Coming to the U.S for University can be a challenging process and recent changes to immigration policies have added to the frustrations. That may be the reason why 2017/2018 was the first year with falling international student enrollment in over a decade, according to the most recent Open Doors Report.

The fact is immigration policies issued by President Donald Trump in a series of memorandums in 2017 have made it more difficult for international students to get visas and stay in the U.S post graduation. That has kept many of the best and brightest from around the world from attending U.S universities.

Nonetheless, each year over 800,000 students come to the U.S to study and these days they need more help than ever. With that in mind, today we are going to go over 5 tips to get ahead before coming to the U.S for University.

Secure Your International Student Loans Ahead Of Time

After you’ve decided to come to the U.S to study, and you’ve chosen a selection of schools to apply to, it’s time to secure your international students loans. Unlike domestic students, international students have a much more difficult process to secure loans for school.

The FAFSA, which is the normal route to federal student loans for the majority of domestic students, isn’t usually applicable for international students which forces them to test the open market for funding.

Thankfully there are a number of private international student loan providers that help to fill the gap. Many of these don’t require collateral and some don’t even require a co-signer or a credit score, this can be a huge plus for international students who aren’t financially backed by their families.

Above all, remember to apply early to secure your international student loans in time for school. The last thing you want is to have to find a student loan during your studies.

Apply To As Many Scholarships As Possible

When it comes to scholarships, because of the expense of U.S universities, there are thousands of options to choose from. That means you should apply early and often to secure as much additional funding as you can. After all, it’s free money, so don’t be afraid to apply.

One great place to start your search for scholarships for international students is at your private student loan lender. These organizations often offer scholarships for the students who receive loans from their company. Not only will there be less competition for these scholarships, but they can be directly applied to your loans to help pay them down.

Scholarships are everywhere in the states however, so don’t be afraid to apply to as many as possible even if you think you won’t get them. EDUPass.org has a great list of scholarships for international students. Take your time and apply to as many as possible, there is no limit so you should take every opportunity available.

Don’t Just Take the SAT, Study For It

This tip is probably the best insider information I can give you. You see, I wasn’t the best student in high school, so I was worried about getting into a good University. That’s why instead of just taking the SAT as a test of the knowledge I learned in high school, I spent three months studying for it.

My efforts paid off, I scored high enough to get into a number of schools and even was awarded a couple small scholarships because of my high score. So remember, don’t just take the SAT, study for it. The SAT isn’t an intelligence test like so many people would have you believe, rather it’s a test of your knowledge, that means studying the particular information that will be on the test matters.

Buy SAT study guides, take SAT study courses, or even get private instruction if you need it. Trust me the work will be well worth it.

Apply For Internships and Jobs Early

Applying for internships and jobs early is a must if you want to work while you study in the U.S. That’s because getting a work visa, even a student, is a challenging feat in the states these days.

If you want to work in the U.S while you study as an F-1 Visa holder you will need to apply for Optional Practical Training(OPT) authorization. This process can take some time(2-4 months). And except for cases with special circumstances you will only be able to apply after a year of living in the U.S and studying. Still, that doesn’t mean you should wait to apply.

The reality is it takes time for businesses to get approval for OPT workers and interns, so you’ll need to apply for any jobs or internships you are considering well in advance. Also, it pays to apply to larger businesses as an international student, because it will be easier for them to navigate the sponsorship process.

Start Building Your Credit

One of the first things you need to do when you arrive in the U.S is begin building your credit by getting a credit card from a U.S bank.

In the states a person’s credit score affects everything from interest rates on loans to your ability to rent an apartment. That means you’ll need to be proactive in establishing and maintaining a strong credit score while in the U.S.

Nerdwallet is a great source for information on everything finance and in particular how to build your credit in the U.S. Take a few moments to read through some of their blogs and implement the advice, trust me it will pay off down the road.

I won’t lie to you, coming to the U.S to study in 2020 isn’t as easy as it once was. New immigration policies and changing attitudes towards international students in certain parts of the country have made the U.S a lot less welcoming over the past four years.

Nonetheless the U.S offers amazing educational opportunities to hundreds of thousands of international students each year, so don’t be afraid to come to the states to get educated, it’s well worth the strife and the people are far more welcoming than you may imagine.

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