The Australian Student Visa

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted by an Australian university. Now it’s time to think about your student visa. You should apply for your visa as soon as possible – at least two months before you begin classes.

Each person applying for a student visa from the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) must meet certain standards. The standards are a bit more severe if you are an Assessment Level 3 or 4 student, rather than an Assessment Level 2 or 3 student. (See Understanding Assessment Levels for more on this topic.)

All students from Africa, and most other nations, must apply for their first student visa before they enter the country. You cannot go to Australia as a tourist and then apply for a student visa from within the country.

An essential part of your visa application is the financial information. You’ll need to provide evidence to the DIMIA that you are able to support yourself, including paying your school fees, while you are in the country. Although you will probably be allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during the school term, this can’t be counted as part of your financial evidence.

Fully funded students need to show only a minimum amount of financial resources to obtain a student visa. These are students whose education is being paid for by a scholarship or grant. Some fully funded students receive money from their home country, while others receive funds from Australian companies, the UN, the World Bank or other sources.

You’ll also need to demonstrate that you speak English well enough to complete the course you have chosen. Normally, you will have completed an English test as part of the university application process. The DIMIA will also determine that you are a genuine student. They’ll consider if your past grades and education are consistent with the program you’re enrolling in.

In Australia, as in other countries, it’s very helpful to demonstrate that you have strong reasons to return to your home country once your education is completed. This may include family members who remain in your native country, or a business or other financial resources. All of these factors will convince the DIMIA official that you intend to return to Africa once your education is complete.

Your student visa is usually granted for 2 months longer than your course of study. If your course of study ends in November or December, your student visa will be valid until March 15 of the following year. If your course of study is 10 months or less, your student visa will be valid for 30 days after the end of your course.

Your student visa allows you to leave Australia and return. You can bring your family members including spouse and dependent children to Australia with you. Boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 15 will have to conform to Australian law by attending school. If you leave Australia for any reason, such as visiting your home country, your dependents must accompany you.

Before your student visa is issued, you’ll need to obtain Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), which provides medical and hospital insurance. OSHC ensures that you will have medical care while you are visiting, at no expense to the Australian government. You’ll need to include proof of OSHC payment with your visa application. While you’re in Australia, you’ll need to maintain your student visa by attending class at least 80% of the time, and earning passing marks in your courses.

 

 

Education Quote

“Learn, and you will live; live, and you will learn.”

Is A U.S. Community College Right For You?

Here’s a tip that can reduce the cost of your first two years in a U.S. college by up to 90%.: consider a community college. Many U. S. students save thousands of dollars in tuition by attending community colleges for their first two years and then transferring to a four-year school to finish their bachelor’s degree. Every year, more African students follow their lead. It’s easier to get into a community college than a four-year school, and they often have stronger English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.

For most African students, community colleges are the best-kept secret of a U.S. education. Many community colleges offer excellent instruction for the first two years of college, at a fraction of the usual price. Virtually every city or county in the U.S. has a community college. They’re firmly rooted in the communities they serve.

Community colleges work because of a slightly different feature in the U.S. education system. In many countries in Europe and elsewhere, a college student studying engineering or law takes classes only in that subject for four years. In U.S. schools, the first two years of college are often spent on general studies in a variety of topics including math, science, history and art. Future engineers, lawyers, business people and artists are all in the same classes together. Students really begin to specialize only in their third year. Often, students don’t even decide what subject to major in until the end of their second year.

By attending a community college, you’ll be exposed to a more diverse student body than at a traditional four-year college or university. At many private universities, the majority of students are between the ages of 17 and 24. At community colleges, you’ll encounter students of all ages from teenagers to grandfathers. Students at a community college come from all walks of life. They range from successful business people learning a second language to low-paid workers taking computer classes.

Community colleges do offer certificates, vocational training, and two-year (or Associate’s degrees) but the majority of full-time students plan to transfer to a four-year college to finish their bachelor’s degree.

