Tinkering…

Now that the visa is done, I have enough time on my plate to take things smoothly. Although there are things like scouring an apartment, booking flight tickets, taking(practising) cooking lessons, shopping for a mini-marriage (ya that’s what I like to call it ;)) and making other arrangements, I am taking life at its own pace and yet able to manage things pretty much on time. Fortunately, I don’t have to slog to death in office now that I have put down my papers. So the notice period is turning out to be a regular 9 to 6 job. And right now I am on a vacation spending time with my family and friends and suddenly I am finding a lot of free time when all my other friends are busy (at least on weekdays!). The six months before last two months were so different. I had to juggle my time between my job, applications, essays, preparing for interviews, working with an NGO and then also give time to hobbies. The six months after two months are never going to be the same again either. So I guess now is the time to tinker and just enjoy (and get used to) not doing anything serious. Gosh! Times do change. The past one year has been a witness to this and it has been one remarkable journey.

Application process takes one full year of commitment and then it gifts you with a small stint with leisure time (provided you make it before R3 results). I am fascinated with the very thought of how things would be after two or so months. Going back to student life is going to be as exciting as getting the first offer letter! Till then, I am putting the juggler inside me to sleep and getting the freak out!

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My visa interview

So just before telling the visa experience, here are the probable questions:

1. Why do you want to go to the U.S.?

2. Why have you decided to study in this particular college?

3. How will you take care of your expenses?

4. How many colleges did you apply to?

5. What will bring you back?/What are your future plans?/Why will you come back?

6. What is the annual income of your family?

My visa appointment was at 7.00 am in Chennai. I had booked a room in Hotel New Woodlands (recommended – value for money!) so that I could relax on the previous day. I reached the embassy at 6.30 am and joined the queue outside the embassy. Please don’t carry your cell phones, just carry the docs in a harmonium folder and dress in formals (tie not needed at all!). After showing the visa appointment letter, I was let in (everything inside is A/C of course :)) and all the docs in the folder were scrutinised by security. Then I had to go to a counter where the person asked me for all the DS forms, I-20, Passport, Bachelor degree certificate and GMAT and TOEFL score reports and arranged them in a new folder. Thumbs’ and forefingers’ scan was done. I was now asked to go to the adjacent building where there was a waiting lounge (Just carry the new folder as it is with all the docs). I was there waiting for my turn by 7.30 am. The counters where visa is issued were closed then. By 8 am, a couple of counters opened and I was 4th in the queue. Within 5 mins, I got my turn.

Questions:

VO(Visa Officer) – So when did you complete your graduation? – year

VO – In what class did you complete your graduation? – blah

VO – Did you have any backlogs during your graduation? – (what?) – NO!

VO – How long you have been working? – x years with xyz

VO – So you gave your GMAT. – yes (and he took a look at the score report)

VO – (Looking at I-20) Congratulations on your GA! – thanks

VO – O.K. Your visa has been issued – thanks a lot!

That’s it!! Done! It would have lasted less than 45 secs. It took a while to digest the fact that something that was going on at the back of my mind since a month was so easy to deal with! (But then, prepare well…prepare for the worse!). Visa is probably the last, miniscule but eminent hurdle to reach your dream B-School. But then, I feel that it is an objective process. That being said, you can bank on the VO provided that you have prepared well for the basic questions, don’t falter during the interview and have all the necessary documents in place. All the best!

Gateway to your visa appointment

So the breaking news that I was supposed to cover in my last post was that I am done with my VISA (phew! feels so good!).

Assuming that you have got your I-20, here is what you need to do next (this is for Indian aspirants):

1. Pay the Application Fee and VFS Service Charge at a designated branch of HDFC Bank before applying for a US Visa. This includes – Visa Application Fee – $131 (Rs.6943 at current exchange rate of Rs.53) + Service Charge: Rs.374. Visa appointment can be taken only after the fee receipt gets activated which takes around 3 working days.

2. Go to this site and click on the Apply for a Non-immigrant Visa link once the fees are paid. You will need to use the bar-code number from your HDFC Bank Fee Receipt in order to schedule an appointment. Keep your passport and I-20 ready with you while doing this. Your appointment centre depends on your state of residence – the state where you have been residing for past 6 months. (Yes..and so you don’t have a choice). You can check the availablity of dates here.

2.a. Fill out the forms DS-156, DS-157, DS-158 online. Don’t forget to use the help section in every form to know the exact details that you need to fill in. This should get you through most of the fields. You can even contact the customer support and they will treat you pretty well :).

2.b. You don’t need to fill all these forms in one go. You can always save and exit so that you can resume later. However, an inactivity of more than 7 days will delete all your information and you need to start all over again.

2.c. Take the appointment once you have filled in all the info. You can take an appointment within 120 days prior to the start date of your program. (For Chennai, I couldn’t find any normal appointments available and hence had to go for an emergency appointment. This is perfectly fine as long as your appointment date is within 120 days prior to the start date of your program) Finally, take a print out of your appointment letter.

