Meet Katherine, she is 27 years old and has just won a Fulbright Scholarship. This is a scientific exchange program, which means that she will have to fly to the United States and study for a master’s degree.

Great? And how! But even having a scholarship does not mean that now Katerina can simply buy a ticket to New York and board the plane on the appointed day. It is known that you cannot get into the USA without a visa — and for those who move there for study, there are several categories from which you can choose the right one.

Choosing the right visa

  • F-1 — for academic study. It is issued if you want to spend a few years in the US and get a complete higher education — or if you are going to attend language courses. The validity period of such a visa is the period of study.
  • M-1 — for advanced training and development of technical specialties. A great option if you have developed a new technique in your field and want to introduce it to other specialists. However, please note: you can only practice after you have completed your studies.
  • J-1 — for the exchange of experience between specialists in the fields of education, culture and art. A person who has received such a visa has the right to an internship, that is, to work.

The third option is recommended to Fulbright Scholars, which means that our heroine will choose it. But obtaining a visa is a difficult task: it requires a package of specific documents, passing exams, and choosing a suitable university.

Katerina settled on NYU — New York University, which is famous for its large amount of practical training. Here you constantly need to work on projects, using the acquired knowledge — the best option for those who already have a higher education (bachelor’s degree), but who want to move to the next level.

Сollecting documents for admission

Each university has its own requirements — we advise you to familiarize yourself with them before collecting papers. However, the basic package, with rare exceptions, is the same. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • сcurriculum vitae.
  • an essay with a story about yourself, your achievements in the chosen field and plans for the period of study;
  • letters of recommendation;
  • diplomas of secondary and higher education, which must be translated into English. This is done by a special agency;
  • language test TOEFL;
  • test/examination for admission to a higher educational institution — SAT for undergraduate, GRE/GMAT for graduate.

But that’s not all: thanks to these documents, Katerina will confirm that her knowledge and experience are enough to study at an American university — but you still need to get the visa itself.

For this you need:

fill out a questionnaire on the website of the US Department of State;
pay fees;
come to the consulate on the appointed day and pass an interview, during which it is necessary to prove that you are going to the United States for a specific purpose and without malicious intent;
if the scholarship does not cover the study, deposit money into the account.

Some items raise questions, especially in the first list. Katerina will surely face more than one problem.

Pulling up English

Before winning a scholarship, our heroine had a chance to work in many English-language media, where she had to edit and write materials herself, which means that she knows the language well. But most often, those who want to move to the United States are faced with the fact that their level is not yet enough for this.

If you are not going to fight for a scholarship to enter an American university, you can first go to language courses — but for this, as mentioned above, you need a completely different visa. Fulbright scholars, before leaving, should adequately assess their strengths and, possibly, study with a teacher before leaving.

Collecting the right letters of recommendation

To enter the university, you need to include in the package of documents from one to three letters of recommendation. There is the best option. You don’t need to write them by hand — they don’t do that for a long time, it’s enough to send a request to a potential recommender while you fill out an application.

It is not always clear why letters from third parties are needed, but in fact, everything is simple: thanks to them, representatives of the university will see how you are evaluated from the outside.

Let’s say the specifics of the university include constant practice and internship if you choose a specific course. Then the recommendation, which says how brilliantly you manage to apply the acquired knowledge in business, will add points to you. Katerina has a lot of experience, so there were no problems with recommendations. In addition, she already has a higher education.

Things to consider when making recommendations:

  • Universities are not too willing to trust simple university professors — it will be right if you find your supervisor and ask to write a letter;
  • Each praise should correspond to a specific act. Empty words arouse suspicion, if the recommender writes that you are masterfully working on scientific articles, you need links to articles;
  • The recommendation must be written in correct English, otherwise it is unlikely to be taken seriously.

Passing exams

Our heroine takes TOEFL — a standard language test and GRE — an exam for admission to a master’s program. They both require careful preparation and an impressive knowledge base. If you want to prepare for exams from scratch, it is better to devote at least six months to this.

TOEFL consists of four parts:

  • reading
  • listening
  • speaking
  • letters

Perhaps you don’t have time to fully prepare? Then pay attention to the category that seems to you the most problematic. Many people calmly read long texts in foreign languages, but cannot even communicate on elementary topics, and someone easily perceives English by ear, but at the same time puts words into simple sentences with incredible difficulty.

As for the GRE, it is designed to test knowledge of complex vocabulary and school mathematics, as well as the ability to write fluently and concisely — the exam includes a mandatory essay. It lasts about 5 hours, so it is worth calculating the strength so that you can calmly deal with all the parts.

Counting points

You may think that the rating turned out to be low — it happens. But in the process of entering an American university, recommendations and a story about yourself always come first.

Why? It’s simple: there is always a possibility that a person was very worried or simply does not know how to work according to a specific scheme — what matters is what skills and knowledge he has and how they will be useful in the future.

Katerina herself, according to her, easily passed TOEFL, but weakly — GRE: good scores for the mathematical part, bad ones for the linguistic part, and very bad ones for the essay. But in her treasury of achievements there is more than one material in English: this is what is taken into account in the first place.

Even not the highest scores were enough for her to enter three universities on a full scholarship and choose the right one. Don’t be afraid to take risks.

Getting ready to study

When you are accepted to the university, it is too early to exhale with relief: everything is just beginning. Studying in the USA is strikingly different from studying in Russia and the CIS countries. For example, Katerina was faced with the fact that there was much more practice than theory — and it is not surprising: since you came to the master’s program, you probably understand what your scientific field is like, and you can easily navigate the theoretical base.

There will be many projects that we talked about a little higher — you will constantly have to demonstrate that you use the information received wisely in practice. The diplomas we are used to are also replaced by the graduation project.

Finding a specialist

It is better to move to the USA with the support of a qualified immigration lawyer, who has dozens of satisfied clients behind him. He will help you deal with the documents, choose the ideal university where it will be interesting, tell you what to do in a difficult situation if you suddenly find yourself in it — in a foreign country it is easy to get confused even in basic things.

Elizaveta Samorukova is just the specialist who will provide you with professional support in the USA. For any J-1 visa related question, please call +1 (954) 374-9330.