Study Abroad in US – Graduate

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An international education is something that will provide you with such an enriching and rewarding experience that it will last with you for the rest of your life – you will learn new things, experience new cultures and it will open up your mind to the wide world in which we live.

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Some students choose to continue their learning beyond the four years of study as an undergraduate by going on to receive a graduate education. This specialized advanced study can result in either a master’s degree or a doctoral degree.

Because of the size and variety of higher educational institutions in the United States, it can be difficult to determine which school will offer a program that is best suited to your goals and interests. For graduate students, the research or study facilities available are critical, as independent research is often a crucial component to the graduate school education. Potential graduate students will also want to look at the publication records of the faculty in a chosen department.

These factors are probably your best measures of quality. for a particular school and/or program, although you should remember that even a “good” department might not have a top professor on the specialization for which you are looking to study.

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Earning a Master’s Degree

Each year, over 500,000 students earn a master’s degree, making the master’s the most frequently awarded graduate degree. There is a variety of types of master’s offered in the U.S., but the two most basic are the Master’s of Arts (M.A.) and Master’s of Science (M.S.). Other popular graduate degrees include the master’s of business administration (M.B.A.), fine arts (M.F.A.), law (L.L.M.), social work (M.S.W.) and specialist in education (Ed. S). Students typically spend between two and three years studying to earn a master’s degree, though it is possible to earn some degrees in just one year. In general, master’s degrees require that you complete six to eight advanced courses, in addition to an intensive study project and/or a thesis (a long paper based on independent scholarly research). Some graduate programs offer internships, which provide a chance to work in your specific field of study with the sole purpose of gaining knowledge and experience.

Graduate education is different from the undergraduate level of study, in that all of your coursework is relevant to the academic area on which you have chosen to focus. You will probably be required to take certain courses, but you may also have the chance to take more electives than you did as an undergraduate. The coursework tends to be more challenging, but you are only studying material that is directly related to your chosen field, so many students find it more interesting. Graduate students also tend to find that invaluable networking opportunities with their graduate student peers and professors are a result of their study experience.

Only 3% of Americans earn a master’s degree, so you may well find that a graduate education is a benefit if you choose to stay in the U.S. when you enter into a profession. A personal sense of accomplishment and achievement often accompany the earning of a master’s degree.

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A Doctoral Program

The doctoral degree, or Ph.D., is the highest academic credential that a student can earn in the U.S., making it arguably the most prestigious. In 2005, U.S. institutions awarded more than 45,000 doctorates. On average, a student may spend four to six years earning his or her doctorate following receipt of the master’s degree.

Doctoral coursework typically consists of three to four semesters of full-time advanced classes, usually done in small seminars. Students must then pass written and/or oral exams before beginning a period (usually at least a year) of intense independent research on a highly specialized topic relevant to their studies. This original research will ultimately result in the student spending a year or more writing a book-length thesis, or dissertation. Once the work is complete, students earn a Ph.D. only after defending the thesis to a committee of three or five professors in the program who have helped to guide their research efforts throughout the student’s years of study.

Many Ph.D. students find that one of the benefits to this course of study is the mentoring that they receive from their professors and other faculty in their academic department. Because so much research and guidance is needed in doctoral work, particularly when preparing the dissertation, many students find that they form close relationships with people who share their interest in a specialized area of study.

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When searching for an graduate program in the United States, it is important to first decide what  is most important to you. Please answer the following questions with as much information as possible.

  • Why do you want to study in the United States?
  • Which subjects interest you the most? For example, art, music, science, technology, etc.
  • Which degree will you seek in the United States?
  • During which time of the year do you want to begin your studies in the United States?
  • After you finish this degree in the United States and return to your home country, what type of job or employment do you plan to seek? For example, doctor, engineer, social worker, teacher, etc.
  • What skills do you want to improve while in the United States?
  • How will studying in the United States help you improve these skills?
  • Have you taken any classes or earned any degrees beyond secondary/high school?
  • How will you pay for your studies in the United States?
  • How much money, in U.S. Dollars, can your own source(s) contribute each year?
  • Which type of U.S. institution is best for you?
  • How did you perform in secondary/high school based on this GPA measure?
  • Which of the following standardized U.S. college or university admission tests have you taken?

