Once an international student has been accepted to one or more colleges, choosing the institution and transitioning to that college often includes additional processes, largely as a result of their immigration status. Knowing the right questions to ask of colleges and universities can help international students smoothly transition.

Frequently Asked Questions by Topic

After accepting an offer of admission from a college or university, it is important that international students reach out to the institution if they have any questions.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: Is Early Decision really binding?

A: Yes.

Q: Can a student deposit at more than one university? What about if a student applies to universities in multiple countries?
A: If the student is attending high school in the USA, every student may submit one deposit to one university or college by the May 1st response date. However, if they are applying to institutions overseas, they may be obliged to submit a deposit to a US before having all the necessary information to make an informed decision by May 1. The rules for accepting an offer of admission by an university overseas may be different than those in the United States.

If your student deposits at a US institution by the May 1st deadline and then later decides to go to another institution, advise them to notify the US school at which they deposited and inform them that they will not be attending. Also, alert them to the fact that if they deposit and then retract their commitment following May 1st, they will lose their deposit fee.

Q: What questions should an accepted international student ask from the International Student Services Office at a college/university?
A: Here are some sample questions your students may want to consider asking their International Student Services office:

  • What is their process to obtain an I-20 from the institution?
  • Is there a special orientation program and are there multiple orientation dates?
  • Is there special transportation services for international students from the nearest airport to campus?
  • How does one purchase the bedding for the residence halls if you are traveling from abroad?
  • How do international students arrange for local banking?
  • Do they offer driving lessons?
  • What kinds of international organizations are there?


Q: If the institution does not have an International Student Services office, who should you ask?
A:  In the absence of this office, students should start by directing their questions towards the admission office or Dean of Students.

Q: What financial documents are necessary for the issuance of the I-20 by the college?
A:  Some institutions will ask for proof of one year’s worth of tuition, fees, housing, living expenses and transportation costs. Others may request proof of additional amounts (up to four years). Unfortunately, there is no uniform designation.

Q: How are payments for deposits, tuition and fees handled at the college for international students? Is it by credit card, bank wire transfer of funds, or through a third party payment provider?
A:  The Registrar/Bursar office is the usual arbiter of how payments are made to the college. Many do accept credit cards directly or through a third party vendor. Bank wire transfers are also accepted by most colleges but it does require more paperwork and the fees associated with this can be expensive.

Q: How are special dietary needs addressed at the college? What is available in the local community?
A:  Please ask the Dining Services office about special meals and dietary concerns. They will work with students to make sure that the appropriate foods are available.

Q: Can students work while they are enrolled in college/university?
A:  International students may work on campus and off-campus. There are specific rules associated with student visas so students should check with their international student adviser and DSO before accepting employment.

Q: Can students participate in internships or co-ops?
A:  Many international students participate in internships and co-ops. The caveat is that the internship must match their area of studies and the total amount of hours is set by the US government. Before an international student starts an internship or coop, the information must be approved by the Designated School Official (DSO) and posted in the SEVIS system.

Q: Are there post-college graduation opportunities for research, work or internships? Are there special requirements?
A:  There are post-graduation options for international students and it is the student’s responsibility to check on whether the option meets the student visa rules. Most are granted with a one to two year limit and most often granted in professional fields such as health sciences or engineering. There is an expectation that international students will return home after graduation unless they are employed, participating in an approved internship or enrolled in graduate programs.

 

TIPS

  • The Office of International Student Services (or its equivalent) at the student’s college is a good source of general information relevant for international students.
  • Questions about campus orientation can be directed to the Dean of Students, Housing Office, Dining Services, or Public Safety Offices¬†of the college or university the student is attending.
  • Visa interview questions can typically be answered by US Embassies or consular offices in the home country or¬†US State Department resources.

After accepting an offer of admission from a college or university, it is important that international students reach out to the institution if they have any questions.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q:  How do you transfer international students’ SEVIS records from the high school to the college/university they will be attending? When should this transfer take place?
A:¬†¬†The DSO at the high school is responsible for electronically tranferring a student’s I-20 to the college/university the student will be attending, after receiving proof of admission and a transfer request by a college/university DSO.

