangladesh. But yet, I prefer to keep alternatives outside USA as well! So the ratio should be something like,
At least: your level (2/3 unis): ambitious (1/2 unis) : safe (1/2 unis) : safe outside USA (1/2 unis)
At most: your level (5/6 unis) : ambitious (4/5 unis) : safe (3/4 unis) : safe outside USA (2/3 unis)
I am giving you the maximum limit because you need to research on all universities, their professors, their students' qualifications (help you to judge if you have a good chance or not), their research projects, department, university and many more. But you may go up to 20 universities, but you should have time to spend for that. May be few extra days. And again, you should keep in mind that applying to universities is a big investment. You have to pay approx. $14 to send GRE scores to each university, $14 for TOEFL, application fees (which is as low as FREE to as much as $105), sending transcripts (mail cost) and other documents, etc. Managing everything is a bit tough, so you should limit the number of universities and select the universities wisely.

- If you have a particular research interest or experience before applying then it is a high plus point. You can sort out universities where people are working in the field of your interest actively. One thing you should understand is people working in your field will be more interested to take you. If there is a big research group in your field, then there are good funding opportunities, and they might hire students as well. So keep this in mind and these universities have more probability to hire and fund you than other universities with one or few professors in your field.
But if you don't have particular research interest or experience, no problem at all, may be Subject GRE can help you there, and good CGPA, and also general GREs are very useful for mediocre universities.

- If you have queries then write to students of professors, but not to the professors directly. Professors are usually very busy people and students are busy as well, but not as professors. And many students are very keen to help people. Email them if you have particular queries. Search the websites first. You can contact them for queries like, if his/her professors are taking students in the next Fall or not. Also give your credentials, like your results, research interest, etc, but keep it very short. If the student feels like you are a good prospective student then s/he will forward your email to the professor. You can actually write email to the professors of universities, ranked after 50, or something. In these cases, professors sometimes have the authority to take the students at their will, given they will support you and you fulfill the minimum requirement. So they are interested to get emails from good prospective students. But the problem with top ranked universities are, the admission committee decides whom to take, no matter who will fund you later. I guess that's the reason, they don't find any incentive to keep the correspondence with students. Bottom line is, if the university is ranked within 50, contact students only, after that you can consider writing to professors as well.

Which program to apply It's a good question to ask, if you want to go for MS/PhD. You can apply for a PhD program with undergraduate degree, or you can apply for a MS first. Fact is, if you can get a MS from US/Canadian Universities or from a renowned program abroad then you will have higher chance to get in to a high ranked PhD program at US. But it is hard to get the financial support during MS in USA; Canada is different. Canadian universities mostly give financial aid for MS in CS (and possibly in other disciplines as well), I got one. But don't know if it is very tough to get or not! If you have financial support from your family, then you should go for a MS first.
I am writing this article, assuming my reader a prospective PhD student. But if you are still confused whether you want a PhD or not, then I will recommend to go through the Chapter 2. Do I really want a PhD? What does a PhD entail, section of the article <http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~harchol/gradschooltalk.pdf > or <http://www.naushadzaman.com/gradschooltalk.pdf >.

How to write Statement of Purpose (SOP)This is a very important part of the application package. This is the place, where you can defend your weak part of the application, e.g. low CGPA, low GRE scores, etc. Again, this is the part where you can show the committee your vision, what you want to do with this degree, how this particular university's education will help you in your career, how you have built yourself - why they should select you, etc. Go through the following articles for better understanding of the whole process. Remember, this is not a last minute thing, even if you are a good writer, you should spend time for your SOP. Revise it again and again, remove repetitive parts, and make it precise and short.
<http://naushadzaman.blogspot.com/2007/07/how-to-write-successful-statement-of.html >

<http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~natalia/studyinus/guide/statement/st1/outline.htm >
Samples: <http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~natalia/studyinus/guide/statement/samples.htm >

Start with <http://naushadzaman.blogspot.com/2007/07/how-to-write-successful-statement-of.html > for SOP. Try answering the questions, it will be a good start. I started that way.
For polishing the SOP, check the 3.3 Personal Statement section of the article <http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~harchol/gradschooltalk.pdf > or <http://www.naushadzaman.com/gradschooltalk.pdf >.

About Letter of Recommendation Check the guideline from 3.5 Recommendations section of the article <http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~harchol/gradschooltalk.pdf > or <http://www.naushadzaman.com/gradschooltalk.pdf >.

