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“Is this the right time to go to the USA for higher education?”; “Will the recession affect my education and will I get a job after graduation?” As study abroad counselors, off late these are the questions we get asked most frequently by students. We understand the dilemma that students (and their parents) are going through. The significant investment required for US Education, current recession in the US economy, reports of job cuts all over the media, H1B visa restrictions; all these can make one really nervous. But before jumping to conclusions on whether it’s advisable to go to the US or not, let’s take an objective look at the situation, its impact on you as a student, and what’s your best way to combat it.
As a student about to finish your bachelor’s degree (or currently working and planning for higher education), you generally have three options. First, take up or continue your job in India, second, pursue higher education in India, and third, to study abroad. At a broad level I cannot advocate which of these options is the best choice, because it would vary based on each student’s individual backgrounds, career preferences, capabilities etc, However what I would definitely like to emphasize is that if you have already chalked out your plans and made up your mind about pursuing your master’s abroad, and have the financial capability to afford it, let not recession be the reason for change in plans. You need to understand that education is not a momentary fling, but an investment for lifetime. The returns are not just your ‘job after graduation’ but instead the benefits of your education would continue for life; throughout your career and even otherwise. So be careful before you shelve your plans for higher education; let them not be shelved forever. You can maybe, and that’s not recommended either, postpone your plans by a year, but make sure that you don’t procrastinate and completely miss out on the opportunity to pursue your higher degree. If you think that this is the right time for you to pursue higher studies, then just go for it. Let not fear of the recession stop you. After all the economy will improve in a year or two, and you don’t want to regret later for having missed out on an opportunity.
Having said this, let’s take a look at how the recession would impact an Indian graduate student in the USA. To begin with let’s consider how things were in a good economic scenario (say for instance, the case of students who went to the US in 2005 and graduated in 2007). On an average 60% of these students got some form of graduate assistantships (RA/TA) that included at least a partial tuition waiver and a monthly stipend. 30% of the students got a student job, which paid them enough to cover their living expenses (they still had to pay full tuition), and the remaining 10% of the students got no financial assistance (so they had to bear the cost of their entire education and living). Given the current economic scenario, of the students going to pursue their MS in Fall 2009, about 20% will get graduate assistantships, 30% will manage to find student jobs and the rest 50% will have to pay for their entire education. (The numbers would vary from university to university, but these are just rough estimates). What it means is that the competition is going to be tougher, and you will need to work hard (your luck counts too) to find a job on campus. You have to be on the lookout for opportunities, pursue them aggressively, meet professors and demonstrate (through class participation, through your projects and assignments, and of course your exam grades) that you can add value to the department as graduate assistant. Not trying is not going to get you anything.
When it comes to finding a full time job after graduation, you need to understand that recruitment in the US works differently than it works in India. Recruitment is an elaborate process which starts with companies collecting resumes, followed by a telephonic interview, followed by several rounds of personal interviews. Your first step is to understand how the system works, and prepare yourself to excel in it. Here are some guidelines for job search in the US.
The most vital step in your job search process is to have a presentable resume. For some strange reason, most Indian students have extremely unprofessional resumes, and are unwilling to improve it. A resume is like an opportunity to make your first impression with the employer, and if your resume isn’t impressive enough, you may never get a second chance to make that impression, however smart and qualified you may be. Understand how a professional resume should look like. There are enough samples and lessons on resume writing available on the web that you can refer to. You may also consider taking professional help in preparing your resume. Most universities have career centers where they offer resume critiquing/editing services. Use their services.
‘Job Search’: Your full time job
For about three months before you graduate, make job search your full time job. What it means is that dedicate at least 4 hours a day (and maybe more on weekends) towards job search. Search for jobs on various job portals and company job sites and apply to every job that meets your requirement.
Yes it works. Talk to your faculty, friends, acquaintances and make them aware that you are on the lookout for job. Ask them if they could refer you to someone who might help you find a job. Ask for help. Most people you know will be willing to help you out if you ask. But at the same time don’t be too pushy and irritate them. And most important - ask with a smile. Don’t sound desperate, pessimistic, suicidal, or threatening
Improve your communication skills. Learn how to face an interview. Again, there is ample material on these topics over the net. Read it. At the same time many universities offer courses on improving your communication skills. Enroll yourself in them. They generally aren’t very expensive and it’s really worth the investment.
