Student record

Will interview more student visa applicants this summer than ever before, US Embassy official says

The U.S. Embassy celebrated “Student Visa Day” on Tuesday, with Charge d’Affaires Patricia Lacina presenting student visas to two students scheduled to study in the United States this year.

“The United States places immense value on international students and their rich contributions to our academic institutions, campuses, and communities. This is especially true in India; in fact, Indians are the second largest group of international students in the United States. Student mobility and the people-to-people relationships it forges have been a cornerstone of US-India relations for the past 75 years and remain so today,” Lacina said.

Rupika Srivastava, a 25-year-old Delhi resident, is due to attend the University of North Texas (UNT), Health Sciences Center in Fort Worth, Texas this year. Srivastava completed her Bachelor of Dental Surgery from ITS Dental College, Greater Noida in May and will now be pursuing a Masters in Public Health from UNT Health Science Center.

For Srivastava, the application process was long and exhausting as she sought a course that offered hands-on experience in the US healthcare industry. “The main problem was to shortlist the university. Masters in Public Health programs are also offered at other American universities, but my research indicated that one of the professors at UNT, Health Science Center, conducts research into the relationship between infection with the human papillomavirus – a virus with subtypes that can cause disease in humans ranging from common warts to cervical cancer and oral cancer,” said Srivastava.

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As a dentist, this research piqued her interest, which was one of the main reasons why she chose to forego scholarships offered by other universities offering public health courses and opted for UNT, Health Science Center by itself.

For 19-year-old Diwij Gupta, the application process for the bachelor’s degree program in computer science began in January 2021. A graduate of Amity International School, Gurgaon, Gupta began by taking the English proficiency exam followed by an essay in profile. He then shortlisted for San Jose State University in California, and after submitting his transcripts, he received an admission letter in December. “I want to come back to India and work in a big tech giant for a few years. I would probably pursue a PhD in computer science afterwards,” Gupta said.

While shortlisting colleges, Srivastava sought advice from ‘Education USA’, a program overseen by the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) under the aegis of the US Department of State, which helps courses and priority universities of students according to their interest, providing regular advice in the form of advisers, including advice on the financing of the respective course.

Cultural and Educational Affairs Advisor Anthony Miranda spoke about the effectiveness of Education USA, which is a one-stop-shop for finding accurate, comprehensive, and up-to-date information on any of the 4,000 accredited U.S. universities and colleges. .

“On student visa day, the focus is on the journey some of these students have made to get here. The research these students and parents had to do to determine which university would be right for them… We have something that will help you; two words – Education USA,” Miranda said, adding that the program has eight centers across the country, one in Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and two in Hyderabad, and is also available as an app. mobile.

For Bhavna Jolly, senior program manager for Education USA, the program’s effort has been to provide students with the right information and from a credible source. A management graduate and communications teacher for several years, Jolly joined Education USA in 2018. She was drawn to the program because of her own struggles as a student in the United States and wants access to a platform that could make him the best imperative decisions for his education and career.

“Our job is to help students find the best candidate for universities. We don’t necessarily look at rankings, rather we work on student priorities. The whole process is divided into 5 steps. It starts with shortlisting colleges based on student interest and then determining where the funding will come from,” Jolly said. Education USA does not fund students themselves, but helps connect students with sources that would provide them with scholarships. “We currently have a database of 50 funding sources, which we update constantly. We also help students identify colleges that offer scholarships,” she added.

Stage three oversees the actual application process, where Education USA counselors help students review their personality, among other things, Jolly explains. Next comes the visa processing stage which is overseen by US embassy officials, but the program holds several briefings with embassy officials for students, she said. . The final stage is a pre-departure orientation where students are free to ask any questions that come to mind, she added.

“We offer them advice ranging from what to pack to unlike academic and social scenarios in American and Indian universities,” Jolly added. Education USA also provides a specific counseling service, where for a nominal cost of Rs. 14,000 per year, students can receive sustained counseling with a fixed mentor throughout the year, she said.

Hanisha Dewan (24) and Jatin Rawtani (23) opted for advice offered by Education USA while shortlisting colleges for their respective undergraduate programs. Dewan has a double major in Business and Music from San Jose State University, California in 2020, currently works at EasyGov, a Delhi-based government technology firm that offers marketing and consultancy services. She credits Education USA for helping her with the undergraduate application process, including access to international fairs where she met University of San Jose alumni and was able to answer questions about the programs. offered. “Education USA not only helps with the application process, but everything else,” she said.

For Rawtani, a triple major in Geography, Sustainability, and Business from the University of Miami, Ohio in 2021, Education USA helped him qualify for a full scholarship from the University of Miami. “I am the child of a single parent, so funding was a big issue for me. Also, I was a late applicant. Education USA advisors helped me navigate the funding and application process,” Rawtani said.

Don Heflin, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in India also spoke to the media regarding the positive response in the number of student applications this summer. “We will be interviewing more student visa applicants this summer than ever before. We hope to break last year’s record of 62,000 visa issuances to Indian students. We will be interviewing over 3,000 students today at consulates in India In New Delhi we will interview 13,000 students, in Mumbai 1,300 and three other consulates – in Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata, will push us to over 3,000 in total,” Heflin said.

Asked about the breakdown of interviews based on students opting for stem cell courses and humanities courses, Heflin said stem cell courses are a big draw for students, but granting visas students between the two fields is a decision influenced by the market. “We would rather see more students taking social studies/humanities courses. For example, public health is a high degree. It’s borderline stem, but it has a lot to do with public policy and government. So I would love to see more,” he added.

On the embassy’s preparedness to ensure the application process remains transparent with the pandemic in mind, Heflin said all necessary precautions are being followed. “All candidates are required to wear masks. The reception staff who welcome them also wear masks, as do our other managers,” he said.

Asked about the impact of the pandemic on this summer’s visa application process, Heflin said: “Last year we had about the right number of applicants compared to the pre-covid years. But we are seeing renewed interest this year,” adding that the surge in student visa applications is a combination of factors which includes the state of the Indian economy as well as pent-up demand from 2020-2021.