Check these articles as well.
in case you cannot find the document then try it in my server

<http://www.dickinson.edu/career/files/lettersofrecforstudents.pdf >
in case you cannot find the document then try it in my server
<http://www.naushadzaman.com/lettersofrecforstudents.pdf >

<http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~natalia/studyinus/guide/recom.htm >
<http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~natalia/studyinus/guide/recom/dos.htm >

How to write CV I actually spent a lot of time in writing my CV, actually modifying and updating it. The information the US universities look for in a CV is not the way we write CV in Bangladesh and this is not something that can be done overnight. Your content might be ready, but you need to work with it. I actually forgot from where I got references when I built my own CV, but now found a good suggestion page, where it describe about it nicely. You can check this page.
<http://career.berkeley.edu/Phds/PhDCV.stm >

Few More Suggestions:
- Sending Application Package
Now most of the application process is online, starting from application to submitting Letter of Recommendations. But you need to send at least transcripts to the universities. It is actually very expensive to send it through DHL or FedEx. One thing many people in Bangladesh do not know much, at least I didn't know - one of my colleagues told me about it, it is the EMS (Express Mail Service, I guess). It takes max 10 days (min 5 days) to reach and it costs around 300 Tk (as far as I remember) and the other regular mail service from the govt. will take at max 30 days (min 10 days) with the cost of 100-150 Tk, whereas DHL, FedEx will cost you at least 1500 Tk in a cheaper deal as a student, but it will reach within 3 to 5 days. It really counts when you are applying to 10-15 universities. So better to apply early and send the transcripts and other packages early, so that they can get things beforehand.

- Monetary Transactions You need to make payments to universities (application fees), ETS (GRE, TOEFL test taking organization) for these exams and also for sending scores to universities, etc. These could be really quick if you have a credit card. But international credit card, issued in Bangladesh, cannot make transactions abroad from Bangladesh, there are some govt. restrictions. So if you have someone abroad, who doesn't have problem giving you the credit card, then you should use that. It saves your time and money.

It is usual that not everyone will have relatives abroad willing to give the credit card. For people in Bangladesh, I will recommend to contact people at <http://www.varsityadmission.com/ >. They give the service of online transaction with a charge of 1000 Tk per transaction. I feel it's too much, but it's not my business man! Ask them! Yet there are questions of reliability. So don't just give money to some new organization if they offer you much lower price. Get information of that organization, or person, before giving him/her money for online transaction. I personally used their service for paying my GRE registration fees only and I know people who used their service for every transaction and they are reliable. I just hope that some other people will also come forward and start the business and make the business competitive. They shouldn't charge more than 200-300 Tk for each transaction, it's still too much. But if you pay it by bank drafts, then you also need to send it through courier service, then you will end up spending lot more than 1000 Tk. So, it's still a better option.

- How to USA Visa Interview
When you get the admission at US university then visa interview is another big hassle. Good thing is now they are giving student visa quite easily, but the visa process is another big story :) I wrote my experience about that as well. You can find it here:
<http://naushadzaman.blogspot.com/2007/06/usa-visa-howto-and-my-visa-experience.html >

- Getting Ticket
For buying ticket you should talk to more than one travel agent and ask for the quotations. See first who can give you the cheapest price, in which airlines. Check the baggage weight and size restrictions of that airline before buying the ticket.

- After Visa WhatNow you are ready to go after visa, so you should pack up your things. You should talk to people at your university, that city, state, regarding what to take for that particular place's climate, and also some books and few other things, other than these all are general things, so nothing to worry much. I found one article in my hard disk about what to take. Shared it in my blog. Find it here:
http://naushadzaman.blogspot.com/2007/07/after-visa-what-do-i-do-after-visa.html >

After that you are in USA and you build your own future :) and my article stops here. I hope the article was useful. Even if a single person is benefited from this, then I will feel myself successful. Feel free to send me your feedbacks and suggestions. And please feel free to forward this article to people, who you think could be benefited from it.
Good luck with your application process.
Take care. Naushad
Naushad UzZaman

Who Am I Well, I started writing this article for my friends and juniors at university and high school. In that case I really don't need to introduce myself. But as I continued compiling things, I felt that many Bangladeshi people could be benefited from this article, so I expect my readers to forward this to people who will be interested to get these suggestions. Regarding me, I received Computer Science PhD offers from University of Rochester (NY, USA), University of Pittsburgh (PA, USA), University of Texas at Dallas (TX, USA) and University of North Texas (TX, USA); Computer Science MS offers from Columbia University (NY, USA), University of Alberta (Canada) and offer for Masters program on Computer Science and Language Technology, funded by European Union with Erasmus Mundus scholarship. All with full funding except Columbia. I ended up going to University of Rochester for my PhD from Fall 2007.

