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Article by Mohan Babu

US tech varsities: It’s admission time again!

Post September 11, the US government and educational institutions continue to welcome foreign students, albeit after an extra round of scrutiny. The Immigration and Naturalisation Service and US consulates across the world have become overcautious, writes Mohan Babu

This is the time of the year when students in technical colleges across the country huddle together to plan for their future. For many, getting the right job or career break is of paramount importance. For some, higher education in the US is almost a de rigueur, an extension of one’s academic ambitions. Thousands of students from India come to the US every year, hoping to get educated in some of the best universities around. What started as a “brain drain” of the students from elite institutions in India has become a “routine migration”.

The admission process in most universities in the US starts months in advance, with most of them making the selection decisions by early spring. Students applying to universities in the US need to take a slew of standardised tests like GMAT/GRE, TOEFL etc and are required to get adequate scores from these tests. The scores and their role in the admission process is highly subjective since the universities also take into consideration a number of other aspects like academic history, scholarships, awards, published papers, work experience etc. If you think December is too early to apply for a Fall course the following year, think again. It is only after one gets an admission from the university that one can apply for a visa since a US college, school or university issues the “Form I-20” required in the visa application process.

The coveted F1 (or M1) visa is perhaps one of the most important documents that one needs to acquire, generally after an in-person interview at the local embassy or consulate. June, July and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. To allow time to overcome any unforeseen problems that might arise, students are encouraged to apply for their visas several weeks before they plan to travel. Students should not apply more than 90 days before the registration date noted on the I-20. Also, because each student’s personal and academic situation is different, two students applying for same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different documents.

All applicants for a student visa must provide:
- A Form I-20 obtained from a US college, school or university. The form must also be signed by you and by a school official in the appropriate places.
- A completed nonimmigrant visa application form (OF-156) with photo for each person applying.
- A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States.
- A receipt for visa processing fee.

All applicants should be prepared to provide:
- Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended.
- Scores from standardised tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.
- Financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study.

When a person enters the United States on a student visa, he will usually be admitted for the duration of the student status. That means one may stay as long as one is a full time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while in America. However, if the student departs the US with an expired visa, she will need to obtain a new one before being able to return to America and resume studies. A student visa cannot be renewed or re-issued in the United States; it must be done at an Embassy or Consulate abroad. The most accurate and up-to-date information on visas’ can be found at the US department of state website at http://travel.state. gov/vo_faq.html
Higher education in the US is an expensive proposition, but in most cases, the returns on education can be tremendous. It is hard to set a dollar amount, but the tuition and fees for an MS degree alone could range anywhere between $20,000 upto $80,000. Add to this other living expenses, air tickets etc and the higher education abroad can be very expensive. Aid or student grants are extremely hard to come by, especially for foreign students. It is a myth that once a person lands here, he will be able to land a job and pay the bills. To alleviate this problem, Indian banks have stepped in by helping students with attractive loans for higher education.

On landing in the US, students not only grapple with their course work but also with the change in culture, lifestyle etc. A tremendous support network in the form of Indian Student Association (ISA) exists in universities across the country. Volunteers who offer informal support, advice and networking for newly admitted students run the associations, generally affiliated with the universities. Many ISAs also maintain websites with lists of members.

Prospective students in India find it convenient to shoot off e-mails to their peers in the US. A list of ISA’s can also be found online at ( ISAs also provide opportunities for Indian students to network, socialise and maintain a semblance of Indianness in a far-away land. This network also has fringe benefits in the form of help with logistics, finding roommates etc.

Many students in India may be hesitant to contemplate education in the US, especially after the incidents of Sept 11th. Since a number of suspected terrorists came here on student visas, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) and US consulates across the world have become overcautious while scrutinising applications. However, scholars with a genuine interest in higher education have always been welcome. The US government and educational institutions are still continuing the policy of welcoming foreign students, albeit after an extra round of scrutiny.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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