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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs Undergraduate studies

General Questions

  • What are the basic admission requirements for getting admission to an undergraduate programme?

You must have a good academic background inclusive of 12 years of appropriate formal education and the G.C.E. O/Ls & A/Ls, adequate financial resources and a good command of the English language. Of the supplementary tests TOEFL is mandatory for all foreign students and SAT 1 and SAT 11 are highly recommended, especially by the Consular Officer.
SAT 1 & SAT 11

  • What would be the estimated expenses for one Academic year?

The cost of study varies widely among institutions and the cost of living varies from one location to the next. Please visit the US-SLFC’s Library to know more about the expenses at various universities/colleges.

  • What are the types of higher education institutions in the U.S. ?

There are different types of institutions . Each has its own programmes and entry requirements. For more information:

  • When does the academic year begin? What is a semester?

The academic calendar will be slightly different for each university but normally runs from early September to end of May. A semester is a term.

  • What does FALL and SPRING admissions mean?

These are the two main semesters. The Fall semester begins at the end of August or early September. The Spring semester starts around January/February.

  • What is a Credit System?

A student’s rate of advancement in meeting curriculum requirements is measured in course units or credits. These are referred to as credit hours. Usually it takes between 130 – 180 credits to graduate.

  • What are the degree courses that would make up my study programme?

The individual courses that make up the degree programme can be divided into the following:

Core courses: These provide the foundation of the degree programme and are required of all students. Eg. Mathematics, English, humanities, physical sciences and social sciences.

Major courses: A major is a subject in which a student chooses to concentrate. Most major in one subject; however some colleges offer the option of pursuing a double major with a related subject. Your major courses represent one-quarter to one-half of the total number of courses required to complete a degree

Minor courses: A minor is a subject in which a student may choose to take the second greatest concentration of courses. The required number of courses tends to be half the number of major courses.

Elective courses: These may be chosen from any department. They offer opportunities to explore other topics or subjects you may be interested in and help make up the total number of credits required to graduate.

  • What are "Grades" in the American system?

American universities employ a system of continual assessment and assign grades for each course taken. Almost everything you do for a class will influence your final grade. Examinations and tests, essays or written assignments, laboratory reports, laboratory or studio work, class attendance, and class participation may all be used to determine your final grade. This means it is essential to keep up with the reading and course work and to attend classes on a regular basis.
The following is a general percentage/letter grade scale for classes taken at U.S. colleges:

  • 100 – 90% = A
  • 89 – 80% = B
  • 79 – 70% = C
  • 69 – 60% = D
  • 59 – 50% = E
  • 49 – 0% = F
  • What is a GPA?

Each student completes his or her degree with a grade point average (GPA). A cumulative grade point average is the GPA for all courses taken throughout the degree programme. Most universities use a GPA scale of 4.0, but a few universities use a scale of 5.0. To work out your GPA, take the numerical value assigned to the letter grade you achieve for each course (typically 4 points for an "A," 3 points for a "B," and so on), then multiply this number by the number of credits each course is worth. Finally, add these numbers together and divide by the total number of credits for all courses. For example:

Letter Grade Numerical Value Number of Credits Total
A 4.0 3 12
B 3.0 3 9
C 2.0 3 6
27 divided by 9 = 3.0 GPA.      

  • What is an "Accreditation"?

Accreditation is the uniquely American process by which colleges and universities (as well as other groups of educational & service institutions) voluntarily establish and enforce criteria for the assessment of the quality of institutions, degree programmes and professional certificate programmes within certain academic and professional fields. Being "accredited" signifies that the institution or programme meets minimum quality standards established by the group.

  • What is a "transcript"?

A transcript is an authenticated copy of a student’s official academic record detailing courses the student has taken and the grade received in each.

FAQs Graduate Studies

General Questions

  • What are the differences between graduate studies and undergraduate studies?

Graduate education differs from undergraduate education in that it offers a greater depth of training, with increased specialization and intensity of instruction. Study and learning are more self-directed at the graduate level than at the undergraduate level.

  • What Graduate Programmes are available at the U.S. institutions?

The two graduate degrees offered in the U.S. are the master’s degree and the doctoral degree; both involve a combination of research and course work. Graduate courses assume that students are well-prepared in the basic elements of their field of study. Depending on the subject, courses may be quite formal, consisting primarily of lecture presentations by faculty members, or they may be relatively informal, placing emphasis on discussion and exchange of ideas among faculty and students. Seminars involve smaller groups of students than lecture courses, and students may be required to make presentations as well as participate in discussions. Class participation, research papers, and examinations are all important.

Master’s Degrees : The master’s degree is designed to provide additional education or training in the student’s specialized branch of knowledge, well beyond the level of baccalaureate study. Master’s degrees are offered in many different fields, and there are two main types of programs: academic and professional. For more information, visit
Since policies vary from institution to institution and within various departments of each institution, it is best to check directly with individual graduate departments to determine the structure and admissions policies for their master’s and doctoral candidates.