I must acknowledge few people as they have contributed a lot in my admission process.
- My father, who is my best friend and my mentor as well, for discussing and suggesting what to do in every step of the admission process; even the first draft of this article with scores of grammatical mistakes was corrected by him.
- Dr. Mumit Khan, my mentor, for literally shaping my career and particularly helping me in selecting universities and writing SOP in this admission process.
- Recommenders: Dr. Mumit Khan, Associate Professor - CSE Department and Head - CRBLP, BRAC U; Dr. Sayeed Salam, Associate Professor and Chair - CSE Department, BRAC U; Mr. Matin Saad Abdullah, Lecturer, BRAC U; for recommending me.
- Saria Choudhury, my GRE partner.
- Sajib Das Gupta, Naira Khan, Zahurul Islam, Taniya Siddique and other colleagues at BRAC University, for helping me at different times during my application process.
- BRAC University Registrar's office for helping in sending transcripts. Sabeka apa, Irish apa and Shreyasee Di.
- My choto chacha, for helping in my online transactions.
- Last but not the least, my family - mother, father, brother and new bhabi, for being my inspiration, encouraging me in every step and also giving constant support.
- And many more people, whom I can't remember because of my poor memory.. :(


This is a good article by Indian students. Most of the things will match for Bangladeshi students as well. It was in my hard disk but didn't see it earlier. Almost everything is ready for me, but still found it useful. You can check it as well. Good luck.



First and Foremost

There are certain things that have to be done in advance, i.e., as soon as get you your visa - much before the flight.
Learn typing
Learn driving and get the driving license and an International Driving Permit. This usually takes 40 days. So its better that you start off early.
Learn to cook.
Apply for a bank loan (if necessary)
Make your passport valid for 6 months more than your stay indicated in your I-20.


Find out the necessary immunization info and get everything done. Generally there are some vaccines like Hepatitis B, which require 3 doses once each month. So do it early. These vaccines are very costly in US and you certainly do not want to start spending money the moment you land in US. Get requisite immunization done (especially MMR)


Hey man go and block the ticket first. You need not pay anything while blocking, it’s free! You can pay later (generally 10 days before departure) after your ticket and schedule is confirmed. Block flights with many airlines.
Try and book a direct flight to your place, even if you have to take a local airline it is better and safer than greyhound, which usually has its stops in the shadiest area of towns. Buy a single ticket all the way through – add on are very expensive. Avoid change of airline. A direct flight is the best.
If change of airline can't be avoided' leave at least 4-6 hrs gap between the scheduled arrival of one flight and the scheduled departure of the connecting flight.
Baggage is usually safe with a single airline - change of airline sometimes leads to misplaced luggage. Some airlines don't take care of baggage transfer - you may have to personally carry it (check this while booking) and cross check every thing you are promised by the Travel agent with the original air lines. Even if you have confirmed ticket in you hand.
And remember to ask for student concessions...Generally all the airlines will come up with one or the other discount offer for students...so check all this out before you pay the money.
 Typical expenses: Rs.27, 000 - Rs.35, 000/-

Health Checkups

Get a medical check-up done
Dental check up
Fresh check-up, especially if you have a major ailment

Is Dental Care necessary?

After extensive survey and upon seeking the opinion of senior’s abroad a conclusion on the need for dental treatment while in India has been made.
Mouth is the mirror of human health. Taking care of oral cavity is a prelude to keeping overall health fit.
The rationale behind taking dental checkup and treatment while in India is:
To avoid possible dental treatment abroad as it is a well-known fact that dentist in U.S charge exorbitantly high.
Under inevitable circumstances if you are required to go for dental treatment
You need prior appointment of two to three weeks in U.S
Even Students are required to bear the huge expenditure, as dental care is not covered under health insurance in the U.S.
It is ironic that the materials we use in India are the same used by dentists in U.S, but the payment made for the dental care is in dollars while the number being the same in India.

Eye Check Up:

Get your eyesight checked - get a new prescription. Buy at least one extra pair of glasses or a pair of contact lens. Get requisite immunization done (especially MMR) Get prescriptions & medicines for all common ailments (the technical name of the medicine along with Indian/US brand name) Important: Complete the health documentation that you may have to submit when you arrive in US.



Crocin tablets (paracetamol 500 mg)- 3 strips
For fever, body ache, and headache.
One tablet three times a day as necessary.
Above 60 kg please use 650 mg tablets (thermol/dolo).

