For Parents with Children Studying in the US

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For Parents with Children Studying in the US

It can be difficult sending a child off to university. It marks the beginning of a new phase in their life, filled with opportunities and independence. If you are sending your student to another country, the transition can be even more nerve-racking. Being involved in the process of selecting the study abroad school can help reduce some of the stress. Here are a few things you should know if your child is considering, or is already enrolled, in a college in the US.

  • Security and Safety

    College officials take measures to ensure their campuses are safe. However, there are a few steps parents can take before their children head off to school and while they are there to help keep them safe. Research the safety statistics of the school. Federal law requires US colleges to disclose the campus crime statistics. The information may be posted on the school’s website, and it will be available through the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting tool. The numbers are updated annually with crime and fire data.Many schools are proactive in keeping students safe. They may provide late-night escort services back to dorm rooms and have designated “safe spots” where students can call for help. Find out if these services and locations are part of the campus being considered.Examine the location of the preferred schools. Small schools in rural areas may take different steps than those in major cities. If the college is a “commuter school,” most students do not live on campus. This means that there will be fewer people around the dorms and public areas after regular class hours.Talk with staff in the admissions and international student services departments. Ask any questions that are not answered on the website.Attend the parent orientation program in person. There’s nothing like being there to familiarize yourself with safety procedures, both in the dorms and across campus.Discuss the precautions they can take, including:Not walking alone after darkKnowing the campus security phone numberUsing the campus escort service at nightMaking sure someone knows where they are at all times Many schools with comprehensive international student programs have support for parents as well as the students. Contact information during office hours, weekends and evenings are often available, offering parents the peace of mind they need when their child is far from home.

  • Academics

    US universities and colleges require students to take five classes simultaneously to be considered “full-time.”  Class participation is expected, and students are encouraged to discuss concerns, questions and difficulties with their professors after class, during posted office hours. Although the time spent in the classroom is less than many other countries, the workload is much heavier. Students are expected to study and complete assignments on their own time. This may be a departure from what they are used to, causing stress and uncertainty. Offering additional encouragement and support can be helpful. In many countries, it is common for the grade to be based on one final exam given at the end of the course. In US colleges, the score is a culmination of several papers, group projects and presentations required throughout the semester as well as participation. Help your student get through the new requirements. Tell them they can succeed and suggest talking with advisors for further assistance. If the time abroad is for a single semester, your child will be in the US during the registration window of their home university. To keep on schedule and have the next semester begin smoothly, make sure they know what the deadlines are and how to access the materials. Make sure your student confirms which credits will transfer back home. Some courses require an official approval before class begins. This needs to be factored into the rest of their university terms to ensure they take the courses they need to graduate.

  • Communication and Technology

    Students abroad often want to hear from their friends and family back home more often than they do when they are at their home university. In many countries, everyone leaves their phone on international roaming. That can be very expensive for students in the US. Several options can keep the cost down while enabling everyone to stay in touch: Buy a phone with a basic month-to-month plan and add a local sim card, then download Skype, WhatsApp, Viber or FaceTime. They are all free apps and enable everyone to see each other when they talk.Add an international data plan to the phone account, to be used sparingly.Use Wi-Fi when available. Find out if the home university has a VPN. This enables your student to access data libraries and streaming services they are used to at home. Make sure all of their data is backed up to an external hard drive and kept safe. This ensures that they can still get their work done if something happens to their original computer and they end up with another one or using one at the library. Purchasing theft or damage insurance can help cover damages and a replacement computer if necessary. Confirm that you have contact information for the student services department, home advisor and local embassy before they leave home.

  • Office of International Student Services

    It’s beneficial for students and parents to become familiar with the Office of International Student Services. The exact department name may vary depending on the school. It may be Student Affairs or Student and Scholar Services. However, what doesn’t change is the fact that they are available to help international students integrate into the campus community. The staff can offer support in a variety of areas: OrientationStudent and work visasIntercultural supportClass registration Choosing a majorCareer planningFinding a job There are also many ways in which this department supports the parents of international students: Counseling informationDrug and alcohol awarenessHealth insuranceTips for staying connectedStudent rightsSteps to take for students in distress

  • Banking and Money

    Depending on where your child is attending classes, the cost of living may be different than it is at home. Research the area and help create a realistic budget, giving them an idea of what expenses need to be paid and how much can be used for activities. Set up a bank account at a local financial institution and link it to your account back home, if possible. This way, money can be transferred quickly and easily. Research banks that have no foreign transaction fees. There will be fewer fees if the debit card attached to the account is used at an ATM. Using a local bank also enables employers to deposit paychecks directly to the account. Funds may be available the same or the next business day.

  • Student Life

    There are certain aspects of American culture that are unique. It’s tempting for students to spend their time with others from their home country, but meeting new people is part of the reason they chose to study abroad. Help them choose activities that include a diverse student population. The US is vast. Encourage your child to explore their surroundings, travel to different regions and experience the distinctiveness each has to offer. Fraternities and sororities can be a large part of the American college experience. They offer a sense of community and a way to fit into the campus environment. This support network becomes students’ second family. They live, study, work and have fun with the chapter members. A minimum grade point average must be maintained to remain a member. These groups sponsor fundraising activities and provide community service for the surrounding areas. They also mentor their members, teaching them teamwork and leadership skills.

  • Health Insurance

    In most cases, international students in the US on F-1 visas must have and maintain medical, hospital and repatriation insurance for the duration of their stay. The Student Affairs office provides information for the health plan sponsored by the school if students do not have coverage that meets requirements. If your child has a health plan from a source outside the school-sponsored insurance, waivers may need to be signed at the beginning of each semester to prevent automatic enrollment in the academic health plan.

  • Working in the US

    There are specific guidelines for students who wish to work while they are in the US. Depending on the position and employer, there are different requirements. There are four work options available for students in the US on an F-1 visa: On-campus employmentOff-campus employmentOptional Practical TrainingCurricular Practical Training Your child’s international student advisor can help with the paperwork, and in some cases point them in the direction of a particular type of employment. For jobs that are not connected with their academic program, there is a limit to the number of hours they can work per week. Optional and Curricular Practical Training allow for full-time employment, and it is limited to 12 months. Studying abroad can be an exciting time for students and parents alike. Becoming familiar with the resources available on-campus can help everyone feel more comfortable with the distance. SchoolApply enables students to find, compare, select and apply to more than 5000 schools in the US, UK and Canada. Our website offers tips for studying, finding work, saving money and more. We also provide checklists, guides and online tools that are designed to help students focus, study and embrace the international experience.


Levels Explained

  • Bachelor's

    A bachelor's degree (also called a first degree or undergraduate degree) is attained after receiving a post-secondary (high school) education and generally spans four years. Students pursuing these types of degrees are commonly referred to as bachelor or undergraduate students. A bachelor's degree is usually offered at an institution of higher education, such as a university.

  • Master's

    A master’s degree (or postgraduate or graduate education) involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees. This degree is preceded by a bachelor’s degree and generally takes two years to complete. Students pursuing these types of degrees are commonly referred to as master's, or grad students.

  • Pathway

    Bachelor’s and master’s pathway programs are designed for international students who need additional English language and academic preparation before continuing to a degree program at a university. The purpose of these programs are to give students the confidence and skills needed to succeed in college.