What International Students Need to Know about Fall 2020

Monday, July 13, 2020

guidelines-for-international-studentsUnderstand New Guidelines for International Students Studying in the US This Fall

Everyone has questions about the fall 2020 college semester, but there’s an added level of uncertainty for international students. In addition to wondering whether campuses will reopen and how, some international students are also facing concerns about staying in the United States. 

As colleges begin to announce their plans for the fall semester, new guidelines surrounding international students have also emerged. Keep reading to learn more about these developments and key takeaways for international students to have on their radar. 

The Basics

Due to many colleges moving to virtual instruction, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement released new policy guidelines for international students studying at US universities, which varied depending on the re-opening policy at the college where a student is enrolled. 

Initially, the rules indicated that any international student would not be allowed to enter the country if they were attending a school that was only offering courses online this fall, but they may take online classes from their home country. Foreign students who were enrolled at schools following a hybrid option that blends in-person and online classes must be on-site at their US campus to take a full course load. These students would not be able to take classes online from afar if hybrid instruction is available.

Harvard and MIT sued to block the new rules from going into effect and ICE ended up rescinding that guideline, but replaced it with a new one that states any newly enrolling students, like incoming freshmen or transfer students, cannot take online only courseloads in the US – they must stay in their home country. This is a huge blow to international students in the class of 2024, who were planning to be on campus this fall.

What This Means for International Applicants

Given that these guidelines were only recently announced, it’s likely that many international students have questions about what their academic future might look like. Some international students might have to make the choice between taking online courses at home or transferring last-minute to a college with face-to-face instruction. 

Even for students who are able to transfer, arriving on campus might prove challenging because US.consulates around the world have paused most routine visa processing. As a result, students who were accepted into programs in the spring have been unable to schedule the in-person interviews required to be issued a visa for the fall. Generally speaking, students are not able to enter the United States on a valid visa following their academic program’s start date. If COVID-19-related travel restrictions aren’t lifted by the start of the fall semester, this could prove to be another challenge for students hailing from China, Brazil, and many European countries.

Tips for International Students

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed in the midst of so much uncertainty. While there might not be an immediate solution, there are some steps students can take to keep anxiety levels in check:

  • Stay updated on your school’s plans: Learn as much about your school’s reopening plan as possible. Understand whether classes will be entirely remote, a mix between virtual lectures and in-person seminars, or fully in-person. 
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for help: There’s a lot of information for students to process and you don’t have to do it alone. After doing your research, don’t hesitate to contact the admissions office at the school you are attending to get answers to pressing questions. 
  • Keep it all in perspective: While the fall semester may not go as you originally envisioned, don’t let that stop you from working towards your goals. Whether it’s completing coursework remotely or transferring to another college for in-person learning, stay focused on your passions and what you wish to achieve. 

Over the coming weeks, it’s essential for international students to monitor the news and get their pressing questions answered. If you are currently considering applying to colleges in the United States and have questions about the application process itself, our team of admissions experts is here to help.

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