RESEARCH YOUR OPTIONS
The United States offers an incredible diversity of short-term study programs lasting 12 months or less. In addition to programs offered by universities and other organizations, the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program offers multifaceted opportunities to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills, or receive on-the-job training. Search to find the programs that meet your personal and professional needs.
Program types include:
- Exchange programs
- University exchanges
- Professional exchange programs
- Certificate and executive education programs
- Visiting fellows and scholars
No official ranking system for short-term programs exists for colleges and universities in the United States. The best college or university for your short-term program is the one that is best for you and meets your requirements—academic, financial, and personal. Ideally, you should begin your search at least a year prior to the period when you hope to participate in a short-term program.
If you are currently studying at an institution of higher educatio, find out if there is an international education office at your school as they may already offer exchange or study abroad programs. Many institutions will only credit towards your current degree if the program has already approved. Others may require pre-approval.
Finance Your Studies
Start your financial planning for short-term programs as early as possible to assess what you can afford. As you work to develop a budget for your studies, keep in mind that your overall costs include transportation, tuition, fees, and living expenses. Actual costs vary by institution, so refer to the institution’s website for specific costs.
Assess Personal Funds
Start out by evaluating how much funding you or your family can provide for your education. How can you reduce your educational costs?
- Research a wide variety of institutions, from public to private
- Think about applying to colleges in areas of the United States that have a lower cost of living, such as in the South or the Midwest or in rural areas of the country
University Exchange Programs
You may be able to apply for funding for an exchange program from your home university or institute, even if study abroad is not a requirement for your program of study. Check to see if your university currently has any partnerships or established exchange programs with U.S. institutions – there may be special tuition agreements or further support you can explore.
Non-degree, or “special students,” are usually, though not always, ineligible to receive university-sponsored financial assistance such as scholarships or assistantships. Funding may be available from independent foundations and organizations, such as Fulbright Commissions, that award scholarships for postgraduate study. Some national governments also offer scholarships for short-term exchange or non-degree programs so be sure to research potential financing options available through your own ministry of education or the equivalent.
General Funding Resources:
Visit the EducationUSA financial aid database to see current government and U.S. higher education financial aid opportunities. There are also numerous financial organizations that offer educational loans for international students. Students and parents should thoroughly research loan terms prior to applying and accepting funds.
Complete Your Application
Start early, plan ahead, and know the application requirements. Application packages require a great deal of preparation and planning.
You will benefit by starting this process early. You should plan adequately for the time and effort involved. Make a calendar of deadlines to track what you need to do and when it needs to be completed.
In the United States, application requirements can vary greatly from one institution to another. Check the specific requirements on the website of each institution’s international admissions office. It is typical for U.S. undergraduate applications to be due between November and January for students who wish to begin courses the following September.
Some general application requirements:
- Educational credentials: This is typically your secondary/high school diploma and transcripts, as well as any final national exams required in your country. Transcripts are certified copies of your educational record, courses, and grades. An original transcript or certified copy sent by your secondary/high school is generally required for each institution you apply to for admission, along with translations into English.
- Standardized test scores: Scores may be required to assess your academic ability and English proficiency level.
- Recommendation letters: The head or principal of your school, your school counselor, your personal tutor, teachers, coaches, or supervisors from professional experiences may write recommendation letters. Your recommenders must be able to write about your work and be able to assess your potential to do well pursuing a higher education degree. Be sure to choose someone who knows you well.
- Essay/personal statement: This is your chance to write about your interests, long-term goals, and strengths – one of the most important aspects of your application.
For further guidance, visit one of the EducationUSA advising centers.
Apply For Your Student Visa
You’ve now reached Step 4! Applying for your U.S. student visa. This next step will cover F, J and M student visa types.
Choose your level of study to learn more about applying for your student visa.
The United States government offers three student visa types including F, J, and M.
- F Student Visa: for study at an accredited U.S. college or university or to study English at an English language institute
- J Exchange Visa: for participation in an exchange program, including high school and university study
- M Student Visa: for non-academic or vocational study or training in the United States
Before you can apply for an F, J, or M student visa, you must first apply and be accepted by a U.S. institution of higher education that is certified by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP).
Even when an institution is SEVP-certified and able to issue I-20 and DS-2019 forms for use in visa applications, it may not hold national or regional accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation databases list accreditation status for all U.S. institutions. Institutions designated by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to place participants in Academic Exchange programs (J visas) must be accredited. Recognition of course credits and degrees by other institutions and by U.S. and international employers is linked to an institution’s accreditation. To learn more about accreditation talk to an EducationUSA Adviser in person or online.
Once accepted at an SEVP-certified school, you will receive a Form I-20 or DS-2019 from the institution’s international student office to present when you apply for your student visa. Once you receive your form, visit:
It is important to note that two separate U.S. government agencies are involved with international student arrival and status while studying in the United States. The State Department is responsible for the visa application process and issuing the visa. Once a visa holder arrives in the United States, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security then takes over as the responsible agency for entry into the country, as well as issuing and enforcing international student regulations. Please read information from all three sources above before applying for a U.S. student visa. The sites address employment, maintaining your status, and other vital topics.
Prepare For Your Departure
You’ve made it to Step 5! Preparing for your departure is the final step to Your Five Steps to U.S. Study.
Studying in the United States is a memorable and rewarding experience. Congratulations on taking this exciting step towards your future!
In planning your move to the United States, you may want to ask for assistance from an EducationUSA advising center in your home country and from the international student adviser at your chosen college or university. The more that you prepare for your study experience, the more you will enjoy it.
Make Travel Arrangements
Before making travel arrangements, confirm with your institution when you are expected to arrive on campus to comply with visa regulations. Finalize your health insurance, communication plans with family and friends, emergency plans, and other travel-related items. Remember that you may not enter the United States more than 30 days prior to the start of your I-20 or DS-2019.
Attend a Pre-departure Orientation in Your Country
EducationUSA advising centers organize pre-departure orientations for students as part of final preparations to depart for the United States. EducationUSA advisers and students who have returned from their U.S. studies provide information and resources that will prepare you for new experiences as you focus on strategies to adjust to new challenges. Topics discussed include cultural differences, motivation, changes from your home environment, academic systems and expectations, housing, and handy tips for settling into your new community.
Gather Necessary Documents for Arrival
Everyone arriving in the United States passes through an inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Learn more about arrival and the documents required for entry.
Report to Your School and Join On-Campus Orientations
U.S. institutions offer a special orientation for international students, in addition to a regular student orientation. New students should attend both as they cover different information. At these orientations, you will meet your Designated School Official (DSO) to check in, complete your required visa information session, and learn more about the institution’s international student policies and procedures. Attending these orientations is crucial for all new international students on campus.
Key components to this final step include making your travel arrangements, attending a pre-departure orientation at your local EducationUSA center or online, gathering pre-departure materials and documents for arrival, as well as reporting to your school and attending orientations.
Check your new institution’s website for additional pre-departure information that will be more specialized and have information about health insurance, average local temperatures throughout the year, local transportation options, housing, and more.
Attend Pre-Departure Orientation
EducationUSA advising centers organize pre-departure orientations for students getting ready to depart for the United States. EducationUSA advisers and U.S. alumni provide information and resources that will help you prepare for new experiences and develop skills to adjust to new challenges. Topics discussed include cultural differences, motivation, changes from your home environment, academic systems and expectations, housing, and coping in a new cultural setting. Contact your closest EducationUSA advising center to attend a pre-departure orientation.