General Guidelines for International Student Admission: Self-Apply versus Using Agents


A lot of international students shared horror stories about agents. It is time to shed light on this topic.

Myths about applying for college through agents

* Myth: Applying through agents provide better chances for admission.

* Truth: FALSE. It is unethical for schools to treat students especially because of agent referrals.  Many public schools have policies to prohibit the use of agents in admission. They are not allowed to endorse any agents.


* Myth: Agents provide valuable information for Visa Interviews.

* Truth: TRUE and FALSE.  The truth is most of these information is posted on the Consulate’s website and blog.  Majority of all agents do not have resources to attend important meetings and updates with the Department of State. They do not even want to invest in these conferences such as the (NAFSA). Information coming from them is inaccurate at times and therefore not reliable.


When are agents useful?

* Some agents provide beneficial advice to international students.  Decent agents supply valuable information about universities appropriate for students’ needs. 

* Some agents may offer to “help” you with financial paperwork.  These may be dubious personalities. This is not to say that you should not think of studying in the US if you are poor.  However, an agent who will advise you to evade the law will most likely give you unethical advice.

* The good agent is reputable and does not make commissions from both students and universities. They only work with regionally-accredited institutions.


General Admission Guide for US Universities

You do not need an agent to be admitted to any university!

Here are the steps in applying for a reputable US university:

* Find a good US university.

* Apply for admission!

* Provide a copy of your financial document (bank statement within the last 6 to12 months), amount in your bank account must tally with minimum amount for the annual cost of attendance from the school (I-20 price).  This normally includes tuition, miscellaneous fees, health insurance, books, room, and board.

* Submit official academic credentials, transcript and school diploma as required by the school.

* English proficiency document (This is for non-native English speakers)

* Provide a copy of passport information page.

* Provide a copy of your current i-20 if you are transferring from other schools.

This is a minimum list.  Most schools will require an official English translation for non-English papers.  Many banks use English as official business language so this will not be a problem for you. Other required documents are resume, personal statement (essay), professional license (medical/nursing schools), SAT/ACT test results, and GRE/GMAT/LSAT/PCAT/MCAT (graduate and professional schools).

It is not costly to apply in universities. Some schools like community colleges even waive application fees.

The best an agent can do to help is find a school that fits your goals, needs, and budget. They can assist with application forms and documentation. They cannot influence school admission decisions or consulate interviews.  Paying an agent does not mean being accepted in college. It will depend more on the student’s capabilities.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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Greenhandshake: Start-up supports millions of immigrants in the US –

Greenhandshake ICTNews.vnICTnews: There have been many activities supporting immigrants in the US are deployed through websites, social networks. Greenhandshake is being rated as one of the most effective tools to support millions of immigrants. The founder of this start-up is Son Hoang Nguyen, a former international students who came to the US in 2009, alone.

Greenhandshake is an effective tool for millions of immigrants throughout the US

It is estimated that every year more than 1 million immigrants and 900,000 students come to the United States. Many people are having problems with the visa procedures, school advising, or airport transportation. Typically, immigrants learn about America from online forums via Internet, social networks, or through the services of a consulting firm. However, information on forums and social networks, like Facebook, often get a lot of answers which are hardly authentic, and consulting firms or consulting services charge fees that are way too high.

Being a former student who traveled alone to the US to study in 2009, Son Hoang Nguyen understands all of the potential difficulties others may face. The start-up technology model officially deployed operations in December 2014, by Son Hoang Nguyen, to connect the expatriate community living in the US, with immigrant people coming from all over the world.

Talking to ICTnews, Son Hoang Nguyen, founder of start-up Greenhandshake said, “Greenhandshake operates on a shared economic model. The ones who need assistance can post their information with a certain fee. People who have the ability to help, may bid for the implementation of the aid charge. This type is new in Vietnam and abroad. But there are companies that have been particularly successful with this model such as Uber and Airbnb. Before starting the work, I have carefully analyzed the strengths of the model when applied to the idea of Greenhandshake.”

“This is the new technology targeting to the community from all the world who enter the US. And the first task of Greenhandshake will be an effective tool for the overseas Vietnamese community in Vietnam,” Nguyen Hoang Son shared.

Greenhandshake has been appreciated, because every year in the US there are thousands of new ideas born to serve everyone. However, there has been no product-specific technology that supports the immigrant community, whether those immigrants are Americans and they are sensitive subjects, or they are the ones who need help the most.

Great development potential of a start-up

Son Hoang Nguyen received his bachelor’s degree in Informatics and Computer Engineering at the Russian State Technological University. He then moved to the US to obtain a Master’s in Business Administration specializing in Management Information Technology (IT Management). Following that, he worked for a short period of time to develop a single-product technology with Harvard University. But what drives Son Hoang Nguyen is the business and economic model, rather than pure technology.

When embarking on project Greenhandshake, Son Hoang Nguyen soon realized that the technology was not the problem, but the main problem was financial capability. Initially, Son went to the US company’s IT department to seek their support, but they required a large investment for a start-up project. Son returned to Vietnam to seek support in the hope of reducing the initial cost. However, the small IT companies in Vietnam did not want to take the risk of a new project that fond of processing products which was already available or copy a similar product on the market. But little bigger companies are being paid higher than the actual price. Finally, Son was able to obtain affordable support from an Indian team, and was able to risk pursuing projects from ground-zero, and repair or rework until he was able to find a solution for his start-up.

So far, Greenhandshake has gathered more than 1,000 members in over 50 overseas Vietnamese-American states, including Hawaii and Alaska. Eighty percent of the members are students from the student council at many universities across America.

