3) Post admit work to be completed
This part picks up where Part TWO left off. One important information I forgot to give in the previous part was regarding the Transcripts and Degree Certificate. You will need to apply for at least 20 copies of Transcripts (considering that on an average you are applying to about 6 Universities) and about 4-5 attested copies of your degree certificate (or provisional degree certificate, if you've just completed or will be graduating soon). Your current university may charge you some fee for this. So get in touch with them and apply for your Transcripts/DC/PDC just about a fortnight before your GRE as it may take sometime for the university to process your request.
The universities will mostly start informing the students about admits from mid-March. The latest by which one can afford to get the "admit" news is by mid-June. You need to login to your account on the Universities' Graduate Admissions'/Application webpage and check the admission status. Keep checking this page every now and then beginning March. The varsities will first send the admit status electronically and then thru the conventional way. Before you can get a clear cut admit you need to submit Proof of Financial Status or Certificate of Financial Responsibility (CFR). Most of the universities will mail in an admission letter alongwith the CFR. The CFR can mostly also be downloaded from their website.
This form basically tells the University that you haf the moolah to afford Graduate Studies in the US. Your sponsors' need to sign on the form and submit a statement by the Bank which indicates that you haf sufficient liquid funds to cover one academic term's expenses (which includes the living expenses). The amount to be shown as liquid is indicated on the admission letter or will be mailed to you. If you haf some form of scholarship (teaching/graduate assitantship or if the university is sponsoring you) then the university will indicate that amount and you will hafta arrange a statement for the balance amount. If you are taking statements from different banks (i.e haf the money in different accounts across banks) then be sure to take them all on the same day. The Bank statement needs to indicate the sponsors' name, dress, account details and the amount in Indian Rupees as well as in equivalent US Dollars as on that day (giving info about the date and the exchange rate) on the Bank's letterhead with the signature of the highest authority in the bank (e.g Branch Manager etc.). Some universities will want the same info on a special form provided by them. This amount can range anywhere from $30k-40k USD. Also, no immovable or non-liquid assets would do.
After these documents are sent, the University will mail the I-20 to the student. If the admit has come unusually late then get in touch with the authorities so that your I-20 is sent thru courier. You may hafta pay a fee for this. If it arrives by regular postal services then give it about a month to arrive. The I-20 is the official admission letter indicating your name/other details, name of university, program name, address, fee for an academic term etc. This will also indicate that you haf proved to possess sufficient funds required for an academic term. If you are applying for an education loan then this is the right time as processing will take some time. You will need to produce your I-20 to the bank alongwith other standard documents. Checkout various banks for the loan details.
Also note that some universities will require the students to undergo specific medical tests. Hence look out for an "immunization form" either sent by the university or on their website. Invariably, all universities will want the students to undergo PPD test (for TB). In some cases, you may also be asked to get the immunization form signed by a Registered Medical Practitioner indicating the dates of your vaccination (right from childhood).
If you get multiple admits then you may be in the possession of several I-20s. Weigh the pros and cons and decide on a university wisely. Its better not to sign on the I-20s unless you've made up your mind. Also its wiser not to inform any university immediately that you will not be taking up the admission unless you get VISA with the name of your preferred university printed on it. After the VISA process is over (to be discusses in the next part) you can mail the other universities that you will not be taking up admission there. You may hafta mail them back the "unused" I-20s if they request since the I-20 is generated by SEVIS (discussed later).
In case there are any changes to be made in you Passport (name/address etc.) then do it now. Also keep few Govt. issued photo-id cards handy (like driving license, PAN etc.) as they will help in this process).
As soon as you are issued an I-20 the university will create an account for you on their portal and mail the username/password and other details to you. This portal will mostly be a centralized control center. Almost all the universities haf this. Depending on the university you maybe given a mailbox with the university id, asked to register for Courses for the first sem, update your contact info, book university housing etc. Be extra careful about registration of courses and do it asap as mostly all the good courses are booked by students as soon as they are allowed to register. So make a list of about 4-5 courses by looking at the syllabus etc. You can register a maximum of 4 courses in a semester. You can also drop a course later, in most cases.
It is also the correct time to get in touch with the Indian Student Association of the University and also your department professors, seeking their views on the courses and text books they would be referring to. You can also mail the Graduate adviser/professors asking them about your eligibility with regards to registration of courses as all courses will haf specific prerequisites.
With all these things done, its time for applying for F1 VISA. This would be covered in the next part...
If you are reading this post you may be interested in the following posts too:
MS in the US, a guide: Part ONE - Exams - GRE and TOEFL
MS in the US, a guide: Part TWO - Reporting scores and applying to universities
MS in the US, a guide: Part THREE - Post admit work to be completed
MS in the US, a guide: Part FOUR - Applying for a VISA
MS in the US, a guide: Part FIVE - Booking your tickets and packing your bags
MS in the US, a guide: Part SIX - Traveling to the US and initial days of stay
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