Study in the U.S.A. FAQs

1.  What is the structure of U.S. higher education?

There are undergraduate and graduate degree programs.  Within undergraduate are associate’s degrees (two years) and bachelor’s degrees (four years).  At the graduate level are master’s degrees and doctoral degrees.

Level Year in School U.S. Degree DRC Equivalent
High School Grade 9 – Freshman
Grade 10 – Sophomore
Grade 11- Junior
Grade 12 – Senior
High School Diploma General Secondary Examinations Certificate
Under- Graduate 1st Year – Freshman
2nd Year – Sophomore
3rd Year – Junior
4th Year – Senior

Associate’s Degree

Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor’s Degree
Graduate 1st Year
2nd Year
3-8 Years

Master’s Degree


Master’s Degree



2.  Are “colleges” and “institutes” in the U.S. as good as “universities”?   

Degree-granting institutions, accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-approved accrediting organization, can be referred to by any of these terms. Colleges and institutes are not inferior to universities.  As a general rule, colleges tend to be smaller than universities and usually only offer undergraduate degrees, while universities offer graduate degrees.  Institutes often specialize in certain fields e.g. engineering, art, etc.

3.  What is a community college?

Community colleges provide two-year associate degree programs as well as technical and vocational programs.  They can be public or private institutions and are sometimes called junior colleges or two-year colleges.  Tuition costs are often lower at two-year than at four-year institutions, and many have articulation/twining agreements to allow students in transfer programs to move easily into the third year of a bachelor’s degree at a university.  A growing number of international students choose to study at community colleges.

4.  When do I begin my search for universities in the States? 

It is recommended that you begin your search 12-18 months before your intended departure date. For example if you plan to start study in the U.S. in September, you should begin your search in June/July of the year before.

5.  How do I begin my search?

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do I want to study?
  • Does my secondary school coursework prepare me for the demands of this major?
  • Can I meet admission requirements?
  • What kind of environment do I want to live in? (large city, small town, cold climate, close to family, etc.)
  • Do I want to go to a small (Under 5,000), medium (10,000+) or large (20,000+) school?
  • What is my budget and how much can my family afford?
  • Do I want to go to a private or public institution?
  • Do I want to attend a university that has services for international students?

There are some excellent websites that can help narrow your search. Information on college/university search engines is available under Search Options, Colleges and Universities.

6.  Can you give me a list of the top schools in business?

Many ranking lists are created by magazines and other publications.  No list has official status or is endorsed by the U.S. government. Rankings are likely to be subjective and they are generally based on a wide range of criteria that do not necessarily include academic standards.  The more established rankings may give you a starting point for your decision; however, the “best” college or university for you will be based on many other factors, including how you feel about a program’s potential to meet your needs.

7.  How many universities should I apply to?

If you have conducted thorough research, you will probably only need to apply to 6-12 institutions.

8.  What documents must I submit for admission to U.S. colleges and universities?

Individual institutions set their own admission requirements and application procedures.  Check college/university websites and/or printed application materials for details. You may be required to submit the following items before universities evaluate your application:

  • A completed application form
  • An application fee
  • Official copy of your academic transcripts stamped by the Ministry of Education.  If the transcript is not in English, then it needs to be translated by a Ministry of Higher Education-approved translator and then stamped by the Ministry of Education.
  • An application essay
  • Two or three letters of recommendation.
  • Financial documents proving you have adequate funds, or a scholarship, to study in the U.S.
  • Official standardized test scores sent directly to the university from the testing company (TOEFL/SAT/GMAT/GRE, etc.)

All items must be submitted according to application deadlines set by the college. Deadlines can range anywhere from 3 to 9 months before classes start.

9.  Which standardized tests will I be required to take?

Generally speaking, the TOEFL is required of all international applicants, regardless of the intended field or level of study.

Undergraduate students are often required to take the SAT Reasoning Test. Some competitive institutions require scores from the SAT Subject Tests.

With the exception of GMAT for MBA programs, graduate students are almost always required to take the GRE General Test.  A few graduate programs will require scores from the GRE Subject Tests in addition to the GRE General Test.

