Schools often recruit international students to help diversify the student body, enrich the college campus experience and give foreigners the opportunity to live and study in the United States — and maybe even stay long-term. Studying abroad in the U.S. is a great opportunity for international students, but the process for being approved for study isn’t as easy as you might think.
In the 2010-2011 school year, U.S. colleges and universities reported more than 760,000 international students were enrolled — an all-time high for foreign college students in the U.S. With such a high number of international students, it may seem like being admitted to a U.S. college is easy, but that’s not the case.
So, what does it take for international students to study in the U.S.? What’s the process like? Read on to learn about the four major challenges of studying in the U.S.
1. Getting a visa isn’t a walk in the park. To study in the U.S., international students have to obtain an F1 student visa, and that entails providing a lot of documentation. Among other requirements, students must have sufficient financial support, can only study at the university through which the visa was granted and must have strong ties to their home country as evidenced through assets, family, bank accounts and even job offers. Additionally, F1 students have limited working rights in the U.S. and can only remain in the U.S. for 12 months after graduation.
2. Most universities require foreign students to obtain U.S. health insurance. Once approved for an F1 visa, many schools require students to obtain health insurance to go along with the F1 visa. Some international students may not be aware of how to apply for insurance — plus, this is a step that may be overlooked in the long process of preparing to study overseas.
3. The paperwork process is hard to navigate and takes a long time to complete. The amount of paperwork required for international students to study in the U.S. is as lengthy as some college mid-term compositions. Applying for a visa comes with plenty of paperwork on its own. Additionally, getting health insurance and getting into the university requires even more paperwork. Once in the U.S., international students are still required to fill out paperwork that includes an arrival/departure record, employment authorization, extending or changing nonimmigrant status and more.
4. Figuring out the logistics of living life day-to-day is complicated. Even once students are on the ground in the U.S. and settled into their universities, the logistics of everyday life can be confusing and cumbersome. Getting around some universities and college towns without a car or access to a car makes running errands, buying groceries and other necessities, or even staying entertained on the weekends very difficult. While many colleges do offer shuttle services, international clubs and weekend activities, this often isn’t enough to cover all needs.
Even with all the stringent requirements, paperwork and multi-step processes required to study in the U.S., the number of international students is still projected to rise over the course of the next ten years. Why? Most likely because of the benefits of higher education and learning with a global perspective are a worthy end result.