Frequently Asked Questions.
Q: There are so many schools in the U.S. How do I decide which schools to apply to?
A: Research your options and define your priorities. Contact the our advising center and browse college search engines online. Check to see if the schools you are considering are accredited.
Q: What’s the difference between a college and a university?
A: Colleges offer only undergraduate degrees while universities offer graduate degrees as well, but the terms are often used interchangeably.
Q: Are there age limitations to attend U.S. universities?
A: In general, you must have completed high school and you must be at least 17 years of age.
Q: What is the academic calendar for universities in the United States?
A: The academic year usually runs from August through May with breaks for holidays. Most universities use either the semester system (two terms), the quarter system (students attend three out of four total terms), or the trimester system (three terms).
Q: What is the difference between "Undergraduate" and "Graduate" degrees?
A: Undergraduate programs follow high school and lead to an associate (two-year) degree or a bachelor (four-year) degree. Graduate programs follow a bachelor’s degree and lead to a master’s or doctoral degree.
Q: What are the different types of undergraduate degrees?
A: Associate: a two-year program that either leads to a specific vocation or transitions to a bachelor program. Bachelor: a four or five-year program where students earn credits in a wide variety of courses.
Q: What are the different types of graduate degrees?
A: Masters: two-year degree providing additional specialization. Doctorate: five to eight-year program certifying the student as a trained research scholar and/or professor.
Q: Is it possible to take a professional degree program without first earning a bachelor's degree?
A: Yes, but they are highly selective and require a heavy course load across a total of six years of study.
Q: Is it possible to obtain a bachelor's degree and a master's degree at the same time?
A: In a joint-degree program, students begin a graduate program in their fourth year of college, earning both degrees upon graduation.
Q: What is the length of study for MBA programs in the U.S.?
A: MBA programs typically last one to two years.
Q: Can you work while studying in the United States?
A: With permission of the International Student Office, international students may work on campus up to 20 hours/week their first year and can apply to work off-campus in subsequent years.
Q: Is distance learning available at the graduate level?
A: Distant learning is not allowed for international students. International students must be enrolled in fulltime studies in the university or in the college.
Q: What is a community college?
A: Community colleges are typically state-supported and provide the first two years of a four-year undergraduate degree.
Q: How can I find out if an institution is accredited?
A: Search the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Post-secondary Education website to see if an institution is accredited.
Q: How can I find out if a specialized program of study is accredited?
A: For specialized program accreditation, see “Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary Education,” available from American Council on Education.
Q: How can I find out which universities are rated best for a specific academic major?
A: Refer to college and university guides to find which institutions are known for excellence in different fields of study.
Q: What are English language proficiency requirements?
A: U.S. universities require an English language proficiency test before admission to ensure you can read, write, and speak fluently.
Q: May the bank statement be in my name, or does it have to be in a sponsor's name?
A: The bank statement may be either from your bank account or a sponsor’s. If you would prefer, it may also be a combination of the two bank statements. If you use a sponsor's bank statement, your sponsor will also need to write a letter to the school stating the following: "I am the sponsor for [your name] and I intend to provide him/her with financial assistance during his/her first year at the [name of school] up to the amount of $_____.”
Q: What should I do if my bank statement reflects a currency other than US dollars?
A: If you cannot obtain a bank statement that shows your funds in U.S. dollars, you may get the conversion from the internet. You’ll need to print the page showing the conversion and include it with your bank statement.
Q: May I have multiple sponsors?
A: Yes, you may have as many sponsors as you need, as long as you and your sponsors can explain to the visa officials why they are willing to fund your education in the US.
Q: The schools in my home country are taught in English. Why do I need to submit English Proficiency Documents?
A: In order to be accredited, schools need to have physical documentation for each student's file. Unless you are from a country where the first language is English, such as Canada, Australia, or the UK, you will need to submit physical proof of proficiency.
Q: If I am still in my final semester of undergraduate study, may I apply to a graduate program now?
A: Some schools may still process your application before you officially graduate. You will need to send your current transcripts along with the other required application materials and include a letter stating that you will send your final transcripts as soon as you have received them from your school. The school may send you a “conditional” acceptance, which means that you may be accepted for admission once they have received those final documents of graduation.
Answers to Your Work-Study Questions
Q: What is Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?
A: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) refers to employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum, such as the paid internship employment that students engage in while in a graduate school work-study program. CPT is designed to give students practical experience in the workplace to supplement their work in the classroom.
Q: What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
A: Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows international students to work in the US for up to one year after they graduate from their Master’s program. OPT is designed to help students gain practical experience in their field after graduation.
Q: May I participate in both CPT and OPT?
A: If you work for more than one year of full-time CPT, then you may not be allowed to do the one year of OPT. However, international students are able to participate in both CPT and OPT, but not at the same time.
Q: May I work in CPT for the entire time I’m in my Master’s program?
A: This varies depending on your school. Some schools do allow you to engage in CPT for as long as you are enrolled in your Master’s program, no matter how long you are enrolled. However, if you do choose to work full time for more than a year in CPT, you may not be eligible for the additional year of OPT after you graduate, so it is important that you check in with your school to find out their requirements.
Q: How can I go to school and work at the same time?
A: Most courses in a CPT program will be offered in the evenings and/or on weekends. This will allow you to work during the week.
Q: May I take online courses?
A: Yes. Many schools offer online courses in their Master’s degree programs, and it is legal for international students to take one online course and two on-site classes per semester. However, you cannot enroll in only online courses; at least two out of three of your courses must be in-person.
Q: Are credits transferrable between schools?