Doctoral Degrees : The doctoral degree is designed to train research scholars and, in many cases, future college and university faculty members. Receipt of a doctoral degree certifies that the student has demonstrated capacity as a trained research scholar in a specific discipline. Doctoral programmes involve advanced coursework, seminars, and the writing of a dissertation that describes the student’s own original research, completed under the supervision of a faculty adviser.
The Ph.D. degree is awarded to those students who complete an original piece of significant research, write a dissertation describing that research, and successfully defend their work before a panel of faculty members who specialize in the discipline. This may take an additional two to three years. To earn a doctoral degree, therefore, may take anywhere from five to eight years beyond the bachelor’s degree, depending on the field of study.
In the United States , you will find a variety of nontraditional doctoral programmes; these might have very different types of requirements from the traditional ones. Prospective students should be sure of what is required to enter any program they are considering, and what is required to obtain the degree. This information is usually available from university catalogs and Web sites or directly from individual departments.

  • What is the best time to start a graduate programme?

It is best to start a program in the fall term (beginning in August/September). Many courses must be taken in sequence, and time may be lost in completing the degree if you start in another term. It is also easier to become accustomed to studying in the United States and to meet other students in the department if you start at the beginning of the academic year. Lastly, scholarship opportunities may be more readily available to students starting in the fall rather than midyear.

  • How do I know which programme is best for me?

Choosing universities from thousands of miles away presents some challenges – especially when there are so many outstanding universities to choose from. Every student is different, and it is very important to consider the factors that are important to you in both your education and your lifestyle. Finding the right academic and personal match requires careful planning, research and networking on your part. You should begin the process 12-18 months before you wish to start studying in the U.S.

Step 1: Define your Education and Career Goals. This will help you select the most appropriate programmes and will help motivate you through the application process. It will also assist you in writing the application essays in which you often will be asked to explain your career goals and how they relate to your application for graduate study. Lastly, it will lead you to find out exactly what qualifications are required for that career. To help define your education and career goals, ask your self these questions:

  • What career do I want to pursue?
  • Is employment available in my country in this field?
  • What advanced degree is required to enter this profession?

Speak to people already working in the field and to representatives of professional associations.

  • How will Study in the United States enhance my career?
  • Will a graduate degree help me earn a higher salary?

Consult educators, government officials and working professional about the value of U.S. study for you at this stage in your career, including any increased earning potential.

Step 2 : Consult the Student Adviser at the US-SL Fulbright Commission
The Adviser is available to assist you in answering questions about:

  • equivalency between the educational system in Sri Lanka and the United States ;
  • entry requirements for study in your field;
  • using reference materials to find institutions that are appropriate for you;
  • sources of financial assistance available in Sri Lanka and in the United States ;
  • testing and other application requirements;
  • preparation of your applications;
  • planning your education;
  • adjusting to academic and academic and cultural life in the United States ;

Step 3: Develop a Short List of Programmes: Deciding which institutions to apply to is one of the most important decisions you will make. Since there is a great deal of diversity in graduate programmes, it is especially important to clearly articulate what it is you wish to accomplish and find out which institutions offer the kind of programme you are seeking.

  • Identify universities that offer your field of study. Use the following resources to shortlist your choices
    • Printed directories: e.g. Graduate Programs by Petersons, university catalogues and the other guides available at the US-SL Fulbright Commission’s library.
    • Contacts: Discuss your plans with col
      leagues and with others who have studied in the U.S. Contact universities in the U.S. directly with questions about your programmes.
    • College web site and e-mail: Almost every university and college has a w
      eb site that offers information about degree programmes, application procedures, academic departments, faculty members, facilities on campus etc. Once you have narrowed down the colleges and universities you are interested in, you may wish to e-mail professors and admission personnel to have specific questions answered before you finally decide where to apply.
    • Check accreditation status: It is important to check that all institutions you are considering are appropriately accredited. Use
    • Rankings: Rankings that you may come across are usually produced by journalists and are likely to be subjective. Check on the criteria on which the rankings are based. Use rankings with discretion
    • Size: Consider the size of the institution as well as the size of the department and degree programme. Visit for more details.
    • Location
    • Student Services: These are varied, and you should find the ones that have services tailored to your needs.

Step 4: Decide where to apply. Once you have narrowed your list to 10-20 institutions according to the criteria given above, you will need to compare the objective data among these institutions. Refer

  • What are the requirements for admission to a graduate programme in the United States ?

The main requirements for admission to educational institutions in the United States are:

  • a strong academic background;
  • demonstrated command of the English language;
  • for many programs, scores on one or more standardized admissions tests;
  • adequate financial resources.

Academic Background
Candidates for graduate level education should have completed or be nearing completion of an academic or professional degree equivalent to a U.S. Bachelor’s degree. In the United States this typically takes four years of undergraduate study to complete.

English Proficiency
To participate in graduate study in the United States successfully, students must be able to read, write, and communicate orally in English with a high level of proficiency. A good score in the TOEFL is expected. See Supplementary Tests for graduate studies

  • How do I prepare a successful application?

No uniform procedure exists for graduate admission in the United States . The graduate admissions office almost always shares the responsibility for admissions with the academic departments and most commonly there is a graduate admission committee for each department. ( )

  • I have done a 3-year (general) degree. Can I apply for a graduate programme in the U.S?

Some universities may request you to do a one-year bridge-programme to complete their requirement of a 4-year bachelor’s degree. Others may consider the difficulty level of your course content for the first degree. Some others may ask you to get your credentials evaluated. It is best that you get a course-by-course evaluation from a credential evaluator in the U.S. (e.g. WES: , ECE: or IERF ) Remember to send your G.C.E.A/L certificate along with your Bachelor’s degree certificate and transcripts.

  • I am interested in doing an MBA. Do I need work experience?

Most universities ask for a minimum of two years of work experience.Supplementary Tests for graduate studies