Preparing for what is probably the most life-changing interview an international student will ever hold and yet, very few people actually understand the importance of properly preparing for, is their American student visa interview.
There is a certain stigma that surrounds the U.S. Embassy with obtaining American student visas that has severely affected the attitudes and the preparation needed by international students – and not in a good way! This belief that Pakistani students rarely get their student visa for the U.S. needs to first, be erased from your mind and then replaced with the fact that the only people to say claim this are only those students who were denied a visa.
Have you ever heard an international student who got their American student visa complain? Of course not!
Fully understanding that this theory is just that, a theory, will help push aside a large percentage of the doubts or fears you might have about scheduling your visa interview. To help ease all of your uncertainties, a two-part series of the most important steps needed has been compiled for you to help learn how to prepare for your student visa for American colleges. So let’s get started with the first three steps!
Step 1: Identify your long-term goals
The first objective any international student needs to personally identify is whether or they’re sincere about attending and American university. If you’re not 100% sure that attending a U.S. college is the right decision for you, you’ll end up not following through or missing important details by overlooking steps required for obtaining your student visa.
If you’re one of those students who are determined to get that American college degree, then it will be extremely hard for you not to be able to get your student visa.
Because you will be one of the few who don’t complain about the tests you’ll have to take (IELTS/TOEFL/GMAT/GRE), all of the paperwork you’ll need to acquire and the visa interview you’ll have to have. Instead, you’ll be the genuine student who studies for the tests, gathers all your required documents and learns how to prepare yourself for your visa interview.
Step 2: Gather Your Documents
After you’ve identified with yourself, the level of determination you have, the next part of the interview preparation process is having all of your documents ready to go.
Many students confuse different country policies together for which documents they need or which documents they can skip. A very common example is in Canada, they have many universities that forgo GRE/GMAT because they have other tests or requirements in its place. This often gets students mixed up about American university requirements with many feeling like these tests are then optional in the U.S. which is definitely not the case.
To make it crystal clear on which documents are required from ALL international students who apply for American universities, here is a must-have checklist that you can keep with you:
- University Application for Admission
- Form I-20
- Proof of SEVIS fee payment (Form I-901)
- Copies of official transcripts that are in English
- Copies of degrees, diplomas or certificates earned
- Evidence of financial support
- TOEFL (or IELTS) results
- GRE or GMAT results for all graduate applicants
- A copy of your passport photo page
- A copy of your U.S. Visa (in case of transfer students)
- A copy of your I-94 (in case of transfer students)
- A check, international money order or credit card authorization for application fee ($50 USD) and, if requested, for expedited services ($200 USD)
Make sure you know which documents apply to you specifically and if you get confused or have a hard time understanding, ask the International Student Office Representative or their International Education Advisor for the college you’ve applied to and they’ll help guide you.
Step 3: Know Your Answers
If you understand the questions and what visa officers are looking for from you ahead of time, then you’ll be able to answer all of their questions perfectly. The best way to go about this part of the interview is to get a list of questions that may be asked before scheduling your interview. Examples of visa questions that will be asked can usually be obtained through your IELTS/TOEFL instructor, online or places like the British Council or American government websites. It’s that simple!
The best way to practice these answers is by mixing all of those questions up. The mistake of memorizing the questions in the order they come in on the list is one of the biggest downfalls students make when answering visa questions, resulting in a denied student visa, especially in countries where English is not their first language.
What ends up happening instead, is that students forget to pay attention to minute details or rearrangement of words and then answer with the wrong replies. To make sure this problem never happens to you, first gather all of the questions you possibly can and then have a friend or family member ask you random questions, not in any specific order. This will help you to understand the questions being asked of you and also keep your mind at attention.
As a little tip for you, the most important word that should NEVER, ever be used in a student visa interview is the word, ‘Friend!’ This cannot be stressed enough and although it’s said repeatedly, it’s the most common mistake that many students who want to travel abroad for their education make.
Visa Officer: Why do you want to attend this college?
Future International Student: Because my friend goes to that college.
Visa Officer: How will you be paying for your American college courses?
Future International Student: My friend lives in the U.S. and he/she will help me.
Do you get the idea? You may have the most loyal friend in the world who you honestly believe will help you out or that you think would be a great reason for you to attend a specific university but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In reality, this pulls the focus away from you and puts it on your friend during your very important visa interview, or worse, makes it appear as though you’re either going to study abroad for all of the wrong reasons or cannot handle being independent.
During your interview, you’ll need to get your point across that once you leave your home country to attend an American university, YOU will have every aspect of your soon-to-be American college life mapped out. Showing confidence and independence are the biggest advantages you can give yourself and chances are, if you show it, you’ll definitely feel it!
Wrapping up Part I of this series, take a look at this video to help get the general idea of how a student should present him or herself with this mock student visa interview conducted by a U.S. Immigration Attorney:
Be sure to check back in next week to see Part II on how to prepare for your student visa interview!