A: Possibly. Your university may give credit for some courses you’ve already taken at another school, if the other school is accredited and if the content of the course is roughly the same as one of the courses offered by your program. The Registrar at the school will make this decision when you arrive for registration.
Q: May I transfer to a different university?
A: You are free to transfer to another university if you choose to do so, although your school may have certain limitations or requirements. You can find these in your school’s policy statements or catalogs.
Q: What about financial aid?
A: As an international student, you have the legal right to obtain full time, paid employment from U.S. based companies while you are in a CPT program. With an internship, your earning potential is much more than what you might obtain with a scholarship.
Q: May I apply for a U.S. visa in a country other than my home country?
A: This will vary from one U.S. consulate to the next. Generally speaking, international students are allowed to apply for a visa in countries other than their own. However, you should check with the U.S. consulate in the country you are currently residing in to make sure that they will allow you to apply.
Q: What is SEVIS and how do I pay the SEVIS fee?
A: The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS, is the Homeland Security Database. F-1 students are required by Homeland Security to pay a $200 SEVIS fee before they may apply for the visa. You will need a receipt showing payment of this fee before you may go to the visa interview. You can go to www.fmjfee.com, and apply online using a credit card. This is the fastest way to make this payment. You will then receive an email receipt which you may take to the consulate office at the time of your visa interview.
Q: May my spouse and/or children accompany me to the US?
A: Spouses and children are allowed to apply for a visa to accompany international students to the US. Your spouse (with children) may apply at the same time that you apply, or they may wait a few months until you have arrived and settled in the US.
Q: If I have already applied for Diversity Immigrant Lottery and have been denied, will I be able to obtain a student (F) visa to go to the U.S. to study?
A: To receive a student visa (F-1), you must prove that you intend to return to your home country after graduation. If there is anything in your background that suggests that you do not intend to return to your home country, your visa application may be rejected. If you have previously applied for the “lottery” immigrant visa, a visa officer may see this as an indication that your real intent is to immigrate, rather than study. This may make getting an F-1 visa more difficult for you.
Q: Do I need permission from Immigration Services in order to work off campus?
A: The only permission from Immigration Services that you will need to work as part of your university’s CPT program is your F-1 student visa. Once you find employment that is certified to be "curriculum related," your university will issue the appropriate authorization signature that allows you to begin working. You will also need to obtain a U.S. Social Security card before you are legally allowed to work in the US.
Q: May I return to my country during the summer and then return back to school for fall quarter?
A: Yes, most schools will allow a school break. You will be required to attend school full time for two consecutive semesters (9 months and 18 credit hours) before you are eligible to take a vacation from your studies. However, some schools do not have summer breaks scheduled into their curriculum, so this will depend on the school you attend.
Q: If I have a two year visa, does that mean I will need to get it extended before it expires?
A: If you have a two-year visa, that does not mean that you have to return to your home country at the end of two years. You may stay for as long as necessary in order to finish your education in the US. The length of the visa refers to how long you have to cross the border into the US.
Q: If I am already in the US on a B-1 visa, may I change to F-1 student visa?
A: It is much easier to change to an F-1 visa while you are in your own country. Applying for a change of status to F-1 while you are already in the US may take up to several months while immigration service processes your application. Instead, if you take your I-20 form from your university to the consulate in your home country, you may apply for an F-1 student visa and the decision will be made immediately by the visa officials there. This way, there will be no delay before you start school and begin your paid internship.
Answers to Your Employment Questions
Q: Will my university find an internship job for me?
A: No, your university will not secure employment for students. But because the internship is mandatory, your school’s CPT Employment Counselor will help you find and apply for internships. The counselor may help you by assisting with writing your resume, introducing you to companies that are looking for employees, and showing you how to search for employment online, in newspapers, at job fairs, and through other placement services. However, it is still your responsibility to obtain your internship.
Q: What is the likelihood that I will find internship employment?
A: New internship positions open up on a regular basis. The type of internship you obtain and how long it takes you to obtain it will depend on your skills, your experience, your English ability, and your personal ambition.
Q: How long does it take to find an internship?
A: Most students find employment within the first two months at the campus, but it may take longer to find a suitable position, depending on your skills and English language ability. Legally, you cannot start an internship until you have:
1) enrolled and paid for school,
2) started classes and
3) obtained the Social Security number. On an average, getting the social security number takes about two to four weeks.
Q: Do I need to have an internship in a field related to my major or is any field acceptable?
A: Your internship must be related to your field of study. A job that is related to concepts and principles that you may be learning in any of your classes is acceptable.
Q:How many hours may I expect to work each week?
A: You may work up to regular part time employee hours (20 hours/week), with the same benefits as are granted to all other employees.
Q: How soon after my arrival may I begin CPT employment?
A: You may apply for a Social Security number 10 days after your arrival. Immediately after you arrive, you are allowed to begin working with a career specialist at the campus who will help you locate and identify possible employers, and teach you how to apply for employment in the U.S. Most students obtain employment in the first month, though it may take longer.
Q: Will I have to pay taxes?
A: Your employer will hold back funds from your monthly earnings to cover any taxes that you might owe. After April 15th of each year you will likely find that you get a refund for some of this withheld amount.
Q: Is is possible to convert my work authorization into a full time work permit upon completion of the Master's program?
A: It is possible to convert an internship into a full time job, but this will depend on whether or not the company you work for during the internship is willing to sponsor you for an H1-b.
Q: I want to study in the United States, but my English proficiency isn’t good enough yet. What can I do?
A: There are a number of programs for English language study in the United States and online, as well as local possibilities.