For fevers, mild pain relief Actifed tablets – 2 strips (side effect drowsiness)

A costlier but much better alternative is Alerid (cetrizine) or Neoloridin(loridine)less sedation and next to no side effects

Azithromycin 500 mg tablets (aziwin) - 3 strips. One tablet once a day for atleast 3 days ...use if you have a bacterial cold or Respiratory infection ... (most common symptom being dark yellow colored mucus, fever, etc.).NOT NEEDED FOR ordinary cold (white mucus, watery secretions)

Sporidex 500mg capsules - 2 strips. One tablet twice a day when necessary as advised (please don’t use on your own. This stuff needs a prescription to be used properly ... meant only for persistent troublesome infections)

Avomine tablets - 1 strip for air/ motion sickness. One tablet as necessary.(causes drowsiness)

Lomotil/Andial tablets- 15 (for diarrhea) But remember the best treatment for diarrhea is plenty of fluids, some good rest and bland food.

Omeprazole 20 mg .For gastritis.Can be take once or twice a day

Digene tablets- 20 mg. For stomach discomfort .One each three times a day.

Spasmoproxyvon capsules - 3 strips for abdominal colic pain, backache, menstrual pain etc. One tablet every 6 hours or as necessary.

Domstal tablets - 10. For vomiting .Has to be taken atleast half an hr before food

Electral powder - 2 packets. One teaspoonful mixed with drinks to make up loss of
electrolytes after vomiting & diarrhoea

Novalgin - 2 strips for headache & bodyache. One tablet as necessary.

Brufen 600mg tablets - 2 strips. For arthirtic joint pain. One tablet three times a
day after food.

Avil Tablets - 1 strip for allergy (use cetrizine/loridin for less sedation), One tablet as
Relaxyl ointment - 1 tube to be applied as pain balm.
Band Aid assorted - 12

Soframycin skin ointment - 1 tube
Nimesulide tabs. For the severest of headaches and pains. (But banned in the US).
100mg upto 3 times a day
Ciplox capsules 500 mg. 2 strips.1 capsule twice a day. For Infective diarrheas
Vitamin B-complex capsules .Just in case your starving yourself out there


There are so many things one needs to carry, as this is the first time you are going abroad. If you have a friend who is going to the same university, for the same semester, it is better to share few things. This saves space as well as money. In this section, we have listed the most common things that your seniors have carried and suggest you to do. We not only tell you what to carry?, but also how much to carry vis-à-vis the quantity of each item. Many commodities like clothes, foot ware, leather items, and other miscellaneous things are expensive in US. Therefore it is a must that you go through the entire section and make a note of these things in the form of printout before you begin shopping to ensure that you don’t miss something. Get started with clothes....


Jeans: 4 to 6 pairs
Shorts: 6-8. Get those ones, which are, long and go a 2-3 inches beyond knees.
T-shirts: 6-8
Cotton shirts: 4-5(no multicolored patterns, they are not in vogue in US). Cotton clothes are good in warmer places.
Night clothes: 2-3 pairs
Formal suit & Ties - 1-2 pairs. You rarely need them...once in a year or so on occasions like Convocation ceremony and interviews.
Undergarments...a lot of them...10-15 pairs we stress upon this because you may go to the laundry once in two weeks!!
Socks...4-5 pairs you can bring even more because you would be wearing shoes most of the time. Do not take nylon socks. Cotton ones are better.
Sweaters. a couple - full sleeved advisable
Get a muffler and monkey cap and woolen gloves and windcheater.
Leather jacket...1 they are rather poor protection in the north. But you may consider getting one woolen Jacket.
Handkerchiefs-1 dozen
2-3 belts one formal leather belt and others as you please. But you might want to know that one rarely tucks in the casual dresses.
Kurta-payjamas-These would be good during Cultural meets etc. If you have fancy for one, don't forget extra naadi then.
2 Turkish towels and two napkins.
2 thin single bed sheets.
One air pillow

Summarizing your clothes list:

