Port of Entry Procedures

While flying to the US, you will have to complete your customs formalities at your first port of entry. Ensure that you have sufficient time (at least 2 hours, considering the queue) between your flights at that airport. You should have the following documents available for presentation: your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay; SEVIS Form (I-20); Arrival-Departure Record Form (I-94); and Customs Declaration Form (CF-6059). (I-94 and CF-6059 would be provided in your flight.)

In addition, it is strongly recommended that you also hand carry the following documentation:
1. Evidence of financial resources;
2. Evidence of student status, such as recent tuition receipts and transcripts;
3. Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, Form I-797, and
4. Name and contact information for your “Designated School Official”, including a 24-hour emergency contact number at the school.

Here is the basic procedure followed at port of entry:
  • Sometime before landing the flight attendant will distribute customs declaration forms & immigration forms as mentioned below. Fill these out on the plane (you will submit them to the appropriate authorities when you land). Do not hesitate to take the flight attendant's help. You can indicate that you have nothing to declare & total value of all your things is less than $ 1500 on the customs form I-94 - fill in the plane. After seeing your documents immigration officer will indicate length of stay, Univ, etc. This will be attached to your passport.

  • Important: note the expiry date and D/S (duration of status). Form I-20 ID copy - all transactions regarding your non-immigrant status will be recorded in this form. This should be retained at all times (not surrendered until when you temporarily leave the US). Your admission number will be given - memorize it & note it elsewhere.

  • Just before you land the correct local time will be announced set your watch.

  • Once you are out of the plane go straight to the immigration counter - rush for them to beat the queue. It might take 0.5-1 hour here. Keep your I-20, passport, admission & aid letters ready. They might ask a few questions like - is this your first time in the US? Student? F-1 visa? Which Univ? They will attach an I-94 card to your passport.

  • You are now in the USA! then go to the baggage are to fetch your luggage. Pick up a cart (at some airports you get this at a machine for $1) to carry the bags. Then pick up your bags as they come out on the conveyor (suitable eye-catching labels help here). If you don't get your baggage inform the enquiry section – you may have to wait 0.5-1 hour here. Cart your baggage to nearby Customs. If asked tell them that you are a student, F-1 visa, school, dept., coming to US for the first time.

  • If asked to open the baggage do so slowly - do not mess up the place.

  • If asked about the masalas tell them that they are "dried Indian spices" to make traditional Indian food like curry. Rarely might they ask you to go to the agris. Dept. nearby - that is a pain. If asked about "vibuthi" tell them that it is holy Hindu powder used for prayer.

  • Note: In most cases you will NOT be asked to open your suitcases at all & will be simply waved through. Now go to the counter of your airlines and give them your check-in bags that you will collect at your final destination.

  • Never leave your baggage unattended. Don't go out of the airport until somebody comes & picks you up. If you have doubts about the guy who comes to pick you up, don't hesitate to ask for his ID. [All this is of course being a little extra cautious]

  • Once you reach your friend's house (or other destination) call home & inform them of reaching safely.
For additional information, click here.
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American Idioms and Expressions

Americans have their own style and conversation lingo. Numerous idioms and expressions are used, which are typical of their style. A lot of slang is used out there. Its always good to be aware of these terms as these are commonly used in US, more frequently by the youngsters in college. You should go through this list and acquaint yourself with them. So, if someone out there says you something, you should atleast know whether you are being praised or someone is criticizing you.

Here goes the list:

Beat up : worn out, shabby (said of a thing)
Beat around the bush : avoid an issue
Been had : to have been taken advantage of
Big shot : a supposedly important person or someone who thinks he/she is
Big deal : anything important, exciting
Break the ice : make a beginning
Buck : dollar bill
Bombed : see "high"
Booze : alcoholic beverage
Bummer : a term to designate that something undesirable has happened
Cash : paying someone with currency rather than a check
Check out : look over a situation
Cool or neat : slang term denoting approval for something or someone
Cool it : calm down
Cop : slang for policeman
Cut it out : stop it
Crack up : to lose emotional control in laughter
Date : to go out with someone; also the person with whom you go
Down : to feel depressed, sad
Down to earth : practical, straightforward, (person)
Drop : to withdraw from a course on or before the set date
Drive one up the wall : drive one nuts; to make one very nervous, or upset
Fall for : take a strong liking for
Fed up : disgusted with, or tired of
Frak out : to lose control of oneself, go crazy
Give a ring : to call on the telephone
Go to pot : to deteriorate
Grass : slang term for marijuana
Gripe : to complain
Hang on : in reference to the telephone it means do not hang up the receiver
Hang in there : keep trying; do not be discouraged
Hassled : troubled by
Have a lot on the ball : to be capable, talented, or efficient
High : intoxicated ("loaded") from liquor or drugs
Hit the sack : go to bed
Hung up : to be in conflict over a problem
I.D. : identification
In a nutshell : very briefly and concisely
Jock : an athlete
Keep your shirt on : be clam, be patient
Know the ropes : be familiar with the details of an undertaking
Lemon : bad buy or purchase
Loaded : to get intoxicated
Make ends meet : budget within one's income
Make up : (1) to apologize after a fight or disagreement
(2) to do an assignment after it was due
(3) cosmetics a woman uses
Mid term : test given during the middle of the quarter
On the house : free, no cost
Old man : slang term for father
Once in a blue moon : seldom, infrequently
Out of it : (1) somebody whose mind is Far away or preoccupied, or
(2) somebody not fitting into a certain group
Out of the question : unthinkable, impossible
Over my dead body : not if I can stop it !
Out of sight : term of approval denoting something exciting or very good
Play it by ear : to respond to circumstances as they arise
Phony : someone who is insincere, also fake
Play second fiddle : be second in importance
Pop-Quiz : a test given with no prior warning
Pot : a term used for marijuana
Psyched up : to mentally prepare yourself for something; excited about something
Pull one's leg : to tease someone
Pull strings : use influence
Pull the wool over someone's eyes : deceive or mislead someone
Put someone on : to tease or try to fool. "Are you putting me on ?"
Put your foot in your mouth : say something you regret having said
Rip off : to steal; charge an exorbitant price for some item
Redneck : hillbilly
Run around with : be friends with
Screwed up : confused
Shook up : upset
Show : movie or film, cinema
Skip or cut : not go to class
Stoned : to get high on grass
Straight : one who goes along with the norms of society, conservative
Take a raincheck : to postpone an invitation, accepting it for a later date
Take for granted : to assume
Through the grapevine : through gossip
To the max : to the maximum or greatest degree
Uptight : worried, tense
Under the weather : sick, not feeling well
With flying colors : with victory or success
Wasted : an extreme lack of energy. Also can mean "high"
Ya'll : You all
Zero in on : focus or concentrate on
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University Selection Tips

One of the most important steps in the US admission procedure is to select the universities you wish to apply. The universities should be selected depending on your profile. Your profile includes your academic and test(GRE/GMAT/TOEFL) scores, co-curricular activities, internships, work experience, achievements, awards, research papers and lot of other thing that could add weight to your resume.

The first step should be to find out universities that offer your field of study and any relevant specializations. Once you narrow down your search to 10 to 20 institutions, you will need to compare the objective data among these institutions. Do not rely solely on rankings or ratings of institutions to do this; there is more to choosing the right department than choosing the most well-known or selective university. For any particular discipline there will be at least five or six schools that have excellent reputations. Keep in mind that a department's reputation relies heavily on the reputation of its faculty. Sometimes it is more important to study under a particular person than it is to study at a university with a prestigious name. Remember too that assistantships and fellowships are often based on the right "match" between student and faculty research interests. Good advance research can help you find the schools whose departments and faculty meet your academic and professional goals, and it may enhance your chances for obtaining financial assistance.

Make a comparison chart listing the differences among universities with respect to:
  • research programs and facilities, including libraries and computer facilities;
  • size of department (students and faculty) and size of institution;
  • qualifications of the faculty;
  • accreditation of the institution and, if applicable, the department or program;
  • course and thesis requirements;
  • length of time required to complete the degree;
  • academic admission requirements, including required test scores, degrees, and undergraduate grade average required; of tuition, fees, books, etc.;
  • availability of financial assistance;
  • location, housing options, campus setting, climate, and cost of living;
  • international student services and other needed services available on campus.
Eliminate those institutions that you cannot afford and that do not offer financial aid for which you qualify, that do not meet your individual needs, or that have admissions requirements that do not match your qualifications. Narrow your choices to those that meet your personal and professional needs, that you can afford to attend, and for which you are qualified for admission. Develop a final short list of four to seven institutions to which you plan to apply. [Learn about the application process for US universities].
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Things to Carry

There are so many things one needs to carry, while going to the US for the first time. You have to make a new place to live, a "home" away from your home. If you have a friend who is going to the same university, for the same semester, it is better to share few things. This saves space as well as money.

This post lists the most common things you should carry while traveling to US. One must ensure to take along all essential items one would need for a comfortable stay in the United States. Many commodities like clothes, foot ware, leather items, and other miscellaneous things are expensive in US. Also, you would need to take your important academic and legal documents as they may be needed from time to time. Therefore it is a must that you go through the entire section and make a note of these things in the form of printout as a checklist to ensure that you don’t miss anything.


  • Passport, I-20, visa.
  • Driver’s license.
  • International Driving Permit, if possible.
  • Medical certificates and proofs of vaccination.
  • Transcripts.
  • Degree certificate or provisional certificate.
  • Letters from university.
  • Passport size photos.

