The USA has some of the best universities in the world, and the student community and study opportunities are the most diverse here. Excellent quality of education, sophisticated educational programs, modern settings, and plentiful possibilities have made the USA one of the most desired destinations of study for international students.
International Students will need to get an F-1 (non-immigrant visa) if they want to study in academic institutions in the USA. Visa holders of this category must complete their educational programs before their I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) expires. I-20 is provided by the US College or University showing that it has accepted the student, and the student can attend the courses. International Students of both undergraduate and graduate programs must need an active I-20 to study in the USA.
General Requirements for Admission
Each academic institution in the United States has its unique admission standards. However, there are some requirements that they all have in common. Both the international undergraduate and graduate students need to meet the following criteria (applicability varies) to get admission to US colleges and universities:
- High School Diploma/ Degrees
- A bachelor’s degree if applying for a graduate program
- English proficiency test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo Test)
- Transcripts of previous academic records
- Motivation letter/ Statement of Purpose/Admission Essay
- Letter of Recommendations (LOR)
- Proof of financial solvency (Bank Statement/ affidavit)
- SAT/ACT (for Undergraduates)
- GRE/GMAT/LSAT (for graduates)
- Valid International Passport
- Writing Sample (for graduates)
Colleges in the USA usually accept students in three intakes- Fall, Spring, and Summer. However, the highest numbers of international students are admitted to US colleges in the Fall intake. The fall admission decision process by the university usually starts in January and ends in April/ May, depending on the programs. For the Spring session, the admission process usually begins in September, and the class starts in January.
The universities mention the application deadlines on their websites well in advance so that the students can organize their applications and submit them on time. Early applications also stand a chance for various scholarships provided by universities or governments.
All US universities and colleges have an official website where students can submit their applications to the university application portals. They can also contact the university/college admission office for any queries regarding their application.
After opening an account for the application, students need to pay an application fee and submit the aforementioned documents, which are the general admission requirements. Once students get admission, they need to collect their I-20 from the universities’ international admission office and get an F1 visa to attend the classes.
F1 Visa Application Process
To complete the F1 visa application process, an international student goes through the following steps:
- Collect the admission documents/ I-20 from the admiting institution
- Apply online for F-1 visa through the DS-160 form.
- Pay the Visa application fee.
- Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
- Schedule the F-1 visa interview.
- Submit the file with the required F-1 visa documents.
- Attend the student/ F-1 visa interview.
F1 Visa Requirements
The following documents are generally required to apply for an F-1 Visa:
- A valid passport with at least 6 months of validity.
- Form DS-160 for non-immigrant visa applications.
- Two photographs meeting the US Visa Photo Requirements.
- Proof of F-1 visa fee payment.
- Form I-20. The Form I-20 states the amount of funds that a student needs to finance the education and live in the US for one academic year. The student must submit documents that prove that the required funding for study is readily available. This can be done by submitting various documents, such as:
- Proof of scholarship/ funding (if the student has already received the commitement of funding from the university).
- Acceptance letters of the student from the educational institution.
- Bank statements/ Bank Affidavit.
- If the student is supported or sponsored by someone living in the US, the student will have to submit form I-134, Affidavit of Support, and bank statements for the last three years of the sponsor.
- If the student is funding his/her US education through a loan, s/he must also show a proof of the approved loan.
- Documents that prove the educational qualifications.
Tuition Waiver/Funding/Scholarship Opportunities:
International students need to pay tuition and other fees every semester. The amount depends on the program, university, and location. Universities offer tuition waivers, fellowships, and different assistantships like GA/TA/RA for students with desired profiles. A good IELTS Score, GRE/SAT Score, and SOP may help to secure such opportunities.