The View From Campus: Five Things to do Before Your Arrival in the U.S.

 

In the third edition of our View From Campus series, we look at five tips international students should follow when preparing for their studies in the U.S.

We spoke to Adina Lav, Assistant Provost for International Enrollment at George Washington University, about her college and the advice she gives new arrivals…

 

  • Describe your institution in five words? Innovative; diverse; ambitious; socially responsible.
  • What is your institution best known for overseas? We are a university with students and faculty members from every state and more than 130 countries. A GW education integrates intellectual discovery, interactive learning and unparalleled access to opportunities in every sector of society. In a city shaping the future, George Washington is a university where faculty and students not only study the world but also work to change it.
  • What are your top academic programs? GW is well known for its majors and research in political science and international affairs. We also have excellent programs in business, engineering, arts and the sciences.
  • What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution? GW has 26,000 students, with nearly 2,400 students from 130 countries, 300 visiting international scholars, and a footprint in more than 80 percent of the countries in the world.  In Fall 2015, China, India, S. Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada were the top five countries represented in our student body. 
  • How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process? IELTS is used as an assessment of English language ability: writing, reading, speaking, and listening – in the admissions process. We use it as part of a larger, holistic review to understand a candidate’s chances of success and best fit for GW. 

 

Five Things to do Before Your Arrival in the U.S.

  1. Once students have got their visas to enter the U.S., what is the most important thing you recommend students do next? Students should focus on their arrival timeline. Most universities have a ‘report date’, which is the date by which the student must be on campus. This date may or may not align with the student’s orientation program. If housing is available, I recommend that students plan to arrive no later than two days prior to their orientation program. This gives them time to get into the country, settle in, and fight any impending jet lag before orientation starts.
  2. How soon can students enter the U.S. once they have their visas? Students entering the United States on F1 or J1 visas can typically do so up to 30 days prior to their report date. Students entering early should confirm housing availability or have a temporary, alternative option set up.
  3. Would you recommend any resources in the students’ home countries to help them prepare for their journey to the U.S.? One of the best resources is the US. Department of State’s EducationUSA advising centres in the student’s country. These centres often have in-person or online pre-departure orientations, which offer a wealth of information to students before the leave for the U.S.
  4. How do U.S. colleges assist international students to prepare for their arrival on campus? In addition to assistance throughout the visa process, colleges typically offer their own pre-departure orientations, checklists, and resource guides. Social media is also a wonderful tool to not only get to know the school and community you’re moving to, but to meet other in-coming students as well. Many schools also offer summer send-off celebrations for students and parents through local alumni chapters.
  5. What advice would you give students who are about to get on a plane to the U.S. to begin a degree program? Come into the country with an open mind and a sense of humour. Americans are naturally curious and straight-forward. Be a good ambassador for your community and remember that the U.S. is a very diverse country, with lots of ideas about the outside world, but generally little exposure. Students have the opportunity to represent themselves, their home communities, and eventually their new universities well.

The View From Campus: the low-down on U.S. student visas

We quizzed Martin A. Bennett, Director, International Admissions & Services, University of Findlay, Ohio about the ins and outs of getting a U.S student visa and what makes UF tick…

  • Describe your institution in 5 words? Innovative, Safe, Friendly, Affordable, Meaningful
  • What is your institution best known for overseas? Having a strong international community.
  • What are your top academic programs? Undergraduate: computer science, business, equestrian studies, animal science, nuclear medical technology.  For  Graduate:  MBA, environmental safety & occupational health management, TESOL, applied security & analytics, health informatics.
  • What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution? Saudi Arabia, India, Nepal, China, Japan; 15% international
  • How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process? We accept IELTS for both undergraduate and graduate studies. Generally, a 6.0 allows a student direct entry in an undergraduate academic program, while for each graduate program the minimum scores range from a 6.5 to an 8.0 on the IELTS test.

 

Student Visas for the U.S. – Your questions answered

 

  • What is the I-20/DS-2019 form that a student receives after they have been admitted and documented funding? The I-20 or DS-2019 form is a non-immigrant document produced by the college that students are admitted to that is used to apply for an F-1 or J-1 student visa (respectively).
  • How soon can a student apply for a student visa after receiving the I-20/DS-2019 form? Students can apply for a student visa no more than 120 days before the program start date listed on their I-20/DS-2019.
  • What is the SEVIS fee students have to pay? The SEVIS fee is an administrative fee charged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which helps to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Students must pay this fee before they can apply for their student visa interview at the U.S. consulate/embassy.
  • What advice would you give to students who are nervous about their student visa interview? Prepare by having all the right documents (I-20, admission letters, proof of funding, test scores, etc.); Relax; Dress appropriately; Be honest; Be yourself! Good luck!