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We prepared a college list for your and please check our “Recommended College List”

STEP 1: Define Your Education and Career Goals

To help select the best graduate program for you, first define your education and career goals. Knowing your goals will guide you through the application process and help you in writing application essays. Also, defining your career goals will make it easier to identify the exact qualifications for your chosen career and find out if U.S. credentials are recognized in your home country.

To help define your goals, ask yourself these questions:

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

Speak to people already working in the field and to representatives of professional associations. EducationUSA Advisers can provide information about the skills, background, and demand for professionals in different fields in your country.

How are U.S. degrees recognized in my country?

A U.S. degree is highly valued in many countries. However, in some countries, particularly those with educational systems that are very different from the United States, U.S. graduate degrees may not be officially recognized or they may be recognized at a different level. Seek guidance from your nearest EducationUSA Advising Center or with the ministry of education or other appropriate authority before you begin your applications.

U.S. higher education is different from many other systems around the world as it is not subject to a central government authority and institutions are free to design curriculum. Regional and national accreditation is given to U.S. colleges and universities to ensure institutional standards. If the school you attend is not properly accredited, you may find that your degree is not recognized in the United States or other countries, or by other universities, professional associations, employ and government ministries and departments. To verify that an institution is properly accredited, visit the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (www.chea.org/).

For some professions, you must be a graduate of a program with programmatic ac¬creditation in order to practice in a specific field. If you are con¬sidering working in a particular profession, check with the licens¬ing body in your home country or where you intend to practice to determine whether programmatic accreditation is required for practice before enrolling in a de¬gree program. To verify if a program is properly accredited, visit the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA) at www.aspa-usa.org.

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

Consult educators, government officials, working professionals, and local labor statistics in your country to learn more about the value of U.S. study, including any increased earning potential. Also consider revalidation or certification requirements for employment in your particular field when you return home. View U.S. statistics on median earnings and unemployment rates.

STEP 2: Make a Short List of Programs

Because of the differences between U.S. graduate programs, you should clearly define your goals to determine the institutions that offer the program you need.

1.     Identify universities that offer your field of study. After you define your education and career goals, your next step is to identify institutions that offer your subject area and any specializations you wish to pursue within that subject area. Finding the right academic “match” can be the key to a successful U.S. graduate experience.

2.     Take advantage of available resources to learn more. University catalogs, general directories about graduate study, professional associations, and college and university websites are great tools to help you learn more about various programs and narrow your choices.

Independent search engines allow you to search for institutions by the subject you are interested in studying, by geographic preference, or by a range of other criteria that you specify.

        National Center for Education StatisticsCollege Navigator

Attend U.S. higher education fairs in your country to meet admissions officers or faculty members face-to-face. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may also be able to visit colleges or universities in the United States to see for yourself what campus life is really like and meet and speak with faculty members in the areas of study or research of interest to you.

3.   Make contacts. Talk to faculty members in your country and individuals who have studied in the United States. They may know

people or have suggestions of universities to consider in the United States. Also, contact universities and other international students in the United States to learn more about programs that interest you.

STEP 3: Decide Where to Apply

Narrow down your list to 10 to 20 accredited institutions that offer your field of study and make a comparison chart to list differences with respect to:

        Research programs and facilities, including libraries and computer facilities.

        Size of department (students and faculty) and size of institution.

        Faculty profiles.

        Accreditation of the institution and, if applicable, the department or program.

        Course and thesis requirements for graduation.

        Length of time required to complete the degree.

        Academic admission requirements, including required test scores, degrees, and undergraduate grade average required.

        Cost of tuition, fees, health insurance, etc.

        Availability of financial assistance.

        Location, housing options, campus setting, climate, and cost of living.

        International student services and other needed services available on campus.

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shutterstock_111763856What’s the difference between financial aid, grants and scholarships?

Financial aid is simply money to pay for college from sources other than your savings or your family’s contribution. It can come in many forms and is certainly not only for those students who demonstrate a financial need.

A grant is an award offered from a federal agency to help you pay for your tuition, and the best thing about them is that they don’t need to be paid back.

Scholarships are given to you either because you are an excellent student, you’re a minority or you can’t afford your college even with the grants and loans.