Here are just some of the advantages to community colleges:

  • Lower cost
  • Easier admission
  • Lower test scores
  • Less competition for scholarships
  • An emphasis on teaching
  • More individual attention
  • Better ESL programs

Lower Cost

You can save 40% to 90% on tuition! Community colleges are an excellent value for the dollar. They cost about 10% as much as a private university. Nationwide, tuition at community colleges averaged $2,191 per year in 2006 for a full-time student. Private four-year colleges averaged $21,235 while public four-year colleges averaged $5,491.  By attending a community college instead of a four-year public college, you save an average of 40%.

Easier Admission

It’s much easier to gain admission to a community college than to a four-year school. Students under 25 are usually admitted if they have a diploma from a secondary school. If not, they are often asked to take a GED test (General Equivalency Degree) to be admitted. Many top universities accept only a small number of the thousands of students who apply. Community colleges accept nearly everyone. In fact, many U.S. students whose grades in high school weren’t great go to a community college. If they do well, they can still transfer to a top school after two years.

Lower Test Scores

Some students just aren’t good at taking tests. Community colleges accept students with lower test scores or none at all. The majority of U.S. community colleges don’t require SAT or ACT tests at all. Students from the U.S. or abroad are given placement tests in reading and math. If their skills aren’t up to par, they can take remedial classes to “catch up.”  Community colleges also accept students with much lower TOEFL scores than four-year schools.

Better ESL Programs

Many community colleges offer larger and better English as a Second Language (ESL) programs that four-year schools. Attending community college is a great way to improve your TOEFL score while earning credit towards your degree. Often, special tutoring is provided for international students, in addition to ESL classes.

If English is your weak point, many community colleges offer intensive programs to improve your language skills. No TOEFL is required for these courses. Instead, you’re given a placement test when you start classes and assigned to a beginning, intermediate or advanced class. In a typical ESL program, you’ll study speech, grammar, writing and reading with students from around the world. Most programs provide tutoring and a language lab. They are designed specifically to improve your English skills before you start a degree program. Once you reach the advanced ESL level, you can take regular courses while continuing to study English.

Less Competition for Scholarships

Athletic scholarships often go unused at community colleges because everyone wants to play for the larger, more famous schools. Academic scholarships are also unused. When you apply for a community college scholarship, you may be competing with 10 other people. At the largest private universities, you may be competing with 2,000.

An Emphasis on Teaching

Community colleges make teaching their top priority.  At many elite private universities, research is more important than teaching. This is because most of the school’s income comes from research grants, not tuition. At these top schools, many classes are taught by graduate students who are studying for their PhD.  They may be brilliant students, but they don’t have any experience teaching. The top professors at a research university may devote all their time to research and never teach a class.

More Individual Attention

At public universities, classes may be enormous. It is not unusual to have a freshman class with 200 or even 500 students in a huge auditorium. The amount of time that the professor can spend with each student is severely limited. Many international students report that they receive more individual attention, and more help, at community colleges. Often community colleges have resources such as writing coaches or discussion groups specially designed to help ESL students.

Transferring to a Four-year School

If you want to transfer to a four-year school after community college, plan ahead. Many community college credits are transferable, but not every four-year school will accept every credit. Your best bet is to contact advisors at the four-year schools of your choice before you enroll in community college. Ask if they accept transfer credits from the community college and if any classes are excluded.

When you consider all the facts, a community college is a great way to start your education in the U.S.!

Improve Your Test Scores

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Are you stressing about testing? Most students do. Don’t worry, help is in sight! Follow these tips to improve your scores on any type of standardized test – the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GRE, LSAT, or GMAT.

First, recognize that taking tests and preparing for tests are skills. Like any other skill, they can be learned, and they improve with practice. You will need to study for the tests, and you will need to practice taking tests.

Relax

Test scores are not the most important factors in getting into a U.S. college. Your grades in secondary school are more important to college admissions officers. They will also consider your activities outside of school, your athletic or leadership abilities, your admissions essay, and your evaluation letters. Finally, they’ll take a look at the interview. All of these factors, except possibly the interview, are more important than test grades alone.