And finally the MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember is
Don’t Give Up
A lot of your friends and colleagues will try to scare you and demoralize you, saying that the situation is bad and getting a job is an impossible thing. Remember that it’s not true. Your key to success is to have faith in yourself and keep trying. Getting a job is not at all difficult if you give it a sincere try.
In short, Be Positive and Be Proactive
Before I get into details about the whole visa application procedures, here’s the first thing I want you to understand about the visa. ‘Obtaining the US F1 (Student) Visa is a very simple and straightforward procedure’. So please don’t get paranoid about it and don’t go overboard preparing for it.
To begin with, read this document ‘Things to do for your US F1 Visa’
Now lets talk of the most frequently questions that bog student’s minds:
What are visa officers looking for?
Visa officers are looking at two main aspects. First, is the student genuinely interested in education and second, does the student have sufficient financial resources available to pay for his/her education.
Do I need all the funds in my sponsor’s savings account?
No, you do not need all your funds in your savings accounts. It could be spread over various investments. The point is that these funds should be accessible to you and your sponsor without any restrictions.
Will showing an educational loan affect my chances of getting a visa?An educational loan will NOT affect your chances of getting a visa. So if you are planning to take a loan for your education, do not hesitate to disclose it to the visa officer. In fact an educational loan will only make your financial situation stronger.
Can I show my property as source of funding?
If the property is a house where your family is currently staying, then avoid showing it as source of funding. Showing your current home would mean that you are planning to sell it (and render your family homeless) to pay for your education. However If you have investments in real estate, you may show it but you might then require proper valuation such investments.
Can I show my family jewelry, car as source of funding?
Avoid doing so.
What if my brother, sister, father, mother is in the US?I don’t think that’s something you need to worry about. Feel free to openly disclose about any immediate family members being in the US.
My parents are retired. Will this affect my chances of getting a visa?No it won’t affect your chances at all. As long as your family’s financial condition is stable enough to pay for your education and support them too, that’s perfectly fine.
I am sure you have many more questions. Feel free to email us and we will be glad to answer them for you.
Jay Rege jayrege[at]academyone.net
Jothsna Rege jothsna[at]academyone.net
Here are some of the myths about the US Student Visa.
The chances of securing a visa are higher on Mondays and Fridays because the visa officers are happier on these days.
Well it doesn’t matter which day of the week you go for your visa interview. All days are the same. Your chances of getting your visa are solely dependent on how well prepared you are for the interview and not on the visa officer’s happiness index.
July 3 and July 5 are the best days for getting a visa. Since the consulate has a holiday on July 4 (US Independence Day) the visa officers are in a very good mood a day prior and after the holiday
Again this is just another myth. All days are the same.
Greeting the Visa Officer in traditional Indian style by joining hands and saying ‘Namaste’ would make a good impression and indicate that I have strong ties with my tradition and homeland
I don’t think that would help. So just stick to the regular ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Afternoon’
Speaking in an American Accent would help?
Again – ‘Not Recommended’. Speak the way you normally speak. You don’t need to put on an accent.
Even if you have full funding from the university, you still need to show funds from your parents/sponsor side for the 2nd and later years of your education because the I-20 only shows the funding amount for the first year.
If you have full funding from the university you do NOT have to show any funds from your parent’s/sponsor’s side. Although the funds shown on the I-20 are only for the first year, it is understood that the funding is renewable every year. So you don’t need to show funds for the remaining years.
Showing a ‘Bank Loan’ as funding reduces the chances of getting a visa as the visa officer then assumes that you would work in the US to payoff this loan
This is again nothing but a Myth. Visa officers are not bothered about the repayment part as much as they are bothered about ‘does the student have funds available to pay for the education’. A bank loan is guaranteed money available to you for your education (your sponsor can back out, but a bank wont). So a bank loan only strengthens your financial credentials.
Having a brother/sister in the US will reduce my chances of securing a visa
No it won’t.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to write to us
Jothsna Rege - jothsna[at]academyone.net
Jay Rege - jayrege[at]academyone.net
Jothsna Rege -jothsna [at]academyone.net
Jay Rege - jayrege[at]academyone.net