Sources of University Funding for Graduate Programs

Fellowships and Tuition Scholarships

Awarded by the universitys graduate school and based on the students overall merit or academic strength. Usually, the graduate school selects fellowship or tuition scholarship recipients, but candidates are sometimes asked to submit a separate application. Recipients do not have to work for the university in exchange for these funds.

Merit-based financial aid considers:

        Past academic achievements.

        Scores on standardized admissions tests.

        Employment history.

        The students leadership potential and other personal characteristics.

Research Assistantships

Professors apply to outside sources (foundations, agencies, etc.) for funds to conduct research and then select graduate students to assist them. Many students apply their assistantship work toward their thesis research.   Funding consists of a partial or full tuition waiver plus a monthly stipend to assist with living expenses.

Teaching Assistantships (TA)

Individual departments determine the need for TAs in undergraduate classes, and professors who teach those classes select graduate students to assist them in teaching, leading discussion sections, running labs or grading assignments. TAs gain experience and build teaching skills to help them when they become professors. Funding consists of a partial- or full-tuition waiver plus a monthly stipend to assist with living expenses. English fluency is a prerequisite for a teaching assistantship.

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Although F-1 status includes an on-campus employment privilege, on-campus employment opportunities at most schools are limited. Even if you can obtain a job on campus, you may not rely on it to prove financial resources for the year, and often these jobs are not related to your studies. Many schools do require that you obtain permission from the International Student Office prior to accepting any on-campus employment, and may not permit such employment in a student’s first semester or year.

For on-campus work, an F-1 student is subject to the following rules:

  1. You must maintain valid F-1 status
  2. You can work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session
  3. You can work full-time on campus during holidays and vacation periods if you intend to register for the next academic semester
  4. The employment may not displace (take a job away from) a U.S. resident

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Purpose of Standardized Tests

The purpose of standardized tests to provide fair, valid and reliable assessments that produce meaningful results. Standardized testing, if done carefully and with a high degree of quality assurance, can eliminate bias and prevent unfair advantages by testing the same or similar information under the same testing conditions.

Standardized tests allow the comparison of test takers from different areas of the state, the country and the world.

Preparing for Tests

Being ready for a test begins weeks, months and sometimes years before test day. The best way test takers can prepare for a test is to familiarize themselves with the format of the test and review the content areas the test will cover. This helps reduce anxiety and increase confidence on test day.

Here are test preparation tips and materials for some of the tests we develop.

English Proficiency Tests

Whether you are looking to demonstrate proficiency to a potential employer or to a school, there are several widely recognized tests and examinations you can choose from. Each has unique benefits, so do your research to determine which one best suits your needs.

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IELTS

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an English exam assessing your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills. The IELTS recognizes both British and American English offering both an Academic and General Training test depending on whether you need it for school or work.

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TOEFL

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) evaluates your ability to listen, read, speak and write English at the university level. Accepted by over 8,500 colleges and universities in the US, UK, Canada and Australia, over 27 million people have sat for the TOEFL test in over 130 countries.

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TOEIC

The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) measures English proficiency, specifically as it is used in real-life situations in the workplace. This exam evaluates your ability to listen, read, speak and write English. The TOEIC is used by employers to hire, place and promote employees.

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Finances is one of the most common reasons people bring out as a problem when talking about going to study abroad.

Too often people consider it simply unaffordable. In reality, studying abroad can sometimes be even cheaper than studying at the home university. There are many possibilities how to finance your studies starting from scholarships, student jobs and ending with study loans and savings. If you really want something then you can make it happen.

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What to take into account when planning your budget?

  • Tuition Fee
  • Cost of Study Materials (books, etc.)
  • Cost of Transportation to the Institution (flight tickets, train tickets, etc.)
  • Living Costs (accommodation, food, transportation, etc.)

How Much Does it Cost to Study Abroad?

Study abroad costs are more than just program fees. To see how much your abroad experience will ultimately drain your bank account, read on for our guide on how to calculate the cost of your study abroad semester.

Know What’s Included in Your Program Costs (and What’s Not)

You’ll be paying for a lot of things when living abroad– food, accommodations, travel, and more.

You should receive a list of everything that the program cost covers, but be sure to contact your advisor or program coordinator with questions about any additional charges you are not certain are included.

Know Your Spending Habits

You’ve done your research, and you know what typical prices are like in your study abroad city. But those numbers won’t help you calculate the cost of your study abroad semester if you don’t know how many times a week you’ll be going out to dinner, or using the bus. By figuring out your spending habits, you can accurately calculate how much you’ll spend each week.