1) Sunglasses 2 no.
2) Cap 2 no.
3) Umbrella 1 no.
4) Wind sheeter 1 no.
5) Under garments 18 no.
6) Shirts 4 formal + 4 half sleeves
7) T-shirts 12 no.
8) Bermudas 6 no.
9) Trousers 4 no. (formal)
10) Jeans 6 no.
11) Handkerchief 18 no.
12) Socks 15 no.
13) Belts 3 no.(one for jeans and 2 formal)
14) Sweater 2 full + 2 half sleeve
15) Leather jacket 1 no.
16) Wallet with more pockets for credit cards 1 no.
17) Thermal wears 2 no.
18) Ties 2 no.
19) Blazer / Suit - Blazer + matching trouser
20) Kurta Pyjama 1 white
21) Chudidar 1 no.
22) Chudidar jacket 1 no.
23) Night dress 2 no.
24) Gloves 2 pair



SPORTS SHOES: 2 pairs Sports shoes are real cheap in US. Moreover in sales of Christmas etc. So do not spend too much money for these. Get some moderately priced and good ones so that you need not buy them immediately after coming to US.
LEATHER SHOES: Get good and strong leather shoes, shoes that have good grip are preferred. This is for snowy regions. It’s difficult to walk on snow with shoes of flat sole. Firm grip helps to keep fit, prevents breaking head, bones.


You can buy leather footwear...But we advise Sandals. Get two pairs of them.
Slippers -two pairs, you don't get the India type slippers in US.
Kolhapuris, they serve good purpose in the summer.

Personal accessories:

Hangers for clothes,
Wallet - one that has space for cards - you normally don't carry much cash with you.
Shaving kit & Blades (get a good stock, they are costly In US). Brush & toothpaste (these are also expensive in US).
Soap (get a couple of bars of bathing soap till you go for the first groceries in US).
Combs & hair oil (if you use hair-oil get a years supply of your favorites).
Small mirror (just in case even if you are not a narcicist!).
Nail cutter.
Small scissors, Safety pin bunch. Mini-sewing kit with some buttons.

Summarizing your Personal accessories list:

1) Soap 6 no.
2) Shampoo 3 bottles
3) Towels 2 no.
4) Napkin 6 no.
5) Body spray 3 no.
6) Perfume 2 no.
7) After shave 1 no.
8) Tooth paste 6 no.
9) Tooth brush 6 no.
10) Shaving tube 2 no.
11) Mach 3 razor 2 no.
12) Blades 20 no. (mach3)
13) Blanket 1 no.
14) Duster 4 no. (for cleaning)
15) Scrub 2 no.
16) Sponge 2 no.
17) Bedsheets 2 thick + 2 thin
18) Pillow 1 no.
19) Comb 2 no.
20) Nail cutter 2 no.
21) Rubber band 1 packet
22) Scissors 1 pair
23) Calculator 1 no.
24) Pass port and stamp size snaps 36 each,
25) Photos of your family
26) CDs of songs
27) Medicines + first aid kit
28) Digital diary
29) Books
30) Back pack
31) Key Chains
32) Torch Alarm clock.
33) Camera & Camera roll 6 nos
34) Mirror
35) Soap box


Depends on whether you guys plan to cook alone or with your housemates, since most people don't get time to cook daily, stuff is generally prepared for two days at a go - so keep this in mind when you buy vessels, etc.
Typical stuff you may want is:
2-3 plates,
Cups and bowls
Forks (2 each)
Serving spoons
Couple of cooking vessels
Pressure cooker - 3 liters
Cooker containers and spares (rings and valves)
Non-stick frying pan with turner
Tongs and knives
Cutting board for vegetables
2-3 patella’s that fit into each other and that preferably have handles
1 pressure pan (Prestige), ask your prospective roommate to get one too
Utensils holder
Plates (2-3 steel plates, beaker size and 2-3 plastic plates of both beaker and normal size)
2-3 plastic bowls (katories)
6 spoons and a couple of steel glasses
Serrated knife.

Summarizing your Utensils list:

1) Cooker 1 no. + spares
2) Cookers Containers 2 no.(with their lids)
3) Kadai 1 no.
4) Non stick tawa 1 no.
5) Spoons 6 no.
6) Grip 1 no.
7) Chapati fork/tong 1 no.
8) Laddle for poori 1 no.
9) Spatula types used while making roti) 1 no.
10) Knife 2 no.
11) Peeler 1 no.
12) Serving spoons (for dal, curry and rice) 3 no.
13) Knife& Fork 6 no.
14) Sauce pan 2 no.
15) Steel containers to heat food 2 no. (with lid)
16) Rolling Pin/ Belan (to make rotis) 1 no.
17) Plate 1 no.
18) Katori 3 no.
19) Glass 2 no.
20) Cutting board 1 no.
21) Eating knives 2 no.
22) Coffee spoon for salt etc 3 no.
23) Small size plastic spoons for masala 1 no

Food Items:

