Applying to a US university can be an overwhelming experience for international students, especially if it’s their first time. The process of applying can be confusing, so it’s understandable if students have lots of questions.
At Studee, our NAFSA-trained student advice center speaks with international students every day. Advisors are asked a wide range of questions about studying in the US, but some are very frequent.
To engage with prospective international students in the best possible way, it helps to know what their most common questions are. You can then address these topics on your university’s website and literature.
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Here are the ten most common questions international students ask us about studying in the US.
How many universities can a student apply to?
Students prefer to not put all their eggs in one basket when it comes to applying for university. If their application is rejected by their university of choice, having the option to study at other institutions provides a backup plan, keeping the dream of studying in the US alive.
Competition is high, so providing the best application experience is paramount. A smooth, helpful, and informative journey can hugely influence a student’s decision to study with you.
How long does it take to receive a decision after application?
Timescales provide clarity. Students like to know when they’re likely to receive a decision on their application, so they can plan their next steps.
Outline a timescale, even if it's rough. It’ll allow students to form a contingency plan, just in case things don’t go as expected. To avoid uncertainty, International students often apply elsewhere if there are no timeframes given.
Do students need to do an English proficiency test?
Students looking to study in the US often haven’t done an English proficiency test when they contact the Studee advice center.
Although most universities require a test, it’s common for prospective students to ask if this requirement can be waived, because they’re unaware of its importance. It helps to specify how vital proficiency tests are to your university.
It’s also best to state any exceptions when it comes to proficiency tests. For example, If a student has previously studied a program in English, do they need to do a test to study at your university? If they don’t, tell them, it gives them one less thing to worry about.
How can students improve their English before a program starts?
International students wanting to study in the US are often uncomfortable with their level of English, which is another reason they may want to avoid a proficiency test.
Sharing useful tips and recommending courses, tests, and exercises on your university website of marketing material would be beneficial to international students.
Tell students if you offer top-up English courses before term starts. If you don’t offer courses, consider providing them, they’ll provide a sense of support to students who are anxious about their skills.
Which programs offer graduate assistantships?
The opportunity for students to enhance their knowledge, skills, and experience in a professional capacity is an appealing one, so it's no surprise that the demand for graduate assistantships is high among international students.
With graduate assistantships being so popular, it’s helpful to mention if it’s possible for graduate international students to undertake an assistantship at your institution. If assistantships are offered, state which academic programs they’re available with.
Can students work alongside their studies?
Students regularly ask if their visa requirements will allow them to work, particularly on campus. Outline the type of work students can undertake as per their visa type to help them understand which visa they need and what employment they can undertake.
If students can work on campus, explain the type of roles on offer, how high competition is, and how they can apply.
Can a student work in the country after graduating?
For many, the US is an ideal place to gain industry experience after their studies, as the same opportunities are unavailable in their home countries.
Students regularly ask us what Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is, how they work, what the requirements are, and how they can apply.
If you haven’t already, outline post-graduation employment prospects for international students, this information proves useful to those looking to boost their career prospects in the US.
Are STEM programs offered?
US STEM programs are increasingly popular among international students. In 2018/19, 51.6% of international students in the US pursued STEM subjects, so it’s no surprise we’re frequently asked about STEM programs.
If you offer STEM programs, make it known. We recommend creating a dedicated STEM section with information specifically for international students.
What are the requirements for traveling with dependents?
It’s not uncommon for prospective international students to have a spouse or child before they go to university. Understandably, they’d prefer to bring them to the US with them.
Clearly communicating the dependent-related policies, requirements, and processes as per your institution, will show you’ve considered their situation. Also, they’ll know exactly what they’ll need to prepare and do, which in turn can lead to earlier and higher quality applications.
When can an applicant apply for a student visa?
To avoid delays or disappointment, international students like to apply for their visa at the earliest possible opportunity.
Explain how early they can apply for their visa before their program begins, this will enable them to prepare and submit their visa application at the right time.
What can an applicant do if their visa gets rejected?
Students like to know if there’s any proactive action they can take if their visa application is turned down. As there is no appeals process for US visa rejections, it’s helpful to explain if and when they can re-apply. It’s also important to mention the financial impact of re-applying.
Providing or directing students to useful advice, support, and guidance in relation to visa rejections shows support and empathy. It also aids them in working out their next steps.