I had gone for my Visa Interview on Friday, 11th May at Mumbai Consulate.
Like many of you who visit this blog, my dream is also to pursue my graduate education from one of the world’s best universities.
I would like to thank all the people who posted their Student USA Visa interview experiences here as it was indeed very helpful and the admin for giving us such a wonderful blog.
Before I start rambling about my experience I will put forth the transcript of my interview so that it’s easy for those who are on the lookout for visa interview questions and answers.
Then later I will use the luxury of penning down my spiraling thoughts and the minutiae of my initial troubled mind.
Me: Good Morning Sir.
VO: Can I have your passport and I-20 form.
Me: Certainly, yes Sir.
VO: Why are you going to USA?
Me: I want to pursue my PhD in computer science from Vanderbilt University.
(I thought of elaborating my response a bit more, but I suppose it is always better to be straightforward and to the point while giving your answers)
VO: Why did you choose Vanderbilt?
Me: Vanderbilt is one of the best research universities. It draws from an eclectic background of the most talented faculty and students from around the world.
(I was interrupted here) VO: Which other universities did you apply to?
Me: University of Notre Dame, North Carolina State University, Lehigh University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute… (I was interrupted here once again)
VO: If you wanted to pursue your graduate education in the world’s best University, then why didn’t you apply to Stanford or MIT?
I was completely taken aback by this question, as the simple truth is that I was not confident that I will get an admit from these universities. Besides university selection is by far the most challenging step of our application procedure, also an expensive one at that.
We need to thoroughly research all the universities, course offered, research being conducted, chances of getting sponsorship yada yada.. And match it with our profile, constantly assessing our chance of getting an admit.
But fortunately I regained my composure and hopefully I didn’t evince just how unprepared I was for this: Sir, I was not confident that I will get an admit from these universities along with financial aid, without which I can’t afford graduate education abroad.
(Just speak the truth. Now in retrospect I think I could have said that I had thoroughly researched the universities and applied in conformance to my profile and interests. But really to an extent that would have been hedging my bets. So I would suggest be truthful, be yourself but most importantly be confident about your decisions and actions)
VO: Alright your visa is granted. You will get it by courier.
I was euphoric, giddy in my head needless to say. Visa interview is the last step we have to take and those few minutes can decidedly seal our fate. Being prepared and having faith in ourselves is all we can do.
I concede that having an admit from a reputed university or having financial aid increases our chances of getting approved but our conduct will largely determine our decision. My best wishes to all those who will be appearing for their visa interviews. One solemn request to those who are posting their experiences: please don’t “said it” to all the questions.
I can’t begin to express how truly frustrating it is and what a flagrant waste of time it is.
F1 Visa Interview Tips
And now I will babble about a few trifles and trivialities:
1. No Backpacks Allowed
First off, backpacks are not allowed inside the consulate. So I had to take out my file which has all the important documents, which practically encompasses my existential proof and stand with it in the long queue for an hour and all the time during security check, palm impression and interview.
I was worried throughout that some document might slip and fall from the overstuffed file. I saw a few people with files having built-in covers like a briefcase which will obviously provide the much needed protection to these scared papyrus documents.
It is just a thought; you can also get something like that or some makeshift provision of your own so that you are free from any worriment.
This piece of enlightenment applies to you, only if you are also a tensed up goof like me at times.
2. Who is this Visa Officer
Don’t form preconceived notions about the VO from his/her appearance, way of interacting or a few decisions you saw them make.
They are doing the work they are entrusted with. Approach it with an open mind.
Just because you saw him/her giving out a few rejects doesn’t mean that they are out there to hand you a reject as well. If it helps, don’t give notice to the decisions for the candidates in front of you. Have a neutral mindset.
3. Dress code
Yes we can wear an informal dress to the interview. But appearance matters and it’s always recommended to suit up.
4. Interview Room
I don’t know why, but I had this impression that the interview takes place in a separate room.
But I was surprised to find that there is a row of glass separated counters with microphone and speakers and many visa interviews were to take place simultaneously.
I thought I will get distracted but seriously when the interview starts the surroundings fade away into nothingness.
5. Make Connections
Talk to people who are standing with you in the line. I started talking to these three amazing souls who were there with me: one guy applying for San Jose State University, a girl for University of Penn and another guy for North Carolina State University.
We went in together through all the phases. It’s not an absolute necessity but it’s so much better to have someone with you even if for a small duration, in that microcosm of the world. We came out together, three of us with our visas.
I don’t know about the guy applying for NCSU because we lost him inside, but I wish the very best for him.
Thank you for reading my post and I sincerely hope that it helped, even if in some small way.
My Answer to Why Vanderbilt University
I had prepared my answer on the following lines:
I know it is a bit lengthy and I would never have got the chance to present my full case. But all I want to emphasize here is that we need to be prepared and it really helps to find out the distinctive features of our university, like Vanderbilt has the most B.E.A.utiful campus situated in the music city of USA, Nashville. If nothing else being prepared will give a leg up to your confidence.
Vanderbilt is one of the best research universities.
It draws from an eclectic background of the most talented faculty and students from around the world.
The professors are leaders in their chosen specialties. The professors I wish to work under are working on very exciting and ground-breaking research initiatives.
The course is so structured that it incorporates both a multi-disciplinary and an innovative approach towards learning. Vanderbilt is among those universities which considers applications on a need-blind basis and has the record of providing 100% of demonstrated need.
My graduate education is fully supported by my university. I have been given both a scholarship and a teaching assistantship. Vanderbilt strives for a perfect balance between our academic pursuits and our extra-curricular passions.
Vanderbilt has a strong tradition of service.
The students take active participation in community service addressing complex social issues and I believe that whatever we learn should go back to the society in some way or the other.
My education at Vanderbilt will be intellectually challenging and will help me to attain my academic and personal potential to the maximum.