  • You should have enough money to arrange for housing, etc. and to survive at least the first month (until the first paycheck, from your job arrives).
  • Bring $1500 - $2000 in travelers' checks.
  • Bring $100 - $150 in cash. $10 bills or the smaller.
  • $1 bills will be required to pull out trolleys in the airport.
  • If you cannot get cash, travelers' checks can be encashed at the airport for a fee.

Depends on the place where you will stay. Few common advices, no matter where your university is:
  • Do NOT bring heavy winter clothes – as you won’t require that in fall and spring and it will occupy a lot of space in your luggage. You'll need to buy winter clothes in late September or early October. Winter clothing is pretty cheap here. You will get a good winter jacket in around $50.
  • A raincoat and/or casual jacket, umbrella, woolen gloves, cap would be very useful.
  • Get a few of pairs of shorts, towels (3-4), socks.
  • You could also get traditional Indian dresses for special occasions.
  • It is advisable to get around 15 pairs of undergarments as it helps in reducing your trips to the laundry (though most apartments have laundry machines right in the basement of the building).
  • About three pairs of formal wears for career fairs and interviews. Two blazers will do.
  • You can get a decent pair of jeans for around $20 to $30 here. T-shirts will cost around $10 to $20. Shirts will cost around $20 to $30.

Food Items:
  • Indian spices of your choice, though you can get most of them here.
  • Home-made items like pickles etc.
  • Bring a few noodle packets. Get a few Instant food packets; these become handy many a times in first few weeks.
  • You can bring few groceries – Rice, Dal, Salt, Sugar, Tea/Coffee in case you are going to move to new apartment right away just enough to survive few days so that you don’t have to run for grocery shopping the next day.
  • There are many Indian stores around most of the well know universities. Then too it depends on the location. If you are able to find one Indian store around, you will get all kinds of things there. You even get Indian cold drinks and Indian chocolates there, costly though.

  • Being with three or four roomies, you will have to cook for atleast 4 people. So try to get large vessels.
  • If your roomies are decided, collaborate and bring vessels according.
  • Try bringing all the vessels you need, vessels are costly here
  • Bring utensils which are preferably microwave safe.

Other Stuffs:
  • A few pens, pencils, ruler etc. just to get started. Stationary is pretty cheap here. Do not overload your baggage with notebooks and paper.
  • A scientific calculator that you might have used in your undergraduate course.
  • A small sewing kit.
  • A good book for cooking.
  • Don’t get many CD’s of movies and songs. You will get everything online, most of the times for free.

Things not to get:
  • DO NOT GET ANY ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES FROM INDIA. It is 110 volts AC/60Hz in the US, so Indian electrical appliances does not work.
  • Do not get a digital camera, it’s very cheap here.
  • Do not get a laptop; you will get a good deal here.
  • Don’t get too many clothes. It’s cheap here.
  • Do not get too many pairs of shoes.


Keep the passport, I-20, all the certificates, Marklists (your folder), medical records etc. in your handbag. Very rarely airlines misplace your luggage. Ofcourse they refund you for the same but as you can see, some documents are too important for any refund.

You will complete your customs formalities at your first port of entry. ENSURE THAT YOU HAVE SUFFICIENT TIME (at least 2 hours, considering the queue) BETWEEN YOUR FLIGHTS AT THAT AIRPORT.

Carry a few quarters (25c coins) in case you have to call anyone from the airport.
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GRE: Quantitative Section Strategies

This post is in continuation to the series of posts on GRE, contributed by the author of: GRE: How to Start Preparing? The author scored 1510 [Q:800, V:710, A:5.0] in the GRE. This post postulates the important strategies to be followed for each type of questions in the Quantitative section.

The quantitative section measures the test taker's ability to understand basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis; reason quantitatively and to solve problems in a quantitative setting. Here, I discuss the strategies for each type of question in this section, viz. standard multiple choices and quantitative comparisons.

Standard Multiple Choice:
1. Read the question well. Be sure to select the best answer for the variable, value, or expression that is requested!
2. Learn in advance all of the critical definitions, formulas, and concepts that appear in common questions.
3. Remember to use the test booklet for scratch work, as well as for marking up any diagrams/graphs.
4. Early questions in this section are easier. Spend less time on them.
5. Don't get carried away with detailed calculations. Look for a trick or a shortcut if the question seems time consuming.
6. When a question contains a weird symbol, just substitute the accompanying definition when figuring out the best answer choice.

Quantitative Comparisons:
1. Don't ever guess at Choice E. There are only four choices!
2. Always consider values that are fractional (between 0 and 1), zero, negative, or non-integer.
3. Factor out, then cancel, any common expressions or quantities in both Columns A and B. Remember that you are just trying to make relative comparisons.
4. Questions are simpler and should take less time than the Standard Multiple Choice. Look closely. The answer is often apparent without any calculations.
5. Write on any diagrams to help clarify any values, angles, sides, etc.
6. Compare; don't solve!
7. Simplify one or both sides whenever possible before comparing.
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