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High cut-offs drive students to US

The intimidating barriers for entry to India's top colleges have had unexpected fallout. If the rise in student visa applications this year is anything to go by, students, instead of downgrading their choices and settling for second- or third-best, are increasingly looking westwards and flooding American universities with admission applications. Data released by the US embassy reveals that the number of Indian students who have applied for visas to study in the US is up 20% over last year. Education counselors say they see large crowds again, the vital difference is that the students seeking advice are much younger. While 24,500 Indian students were granted visas to join American universities last year, most went there for a Masters, and 14.5% entered a grad school. But a statement by a counselor reveals that this year has seen a tremendous rise in visas. Officials at the American embassy confirmed that the number of student visa applications in India was already significantly higher than at this point last year. "The US has considerably expanded its consular staffing and educational outreach initiatives to ensure that prospective students can get the visa appointments and information they need," said an official. "This effort includes significantly increased funding for the Education-USA advising centers." There has been a shift in the attitude of students. Earlier, the students only wanted to go to famous 10 to 15 universities, but now a range of good second-tier colleges have also come under their preference. Students are not hesitant even in going to community colleges who charge hefty amounts of Rs. 12-15 lakhs annually. Jain said she had noticed a shift in the attitude of students. However, experts said it was too early to forecast the number of actual entrants to American universities this fall. "It depends on how many are accepted at universities and how many meet with consular approval," said an education consultant.

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