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One afternoon while I was working in that admissions office one of our students came to check the procedure to travel to his country. While checking his status we realized that his status was terminated two months ago. He didn’t request a renewal on time. While we were explaining the status information, he was literally shocked; he said “I really wonder how it happened because I am still waiting for the comprehensive exam. I registered and got the date already…!”. The saddest part of this story is that the student was not aware of the importance of Form I-20 (also known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrants) and the difference between enrolling in a course and their eligibility status. We asked him, “Did you attend any of the orientations conducted at the beginning of each semester?” He replied, “Why should I? My friends told me that it’s not a big deal.”Controlling my anger at his evasive reply, I said, “Then, will your friends take responsibility for what happened to you now?” A silent gesture was his response. Fortunately the admissions office assisted him in submitting the documents for the reinstatement process. Eventually he gained his status back. This is what happens to most of the students who lose their status accidentally. It starts from underestimating the importance of the orientation program and trusting the advice of friends instead. Remember, as in international student it is our responsibility to keep our legal status valid.

I’d like to discuss a few mistakes and misunderstandings that international students frequently make.

The importance of understanding the facts : missing Orientation

You might feel too lazy to come for orientation, or your friends might tell you there’s nothing important about it since they never came to their orientation, because their friends told them the same thing. Or, you might be late to join the school or have another legitimate reason for missing orientation. But remember, whatever you missed is a loss for you. Orientation is the best start you can have at Lincoln University. You will receive key information from all the departments, including Admissions, Registration, Student Services, Library, Computer Lab, etc. This is where you learn about the importance of Form I-20, facts about renewal, international travel requirements, and other essential information. If you miss orientation, simply put, it means you missed the best chance to understand campus life and student life.

It’s not about notification it’s about life-saving information : missing to follow up Lincoln email

Do you know the school will send you reminder emails about your OPT application deadlines, job openings and other important information, especially regarding deadlines through email? If you are not adding your Lincoln email in your email accounts and not checking it regularly you might miss these life-saving reminders. Setting up an email account on your mobile phone will take less than five minutes and those five minutes can spare a lot especially as an international student.

Don’t assume when it comes to your legal status : don’t mix up academic status with legal status

Most of our international students don’t really know the difference between status and legal status. Academic status is handled by the Registrar’s Office and is only based on course structure and completion. For example, the Registrar’s Office helps you with registering for each semester, identifying how many courses you need to complete to be eligible to apply for an internship or OPT, scheduling the date for your comprehensive exam or presentation, issuing grades and transcripts, etc. On the other hand, anything to do with your legal status is handled by the Admissions Office, including your legal status (F1 and F2), updating/renewing your I-20, international travel information, work authorization documentation for internships/OPT, transfer in/out, your SEVIS etc.

Your program status and legal status are obviously dependent on each other, but legal status is a more rigid structure and needs to be handled more seriously due to the fact that simple mistakes can result in termination of your status and denial of your applications. I-20s are issued based on the particular program with an estimated time frame. For example, let’s say you are enrolled in an MBA program with a regular duration of 2 years, but you need to take foundation courses in the beginning of your studies due to your previous educational background. In this case, your course load might exceed the typical program duration of 2 years. The I-20 will automatically expire after 2 years, so you (the student) must request a renewal of the I-20 before it expires. Renewal of the I-20 is very important to keep your legal status in the United States of America. Whether you are waiting for a presentation date or a comprehensive exam your I-20 must be valid. You need to come to Admissions 45 days before the expiration date on your I-20.

You can’t be someone else : don’t think your friend’s experience will be the same for you

Lots of students get information from friends who went through a similar experience. However, while your situation might look similar, the circumstances might be different than your friends’. Don’t assume the advice and experience your friend is giving will be suitable for you. Always check with the admissions office to get exact and updated information. There might be a small difference in your situation that totally alters the outcome of your story. And, you can’t blame your friends for your ignorance.

Remember, your legal status is your responsibility, and it affects your future possibilities!

- Gibu George

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