Since you decide to study in USA, you will start hearing words that are important to you but you do not really know what they mean. In this part, I will explain you the important terms for the international students. You do not have to memorize these terms, you can come back to this webpage any time you want to refresh your memory. Well... Shall we start with an example?
"My friend Metin, from Turkey, came to Boston 2 weeks ago. He is 26 years old, and he really enjoys his time with his new classmates. He decides to make a trip to Cancun, Mexico, with his classmates in Spring Break. He checks the ticket prices with his friends, and he thinks he can afford it. The next day, he meets a staff from his language school to learn about travel requirements. The staff tells him that he should be fine as long as his I-20 has been issued in the last 12 months, has his I-94, and his I-20 is signed by a schoold staff. He feels confused after the explanation he got. He just comes to this website, reads the Terminology section, and makes him comfortable with terms like I-20 and I-94. He is glad that he does not have to worry about those terms any more, because he knows what they mean. He just spent 30 minutes on the web to find out all the information."
In this list, I will also include terms related to internships and jobs.
I-20 is the document you receive from your language school or college. It is a very important document. It is the proof that you are a student in USA. Every international student with a student visa also needs to have an I-20 to be able to stay in the country legally. When are you going to need your I-20? You will need it when you re-enter USA, or when you want to transfer to another school, or when you start working at an internship, and many other scenarios. I-20 usually has 3 pages. The first and the last pages are most important. The first page includes the information about you, your school, your major, expiration date, signatures, and a few other things. The last page includes signatures, and authorization for your internship and OPT. CIP Codes!!!!! During your education in USA, you might have many I-20s. Every time you transfer to another school, or extend your studies, you will be given a new I-20. You should keep your old I-20s, because you will need them. In a nutshell, keep your I-20 safe.
I-94 is the small piece of paper that is stamped in your passport next to your visa, when you first enter the country. It has important information on it.
OPT stands for Optional Practical Training. Every international student that receives an undergraduate or graduate degree from a credited college in USA as a full-time student, has the right to work in USA for up to 12 Months in a position related to his/her major. OPT is the name of your temporary work authorization. This temporary work authorization opens many doors to international students. You can start working right after you graduate without requiring sponsorship. Once you will start your job search, you will realize that finding a company who would sponsor your work visa is a big challenge. Generally speaking, OPT is the position right between being a student and being a professional employee.
As the name implies, many international students can extend their OPT, so they can work longer without requiring a visa sponsor. OPT extension gives you work authorization for 17 months in addition to 12 months that you got from your OPT. An international student can work 12 months with OPT, and an additional 17 months with OPT Extension. OPT extension has a few requirements. The first requirement is your major. Your major has to be a STEM major. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Of course it is not up to you to decide if you have a STEM major or not. You should have a CIP code on your I-20. The CIP code is a number which identifies your college, your department, and your particular major. You can find your CIP code on the last page of your I-20, it is name as your Primary Major. USA government declared the list of CIP codes who are eligible for OPT extension. You can find the list of eligible CIP codes for 2012 here, which is ICE website, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. You can find more information about OPT Extension here in USCIS website, which stands for United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services. The second requirement is, your employer has to be enrolled in E-Verify Program. You can get more information about E-Verify here.
CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training. It means the permission to do internships for international students while they are still in school. For instance, if you are studying Mechanical Engineering at college and want to do an internship at Audi in the summer, you should have your CPT authorized by your school. Unlike the OPT, you do not need to send your documents to USA government. Instead, The International Student Office should be helping you with the process. International students need to obtain Social Security Number before they start their internships. Your college will give you the information about how to get a SSN before you start your internship.
F-1 is the name of the student visa. You have to have it to be able to come to USA as a student.
H-1B is the name of the work visa. There are different ways to get it, but I will explain it from an international student's perspective. International students need to find a sponsor in order to get an H-1B Visa. It means that a company will hire you, and apply to H-1B Visa for you. As an international student, you should know that the company should have a good reason for applying to work visa for you. Work Visa applications start being processes by USA government on April 1st of that year.
This number is on your I-94. You are going to need it when you apply for your OPT.
Social Security Number
SSN is the personal identification number being used in USA. It is also being used for financial reports, taxes, and many other purposes. SSN is completely Confidential, and you should not share it with other people.
How can an international student get a SSN? You cannot get SSN by yourself. Your college/language school needs to fill out a certain paperwork for you. You will get a SSN when you get an internship, job, or on-campus job which will pay you. Let's put it this way: anyone who pays you for your work, needs to pay taxes for hiring you. They cannot pay taxes unless they have your SSN. SSN is an 8 digit number. You can get more information here. You will also need SSN to apply for a credit card and build a credit history.
Credit Card and Debit Card
You need to have a Social Security Card to be able to apply for credit cards in USA. There is a term called APR in card applications, it means the Interest Rate.
You can open an account in any bank with your passport and address information. When you open an account, you will receive 2 kind accounts at the same time: Checkings and Savings. They are both yours. There is one very important issue with Debit Cards: OverDraft Charge! You can still withdraw money from ATM with your debit card, even though you do not have any money in your account. If you are thinking that your bank is doing you a favor, you are wrong. You will be charged at least $15-$20 everty time you withdraw money without having enough money in your account. Pay attention to that.
Credit History is basicly your financial records in financial institutions database. If you want to buy a house, a car, start a business and such by using loans, they will check your financial history to see if you can afford it. To create a credit history, you need to get your SSN and start using your credit cards. There is a way to measure your credit history, and it is called The Credit Score. You can get more information from this link. Basicly, your credit score defines if you can get more limit on your credit card, or if the bank wants to lend you money to buy a house or car. It is important if you are planning to live in USA for at least 2 years.
