An American Grad student in London!
The London Eye. London, England. Summer, 2013.
…Well, almost. I’ll be moving out in September (barring any Visa troubles) and if I thought the process of applications while planning my sister’s wedding was complicated, there’s no way I was prepared for after accepting my place.
So here it is, a quick run through of my to-do list and some preliminary steps to taking each step on.
First things first, as an American student looking at schooling overseas, FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) is a must. Look early for the deadlines and read everything. If you filed a tax return, have your information handy and the process will run more quickly and practically hassle free. If you forget this last part, they’ll email you back saying that going through your IRS tax form is the easiest way and walk you through the steps, but this takes longer. If you do get this email, respond right away as well. Yes, I know we’re all busy and you can wait and fix details in you paperwork for a while before the final deadline but really why would you want to?
And I know some people don’t want the hassle of filling out the paperwork or don’t want to take on loans that will inevitably put them in debt, but seriously, fill it out. Filling out FAFSA in no way requires you to take any of the money and we’ll get to why having some of this debt while preparing may help a little Visa-wise later.
So, here’s the confusing part:
You file for FAFSA and they’ll give you an estimate based on everything you have sent them (independent, overseas schools, annual income, ect). However, it’s the school that ultimately lets you know your FAFSA information.
Why, you ask?
Because overseas schools don’t actually take FAFSA! (Stay with me here.) For these schools, FAFSA is a number that let’s them determine you eligibility to borrow US federal Loans by producing an SAR (Student Aid Report). Then if you are eligible, you can borrow up to your COA (Cost of Attendance).
I mean REALLY with all the abbreviations! It’s like alphabet soup in here!
SO anyway, the reason that this is good even if it kind of kicks your but later is in order for your Visa to be approved you have to have a certain amount of money (and not in bonds or the like, but in withdrawable accounts) available for them to view for a whole 28 days BEFORE you apply. This money is the sum of your year’s tuition and 9 months of an average Cost of Living for the area you’ll be living in for the year—basically, a whole lot of money. And the account holding the funds can’t drop below the amount factoring in the fluctuating exchange rates. Luckily, if you provide evidence for multiple accounts, the funds don’t all need to be sitting in a single account for that whole span.
And again, back to why FAFSA and getting loans can help here. Any money that does not come directly to you or through you (or anyone you know who is helping you pay), and anything you have already paid to the school, gets taken out of that total. So let’s say you have a loan through this Visa process that covers half of everything. You then (if you show all the proper paper work), only need the other half for those 28 days. The catch is you need to be sure of these funds because if you guess, go ahead with your Visa and then your funding falls through, your Visa will be denied for lack of funds!
So, here you are, you’ve done your FAFSA, put down your deposit for school and accepted your place (YAAAAAY!), Now your school gives you a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies) Number which basically means your school has said that, yes, they have accepted you and you them, and that they are your “sponsor”—this does not necessarily mean financially.
Well, it’s time to get started on Visa documents, and since that’s my adventure this week, I’ll let you know next time!
The nice thing about being a student is most schools I’ve found have been pretty helpful by answering any questions I have and sending me information on all the paperwork I have to make my way through now. My chosen school has sent me check lists, flow charts and requests for question chats through the computer or over the phone.
Still it’s a lot of work to get through.
But I say, take it in stride. The adventure that allows you to go on your actual adventure.
I’ll tell you more next week as I venture further into this work and let you know how I’m getting on.
But, until then,
I’m Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.