Shopping
Figure out how often you typically shop for clothing and other items that aren’t food, and how much you tend to spend.

Eating
What’s your eating out to eating in ratio?

Estimate how many times you’ll want to eat out per week and what your budget is for those meals.

Traveling
Check the program calendar to see how many free weekends and extended breaks you’ll have open for travel. What do you think your travel style will be? Jet-setting to different countries every weekend, or experiencing the local culture by train or bus?

Research the Average Costs in Your City

Knowing the exchange rate is useless unless you know how much things will cost in your study abroad city.

Budget Your Trip is a great tool to use to find the average daily costs in cities around the world. Use it to get an average of what you’ll spend on food and more, depending on your travel style (which we assume is “budget” for most students).

For more specific costs, find your study abroad city on Numbeo and see how much things you’ll purchase while abroad are, like a dozen eggs, a one way bus ticket.
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Study abroad programs are the stock and trade of most top tier four year colleges and for students who choose to enroll in them they can become an edge in the job search. However according to a report from the British Council, a U.K. non-profit that promotes overseas educational programs, the number of American students considering study abroad has slumped 12% from last year.

Why? Study abroad program inflation. At an average cost of $31,270 per semester, these programs run about double what a semester at private colleges run.

Many US students are unfamiliar with the financial realities of foreign study, with only 23% aware of government-sponsored programs – up from 6% in 2013. We’ve outlined the best tips below so you don’t have to sacrifice your experience to save a buck.

Rethink How You Book Airfare

It’s commonly known that airfare prices balloon as flight dates approach, yet abroad students habitually reserve seats on the fly. A quick Expedia.com search shows waiting to book airfare until a week before a trip can drain hundreds of dollars from your bank account. Do yourself a favor and book in advance.

Leave Your Old Credit Card At Home

Most credit cards will bill customers a foreign exchange fee, which is a 1-3% charge on every purchase made overseas. After living in a foreign country for six months, this expense can become pretty substantial. It may be in students’ best interest to sign up for a credit card without exchange fees, such as Capital One’s Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card or the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card. With no annual membership fees, 1.5% cash back on all purchases and various rewards for spending $500 in the first 3 months, your savings account will thank you.

Get International Student Status

If you’re over 12 years old and a full-time student, then there may be one piece of plastic missing from your wallet. The International Student Identity Card, which is issued in over 130 countries, gives cardholders discounts on any product, service or experience relevant to student life and doubles as proof of student status. Airfare, magazine subscriptions, movie passes, restaurants and countless other everyday services are all included in the perks. The card varies in price between $4 and $20, depending on the country of registration, and is valid for 16 months so you can continue to rack up savings even after you return home.

Apply For Funding

With thousands of international and domestic organizations dedicated to funding student travel, every student can find a scholarship, loan, grant or fellowship relevant to their needs. Sifting through these opportunities can be overwhelming, but search engines like studyabroadfunding.org, simplify the process by filtering programs according to field of study and country.
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Do you know you want to study abroad but don’t know how to get started? We created this  timeline to guide you through the steps of the study abroad process. This is merely an example  of the ideal application process and may vary by program location. Students are often able to apply closer to their program start date and, in some cases, after the application deadline.

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Exploring your program options: (approx. 8-12 months before your program starts)
• Contemplate and reflect on goals for studying abroad (academic, career, and personal)
• Research countries and cities of interest
• Meet with academic and study abroad advisors to discuss your plans to study abroad
• Speak with program alumni about their experiences
• Apply/renew your passport, if necessary (your passport should be valid 6 months after
your intended return date). See US Department of State website

Choosing and applying for a program: (approx. 6-10 months before your program starts)
• Review application procedures and make certain you meet eligibility requirements
• Submit supplemental application materials (i.e. deposit, transcript)
• Start a financial plan: research scholarships, encourage family/friends to give monetary

• Request faculty recommendations for scholarship applications, if needed
• Meet with academic advisor to confirm study abroad plans and discuss course selection
• Ensure required paperwork is submitted to your home university study abroad office