Admission Office is the department in every college that accepts the applications. If you want to study in college, you need to apply, right? But where? To Admissions Office for your major. Most of the application process are being done online, but I just wanted you to be familiar with the term, Admission Office.
GPA stants for Grade Point Average, and it is important in college applications. GPA is your score that you received from your last educational institution. The maximum GPA score is 4. The grading system in USA might be different than in your country. The letter system is very common: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-, and F. In most cases letters D and F fail. I am sure you will pass your classes, cross your fingers!
As you already know, TOEFL is an English test to measure your English skills, and it is well-accepted in many countries. It stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It has 4 parts: Listening, Writing, Speaking, and Reading. Toefl has a huge industry. International students need to pass this test to prove their English skills throughout the world, so there are many bussinesses out there to help you and make money out of it. Language schools are one of them. The test can be taken on paper or on computer. PBT stands for Paper Based Test, and IBT stands for Computer Based Test. Grading scales for PBT and IBT are different. IBT is more common. The maximum score for IBT is 120. A regular college accepts between 80-90 from Toefl IBT, but it all depends on the college. You acan find more information about Toefl here.
GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test. It is required to study MBA by most colleges. MBA stands for Master of Business Administration. It has Mathematics and English sections. You can get more info about GMAT in here.
GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination. It is required for many masters degree programs, especially in engineering fields. It includes Mathematics and English sections. You can get more info about GRE in here.
Deadline means the last date you are supposed to do a certain thing. It can be a deadline for homework, a deadline for a project, or a deadline for an application. You should pay attention to application deadlines when you apply for college.
Let's say you contacted someone, and you haven't heard back in a week. What are you going to do? Of course you will just contact back. And, it is called a "Follow-up". Especially when you start emailing people in the college application or job application process, there will be times that you need to remind people about yourself. Here is an example:
"Hey Mister Smith, I contacted you last week for Business Analyst position. I am following up on my application. Would you update me about my application? Thank you."
Tuition is the amount of money that a program or degree costs. It only includes the price for education. After you start studying, you will realize that you will be spending money for many things: books, health insurance, and such. Tuition only covers the cost of your classes.
Scholarship means the amount of money or discount you receive from your college because you are good at something. It can be an athletic scholarship, math related scholarship, or research related scholarship. It is not a surprise for smart students to get scholarships. The best way to check the scholarships is visiting your major's website.
When you apply to colleges in USA, the college has the right to accept or reject your application. In this case, you need to explain them why you are a good candidate, why you choose their school, and what you like about the program. The document that you answer these questions is called The Personal Statement. Most of the applications require one.
EAC stands for Employment Authorization Card. This is the card you receive when you apply for OPT.
Green Card gives you the right to live, work, and study as you like in USA until it expires. It is the step before coming a USA Citizen. There are a few ways to get a green card. You can get your green card through your job, by marrying a USA citizen, or by winning an electronic lottery. I will explain about the lottery here. You can visit the USA Government website to apply for the lottery and also to check the results. The lottery happens every year. As you might expect, there is an application deadline every year. You can check the details from this link.
At the end of every year USA government checks if everyone paid their taxes in the right amount. Many people get a certain of their tax money back because they have kids, or invested in education, or own a house, or for other reasons. This is called The Tax Return, because the government is returning the extra tax back. The deadline for filing this year's tax return is April of next year.
Community College is a cheaper alternative for colleges. They provide 2 years of education. If you are going to study an undergraduate degree, you can study your first 2 years in a community college, and study the other 2 years in a college that you want to graduate from. Transferring your credits might not be very easy, so plan ahead and do your search. Bunker Hill Community College is a good community college in Boston.
Loan means borrowing money from banks. You might use a loan to pay your college tuition, to buy a house, to buy a car, or to start your new business. I heard that international students can get college loans if they have a USA citizen sponsor, but I haven't met anyone who did that. Students have to pay this money back to the bank with the interest. I wish you good luck!
Most of the colleges help their students financially based on the student's financial status. Students do not have to pay this money back.
Every individual living in Massachusetts has to have a health insurance, including the international students. Health insurance in USA is expensive, and not fun. You have to have an insurance while you are studying either at language school or college.
I strongly recommend applying for Health Safety Net. It is very useful. Health Safety Net is not an insurance, but a free protection plan.
If you are going to leave more than 6 months in Boston, you should get your driver's license for sure. You can use it when you rent a car, and also when you go out. Drinking age in Massachusetts is 21, and you need to have a valid ID to prove your age. It means you need to carry either your passport or your driver's license with you.
How do you apply for driver's license? You have to go to RMV, Registry of Motor Vehicles. They have branches in almost anywhere. You can check out RMV website to find the closest branch to you. To obtain the driver's license, you need to pass the written test, the eye vision test, and the road test. You can find information about the tests here. You can download the pdf version of the study guide here. And do not forget, you can take the written test in many other languages such as Spanish, Italian, Turkish, etc.
If you want to buy your own car in USA, you also need to pay for car insurance which might be expensive. Remember that you can prove your years of experience with your driver's license from your own country. It will help you to get your insurance cheaper.
Mass Liquor ID
If you are more than 21 years old, want to drink at a bar/club without carrying your passport, and do not have a driver's license, than Mass Liquor ID is for you. Basicly, this ID proves your age in restaurants and bars. You can learn more about Mass Liquor ID here.