Short-Term University Study
Short-Term University Study

Short-term university study consists of University Exchange Programs, Non-Degree or "Special Student" Study, Summer Session Study, Professional Short-Term Study, and Visiting Fellows and Scholars.

Would you like to study at a U.S. university, but you cannot commit to study for a full degree in the United States? University exchange programs, non-degree or "special student" study, and summer session study offer the opportunity to spend a summer, a semester, or an academic year at a university in the United States without enrolling in a degree program. This study might be part of your degree program in your home country, or you might take just a few courses at a U.S. university — at the undergraduate or graduate level — for your personal or professional enrichment.
University Exchange Programs

Many U.S. universities have formal links with universities outside the United States, and they have set up student exchange programs with these universities. Under such programs, U.S. students and students from another country trade places and experience living in each other's countries and studying at each other's universities. Usually, the courses studied count toward the student's degree program in his or her home country. Most of these programs run for either a semester or an academic year. The advantage of this arrangement is that students from outside the United States generally pay the amount of tuition charged by their home university rather than the tuition and fees of the U.S. university, which can be considerably higher.

Contact the office responsible for international programs and linkages at your institution to ask if your school has exchange agreements with any U.S. universities. If it does, find out how the exchange program operates and whether you are eligible to take part. Or, if you are applying to study at universities and colleges in your home country and know you would like to spend some time studying in the United States, find out whether they operate any U.S. exchange programs. Also, many U.S. universities list their exchange programs on their websites.

You may be able to apply for funding for an undergraduate exchange program from your home university or institute, even if study abroad is not a requirement for your program of study. Funding from U.S. institutions for short-term study of this kind is very limited. If you are not eligible to receive funding from your own school or from the U.S. institution, you might try to obtain funding from social, welfare, or community organizations like Rotary International; from multinational companies; or from local businesses.

Non-Degree or "Special Student" Study

If you have completed secondary school or an undergraduate degree or if you are in the process of studying toward an undergraduate or graduate degree, many U.S. universities will allow you to take degree-level courses without enrolling for a full degree program. Under this arrangement, you may be able to take classes in a specific department, in several departments throughout a university, or, possibly, at several universities in a local area.

Non-degree students who take degree-level classes may be called special students. Many universities impose a specific time limit on the number of semesters for which you can be registered as a non-degree or special student. For detailed information on how to choose and apply to U.S. universities, see Undergraduate Study or Graduate Study.

General information on the opportunities and requirements for special student study should be available in most universities' catalogs. For specific information and application procedures for schools and programs that interest you, contact university admissions offices directly as well as the individual departments concerned, explaining that you wish to do short-term, degree-level study as a special student.

Special students are usually, though not always, ineligible to receive university-sponsored financial assistance such as scholarships or assistantships. Funding may be available from independent foundations and organizations, such as Fulbright Commissions, that award scholarships for postgraduate study. Further information can be found at EducationUSA information and advising centers, your local university's study abroad office or career placement center, or public libraries that have funding directories such as Funding for United States Study and The Grants Register. See the Bibliography for a listing of these and other useful publications.

Summer Session Study

Some universities in the United States offer classes during the summer break between May and August. The school may offer one or two "summer sessions," and each session usually lasts between six and ten weeks.

Many universities open summer session classes to the outside public, and they sometimes make available on-campus dormitory accommodations. You may find that students who are enrolled in a degree program at the university also take classes during the summer in order to finish their degree faster than usual or to catch up on classes they missed or in which they want to improve their grades. This is a great way for you to experience living and studying at a university in the United States while improving your knowledge and skills in a specific subject area.

Universities and colleges may offer you the option to take classes for "credit" or to "audit" classes without earning credits.

If you take classes for credit, each subject you study will be worth a certain number of units or credits. You may choose to receive an official transcript at the end of the session, which will state the classes you took, how many credits they were worth, and what grades you achieved.

Some international students who attend summer sessions are able to use the credits they earn in the United States toward their degree completion at home; you should ask your department and university officials if they will allow you to do this before you enroll. Likewise, if at some point later in your studies you decide to enroll in a full degree program at a U.S. university, you may be able to use the credits earned during your summer session study as credit toward your degree program. This is decided on a case-by-case basis, and you will need to ask the university admissions office which courses they will recognize and how much credit they will grant.

If you choose to audit courses, you will attend the class meetings and usually will be expected to complete all assignments and examinations, but no grades or credits will be awarded at the end of the session. Audited classes usually cost less than regular classes. To avoid any potential misunderstandings, be sure to verify requirements and program costs for classes you wish to audit with the admissions office of the U.S. institution before enrolling.