Preparing for your Study Abroad Experience
After acceptance: (approx. 4-6 months before your program starts)
• Begin the visa application process, if applicable
• Set a reminder for payment deadlines and finalize your budget start tracking exchange rates that may impact your budget
• Complete all home university study abroad requirements and paperwork
• Research flight options and costs

Planning Guide and Timelineontinued research and preparation: (approx. 1-3 months before your program starts)
• Continue to research country and city where you will be living and follow relevant news online; purchase or borrow a guidebook for additional information/recommendations
• Research climate at your program site and make a packing list, including culturally appropriate clothing and any household items you may need
• Purchase airline tickets, if you haven’t already done so
• Visit your physician, optometrist, and dentist to discuss any medical issues, obtain required immunizations, and fill any required prescription medications, if needed
• Attend pre-departure orientation, if offered at your home university
• Ensure you have a credit and/or debit card that can be used overseas and inform banks and credit card companies of your travel plans
• Become familiar with the US Embassy closest to your program site

Final arrangements: (week of your departure)
• Get cash in the currency of your program site for immediate arrival needs
• Copy all important documents and credit cards to leave one copy at home and take one with you abroad (i.e. passport, other photo ID, credit cards, etc).
• Prepare travel file to hold important documents (i.e. passport, plane tickets, Arrival Update); share information with a key contact person at home, such as a parent
• Re-confirm airline and arrival transportation arrangements
• Compile a list of emergency, program, and friend contacts (phone numbers, email, mailing address)
• Say your goodbyes and get ready for the experience of a lifetime!

Maximizing Your Experience Abroad
While abroad:
• Keep a journal and/or blog to document and share your experiences
• Take pictures and label them as you go
• Stay in touch with your academic and study abroad advisors
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Admission requirements for study abroad and exchange programmes

Admission as a study abroad or exchange student is based on three or four factors:

  • 1. Academic requirements
  • 2. English language requirements
  • 3. Course capacity

1. Academic requirements

  • You should have completed at least two years of university education
  • You must have a GPA of at least 3.2 out of 4.0 (or equivalent)
  • Your academic background must be relevant to the courses you are applying for

2. English language requirements

You will need to demonstrate your proficiency in English, preferably by means of an IELTS test (though we also accept TOEFL.

This requirement does not apply if you:

  • Completed your secondary education in Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, the UK or the USA
  • Have an International Baccalaureate diploma.

3. Course capacity

Admission to a specific course will also depend on the maximum number of students each class can accommodate.
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Here are some guidelines to help make your student visa application process smooth and successful.

Getting your visa to study in the United States takes time but can be a surprisingly easy procedure. It is well worth the effort. In many countries, the number of student visas issued by the United States has grown significantly in the last year.

While the application process for an international student or exchange visitor visa can be confusing, hundreds of thousands of students are able to meet the requirements for a visa each year. Last year, 534,298 F-1 student visas were issued!

After a college, university, or English language school has accepted you for admission to full-time study, the school will send you a document called an I-20 form, which is the application for an F-1 visa.

If you will be an Exchange Visitor, the organization or U.S. Government agency that is sponsoring you will send you a DS-2019 form, which is the application for a J-1 visa.

Visa Definitions

The U.S.A. issues different types of visas to students.

A full-time student would receive an F-1 or M-1 visa.

Your spouse and children would receive F-2 or M-2 visas.

An Exchange Visitor would receive a J-1 visa.
Exchange Visitors come to the U.S.A. for consultation, training, research or teaching, or for an approved Au Pair or temporary work position.

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The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is a program within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that manages the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is the internet-based system that maintains records of foreign students and exchange visitors before and during their stays in the United States.

First, your school or university will send you a form confirming that you have been accepted at an institution authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Service (USCIS) to enroll non-immigrant students (the I-20 for an F-1 visa or the DS-2019 for a J-1 visa. You will read and sign this form.)

Second, you will need to make an appointment for a visa interview and to pay some required fees. Under a revision in the regulations, Student Visas can be issued up to 120 days before the date on your form I-20. Exchange Visitor Visas can be issued anytime before the date on the DS-2019. You should apply as early as possible for your visa.

Each U.S. Embassy has a website providing instructions on how to make an appointment for a visa interview and other information on the visa application process. The website for the Embassy in your country can be located at: http://www.usembassy.gov/

The website can also tell you the expected wait time for a visa in your country. International student visa applicants should receive priority by the Embassy or Consulate so if your program of study will begin soon, be sure to explain this when applying for your visa.

