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Study Abroad: US embassies and consulates around the world are prioritising student visas – Times of India

The US embassy has cleared 62,000 visas this summer, which confirms that American universities remain the top destination of choice for Indian students, says USIEF Educational Advisor Bhavna Jolly

As per the National Student Clearinghouse Research Centre (NSCRC), there is a dip in the number of international students in the US due to Covid. What are the strategies introduced by the US to bring back the lost students?


Answer: The United States is committed to its international education and welcoming Indian students to the United States is always a priority. This past summer, the US embassies and consulates around the world prioritised student visas. International students were exempted from the US Presidential Proclamation that restricted the entry of people who had been in India in the 14 days before going to the United States. Therefore, Indian students were able to apply for visas and travel to the United States. We issued over 62,000 student visas this summer. This goes to show that the US remains the destination of choice for Indian students pursuing higher education abroad.

US universities have taken several measures to amplify recruitment and provide increased access to information:

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  • Several universities have increased their participation and engagement in virtual recruitment initiatives such as fairs, virtual meet-ups, and special information sessions.
  • Universities are providing special virtual video appointments and access to information through popular messaging platforms such as WhatsApp to help students and families with their questions.
  • Colleges have begun offering highly immersive campus tours using virtual reality headsets so prospective students can experience a sense of the campus, including dorm rooms, classrooms, libraries, sports and recreation facilities, and aspects of campus social life.
  • Several universities eliminated standardised tests from their admissions requirements to make it that much easier for students to apply.
  • Universities have included essay prompts in the application that allows students to share the unique challenges that they faced due to Covid-19, the impact the pandemic had on them, and how they coped. This allows students to add another dimension to their applications.
  • Universities are also providing additional time to students to submit transcripts and documents in the light of school closures in India and postponement and delays in examinations.

What are the basic concerns of the students – are they anxious about the next wave or simply worried about online education? How is the US planning to address them?

Answer:

Students and families in India are concerned about physical health and safety, especially in a post-covid world, whether they choose to study within India or abroad. Students and parents seek information about the measures in place at university campuses for Covid-19 prevention and testing, as well as the support that students get in case they test positive for Covid-19. Universities have been committed to this goal throughout the global pandemic and have collated resources and established systems such as on-campus vaccination centres, Covid testing, and quarantine facilities to keep students safe. In addition, newly developed COVID-19 helplines are available at many universities to support students as they return to campus.

The UK government has loosened their restrictive visa policies of the past several years, which has benefitted them. Is the US considering making more relaxed post-work visa policies for international students?

Answer:

The US universities understand and appreciate that international students expect a robust return on investment. The US includes an opportunity for practical training opportunities as part of the student visa process to ensure international students gain valuable work experience in their field of study during and after their degree programmes. These opportunities are truly unique to the US higher education experience. Students have the option to pursue internships during the degree programme called Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for up to one year. Students can also gain work experience for up to one year after graduating through Optional Practical Training (OPT). For STEM graduates, there are even more opportunities. These students can participate in OPT for up to three years.

International students contributed $44 billion to the US economy and India is the second-largest contributor to this. How is the US planning to hike this further?

Answer:

The US government and the American people recognise the positive contributions international students bring to US campuses, communities, and the economy. American students, researchers, scholars and educators alike benefit when they engage with peers from around the world. The US values the intellectual and cultural capital the Indian students bring to the country. Last year, the US mission launched a second EducationUSA student advising centre in Hyderabad at the Y-Axis Foundation. This brings the network of Education USA centres in India to eight, in Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. These centres offer accurate, comprehensive and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. Our free mobile app, ‘EducationUSA India’ offers the most recent updates on studying in the United States. We will continue to grow our efforts to reach students and parents with credible information about US higher education.

Any initiatives in the form of scholarships or discounts on tuition fees?

Answer:

There are more than 4,500 accredited higher education institutions in the US and each institution or university system has its own admissions policies. Students can check the admissions criteria for each university to which they are interested in applying. The universities recognise the challenges the pandemic has posed for students around the world and have updated their admissions policies in many cases. Many universities are offering application fee waivers and announced that they would keep tuition, housing, and fees flat. Some universities have extended their application deadlines to allow students more time to apply and accept admission offers. Several universities have also allowed students to defer their education to a future semester/year if they were not comfortable attending classes online and wanted an in-person immersive educational experience on campus. Whatever your requirement may be, EducationUSA is a great place to start for substantive information about scholarships and finances.

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