“On average, every month receives 10 requests for assistance. Who need help the most are the people in Vietnam over the US as a preparation for study and to settle down. With the current capacity, the ability to meet to support the proposal of the members is approximately 35-40% of the posts. Greenhandshake has versions for mobile. And depending on the level of development, the latter would switch to the application (app),” Son Hoang Nguyen said.

In the context of people moving between countries with more and more frequency, projects supporting immigrants are expected to become one segment of potential for business projects, especially models starting a business. And Greenhandshake will continue to be further improved to increase its capacity to meet the needs of the market.

“Around the end of September, 2015, Greenhandshake will complete the Vietnamese version and began officially promoting in Vietnam. Quite a lot people in Vietnam consider Greenhandshake as a good project; however, they complain that the current English language is still confusing. After expanding in the local market, the Greenhandshake model will be developed into 10 countries, which have the largest number of students who come to the US, especially the Asian countries, and have the same Vietnamese characteristics like China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Our dream is that Greenhandshake, which is a product of Vietnam, becomes the indispensable tool of US immigrants,”  Son Hoang Nguyen shared.

Greenhandshake is composed of two words: “green” and “handshake”. In particular, “green” refers to the color green, a symbol of youth and hope, as well as immigrants in America know the Green Card as a symbol of freedom;  and “handshake”, which symbolizes cooperation.

Binh Minh – Reporter of

(Translated by Thanh Bui)

International Student – On Campus Employment Process

On Campus Employment is perfect for international students who need extra money and experience.  However, employment in the US is not enough to defray the cost international tuition and schools expenses.

The Process of on-campus employment for an international student is similar to ordinary US citizens.

Step 1 – Job application through the school employment website. Visit the school career services to help you navigate the website, explore internship opportunity and write resumes.

Step 2 -Landing an interview. There is no magic bullet for this step and purely based on luck especially if there are 200 applicants. If you get an interview schedule, prepare and do your best.

Step 3 – Hired for the job.  If the manager decides to hire you, inform him or her that you are an international student.  Certain jobs (such as work-study) are not meant for overseas students. You can be hired if there are no restrictions.  Ask for a job offer letter which should contain your name, hiring department information, job description, hours of work per week, and requested starting date.

Step 4 – Get the recommendation letter from the DSO/International Advisor. Bring the job offer letter to the DSO to request for this recommendation. It should include verification of good academic/legal status and DSO recommendation that the job on campus is in fact appropriate for international students.

Step 5 – Obtain a social security number. Bring your I-20 (or DS-2019), passport, visa page, I-94, driver’s license, student ID, and birth certificate in English.  The birth certificate is not required.  However, the social security office asks for it. It will take between 2-4 weeks for this process. Inform your hiring manager right away.

Step 6 – Finish the Hiring process. You can now finish the HR process just like anyone else after receiving your social security card.



* International students can only work up to 20 hours per week during semesters. You may work full time during summer or holidays.

* Working foreign students must file tax returns.  This will not affect your status as student.  However, it can affect the adjudication result for change of status in the future like changing to H1b or Green Card.

* What is considered an On-Campus Job? All school-supported employment opportunities are on-campus jobs.  A vendor or third party entity serving school students is considered on-campus employment.  For example, international students can work in Starbucks in the school cafeteria.

* International Student Social Security Number is for on-campus employment only.  You can only work off campus if you have an Employment Authorization Document (for OPT or CPT). Never use the EAD to find work outside the campus or you will be caught.  Such violation can lead to immediate deportation. International student’s SSN usually starts with “7” or “8”. It means you cannot apply for financial aid.  Some financial aid counselors are confused with this.  Please do not try to exploit the system. If the USCIS finds out, you will be in very deep trouble.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

Learn more about Greenhandshake

How to Survive in the US – Housing for International Students


This post focuses on issues related to students and housing. Education is a luxury without food and shelter. Many students go to the US yearly without preparing for said concerns. Students should consider these two aspects before making travel arrangements.  

This will not apply to you if you have a relative in the city where you will study.  The location should be near the school and accessible to public transport.

* Home Stay or Host FamilyI relish the host family because I stayed with them when I studied in the US. The experience was great since they treated me like their own child. Majority of host families enjoy the company of foreign students.  It is more of passion than money.

* On-campus housing/student housingThis usually calls for sharing a room with another student.  The rate is more expensive compared to other housing type.  However, it provides a good environment and convenience of staying close to the campus. The school is within walking distance. This is not ideal if you have dependents and pets. Rental terms are from August to June but do not cover summer.

* Off-campus housingThese are private apartments located in cities where you study.  Prices vary widely. You must consider costs, security and location. Some students prefer to share two or three-bedroom apartments with other students. This can reduce costs but be very careful in choosing roommates. School officials do not intervene in case of scams and quarrels.

These are things to prepare for if you will rent apartments:

* You need to apply. Not all universities provide housing services. 

* Most apartment owners demand social security numbers. The SSN applies only to US residents. Explain to the property manager that you are a foreign student without an SSN.

* A security deposit is required prior to reservation for security of the owner.  The fee will be refunded at the end of your school-year lease. Cost of damages will be deducted from this deposit. International students have 0 credit scores. In short, you will likely be required to pay twice or thrice the regular security deposit which is a normal procedure.  The deposit can go up to $2000 depending on the place. It is more expensive in New York.

* The monthly rent for apartments may or may not include utilities and furniture. Make sure to ask the owner about this.

* The move in date is generally on or before the date of your arrival in the US so you have a decent place to stay.

* Look for the most convenient location. It should be near the university and grocery shops. You have more options if you will have a car.  Otherwise, on-campus housing will be the best choice.

* Read your contract terms carefully to avoid problems and scams.  This usually happens in off campus housing because schools have no control over these units.

* Consider transportation such as relatives or airport pick-up services during your first day in the United States.

Nghi Tran – CFO/ Marketing Manager in Vietnam

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