Monday, February 3, 2014
[ADMISSIONS EXPERT] Ms. Cheryl Hansen – U.S. Application and Visa Process
WES Student Advisor: This time of year, many students are preparing to submit their final college applications to U.S. universities. Could you briefly explain the U.S. admissions process and how applications are reviewed?
Applications are reviewed for content, meeting minimum grade point average and standardized test scores, English proficiency, financial certification, completeness and for meeting deadlines. Additionally, some U.S. schools have requirements such as letters of recommendation and essays.
Once an application is received, the admission office processes it, notifies the student if something is missing, reviews for transferable credits, English scores, finances, academic admissibility, and then sends it out to the department if the application is for a graduate student. An admission decision is then made. Some institutions will provide an online portal to review progress on the application and students can monitor their application this way.
WES Student Advisor: Once a student has submitted their completed application, how should they stay in touch with the admissions office?
You are welcome to send emails directly to the admission office with questions you have regarding your application. If you are applying for admission as a graduate student, you can also send emails directly to departmental contacts for further information. Include your full name and any student identification number you may have already been provided by that institution. It may take from 1-2 business days to receive a reply.
Check your emails on a regular basis for replies and if you need to follow up on a message from the U.S. institution. If you decide to call the admission office, remember the time difference and call during regularly scheduled business hours, usually 8am to 5pm.
WES Student Advisor: After the waiting period is over, what are some next steps students should take after receiving their acceptance letter?
Confirm your admission offer. This may consist of having to pay a matriculation fee which is applied toward your tuition. You will need to apply for a passport if you haven’t done so already and for your student visa.
Decide on housing options and where you plan to live. Many schools have on-campus options, as well as off-campus. Attend pre-departure seminars if they are available to you. Gather your immunization records together and get required vaccinations. It may be less inexpensive to do this in your home country and one less thing you will need to do once you arrive on campus.
Take any math or English placement tests you may be required to have. Submit final transcripts to the admission office for evaluation. Decide on student medical insurance as U.S. medical costs are expensive and you will need coverage. Begin your travel plans and how you plan to arrive on campus. Decide on banking needs while in the U.S.
WES Student Advisor: Applying for an F-1 visa can be a difficult and stressful process. What are some things that students should expect and prepare before they visit the U.S. embassy?
Once you have applied to a school in the U.S. and have been accepted, your school will give you a Form I-20 document. Check the Form I-20 to make sure that your name and date of birth is listed and spelled correctly. If it is not correct, contact the school official who sent you the Form I-20 and have it replaced.
You are now ready to pay for the SEVIS I-901 fee which is required for all F and M students as well as J exchange visitors. Paying the SEVIS fee is very important. Without this fee, you will not be eligible to apply for a visa. After paying the I-901 fee and getting a receipt, you can apply for a visa at any American embassy or consulate before you leave for the U.S. There are helpful websites you can refer to for the student visa process, a good one is the Department of Homeland Security.
WES Student Advisor: Lastly, what are some tips for students to pass the visa interview at the U.S. embassy?
Be clear on your specific intentions and long-long range plans for your future career. If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to your future professional career in your home country.
Always maintain a positive attitude and be concise in your responses. You can anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. If you know someone who has already gone through the visa interview process, talk with them about their experience, and learn tips on how they were successful in their interview.
You will need to provide evidence that you can pay for your studies and that funding is available. The visa interview is between you and the consular officer. It is recommended that you not bring any family members to the interview.
Once you receive your student visa, you will have 30 days to enter the U.S. before your official program start date, which is registered in SEVIS by an official at your U.S. school. You must report to your school by your program start date, or you are not maintaining your immigration status. It is suggested that you contact your school immediately once you enter the country so that there is no question of your arrival. Best wishes and see you in the U.S.!
Cheryl Hansen serves as the Director of Global Services overseeing visa and immigration services for 1900 international students and 500 scholars for the Office of International Programs at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Washington. She has extensive international education experience in public and private universities and community colleges. She has worked and traveled on all 7 continents and speaks Portuguese and Spanish.