INTERNATIONAL ENGINEERING STUDENT GUIDE TO U.S. SCHOOLS
What if my English language skills need to be improved?
If you're an international engineering student hoping to come to the U.S. to get your engineering degree, it is extremely important to have strong English language skills, particularly if you wish to enroll in an advanced degree program (like an MEng). Poor English skills may jeopardize your ability to excel at required exams.
If you need additional preparation, several options exist. If you are admitted to a U.S. college or university, it may offer part time or full time intensive English as a Second Language (ESL) courses for international students. There are also many private language institutions in the United States and worldwide, but approach these with caution: Some universities may not accept credits from institutions that are not accredited by a national accreditation organization like the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation.
What if I already have a degree from my home country?
Because requirements differ from country to country, you may be required to go back to school for additional training. The most important thing to do is to contact schools and universities to find out who evaluates international student applications. Some schools have hired staff members with special training to evaluate academic credentials of overseas applicants, and others refer students to outside agencies like the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions' Officers.
What extra steps do I need to take in order to apply?
Plan to contact prospective schools approximately one year before you intend to apply. Spaces for international engineering students can be limited, although engineering schools tend to accept greater numbers of applicants than other graduate programs. Nevertheless, apply to several institutions, including a few where you feel fairly certain that you will be accepted.
Apply to schools in different locations—applying to several in the same area may make the U.S. consulate in your country think that you are coming to America for reasons other than education (family, work, etc). Find out what range of test scores each school prefers and take all required exams well ahead of time. Be sure to have documentation that proves you will be able to fund the duration of your stay in the U.S. If you are accepted, send in your deposit immediately to contend for financial aid packages and on-campus housing.
Will I need to take the TOEFL in order to apply to U.S. schools?
Yes—whether you are an entering freshman or an engineer who wants to receive additional education, the TOEFL will be required by almost all colleges and universities. Your TOEFL scores are valid for two years.
The grading system of my school is different than in U.S. schools.
You will need to send original copies of your secondary school diploma and transcripts, as well as any university-level academic records. These need to be accompanied by word-for-word English translations that follow the format of the original document.
Some schools may also require you to have your school send an explanation of their grading system. If there is a branch in your country, you can contact the USIS (United States Information Services) for additional advice.
My school closed. What can I do?
If your school closed, you need to contact the institution or agency (like the ministry of health) authorized to hold documents for your school. You must find out who has the authority to validate your records, since many schools will not accept copies of school transcripts, only official documents.
I have been accepted! What steps should I take to obtain a visa?
As a full time college or university student, you need to apply for an F-1 visa. Upon acceptance, your school should send you an I-20 application form. You should take this and your passport to a United States Embassy or Consulate, where an official who oversees non-immigrant visas will assist you. At this point, you will need to fill out the "Affidavit of Support" form to prove that you have the finances to fund the length of your stay in the U.S. After you submit all of these forms, your visa application will be processed.
Since September 11th, some international nursing students have experienced longer delays in the visa application process. To avoid problems, fill out your paperwork as soon as you are accepted. Many school admissions offices have confirmed that they will work with international students to adjust to new deadlines and requirements as the government enacts additional security measures.
Can I fund part of my education through employment in the U.S.?
Working in the U.S. can be challenging. If you arrive on an F-1 student visa, you are NOT allowed to accept any employment outside the campus for a period of nine months. Moreover, you will not be allowed to work more than 20 hours per week if you have a job on campus. In most cases, you will not be able to work full time during your initial year.
Because you must be able to show that you have the financial resources to fund the duration of your education before you can obtain a visa, it is crucial to plan ahead. Your time in the United States must be largely financed before you arrive.
How will my status affect financial aid eligibility?
International engineering students are ineligible for United States government funded loans, grants or aid programs. Your selected schools will be able to tell you if there are any loans or aid packages open to international students. You should consult with individual school financial aid offices to determine what financial information needs to be provided: requirements for non-citizens often differ from those of citizens.
Keep in mind that the amount of aid available to international students is limited and varies between colleges. You may need to rely in large part on your own savings, but be resourceful: explore funding options in your home country. Overall, financial aid applications should be sent to schools as soon as possible, since the awards are made early in the admission process.
Am I eligible for scholarships or work-study programs?
Some institutions offer scholarships to international engineering students, which may or may not also provide living stipends. Additionally, individual departments typically offer teaching assistantships (TA) and research assistantships (RA) to qualified graduate students, although these are competitive positions. Eligibility requirements will vary from school to school; it is best to contact your preferred colleges individually.
What types of housing options can I expect to find?
Most universities have a housing office that addresses student living concerns. Graduate students often have several housing options, including graduate dormitories and graduate floors within dorms.
You can also choose to live off campus, although finding an apartment, room, or shared housing arrangement may require greater preparation ahead of your arrival. Again, talk to each individual school to determine what options best fits your needs. Many admissions offices have staff members who can assist you during the transition to an American university.
Do I need a VisaScreen certificate if I stay after I complete school?
Yes. All foreign students must apply for a VisaScreen under section 343 of the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), if they plan to work permanently in the United States of America.