You may wish to visit or contact the nearest U.S. Department of State-affiliated EducationUSA advising center office in your country. They are located throughout the world and listed at educationusa.info/centers.php The staff at these centers will be able to explain where to pay the visa fees and how to schedule your interview.

There is a US$200 fee, which supports the cost of the computer system used to record your stay in the United States (SEVIS). You can pay this fee with a credit card that is valid internationally. Go to https://www.fmjfee.com/index.jhtml to pay the fee and make sure you print a copy of your receipt. You must pay the SEVIS fee at least three days before the date of your visa interview. Bring a copy of your receipt to your visa interview

You will also need to pay an additional US$160 for the visa application fee in your country at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate or at a bank that the Embassy designates. Specific information on where to pay the visa application fee can be found at the web site of the U.S. Embassy in your country.

Third, the United States is using a new non-immigrant visa application form, DS-160 that should be completed on line. This form replaces all of the other forms. Instructions for completing the on line form and links to the form can be found at http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_4230.html The website of the United States Embassy or Consulate in your country can be found at http://www.usembassy.gov, go to the section on Visas, and read about the correct procedure currently in place for Non-immigrant visas.

Complete the DS-160 form on line completely. Again, remember to use the exact same order and spelling of your names as they are found in your passport. Then you will print them out and bring them to the Embassy when you go for your your visa interview.

Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visaphotoreq/visaphotoreq_5334.html If the upload of your photo fails, you must bring the photo with you when you go for your interview.

Fourth, prepare for your visa interview. It is extremely crucial that you apply for your visa well in advance of the date your studies begin. If possible, apply three months before you plan to travel to the USA. This will give you extra time if there are delays at the embassy, or if you wish to appeal a decision in the event of a denial.

Six Tips for Your Visa Interview

  • Wear a business suit or dress
  • Be specific when you answer questions
  • Bring bank statements or proof of employment
  • Provide details of your study plans
  • Stay calm and be professional
  • Tell the truth
  • What you wear is important. Consider the interview a formal event. Business attire is appropriate. First impressions can be crucial, since there will be little time to speak with the officer, who will often have only a few minutes to conduct the interview and make a decision.

Be prepared to give your information quickly and completely. If you are unable to answer the questions in English, and the visa officer does not speak your language, you can ask for an interpreter. Speaking English is not a requirement for a student visa. In fact, thousands of students come to the United States each year to learn how to speak English.

The visa officer needs to know your specific objectives, both academic or professional, for studying in the United States. Be prepared to explain why it is better to study your specific field in the United States than to study at home. Be ready to say exactly what you will study and for what career your U.S. studies will prepare you. Calmly state your education plans concisely and clearly.

If you are going to the USA to learn English and then earn a degree, be able to explain your complete program of study. Remember, it is not enough to just say, “It is better to study in the United States.” Give valid reasons why it is better for you. Visa officers like to hear honest, direct responses to questions. They generally react poorly to applicants who give vague answers, memorize a speech, or make overly solicitous comments about how great and wonderful the United States is.

You should also be able to explain in detail why you chose to study at a specific school and be able to give information about that school and where you will live (dormitory, host family or apartment).

If you will return home to complete university studies after studying English in the United States, bring proof of your student status in your country. A letter from a university professor supporting your study plan can be helpful. Young people around the world are often unsure of their plans. However, in the visa interview it is best to give definite answers. If you seem to be unsure about what you will be doing, the visa officer may believe that you are really going to the United States for reasons other than education.

Grades do make a difference. If your marks are below average, be ready to provide explanation on how you are going to succeed in the United States. A letter from a school director or teacher, or from your U.S. admitting school stating that the proposed program of study in the United States makes sense and explaining your good prospects for success can be helpful. If there were special circumstances (such as a death or illness in the immediate family) that contributed to the poor grades, have the school explain those special circumstances.

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has implemented an online tool that nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applicants can use to check the status of their application: https://ceac.state.gov/CEACStatTracker/Status.aspx

Last Year 534,298 F-1 Student visas were issued and there were over 991,957 students in the United States on F and M visas last year!
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You must have adequate, demonstrable financial support to live and study in the United States. Visa applications are generally stronger if the financial support comes from family, employers, or other institutional sponsors located in the home country.

