applying to college

COVID-19 has turned the world on its head for most of us, but its associated cancellations and closures pose particular concerns for international students, both prospective and current. We’ve put together this brief Q&A, outlining tips and resources to help international students and their families navigate these uncharted waters.

How do I complete my college admissions requirements?

Check with the international admission officer at each school on your list (website and email communication is likely best at this point) to confirm if there is any flexibility in completing your application requirements. Given that many schools are closed, U.S. institutions are allowing students to delay submitting their official transcripts and test scores.

For more information on test center cancellations, check out these updates from ETS, the administrator of TOEFL, and the International Education Language Testing System.  The College Board, administrator of the SAT, and the ACT each also have pages dedicated to testing updates.

Note: Many international students have been offered online interviews and the opportunity to use the Duolingo English Test as a substitute for their English proficiency test. Check with each university to see what may be allowed.

What do I do if my visa appointment has been suspended?

In response to the worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 virus, the U.S. Department of State has suspended routine visa services. The best way to monitor this evolving situation may be to visit individual embassy/consulate websites. Click here for a link for specific COVID-19 information by country.

Current college students are strongly encouraged to check in with their universities’ International Students Office before making any decisions about travel. Many institutions have created dedicated webpages that address policy changes during this time. Make sure you understand how the following pertains to your particular situation:

  • If classes are suspended indefinitely, how does that affect your visa status for remaining in the United States?
  • What services does your student health insurance provide coverage for?
  • What options exist at your university that will allow you to continue your education?

What happens if my school has made the decision to offer remote classes?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has announced flexible adjustments on student visas and updated rules for remote learning. Given current circumstances, students are allowed to shift to remote instruction for the spring semester. Students should continue to fully participate in courses.

If normal courses resume and there is a travel ban between the U.S. and your home country, students should check in with professors to ask if they are willing to be flexible so that you can remotely finish your studies.

What are some best practices for travelling back to my home country?

If you have decided to travel back to your home country, it is wise to make sure that your visa is valid for your return back to the U.S. Make sure you obtain a travel signature from the International Student Office at your school and that you keep a copy of your SEVIS Fee receipt. Additionally, make sure that your passport is valid—for at least six months—beyond your intended return entry date back to the U.S. At this time, schools don’t have any guidance as to whether or not there will be some flexibility for this process.

Where else can I find information?

While there is a lot of information about COVID-19 in the media and online, it is important to make sure you are getting the facts from trusted sources. In addition to the guidance you are receiving from your university, check out the following:

World Health Organization (WHO)

U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

help applying to US universities

Written by Robyn Stewart
Robyn Stewart is a member of College Coach’s team of college finance experts. Prior to joining College Coach, she worked as a former financial aid officer at College of the Holy Cross. Visit our website to learn more about Robyn Stewart.