Universities usually place certain restrictions on students attending summer session classes. For example, some will not accept students under 18 years of age or those who have not finished secondary school. However, a few universities may allow students who are in the final years of their high school studies to attend. Deadlines for enrolling are often one to two months in advance of the start date of the class. You should check directly with the school's summer session brochure or Web site for eligibility requirements and application procedures.

Many EducationUSA centers have information on summer session programs at U.S. universities and colleges. Also consult the listing of Related Links and the Bibliography for additional references.

Note that summer schools and institutes offer another way to study in the United States during the summer months. While summer sessions at U.S. universities offer degree-level courses, summer schools and similar programs offer a broad range of courses structured for personal enrichment and professional development. Such programs can be found at certain English language centers, as well as at institutes offering classes in cooking, diving, fashion, music, the arts, and other topics.

Professional Short-Term Study

A number of public, and many private, training institutions in the United States offer short-term, intensive training programs designed for professionals; some are even specifically designed to meet the needs of professionals from outside the United States. Institutions that offer such programs include departments within U.S. universities and colleges, as well as public and private training organizations. These programs do not lead to a degree, but they do provide you with professional knowledge and help to improve your professional skills, and many award a certificate to show that you have completed the program.

Professional short-term programs last between a few days and an academic year, and meet daily for six to eight hours. They are practical and experiential in orientation, with an emphasis on case studies and activities outside the classroom. The program might include hands-on work experience, site visits, opportunities to network with U.S. counterparts, and application of theory to your own professional situation.

Professional short-term training is expensive but cost-effective. For example, the number of classroom hours in a one-week, short-term training program is approximately equal to the number of classroom hours in a 14-week course that meets for a few hours per week. Also, individuals in short-term training programs are away from work and home for a shorter period of time than if they were enrolled in a traditional academic program. Because of the short duration and the relatively high cost of these programs, it is extremely important to identify the program that best meets your specific educational needs and circumstances and your professional training objectives. Primary factors to consider include:

Area of Interest and Specialization

Short-term training programs are available in a wide range of areas. What is your particular interest and, within that, what is your area of specialization?

English Language Level

Although trainers try to communicate clearly and simply, to participate effectively in an intensive training program you will need to be proficient in English. If you have limited English skills, there are a few programs that are also available in other widely spoken languages such as Arabic, French, or Spanish.

Sponsorship/Financial Resources

What level of sponsorship is available from your employer or other sources? This will affect which programs are open to you.

Length of Training Required

How long can you be away from your home country? How long you are likely to need training for?

Career Goals

Consider what type of work you would like to be doing in the future; this may help to define the type of training that is most suitable.

New Skills Needed

Consider the goals of the training and any new responsibilities you will be expected to assume when you return to your job at home. Then, look carefully at the course information to see whether it will meet these needs. Also look closely to see whom the course is intended for. Some programs provide specific training geared toward learning a particular skill, while others cover broad topics such as management techniques. Some courses are designed for experienced professionals, while others are oriented toward beginners. Will you have to share your expertise on your return? If so, you might consider programs that include training and presentation skills, as this will maximize the benefit of the program to both you and your employer.

Once you have identified programs that meet your circumstances and needs, you should look at each one and ask these questions:

How many hours per day of instruction are provided?
What are the academic/professional backgrounds of the trainers?
What facilities and resources are used for training?
What kinds of support, services, and activities are provided beyond the training itself?
What is the typical background of trainees?
Is the program U.S. or internationally oriented?
How flexible is the curriculum?
How does equipment used in the training compare with what is available at home?
What follow-up support is available?
Because of the range of organizations that offer training and the variety of programs offered, finding information about professional training programs often requires more research than for other types of short-term study. The EducationUSA center nearest you may have information on short-term professional training programs in the United States. Other possible sources of information and advice include your employer, professional associations, home country government agencies, or U.S. training institutions, universities, and colleges. Contact the Office of International Programming, Office of Continuing Education, or similar office at individual colleges or universities. Searches on the Web may help identify appropriate training organizations and programs. As appropriate, you also can contact suppliers of computer or technical equipment for your field, teaching/research hospitals, or, for public service fields, U.S. government organizations and offices.

Visiting Fellows and Scholars

Opportunities exist at many U.S. universities for those who already hold a doctoral degree who wish to pursue further research. Universities also may allow visiting fellows to audit graduate-level courses (that is, take courses without receiving a grade or any credit for them), while having use of all academic facilities for personal research. General requirements for visiting fellows can be found in a university's catalog or on its website. For specific information and application procedures, prospective fellows should contact the university admissions office and the appropriate department directly.

Visiting fellows are expected to be self-funded or to have financial assistance from an outside source. Funding directories are available for reference at EducationUSA information and advising centers. See the bibliography for further details. In addition, the sections on Graduate Study or Specialized Professional Study contain more detailed information on opportunities for visiting scholars at U.S. universities and institutes.