Some of the common food items that students carry are:
Spices, Tealeaves, Masalas, Haldi, Dhania, red chilly, Instant masalas, etc.
Mustard packet.
Tamarind paste
Different dals in small quantity for initial use.
Asafoetida powder.
Indian instant coffee + Indian tea (it takes time to get used to the American stuff)
Elaichi, clove, cinnamon
Masalas and tea/coffee powder, if you are a regular drinker (until somebody shifts to beer.)
Get a couple of bags each of haldi, red chilly powder, Garam masala, Dhania, Pickle bottles (if you have enthu, but preferably get sealed ones), rice, Moong Dal. Bring approx. 1-month supply of masalas.
Most Indian foodstuffs are available even in small cities. Don't come loaded with foodstuffs as you may have problem with customs. Try to get "instant" stuff, as people don't have much time for cooking in the US.

Summarizing your Masala list:

1) Dhania& jirra ½ kg
2) Chilli powder ¼ kg
3) Haldi ¼ kg
4) Full jira 200 gm
5) Mustard Seed 200 gm
6) Garam Masala home made 200 gm
7) Pav bhaji masala 2 packets
8) Salt 500 gm
9) Sugar ½ kg.
10) Hing powder one bottle


Get all the cassettes recorded which you might like to take with you. Though you get most of them in US, why spend money for luxurious things. If you are leaving your beloved, don’t forget to take those kishore Kumar blues.

Stationary list:

1) White sheets 50 no.
2) Pencils 12 no.
3) Erasers 4 no.
4) Blade 2 no.
5) Stapler 1 no.
6) Stapler pins 1 packet
7) Pens 12 blue + 12 black (ball pens)
8) Scribbling Pad 2 no.
9) Glue stick 1 no.
10) Pencil Box 2 no.
11) Ruler - 12" 1 no.
12) Stick on pad 2 no.
13) Cello tape 1 no.
14) Ink pen 1 no.
15) Needle 1 packet
16) Thread Black 1,White 1 reel , Blue 1 reel
17) Safety pins 1 dozen


Luggage is the essential thing one has to buy. This has to be done after proper planning as luggage is an expensive item and is to be retained for years, now that you will be doing lot of traveling in flight.

2 large size suitcases


Start your packing well in advance
But two good boxes - they should be able to withstand a lot of mishandling. They should be as large as possible within the size limitations (however most airlines are not very strict about baggage size).
Put identification marks and labels on both the inside & outside the boxes) apart from this, the airlines will also provide you with adhesive labels).
Boxes with independent top & bottom are preferable.
Box specification: As an example of Air India economy class baggage specifications to the USA are given below. Note the specs. may be different for other countries/airlines.
2 pieces of baggage with total liner dimension (L+B+H) not exceeding 270cms (106"). Moreover the total linear dimension of each piece should not be over 158cms (62"). The weight of each bag should not be exceeding 32kg (70lb) [note: Sometimes they are not particular about this] Carry on baggage: In addition you can carry a bag with linear dimension not exceeding 115cms (45") on board fits beneath the seat.
Things to be kept in the boxes:
Copy of all the certificates/documents (originals in hand baggage)
Important application materials (SOP, Reco, etc.)(Soft copy)
Necessary book/notebooks (some suggested books are - Clarks Tables, a good dictionary/thesaurus, a booklet for units conversion) [note: there should be no legal hassles taking Xerox copies of books - but don't flaunt them to Americans/profs]
Copy of address book/telephone book/diary
Some stationary and related items suggested (not absolutely necessary) - just for the first few weeks are: common items + rubber stamp with house address + air mail covers + few Indian razor blades for cutting work + screw driver
Medical history files
Gifts (suggested: roll able pictures, handicrafts, etc.)
Non-technical books (fiction/religious). [Note: second-hand storybooks are cheap in the US]
Don't take Indian files (empty) or punching machines - filing system is different in the US (3holes, A4)
Don't take paper
Don't take raincoats.
Don't buy purse (wallet for carrying cards can be bought in the US) Carry an organizer
Wear your shoes to save space in the box. If needed buy only leather shoes (other types of shoes are cheap in the US). For some weather conditions, Indian leather shoes may crack.
Don't worry yourself if you can't bring any of the stuff listed above - most of the items are available pretty cheap in the US (Made in China). Exceptions are leather goods, formal wear. In a month or two you will be able to get anything you want.