Q:  Does anything need to be done to an international student’s I-20 before they go home for the summer following high school graduation?
A:  Students must obtain a signed travel authorization, on page 3 of their I-20, from the high school DSO in order to travel home. Otherwise, they will encounter difficulty when returning to the U.S.

Q:  Are there any restrictions on an international student staying in the US for the summer following their high school graduation, prior to starting college?
A:¬†¬†International students on an F-1 Visa may remain in the U.S. during the summer providing they’ve already completed a full academic year at your school. If the student wishes to take summer classes, their electronic I-20 record must be in possession of the institution–high school or college/university–where they’ll be doing so.

Q:  Are there any restrictions on an international student traveling while studying at a US college or university on a visa?
A: There are generally no restrictions if the student is traveling within the USA. However, international students must obtain a signed travel authorization, on page 3 of their I-20, from the college/university DSO in order to travel internationally, whether on vacation or for study abroad.

Q:  What do international students who are staying in the US for college but returning home for summer do with all of their belongings?
A:¬† It is advisable that students arrange for an appropriate storage facility for their belongings.¬† Sometimes local mail centers will store belongings for a fee and mail them to the college at the appropriate designated time. It’s possible that a friend‚Äôs family¬†would be willing to store items on their behalf.

Q:  How does an international student prepare for the student visa interview at the US consulate in his/her home country? How is this handled if s/he is a refugee?
A:  The official websites of U.S. Embassies and Consulates in other countries provide guidance to students about the Student Visa application and interview process. In person advice is also offered by U.S. Department of State-sponsored EducationUSA Advising Centers. Students should be prepared to discuss why they are choosing their program and institution of study, what their career aspirations might be, and to explain their intention to return to their home country after college graduation.

Q:  Are international students required to attend the summer orientation programs?
A:¬† If students can afford to attend, they are often welcomed at summer orientations. However, the majority of international students participate in an orientation a few days or a week prior to the start of the term. More information about scheduled orientation programs is available¬†from the college/university’s International Student Services office,¬†the Dean of Students office, or a related campus unit. Orientation programs provide a valuable introduction to the campus, students and, even when not mandatory,¬†should not be missed.

Q:  How do international students register for classes if they are not in the United States?
A:  Many colleges will arrange for Skype interviews with academic advisors to discuss their options or offer to set up a preliminary schedule of classes in advance to the student’s arrival on campus. It is the student’s responsibility to ask about this process.

Q:  What questions should international students ask about housing options?
A: Are students required to live on campus? Is housing available for all four years? Are all first-year students required to be housed in a special residential setting or are they housed with upperclassmen? Are single rooms available for first-year students? When are students allowed to live in apartments either on or off-campus?

Q:  What kind of language acquisition support is available, if necessary? Are there special advising teams to work with international students?
A:  Some students may not be comfortable with college writing or able to handle college textbook reading requirements in an efficient manner. Many colleges have special academic advising teams who work with international students. Students should ask about the Academic Support resources available on campus.

Q:  If there isn’t a significant number of international students on campus, where and how can new students find a network of support?
A:¬†¬†It is appropriate to ask which countries are represented on campus among current students, faculty and staff. There may be clubs and organization on- and off-campus, on a regional basis involving a group of colleges, or supported by national organizations. In major cities, there are often country-specific social organizations which promote social and cultural activities.¬†The Dean of Students‚Äô Office or religious organizations are good places to start the conversation. A consulate in a nearby city, representing the student’s home country, might¬†also be a source of suggestions.

TIPS

  • Some international graduating seniors will need to have the school issue special invitation letters to family members in order that they may obtain Tourist visas to attend graduation.¬† Make sure to offer this service early in the second semester/trimester of the senior year.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s list of Frequently Asked Questions about “Transfers for F-1 Students” is a good first place to look for information regarding visas.