Tests don’t carry the same significance in the U.S. as in some other countries. In Canada or the U.K., students take comprehensive tests when they are young teenagers. Only those who earn top scores go to university. That’s not true in the U.S., where tests are much less important.

Testing is stressful for many students whether they come from Africa or the U.S. The more tests that you take, the better you will be at it. Eventually, you will become an expert. Never avoid a test. If you have the opportunity to take a test, do so. It helps you to practice for the future.

Make a Plan

Start studying early for any test. Many students begin preparing for the major entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT a year or more in advance. Don’t believe anyone says that “you can’t study for these types of tests.” It’s true that studying doesn’t improve your score on an I.Q. test, but tests like the SAT, ACT, GMAT, LSAT, and GRE are as much a test of your knowledge as of your ability to reason. Students who study for these tests earn much higher grades. The TOEFL, of course, is exclusively a test of your knowledge in one subject: English.

Figure out how much time you can spend studying for tests, and still earn good grades at school. Break the test material down into blocks, and plan how much time you will use for each block. For the SAT, decide how much time you will spend studying for each section of the test.

Study your weakest subjects more than your strongest ones. In studying for the TOEFL, many international students say they wish they had spent more time practicing for the spoken part of the test. Instead, they focused on the reading and writing sections, which were easier for them. Don’t make this mistake! If math is your weakest area on the SAT, set aside extra time to study math.

Use Test Prep

There are some test preparation (or “test prep”) materials available. There are books, tapes, and online programs. Usually, they include tips and facts on each area of the test, plus practice tests.

Test prep materials also include tricks to improve your score. For example: on the SAT, if you really don’t know any answer, don’t guess. When the test is scored, a ¼ point is deducted for each wrong answer. You’re better off not answering a question than getting it wrong! On the other hand, if you can eliminate one or two of the five alternatives in a multiple-choice question, go ahead and make an “educated guess” among the others. You’re likely to improve your score that way.

Take a Practice Test

Perhaps the greatest advantage that test prep materials provide is the practice tests. They include practice tests and the correct answers. These are usually drawn from actual tests that were used in prior years. Recently, in a few widely publicized cases, international students received old SAT tests that were exactly the same as those in their test prep materials! Even if that never happens again, the more you practice taking tests, the easier it will become.

The Day Before

Don’t try to “cram” or study all night the day before the test. If you don’t already know the material on a standardized test the night before, it’s probably too late. The best way to improve your score is to get at least eight hours of sleep the night before the test, so you are at your best. The day before the exam, be sure that you know exactly where it will be given and how to get there. Before you go to bed, make sure that you have everything that you will need for the test ready. On the morning of the test, be sure to eat something. Some studies show that students perform better on tests when they eat breakfast.

Come Prepared

If you’re not taking the test online, make sure that you have any required materials like pencils and pens. Remember to bring your receipt to gain admission to the test. If the building where the test will be given is air conditioned, bring a sweater or jacket in case the room is too cold. Avoid drinking too many liquids just before the test, so you don’t have to go to the bathroom.

Reward Yourself

Schedule a special family dinner or some time to relax with friends after the test.  You’ve spent a lot of time studying, so spend some time relaxing.

If you don’t think you did well, don’t let it worry you too much. The latest psychological studies on pessimism show that many students have negative thoughts about a test in the days just before and after the test. Usually, they are less fearful about the test results as time goes on. By the time they receive their grades, they are pleasantly surprised!

Consider Testing Again

If you didn’t get a high score on the test, and you know you can do better, retake it. Some students are afraid to do this. They think, “What if I get a lower score?” Don’t let that discourage you from testing again. Almost every U.S. college or university will allow you to use whichever score is higher.  This will mean paying the test fee a second time, but it’s more than worth it if it earns you a scholarship, or gets you into the school of your dreams.