Things to be kept in hand baggage:
Some medicines (including for air-sickness)
Novel/mags/books for in flight reading
Original important documents (I-20, visa, tickets.)
Enough money (little cash, traveller's' checks)
Address book/phone book (Indian & US)
Copies of your photos (passport size)
Enlisted steps to be followed in case of emergency (accident, theft, etc.)
Things to be kept in person:
Shorter extract of contact addresses - especially of people coming to pick you up.
Receipt got along with traveller's' checks - in case you lose the TC's.
1 handbag to carry in flight stuff with you (buy a good quality, spacious one 'cause you might have to use it for carrying clothes to the laundry later).
1 backpack (get a good one, you will use it almost all the time in US).
Most books used in US are vague. Heard one professor-using book in electronics by an Indian author to teach his students! Ha ha ha. These books are easy to follow.
Contact students at your Univ.
A good dictionary
Your calculator
Your entire fundamental course texts and notes (for reference of basics).
Standard mathematical table and formulae handbook. Might also want to buy an alarm clock.
Good story books if you have a penchant for reading, though you may not find time during the first semester.
Money to be taken with you:
Other than you fee requirements you may have to take $1000-$2000 depending upon where you are going (you can get this info from your seniors over there). This you can get from Thomas Cook/American Express and of course any Foreign Exchange bank like SBI, SBH IOB etc. Do this after you buy your ticket. And remember! Take major part of the money in DD or TC's. The typical combination is. DD for the entire fee you have to pay, $1000-$2000 in TCs, and $100 in cash...a combination of notes and coins....

Getting permit for us$750:
This can be got from any bank authorized to do so (need not go to RBI for this). You can get this within a month of the date of the flight. The following documents have to taken along to get the permit: Passport + copy, air ticket, I-20 Student Copy + copy, grade cards + copies, p.c. + copy, xii standard pass/mark sheet + copy, aid & admission letters + copies, bank advance/any other form of payment. You may take part of the $750/- in the currency notes up to $50 is okay (legally up to $100 allowed). Money you may need to pay after going there: Other than your fee, you may have to pay the security deposit for the house, rent for the first month, groceries for the first month...basic utilities like toaster, rice cooker etc.which may come around to $500 approx....

Carry all documentation safely, and have photocopies to back you up - letter from Univ., mark sheets, etc. (the visa stuff basically). Things to get photocopied: Make three sets of the following copies, keep one set at home and take the remaining two sets with you.
Xth, Inter (10+2), Degree marks sheets, Convocation Certificate of Under graduation.
I-20 and acceptance letter from the university.
Take all the I-20's with you if you have more than one.
Important things to do before you leave:
Give power of attorney (authorization letters) to your father or brother or to someone on whom you rely
Put your signature on a 10 plane papers, write you name below it, keep these at home, they may need it for any purpose like authorization to collect marks sheets, Provisional certificate, Transfer certificate, Bonafide certificate, Degree certificate, Migration certificate from the university, applying for the refund from the college etc.
Make all bank accounts joint
Things to be left at home:
List of addresses/phone numbers at which info about you can be obtained.
One copy of all your important documents.
A copy of all relevant parts of medical history files.
Arrange to collect/redirect mail from your room/hostel.
Arrange to apply/collect/mail your transcripts (about 20 in number preferable)
Your tailoring measurements.
A Review & Miscellaneous:
Get a driving license and a IDP (international Driving Permit)
Get at least $750 if you get paid within one month of arriving and at least $1500 if you get paid after a month and a half of arrival. If you have a very good friend well settled at the place where you are going to, you may take some less cash with you as you can borrow from him and repay later. You'll have several deposits to pay for the first month of stay like gas, telephone, and electricity. You'll have to pay a months rent as deposit and a months rent advance (around $250 per person/month).
Get your application material if you wish to reactivate your applications at a better place for the next quarter/year.
Get a set of transcripts in case you apply all over again for a PhD.
B.Tech. Degree certificate (laminate it in thin plastic is possible).
Get 2-3 passport size photographs.
Get an address/phone number diary.
Have a set of copies of visa, passport, I-20 in each piece of luggage.
Depending upon the weather in your area get a folding umbrella.
Carry Rs.300 - Rs.500/- for airport tax and Rs.600/- for the $20 you'll get inside the airport.
If you are having a camera then get it endorsed on your passport.
Have a RBI permit ready for the dollars you are carrying with you.
Take all your Hindi songs cassettes.
Get a good leather purse that has several sections of "visiting cards" size, you'll need those for the bunch of credit cards/key cards/ID's, etc. you'll accumulate in no time in US.
Carry medical prescription for all your medicines you bring.
If you have glasses, get a through eye-check-up before and get 2 extra pairs of glasses.
Keep passport, visa, I-20, and other admission documents in the handbag you'll carry on your shoulders all the time.
Confirm your ticket a couple of days prior to the flight directly through the airlines you are flying no matter how reputed your travel agent is.
Let me repeat this, get a driver's license and an IDP.
Get lots of Indian stamps and inland letters and postcards. You'll need them to write letters, which you can send with anyone who is going to India.
Hindi film songs cassettes.


