You’ve received your college acceptance letter and are excited for new experiences. And you’ll have an amazing time! Despite American stereotypes, you’ll learn more than just how to get into college parties. But you can’t start your education until you arrive in the USA, and there’s a long list of tasks to do before that can happen.
Be legally and fiscally on top of things
As soon as you receive your letter of acceptance, your immediate first step should be to get a visa for the USA. You will most likely need a student visa, but other options may be available so make sure to check with your school’s international student center or an EducationUSA center, which provide resources about every part of being an international student in the USA.
You’ll also need to pay for college, so start researching scholarships for international students as well as student loans without a cosigner (so your family at home is not under financial obligation). It’s always a great idea to work, but keep in mind that jobs for international students are often limited by visa requirements.
As part of your financial research, find out how you’ll be able to use your money while in America. Will you be able to access the bank account from your home country? Can you open an American bank account and transfer money into it? Will your credit card work? Will there be fees to use it? What’s the exchange rate between your country’s currency and the U.S. dollar?
Logistics and Living
Once you’re able to legally and financially get to your school, you have to physically get there! So buy yourself a plane ticket and start looking into what you’ll need to pack versus what’s provided for you.
You’ll also need to live somewhere. Check your college’s specific policies – freshmen may be required to live on campus, for example – and be sure to apply for housing if applicable. This may also include signing up for a meal plan, so look into all the details. If you’d prefer to live off campus and are allowed to do so, start searching for apartments or other housing nearby campus. And make sure to find roommates so you can share expenses as well as have a built-in social network. Again, your school’s international student center may be able to help.
Though your goal is of course to stay healthy, it’s always safer to be prepared for the worst. Health insurance for international students in the USA most likely works differently than how insurance works in your home country, but your school’s international student center should be able to help you find coverage (and may even have specific requirements about it).
Your school wants you to acclimate and to do well both academically and socially, so keep an eye out for information about an orientation for new and/or international students. At orientation you’ll get questions answered, meet new friends, and start learning about the school’s basketball team. Though it differs at each school, you may get a chance to register for classes as well – though you will certainly hear about the best and worst classes regardless.