Newly admitted undergraduate international students may feel a mix of excitement and lingering uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on whether on-campus attendance will commence in the fall. With many U.S. college campuses currently closed and staff working remotely, incoming students can in the meantime make use of schools’ increased virtual presence.
“Navigating uncertainty can be difficult. Knowing this, colleges and universities are trying to maintain clear and consistent communication with incoming students through a variety of channels,” says Kate Child, assistant dean for academic services at Bennington College in Vermont who focuses on first year and international student support.
Admitted international students may choose to defer enrollment for a semester or year if they’re unsure of what the fall in the U.S. will look like or are concerned by the fact that many American embassies and consulates around the world have not yet resumed regular visa processing. However, for international students who were accepted and are eager to start in the fall, here are three steps they can take:
— Monitor emails and school websites.
— Attend virtual information sessions.
— Stay in touch with the international student office.
Monitor Emails and School Websites
Incoming international students should keep an eye on emails and information posted on their school’s websites and social media that contain regular announcements and updates, experts say.
“Email is likely still the primary mode of communication on your campus, so create good habits now by checking your email on a daily basis,” Child says. “Engage with your college’s incoming student Facebook group, Instagram, Discord and/or admissions apps such as ZeeMee.”
She says a school’s website may be a good place to find FAQs, an archive of past campuswide communications, policies and procedures.
Keep in mind that many schools have a separate admissions webpage for newly admitted international students, or international student office pages that provide information and links to a wide range of resources. For example, Arizona State University has an admissions page that lists next steps like applying for a student visa, and the University of Rochester in New York has an international services office page that similarly offers step-by-step procedures for incoming students.
“Campus leadership will continue to keep the campus and students updated on campus plans for fall. Students should continue to check email messages from campus as well as reviewing campus COVID-19 pages, which include FAQs and videos,” says Anna Wimberly, director of the International Center at the University of California–Irvine.
Christian Stuart, executive director of the Center for On-Campus International Student Services at Andrews University in Michigan, says through school websites and social media, colleges will “communicate regularly about COVID-19 testing requirements, vaccine updates, options regarding online learning, adjusted schedules, fall arrival options and procedures, and Student and Exchange Visitor Program updates.” The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, or SEVP, manages the U.S. government’s student-visa monitoring system.
Attend Virtual Information Sessions
With many U.S. colleges still operating virtually, students will also likely be able to make online contact with the school’s international admissions and services staff and attend information sessions and meet-and-greets over Zoom or other videoconferencing tools.
Child says during the spring and summer, Bennington College will offer international students “opportunities to get to know each other, to get to know current students, and to begin to connect with the staff and faculty” who will be among their campus resources.
The University of California–Irvine has various campus programs hosted online for all admitted undergraduate students. Celebrate UCI, for example, has a “Get to Know Campus” feature that offers live presentations and on-demand videos covering topics like the next steps in the admissions process, financial aid, academic opportunities and student life. The webpage also has a “Meet Your Fellow Anteaters” feature that has panels with current UCI students and virtual games and on-demand content from student creators.
“It is the best way to get to know future classmates and connect together. These are easy ways to get a feel for the campus and hear about tips from current students on what to look forward to or know about the campus,” says Bryan Jue, senior director for outreach and marketing in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at UCI.
The school also has a page with information on the Student Parent Orientation Program, which is UCI’s summer orientation program. Jue says fall orientation will happen during the summer months and be offered online.
Stuart says Andrews University’s staff have held Zoom orientation sessions “related to COVID-19 and preparing international study for our international students, and have shared videos of those sessions for international students who missed those sessions on our dedicated COVID-19 website.”
Stay in Touch With the International Student Office
Incoming students should stay in touch with their school’s international student services office, which can keep students updated on visas, which may need to be obtained on short notice; coronavirus vaccines; and other changing information and requirements, such as the possibility of online classes, experts say.
“All of the staff members in the international student services office at my university have their own Calendly accounts listed on the office webpage, and students simply have to click on an available time to schedule a Zoom appointment,” Stuart says.
He says a school’s international student services office can provide updates such as guidance issued from its designated school official, or DSO, who helps them maintain their legal status to study in the U.S.
International students can also monitor SEVP updates directly by following the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Guidance on COVID-19 page, via the two nonimmigrant student tabs, he says.
With ongoing uncertainty, online classes may be necessary and international students should be prepared to take some of their fall semester or quarter classes online due to pandemic-related circumstances.
At the University of California–Irvine, “the campus is still determining what classes are going to be like in the fall,” Jue says. “We will do our best to communicate as early and in as many channels to inform students about what to expect.”
Allen Koh, CEO of Cardinal Education, a California-based education consulting company, urges international students to prepare for unexpected circumstances and delays.
“We advise them of the possibility of potential multiple quarantines, especially for students from countries that do not have direct flights to the U.S., like India, for example. Students may have to go to another country, quarantine, then come to the U.S. as per the policy of transit companies,” says Koh, who works with international students from India, Ghana, China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
Koh says it’s best to plan for travel by consulting with local government bodies and embassies for guidance regarding travel protocols. He also suggests international students get vaccinated and hold onto any proof that they’ve been immunized against COVID-19 in case it is needed when traveling.
As the fall semester approaches, Child echoes the advice that incoming students continue to remain in close touch with staff in the international student services office.
“ISS advisers will be in contact throughout the spring and summer to share information and support international students as they prepare for their visa interview, travel to the U.S., arrival and move in and so on,” Child says.
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3 Steps Incoming Fall 2021 International Students Should Take originally appeared on usnews.com