A checklist to apply for a student visa in the U.S.

A guide for international students on preparing for college admissions in the U.S.

Updated - June 03, 2023 04:28 pm IST

Published - June 03, 2023 03:19 pm IST

Follow the process.

Follow the process. | Photo Credit: Freepik

Many students dream of studying in the U.S. but the process of application and getting one’s documents in order can be overwhelming. Here is a simple guide for international students on how to choose and prepare for college admissions and to have a student visa ready on time.


Many US universities are highly selective and require a fair amount of documentation so you need to start getting ready several months before the application period begins.

Research different universities: The first step is to make a list of universities and colleges you want to apply to. Consider factors such as the degree programme and its length, the institute’s size and  ranking, location, culture, student diversity and so on. Most importantly, you need to apply to a university certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Visit the Study in the States website to see the list. This is necessary for obtaining your US student visa.

Prepare documents: Most universities require applicants to satisfy a number of entry requirements. Academic and English proficiency (IELTS or TOEFL) requirements are usually standard, though there may be additional requirements for specialised programmes. Some US universities require standardised test scores such as SAT or ACT for undergraduate admissions and GMAT or GRE for graduate admissions. Read up on the requirements for each university to determine which tests you’ll need to take, and don’t be afraid to reach out to seek help.

Financial aid - While a US education can be expensive, many institutions offer special scholarships or awards for international students.

Work options: Depending on your visa type, you may be able to work up to 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters without written permission from your institution or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You may also be permitted to work full-time during winter, spring and summer breaks. However, some institutions limit student work hours during official breaks. At the graduate level, you may have the option of a Teaching Assistant position. Research options and make sure to submit all application material in a timely manner.

Determine cultural fit: Apart from the degree, choose a college that offers a rich cultural life, including extra-curricular activities, socialising events, sufficient student diversity and opportunities for recreation. You’ll live there for several years, so these are important.

Use the resources you have - Choosing a university from among the thousands can be hard, which is why each university offers information sessions, talks with guidance counsellors and campus tours to help you make a decision. Take advantage of these, especially if you get accepted to multiple colleges.


Here’s a broad list of documents you will need for the application.

High school certificates and grades, diplomas and degree testamurs and results.

English proficiency test results.

A resume of your academics, extra-curricular activities, accomplishments and interests

A Statement ofPurpose detailing why you want to attend the university in question

Letters of recommendation from your teachers/professors (depending on what the university wants)

Test score cards from the standardised tests you give

Experience letter from any jobs/internships you have done

Visa process

If you’re joining an undergraduate or graduate degree programme, you’ll need the F Student Visa. If you’re going on an exchange programme from your home university, you’ll need the J Exchange Visa. The process itself isn’t too hard but get started well in advance to avoid any unexpected delays.

The process involves obtaining an I-20 form from your SEVP certified school (as part of this, you need to prove that you have enough funds to cover the cost of tuition and fees, living expenses, health insurance for the duration of your study), paying necessary visa application fees, completing the DS-160 form, attending a visa interview, and arriving in the U.S. This link provides details from the Department of State: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/student-visa.html


Currently visa processing is taking longer than usual. Expect delays and start your application as soon as possible.

Check your preferred institutions’ entry requirements to make sure you are a good match. Have ‘backup’ schools that you can apply to if you don’t get in.

Whenever possible, reach out to current or former students of the university so that you can get a clear picture of life on campus. Many universities will connect you directly with their students if you request it.

Reach out to friends, teachers and family for guidance with your application. Your school may even have a support centre for international applicants, where you’ll get advice on how to prepare your application packet and how to pick the best university for your needs.

The writer is the Chief Advisor for South Asia, International Admissions, University of Arizona.

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