Updated: Oct 6, 2019
You have worked hard for the last two years - taken your GRE, GMAT, TOEFL/IELTS, applied to universities, got accepted, proved that you have sufficient funds to pay the tuition and finally gotten your I-20s.
Now, the real challenge begins. Everything that you have worked on in the past two years boils down to that one minute when a US Embassy officer decides on your visa application. All those aspirations to study in the US, go and live in a world that you dreamt about, now depend on this one individual deciding whether you should be given the chance or not.
The issue of visas being denied at an ever higher rate gets its fair share of highlight. Maybe there is some truth to it, or maybe the denials have always been this high. I am sure that the issue has been dissected enough and there are numbers to support one of the arguments.
So, I won't get into that and focus on how to work towards increasing your chances of getting a student visa.
Having gone through this myself and working with students who have gone through the process there are a few things that have stood out that I'd like to highlight and help new aspirants improve improve their chances of presenting their case well to the visa officer.
Make good decisions, now - Your future self will thank you for it. Just checking the boxes is not the answer. You need to understand what's expected out of you and plan accordingly. Entry to the US is extremely competitive. Visa officers don't like applicants who come across as ill-prepared and seem to have made their life depend on this one admission and one chance to get to the US. So, if you are walking into that interview and you haven't done anything in the last one year since you graduated except prepare for tests and apply to schools, chances are that your visa application will be denied. In comparison, someone who has had a job and knows what she'd be doing if she does not get the visa and also when she graduates from the US university, has a lot higher chances. So, don't waste time after you graduate. You should have figured out what you'd be doing after graduation when you are in school/college.
Connect Past & Future - It's a good idea to show that what you are planning to do in the US is relevant to what you have done in the past. For instance, if you have studied as a mechanical engineer and are going into a mechanical engineering master's program, it would take less explaining to the officer. If, however, you are picking up computer engineering during your master's degree, you should have a good reason for making that shift. Student who come across as someone who is experimenting with life, might lose her chance to convince the officer that they are competitive.
Self-Reliance is the key - I can't count how many time I have talked to students and realized that they used agents to fill-out their DS-160 or other official documents or were planning to use services that promise to somehow increase their chances of visa success. Also, just so you know, there are no "special dates" when the embassy gives out visas!! Actually, I bet you that whatever you have heard or read about getting a sure shot at a visa is a lie. Don't try to use external help to jump visa dates, you'd most likely be caught and will lose any future appeals for a visa. US Embassy takes the visa process very seriously, so should you. The required forms are fairly straight forward and any clarification that's needed can be found on a number of forums or the Connexio app.
Mock interviews - I believe this is something that would help you the most. The key is to keep your answers concise and not burden the officer with unnecessary details. For example, if the officer asks you about your graduation year, you don't have to talk about the name of your school or university or what your graduation grades were.
Remember - just answer the question and nothing more. So, if you need someone who could prepare you for the interview, reach out to us using the Connexio app and we'd be more than happy to help. Our only condition is that you should not have worked with any agent on agency to setup you DS-160 or any other visa documentation.
Tell the truth, always - Can't stress this enough. Never lie to the officer! That's why we ask our students to plan, so that they don't have to lie during the interview. Lying to a federal officer is an offense. You need to realize that this is one of many interviews that you'd be going through (student visa >> work visa >> green card). So, even if you are not caught this one time, chances that you'll slip some other time and USCIS would have proof that you lied the last time. If you don't know the answer to a specific question, just say so and move on. If someone is asking you to lie during the interview, they are giving you the wrong advice. Leave them and take your money back, if you paid them.
Organize yourself - Just preparing for the interview questions is one of many things that you need to get right. Just as we ask you to know about your past and future, we suggest that you make sure that you know have a good trail of documents that support your story. And knowing where your documents are in your folder is extremely important. Don't have your family or friends setup your documents folder. You should know where everything is when the officer asks for it. Students who fumble and present an untidy stack of documents to the officer, reduce their chances of getting a visa. Remember, you have a minute to prove that you are the best and your organization will fortify your impact.
I hope that with this new found information, you'd be able to improve your chances of getting the visa. If you need more help in making sure that you are doing the right things, feel free to reach out to us using the Connexio app or sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have questions about your particular case or something that you've heard and want to test, post them below and we'll answer them for you.