2.d. Print your forms – DS-156, DS-157, DS-158. Don’t forget to affix your visa photograph on DS-156 and handwrite your name on DS-157 in the field 3.

3. Pay $200 SEVIS fee here by filing online form and submitting the amount by credit card at least 3 business days prior to your visa appointment. Make sure that you are connected to a printer this time as you won’t be able to save the receipt online. Take a print out of the receipt immediately after submitting the form.

Now that you are done with the appointment, the next thing is to arrange all the necessary documents. Here is the checklist (this is pretty comprehensive, not everything might be a must):

1. Admit Docs – 1.a. Admit offer letter from the school. 1.b Merit award certificate from the school (if any).

2. Visa Docs – 2.a. Colour Photo 50mmx50mm 2.b. Passport 2.c. DS-156 2.d. DS-157 2.e. DS-158 2.f. HDFC Fee Reciept 2.g. I-20 2.h. VFS Appointment letter 2.i. SEVIS Fee Reciept 2.j. Address Proof for the state of residence – this could be your last 6 months salary slips or a confirmation of your address on your company’s letterhead.

3. Educational Docs – 3.a. GMAT score report. 3.b. TOEFL score report. 3.c. Graduation degree certificate 3.d. Consolidate mark-sheet/transcripts of graduation 3.e. HSC certificate 3.f. SSC certificate

4. Financial Docs. 4.a. Liquid Assets – Passbooks (savings a/c), Investments like Fixed Deposits, Provident Funds, etc. 4.b. Fixed Assets – Property sale-deeds, etc. 4.c. Loans. 4.d. IT Returns for last 3 years of all people who are sponsoring your education (In my case it was my father and I). The liquid assets + loan should cover the first year estimated expense as mentioned in your I-20.

All this should be good enough to make you ready for the visa appointment once you get your I-20. Next is cracking the visa interview itself which I plan to cover in the next post. Till then…ATB for your visa appointment! 🙂

P.S.: There are number of blogs out there which helped me with all this information. Just putting things in one place.

Mistakes…

Yes….and here are things that have happened so far:

Good News : I got linked from Accepted.com here and The GMAT Club here for my post on Waitlist -> Admit – How? Well, it feels really great to get recognized from some of the most trusted sources known for MBA mentoring.

Bad News : I couldn’t pay attention to blogging because I did not have anything concrete to share then. But it is not the only explanation for my hiatus.

Good News : I got nominated for the BoB award by Clearadmit for 09-09. Wow!

Bad News : I am coming to know that only today, now that the game is over on 24th (results out on 28th) !! Congrats to Ahembeea and MissionMBA, I knew you would make it there in top 5!

Good News : I got an invite as a judge (ya you heard that right) from Accepted.com for the Beautiful B-School Photo Contest.

Bad News : Again…it is too late….got to know this only today! (the contest ended on 30th April)

Here is my side of this story filled with agony and ecstacy. I last blogged on 12th March and kept following the comments for a few days. (And the way I do it is w/o logging in). Then say after a couple of weeks, I thought my blog entry had become stale and did not bother to check for comments that often (again w/o logging in. Well I usually log in to post comments or for posting a new entry). Due to other activities, I was barely keeping an eye on the blogs in the Hella’s list but came to know about the nominations for BoB in the meantime. However, I couldn’t see any comment on my blog(ya ya…w/o logging in) and so assumed that I was not in the game. To make things worse, the email id to get comments notification is an outdated one, something I usually don’t bother to check. So there I was, under the assumption that I have not missed anything in my blog, toiling myself into personal and professional activities. A lot many things happened in between. More on that later…

Cut to last weekend…I was out of station, came back yesterday night and finally logged in my blog today morning to post a new entry and suddenly I couldn’t take my eyes off the comments section. I saw the first comment about the nomination for BoB by Clearadmit as – Unapproved (obviously it didn’t appear in the comments section before as I was checking it out w/o logging in) and another one about the invitation from Accepted.com to judge the Beautiful B-School Photo Contest (This was posted in the “About” section of my blog which I did not happen to explore since my last post). I am feeling really silly (or stupid might fit even better) now that I happen to miss the bus solely due my dereliction and letting the Murphy’s law take over! But then, in hindsight, glad to know that I was considered…

Good News : I have got to learn a lot (at least the basics are in place) about blogging from these mistakes. Hope it helps some of you people as well. Don’t just visit your own blog. Log in (quite frequently)/configure your email setting to bridge any communication gaps to make the most of it!

At last, I would like to express my hearty thanks to Clearadmit, Accepted.com and The GMAT Club for showing the recognition. I will try to give a better response next time!

P.S. : This is not the entry I was going to post. Will post the actual one soon!!