You need a strong command of both spoken and written English. If an applicant cannot speak English, then that individual would need to enroll in an Intensive English or English as a Second Language (ESL) program and achieve a designated level of proficiency prior to matriculation.

Always check university websites for specific details on standardized test requirements.

10.  I would like to take a preparation course for a standardized test (TOEFL, SAT, GRE, etc).  Do you offer these classes at the Embassy?

The U.S. Embassy provides classes for the public through the Congolese American Language Institute (CALI).  There may be some language schools or institutes in your area that offer preparation courses.  Most students preparing for a standardized test purchase study guides at local bookstores.  There are also online preparation courses and practice tests.  For more information contact the Education Advising Offices at the Embassy.

11.  The university, to which I am applying, asked that my transcripts be reviewed by a credential evaluator.  What does this mean?

Universities might evaluate your grades and documents themselves, or they might require international applicants to pay an outside company, called a credential evaluator, to evaluate.  Follow application directions provided on the institution’s website.  Some universities will indicate what credential evaluation company they want you to use.  For a list of evaluators, go to the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services website.

12.  My application requires a notarized signature.  How can I get my signature notarized?

Some applications, mostly for medical schools, require an applicant’s signature to be notarized. This service is offered through U.S. Citizen Services at the Embassy.

13.  When are the university application deadlines?

For students interested in starting programs in August/September, deadlines may be as early as November of the previous year.  Since every university has its own deadlines, it is best to locate these dates on each university’s website.  There are also universities that have rolling admissions where applications can be submitted throughout the year and decisions made on a monthly basis.

14.  How much does it cost to study in the U.S.?

The cost of study in the United States varies widely among universities and the cost of living from one location to the next.  Comprehensive costs can range from US$12,000 per year to over US$40,000 per year. Scholarships are available for students from a limited number of U.S. universities, but are rarely available to first year foreign students.

The figures listed below are designed to provide some indication of how much students can expect to pay for 12 months of study in the U.S.

Finances Per Year

  • Tuition:                        $4,000-$25,000
  • Room-board:              $2,000-$10,000
  • Books-supplies:         $400-1,000
  • Health Insurance:      $500-$1,000
  • Personal Expenses:  $1,200-$3,000
  • Travel to USA:            $2,200  TOTAL:                    $13,000-$40,000

15.  How do I find out if a college/university is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education (USDOE)-approved accrediting organization?

The U.S. Department of Education has an online database, which provides the names of postsecondary institutions and programs accredited by a USDOE-approved accrediting organization.  The database has multiple search functions, allowing search options by name, location, type of institution, accrediting association, etc.

U.S. Department of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions & Programs

In addition, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is another website that lists postsecondary institutions and programs that are accredited by USDOE-approved accrediting organizations.

Council for Higher Education Accreditation

If you would like step-by-step directions for the U.S. DOE database or if you have difficulty navigating these websites, contact the Education Advising Office at the U.S. Embassy and an advisor will assist you.

16.  Will my degree be recognized/equalized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

If you are a DRC citizen, you will want to make sure that the colleges/universities you apply to are recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) in the DRC.  This is important because when you return to the DRC you will probably want to have your degree equalized by the MOHE.

17.  I went to university in the United States and I need to have my documents authenticated/attested by the U.S. Embassy.  How do I get this done?

The Education Advising Offices (EAO) at the U.S. Embassy ONLY authenticates/attests documents from schools that are accredited by U.S. Department of Education-approved accrediting organizations.  Your college/university must be listed in either the U.S. Department of Education or CHEA databases in order for the degree to be authenticated/attested.  This service is provided by appointment only and arrangements can be made through EAO.

18.  I want to earn my degree online because I am unable to leave the DRC to study.  How do I begin to search for a U.S. Department of Education-approved college/university?

Distance education is a popular way to study and you will want to make sure that the college/university you enroll in is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-approved accrediting organization. There are MANY online colleges and universities that are not recognized.  If in doubt, contact the Education Advising Office for assistance when selecting programs.  If you hope to have your online degree recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education, check with them prior to enrollment.