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  • Writer's pictureCortney Dowdle

You Enrolled at Your Dream University - What's Next as an International Student in the USA?

Updated: May 8

You Enrolled at Your Dream University - What's Next as an International Student in the USA?

Wow - It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new. I’ve stepped into a new role and free time has been minimal as I learn all the things.

This blog is about what happens after international students enroll in their university of choice. These things are pretty focused in the USA, but I’m sure they apply quite generally to processes at any university.

If you’ve made the decision on where to study - congratulations!

It’s a huge process to select your school list, apply to universities in the USA or around the world, wait on decisions, get offers, compare offers, and then choose the best fit. It’s likely taken many months, even multiple years, to get to this point.

I find that international students often get confused by the big question of “what’s next?” What happens from the time you sign your enrollment contract and submit your deposit for university and actually arriving on campus for orientation?

This blog will give you an idea of common questions and places you can go for support. Remember that every university is different, but most should have similar resources you can work with to get answers to your questions.

Things you can find tips on in this blog:

What to do and who can help with…

  1. Student visa steps

  2. Final transcripts and records

  3. Making travel arrangements

  4. Choosing classes

  5. Housing

  6. Orientation

  7. Things you may not think of…

The process to apply and enroll at the right university as an international student is an overwhelming enough process. Then you finally make a decision, and wham - you have a mile-long checklist of things you still need to do before you get to campus. And truly, that’s if the university you are attending is organized enough to give you a checklist in the first place.

Here’s a list of things to prep between May 1 and your arrival to campus:

Student Visa Steps

I outline this pretty thoroughly in a couple of blogs that you are welcome to check out:

The most important things to remember are:

  • If you already have an F1 visa, you want to transfer your I-20 rather than obtain a new one from the university. Note that your secondary school will not officially transfer the record until after your graduation date.

  • If you need a new F1 visa, you want to submit a valid passport copy and proof of finances to the PDSO or DSO (designated school official) who will create and share your I-20 (this is sometimes admissions and sometimes a person from the international student office - ask your admissions counselor if you are not sure.

Final transcripts and records

The university will likely request that you upload, email, or physically mail a copy of your final school records showing proof of completion/graduation before you can get your schedule or start school at the university.

Remember these typically need to be translated into English, and universities will have their own policies on if you need an official credential evaluation too (you can ask your admissions counselor for the details).

These are typically submitted to the registrar at the university, but if you have questions, the admissions counselor should be able to help!

Travel arrangements

The admissions office and your counselor should be able to provide you with arrival and orientation information once summer starts. This would include the date you need to arrive to campus, some general details about orientation, and the calendar for breaks in case you want to buy a round trip ticket to go home for winter break. Make sure to ask about arrival and departure dates early so you can get the best deals on your flights!

Course Selection

This one can vary pretty widely depending on the university, but know that most universities do not have advising or scheduling meetings until the summer before arrival. Advising departments are often understaffed and overwhelmed, and they usually don’t allow new students to choose classes until June or July before the semester starts.

Course selection usually happens in the academic advising office, and you can almost always ask to have a meeting with an academic advisor in the summer to learn what classes may be available to you. Some universities will build you a schedule automatically, but you can always ask for a meeting to review it and learn more about academic planning!


Most universities have a department that handles housing that is totally separate from admissions. You should get information about this in the summer as well (if not much earlier), but in my experience, admissions is not superbly helpful with housing questions. Your best bet is to look online or in your student portal for information about the housing process. It varies widely, but at some universities it is beneficial to fill out the paperwork ahead of time for preferential housing, so don’t delay!


There are so many things that are new as an international student in university. I hope universities are able to help students with things like:

-health insurance

-bank accounts

-setting up mobile phone plans

-navigating campus

-navigating the local area

-on campus support

Don’t be shy about asking for help. You can always ask your admissions counselor first, or feel free to contact the international student office to learn more. Most universities offer an orientation upon arrival.

Things you may not think of…

Lastly, just know that there are all sorts of things that are new as an international student studying in the USA. For the most part, American students have to learn how to navigate university campuses as well, so whether you are one of many international students or one of few, you are all first time in college students together.

Until next time!

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