Purpose: This page will help you understand different areas to consider before applying for a Student Visa.
By this time you probably know what field or department you want to be in but you need to choose a specific major. Every school has variations with what they offer in terms of majors and how flexible the schools are in terms of number of core required courses versus electives.
Your best resources are the individual websites for the schools that you are targeting. These websites are going to be your most reliable source to start your research.
However, even after reading all the information they provide, you may still have questions due to your unique needs. Having questions is OK and part of the journey. Don’t feel overwhelmed, we are here to help!
On these school websites, you can expect to find a detailed log of all the majors offered by the institution and any basic information on what you can expect to accomplish within that major.
Many international students are used to a very structured program where, when you select a major the courses are predetermined on a set timeline. However, this is not the case with most academic institutions in the US.
In the US, you can customize your program. For each program there will be required courses that you must take; then there are elective courses that you get to choose. A combination of required and elective courses make up the program. That puts the focus on YOU, so it’s best to be prepared and familiar with course offerings.
If you end up choosing a major and it turns out to be totally different from what you expected don’t worry! According to the National Centre for Educational Statistics about 80% of the students in the United States end up changing their major at least once. On average, college students change their major at least three times over the course of their long career.
Your academic achievements and standardized test scores are major determining factors as to how you would go about searching for universities.
There is no one way that you can go about selecting a university. Depending on your what you are trying to accomplish your approach may vary. If not the first, one of the major parameters that you would be looking at is the university’s ranking. You obviously want to know how reputable the university is and the International and US ranking is a good starting point.
After you have looked at rankings you can look at the location and cost of living because you may end up in a university where the cost of living is higher that the tuition costs. Now that is not necessarily a bad thing but a very important consideration before you narrow your search.
The reason you do this is so you have options when choosing from schools. Once you have a few I-20s in your hand you can look at some of the below mentioned parameters to make a final decision.
A lot of universities are big on diversity and more accommodating towards international students. You can look at the student statistics of international students living there and their annual intake or simply talk to someone at the international office. We would recommend you hold diversity as a major consideration because apart from academics you are going to be living a long way from home and the people that surround you will determine your social life.
Some of you may not have been to such a drastically different environment and being surrounded by open minded people plays a big role in how your social life at school will be. College is a learning experience and that does not only pertain to academics but rather learning to adapt to different environments and different kinds of people.
School in the US can be very expensive but do not let this discourage your search just yet. A lot of schools offer scholarships and that might just make all the difference in the world. You can get a scholarship through different sources within the school and sometimes may even be able to get multiple. When you do talk to the admissions/ international office make sure you ask for information about these scholarships.
One last important thing – make sure the universities you are applying to are SEVIS approved.
The requirements may vary on an institutional level or even on a department level. Make sure you looks at the specifics to see which ones you will need.
For undergraduate admissions, required standardized tests usually include:
- Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) – Most common
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) – Most common
- American College Testing (ACT)
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
- Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE)
For graduate and professional admissions, required tests usually include:
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) – Most common
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – Most common
- Pearson’s Test of English Academic (PTE)
- Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) – for liberal arts, science, math – Most common
- Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) – for business schools/study for MBA (Master’s in Business Administration) programs – Most Common
- Law School Admission Testing Program (LSAT) – for law schools
- Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) – for medical schools
- Dental Admission Testing Program (DAT) – for dental schools
- Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)
- Optometry Admission Testing Program (OAT)
If you have any specific questions on these tests feel free to ask on our student visa forum.
The process for application varies for every institution but there are some basic steps involved. You may see some modifications according to the institution you are applying to.
Make sure you follow the application process using the International Student link on the university’s web page.
You should also make sure you take a look at all the things you may need as part of the application package for example LOR (letter of recommendation) for which you need to plan for in advance to save time.
Also, you usually have to write essays, SOPs, etc. which make a huge difference in your acceptance so make sure you spend enough time on them.
- Online application form
- Admission Fee
- Standardized test Scores (for example – SAT, TOEFL, GRE, etc)
- Academic credentials (transcripts, results, etc)
- Financial certification
Note – you have the option of sending these scores to prospective schools directly so make sure you look at the school codes (available on the school’s website) so they can be sent directly.
Once you are accepted… Loans and Finances
Once an applying candidate has been accepted to an educational institution he/she will receive an I-20. This document is basically your Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.
Once you have this document there will be a section that mentions your annual expenses (tuition, living, books, etc.). You are required to show availability of your annual funds through your sponsor (individual, bank, etc.).