Call up and find if there is any change of the schedule of the plane (inform the people coming to pick you up of any such change).
Get ready to face the long journey.
Bid adieu to all concerned.
Find out the name of the person who is coming to pick you up at the airport. Remind those people of the flight timings, airline no, your name. inform all these to your people at home.
Relax the day before journey, and check all the documents you are taking with you once again.
Arrange for the conveyance if you don’t have a car. You can book with any private transport facility like City cabs.


Since it is going to be a long flight wear something comfortable (cotton dress + full hand shirt). Wear your shoes - in flight you can remove them (some airlines give in flight shoes - else relax in socks).
Check all the documents once again and keep them at appropriate places.
Be at the airport 3-4 hours before the departure.
Collect $20 at the airport (part of it in $1).
Relax during flight, sleep as much as possible.
For vegetarians - watch out before you eat - you may get non-veg even if you had asked for veg. Veg food is generally bland - fruits/juices are good choices. (Before ordering anything on board check if, you have to pay for it separately). Don't hesitate to ask questions.
Once out of India be very careful (from sheer experience of seniors). Don't trust anyone. Don't hire a taxi (unless emergency) till you reach your destination. If required don't hesitate to spend money.


You are now in the USA! Once you are out of the plane go straight to the immigration counter - rush for them to beat the queue. It might take 0.5 - 1 hour here. Keep your I-20, passport, admission & aid letters ready. They might ask a few questions like
Is this your first time in the US? Student? F-1 Visa? Which Univ.? They will attach an I-64 card to your visa.
Then go to the baggage counter to fetch your luggage. Pick up a cart (you get this at a machine for $1) to carry the bags. Then pick up your bags as they come out on the conveyor (suitable eye-catching labels help here) we suggest you tie your baggage with rope of a bright color that is visible from a distance. All this is to make your baggage appear distinct. If you don't get your baggage, inform the inquiry section - you may have to wait 0.5 - 1 hour here.
Cart your baggage to the nearby customs. If asked tell them that you are a student, F-1 visa, school, dept., coming to US for the first time if asked to open your baggage do so slowly - do not mess up the place. If asked about the "masala powder (podi"'s) tell them that they are "dried Indian spices" to make traditional Indian food like curry. Rarely they might ask you to go the agris dept nearby - its a pain. If asked about "vibhuti" tell them that it is a holy Hindu powder.
Note: In most cases, you will not be asked to open your boxes at all & you will be simply waved through.
Now go & wait at the nearest exit for the guys who are supposed to pick you up. If nobody turns up after some time (say 0.5 hour) make a collect call (at public phone dial a "0", get the operator & ask for a collect call) else call
Your Prof
International Students' Office
Admissions Office
Any Indian guy in the directory
Go and ask for an announcement to be made over the PA system. Get a card, write your name & hold it up.
Never leave your baggage unattended. Don't go out of the airport until somebody comes & picks you up. If you have doubts about the guy who comes to pick you up, don't hesitate to ask for his ID. (All this is of course being a little extra cautious). Make sure you are pleasing while you identify his identity. Lest you offend the person who has come to help you.
Once you reach your friend's house (or your intended destination) call home & inform them of your reaching safely. If you get your hand on Internet, do type few words of your experience and email it.


There are certain primary things to be done on reaching US. They are discussed in this section
Your first task is to meet the foreign students or the advisors in the International students' office (ISO) or Grad Advisor or administrative secretary. Keep a record of your details (passport, visa details etc). When you leave the US (temporarily or permanently), you have to go there again.
Meet your prof if you have got an RA or a TA.
Open a bank account immediately. Ask seniors for a good bank.
Find an apartment and/or roommates.
Complete all the official procedures at the school like
Attending the orientation
Getting your student ID
Getting your Social Security Number.
Paying the Fee
Registering for the classes etc..
Generally your seniors or your dept through all these will guide you. So don't worry about that.
A new chapter of your life unfolds here! Work hard to make your dreams come true! I wish you success in all your future endeavors!