The View From Campus: Tips for Funding a U.S. Degree

EIU

Photo courtesy of jrmyers (CC licence)

 

Eastern Illinois University

We spoke to William Elliott, Assistant Dean of Graduate & International Admissions at EIU about financing a U.S degree.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

Nationally ranked comprehensive Midwestern university

 

What is your institution best known for overseas?

EIU is known primarily for its programs in Technology, Economics and Business Administration

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your institution after the U.S.?

India, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, South Korea and Nigeria. International enrollment is 373 out of 7990 total enrollment.

 

How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process?

We use IELTS as a part of our suite of language proficiency tests accepted to gauge a non-native speaker’s mastery of English language. It’s our belief that we should be as flexible as possible in acceptance of IELTS and other testing tools so as to allow our students more flexibility in their choice of use and availability.

 

Tips for Funding a U.S. Higher Education

  1. What are the best sources of funding for international students coming to the U.S.?

Most institutions will offer scholarships and graduate assistantships based on a combination of GPA (grade point average), financial need, and/or other factors.

 

Graduate assistantships can be offered in every graduate program as well as non-academic units. Assistantships provide a monthly stipend in exchange for duties performed in research, teaching and service, as well as a tuition waiver scholarship.

 

  1. How should prospective international undergraduate students look at the price of a U.S. higher education?

A student should understand that due to the strong accreditation system in the US, price is not a good indicator as to the quality of education they will receive. It’s possible for a student to be price-conscious and still earn a degree that will not only help them succeed in their career, but also be the equivalent of a higher priced, more “prestigious” university (as long as their school is equally accredited).

 

  1. For postgraduate students, what is the best advice for finding institutional aid?

My best advice would be to be as interactive with the graduate faculty as possible via whatever technological means available. A big part of successful graduate education is to search for a program that is a good academic fit for both student and their faculty.

 

  1. Talk about the role of work in funding an international students’ education in the U.S.?

Students must have their own means of outside funding and/or scholarship and monetary awards and not plan to support themselves with on-campus employment. The best that one might hope for might be to recoup some money from OPT (Optional Practical Training) employment after graduation, but that is not guaranteed.

 

  1. Are there funding sources available for students after their first year of studies, in case they don’t receive any institutional support initially?

In some cases there might be departmental awards or scholarships that come available once a student has proven their academic talent. Again, these should serve more as an unexpected reward for great academic performance, and not as a hopeful source of base funding.

 

We’ll have more interviews with university faculty members in the campus spotlight, so stay tuned.

 

Financing a U.S. Degree: A Funding Overview

Money US

Photo courtesy of Thomas Galvez Flickr CC

 

When applying to colleges and universities in the United States, one of the first experiences most students have is shock at the costs involved.

For example, the annual cost for a bachelor’s degree program at an elite institution, (including tuition and fees, living expenses, books and supplies, health insurance, etc.) can exceed $75,000.

While there are institutions where the annual expenses may be under $20,000, the majority are in the middle, out of reach for many aspiring students. Yet there are currently over one million international students studying in the United States.

 

So, how do they fund their studies?

The Institute of International Education’s (IIE) annual Open Doors Report shows that for 64% of students, personal and family sources are the primary source of funding, followed by U.S. colleges or universities at 21%.

financing a US degree image

According to data from a 2014 NAFSA report, international students received almost $10 billion in financial support from U.S. sources in the form of scholarships, grants, tuition waivers, assistantships, etc.

 

Which schools gave that aid?

There are over 4,500 accredited U.S. colleges and universities. To find current financial aid offered to international students, use this searchable database.

 

Graduates

In general, more aid is available to students seeking graduate (masters or doctorate) degrees in the United States, in the form of graduate teaching or research assistantships that provide tuition waivers, and stipends for work done for specific departments on campus.

 

Undergraduates

The first step to financing your undergraduate degree in the U.S.  is to assess your own funds and the typical costs for your university of choice. You should also research the area you’ll be living in and the typical living costs involved. Your university will be able to advise you on this.

You’ll of course be required to prove your English ability. To find out how IELTS can prepare you for a U.S. degree, visit takeielts.org

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