So you got accepted for __ graduate degree in USA?

An acceptance letter from a university application. An university application form together with the letter of acceptance with a red rubber stamp of "Accepted" on a table top still life. Photographed close-up in horizontal format with selected focus on the rubber stamp impression.

As the title says, congratulations! I know it’s not an easy task to do and quite a stressful one. So it is deserved and do take couple of days off to celebrate. Have a gold marrie.

After that is done, now let’s get into the paperwork. You will get the following in its rightful order,

  1. Unofficial email of acceptance (this usually comes from your potential research advisor or program head). This means the department has approved your admission, now just few days until the graduate school signs things off.
  2. Official email of acceptance (this is from the graduate school), this will a rough idea on everything. I say rough because it will include the scholarship/fellowship, assistantship and any other benefits. Importantly, the date to accept or reject the offer.
  3. But something missing from the above would be specifics, this will usually come in mail (in most cases either Fedex/UPS) as its urgent and will contain all the important information. This is referred as the acceptance package. This is the most important package as it will contain the costs involved and the specifics. READ through every letter in this package. It will contain everything from how to get your I-20 (more on this later) and how to accept the offer.
  4. The acceptance package will contain a letter from your department, the date to accept the offer from your department may change from the day you have to accept the offer from the graduate school. Its normal because the department offers the assistantship and they finalize everything pretty soon as they want to fill out the assistantships they have.
  5. The package will contain the costs, the costs include the amount you need to show to accept your offer. Sometimes you don’t get full funding or the funding doesn’t cover some costs such as health insurance, you may need to show the funding in terms of bank statements. So look through everything and calculate the costs.

Do not go all in and buy everything you need for USA from Sri Lanka, this means don’t buy a laptop, new phone or even winter clothes, just take the money and get it from USA. Also do not book airplane tickets or sign leases to stay until visa is approved!

That is basically the timeline of how things will flow. But now comes the hard part, how do you accept an offer. If you have funding and it covers everything, congratulations (you are one of those lucky few!), but if you don’t have funding secured,

  • If no assistantship/fellowship is offered but it’s for a PhD (sometimes masters), you can technically get a Research Assistantship. This is a position where you will help out a professor with research work and in return he pays you for the time you work, usually in paper 20hours per week but it is never that. But you get rewarded in research experience and sometimes publications. So not at all bad, also you get to know the professor and will ease up things you need an advisor for the PhD thesis. So how do you get one? Well its not easy, as soon as you get the acceptance, email the professors in the department who has a potential match with your research interests and some will write back. Act fast as these fill out quickly!
  • Another potential would be scholarships, you may be eligible for some scholarships (check with the Financial Aid office at the university).

So worst comes to worse, you decide to pay off your pocket for it (for PhD, it is not recommended to do so because you are working for the university, and you SHOULD be paid), but hey worse case. To accept the offer, you need to show financial support, this comes in bank statements. It could be from your parents, relatives, anyone as long as they have a bank statement and a letter saying they will support you, its all good! This is a rundown of what you need to do when getting a bank statement,

  1. The statement should show all account numbers and the amount in Rs. and USD $ at the time the statement was generated. Why USD? Because US doesn’t accept Rupees. Remember to check if the dates are correct and bank letter head is there.
  2. The statement has to be signed off by the bank manager or someone who was in-charge of it. But remember it should be in blue ink. Why? You have to show the document is original, only way to show it is using any ink other than black.

So you got this done, now fill up the forms and letters on the acceptance package.

I can’t stress this enough, check your name to the letter on all your documents! It should be the same everywhere, passport and acceptance letter. Because when you go to get your visa, if the names doesn’t match, it is going to be a headache.

If you have everything ready, accept before the deadline, but if you need any time email the people who have signed off your letter and ask for an extension.

Be human, they will grant you an extension because it is a huge decision. That is it for now for the single people, now how about those who are married? I have you covered.

Married

Somethings change when you are married, remember the costs from above? It is going to change, as the costs above is for tuition and estimated living costs for one person. But don’t worry, it’s merely of showing the funds required for it in the bank statements.

So what to change? When accepting the offer, you need to tell the graduate office that you would be bringing your spouse and they will send you a form to fill out and the updated costs as well. This still follows the rule about names, passport is the name it should be matched.

The roadmap to the visa interview

  1. Accept the offer and send in all the documents (passport) needed for the I-20.
  2. After you get the I-20, the document will contain everything from your program to the costs and something called SEVIS ID (I-901).
  3. If you are heading to USA for the first time, there is a fee that you need to pay (usually $200) by visiting the SEVIS website.
  4. Read the article on visa interview, book the appointment and good luck!

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