If your parents will pay for your education, be ready to document how your family gets its income. Bring a letter from your parents’ employers stating what they do, how long they have worked at those organizations, and how much they earn.

When visa officers see information that is contradictory or does not make sense, they do not grant visas. If your family can only show enough income to support you in the United States, the officer will become suspicious.

Large sums of money in bank accounts may not be sufficient proof of financial support. When providing information about your bank accounts, ask someone at your bank for a letter that states how long the account has existed, and what the average balance in the account has been. That should convince the visa officer that you and your family have a long and stable history of business at the bank.

“Intent to Return”

Most student and exchange visitor visa applications are approved. The most common reason for a student or exchange visitor application to be denied is that the person applying for the visa has not proven to the Visa Officer that they will return to their country when they complete their studies in the U.S.A. This rule is called Section 214.b.

To determine your “intent to return” home, the visa officer will ask you a series of questions about your connections to your home country and about your study plans. You will have to demonstrate to the officer that your family has the ability to pay for the first year of your proposed stay in the United States and that you have realistic plans to finance the remainder of your education.

You must have all of the required forms with you including your I-20 or DS-2019 and the SEVIS payment receipt. You should bring any financial documents to demonstrate how you will pay for your education and any documents that might help demonstrate why you will return to your country. Some examples of such documents are previous passports demonstrating travel abroad, bank or salary statements, family documents or student records.

If all else fails…

If you are denied a visa there may be something you can do to reverse the denial. You may appeal the decision. In most cases, you will need to provide additional documentation that was not presented with the initial application. In some cases, a visa officer may request additional documents like proof of employment, or ownership of a home or business. You should respond with the information requested.

A fax or email from your U.S. school to the embassy or consulate in your city containing details about your qualifications, and requesting reconsideration, can be helpful in pursuing a successful appeal. Faxes should be addressed to the Chief of Nonimmigrant Visas at the Consular post in question. Fax and telephone numbers are available on the Department of State website at http://usembassy.state.gov.

Once a visa is approved, you should receive your visa within a few days.
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Gather Pre-departure Materials and Important Documents

Before you leave your home country, take the time to double-check that you have gathered all the documents you will need for your travel and stay in the United States.

1. Talk to your academic advisor to discuss both the courses you will be taking abroad, and those courses you will need to take when returning. Studying abroad will be a waste if the courses you take aren’t going to count for credit at your home college or university.

2. Look into calling card that will charge your overseas calls to your home number. Better yet, download Skype and get a web cam. Its probably the easiest and cheapest way to communicate with people from home, as well as people that you are abroad with.

3. Make travel plans including transportation from the airport to your university.

4. Make 3 photocopies of the INFORMATIONAL pages of your passport. Carry one in your bags but separate from your passport. Leave one in your home in the U.S., and leave one at your home abroad.

5. Start your trip with about $300 in foreign currency to get you through your first few days abroad. Exchange your money before you get to your country of destination. More often than not, local banks will give you the best exchange rate, and the lowest conversion fees.

6. Don’t forget to take a copy of your birth certificate, proof of health insurance, a calling card, and an International Student Identity Card.

7. And finally, I would think about buying a travel adapter plug. It pretty much sucks not being able to charge your laptop when you finally land because the plug from your charger doesn’t match the local outlets.
• Passport and nonimmigrant visa. Hand-carry your passport and certificate of eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019) with you at all times during your travel. On the plane before you land, you will complete the Arrival-Departure Record (I-94 form) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will take your biometric fingerprints and photograph. Part of the I-94 will be stapled into your passport. Do not lose it! The stapled portion will be removed when you leave the United States.
• Certificate of eligibility. Confirm you have the I-20 or DS-2019 issued by the school or program you will be attending.
• Contact information. Have the name and phone number of your international student adviser on campus, in case you need to call him/her upon arrival in the United States.
• Birth certificate and marriage certificate, if applicable. Be sure to obtain notarized translations of these certificates if they are not in English.
• Medical documents. Bring certificates of immunizations and vaccinations, prescriptions and medical and dental records.
• Academic transcripts. Bring your official transcripts, outlines, or descriptions of courses you have taken, and contact information for your U.S. campus.
• College or university acceptance letter.

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