What to Expect After Admission

Congratulations, you have completed your application, finished your English placement, and been admitted! Due to new U.S. government policies, we can now email your I-20 and acceptance information to the email address in your application.

Upon receiving your I-20, there are still a few more steps to take before you get on a plane to the United States. If you have questions, you can always contact us at iep@wwu.edu. We are also available via video call, live chat (WhatsApp, Line), or by phone at +1 (360) 650-6702.

After Being Admitted

Step 1: Schedule Your Visa Appointment

As soon as you have your I-20 with your SEVIS number, contact the nearest U.S. embassy/consulate to schedule a visa appointment. Depending on your country, there may be an application fee.

If you are not sure where the nearest embassy or consulate is, please visit the Department of State website for a full list.

Step 2: Receive Your IEP Acceptance Packet

Once you have been admitted to the program you will receive emails with important information you will need to prepare for your arrival in Bellingham. It is critical that you take time to review all the documents and information in these emails.

Information sent includes:

  • Acceptance letter*
  • SEVIS I-20 Form*
  • WWU student account information
  • Housing information
  • Health and vaccination requirements
  • Confirmation of Arrival Form

*Bring these documents to your visa interview

Your acceptance letter includes next steps and important information to be aware of. It includes the start date and time for your IEP orientation. This orientation includes important immigration information, so it is critical that you are in Bellingham and ready to begin the quarter’s activities at that time. 

This is a three-page document that you will need to print, sign, and take to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in order to apply for a visa and enter the U.S. It’s very important that you keep the I-20 safe throughout your stay in the U.S.

Note: Due to a new SEVP policy effective March 2020, I-20 forms can be sent electronically or given to the student, their dependents, or, if a minor, their parents or legal guardian.

Students will receive an automated email with information on claiming their universal student account and setting a password. This username and password information is used to access all university resources during your time at Western, and should not be shared.

Students can choose the option of living on campus in one of the residence halls, or off campus in an apartment or house. Regardless of your choice, students are highly encouraged to make housing arrangements at least two months before their planned arrival as housing on and off campus quickly fills up. Learn more about housing options.

All students wanting to live on campus will submit a housing application which includes questions about lifestyle and preferences. This form allows the on-campus housing office to try and match you with roommates who have similar routines and interests.

Note: It may be necessary to pay a $200 deposit to hold your room on campus depending on when you apply.

Students are asked to submit their arrival details on this form so that staff can help with airport/ transit information and pick-up services in Bellingham.

Note: You may legally enter the U.S. 30 days before the program start date listed on your I-20. On-campus housing can accommodate early arrivals of 1-2 days before the official move-in, but you need to contact them to request this and there may be an extra fee.

Step 3: Sign the SEVIS I-20 Form

When you receive your I-20 form, print it out and sign and date the document in blue ink at the bottom of page one. This indicates that you have read page two of the I-20 and that you understand the terms and conditions of F1 status as a non-immigrant student. If you are under the age of 18, your parent or guardian must also sign below your signature.

Step 4: Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee

If you have not yet paid the SEVIS I-901 fee, you must do so before your visa appointment. This is a one-time fee payable to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). You can pay this fee at www.fmjfee.com

Note: Please be sure to print 2 copies of the receipt. Keep one for your records, and take one with you to your visa appointment.

Step 5: Prepare for the Visa Interview

This can be one of the most challenging parts of the admissions process. Experienced staff can always be reached with questions at iep@wwu.edu. We are also available for meetings via video call, live chat (WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat), or by phone.

Check Your Documents

  • Visa Application

    • Make sure you have accurately completed all sections, and that your answers are clear. If you had someone else help with the application, take some time to ensure that you understand all the information they provided.
  • SEVIS 1-20 Form
    • Is your name spelled correctly? Does it exactly match the name in your passport?
    • Is your date of birth correct?
    • Is your program information, reporting dates and financial information correct? If the program start date has passed, you must update it before your appointment.
    • Is your signature on page 1 of your I-20 form in blue ink?
  • Financial Documents
    • Do you have your printed receipt for the SEVIS fee?
    • Make sure your ability to support yourself financially during your time in the United States is clear.
    • If you have documents showing financial assets/property in your name, make sure to bring them as proof that you do not plan to stay in the U.S.

Prepare Your Explanations—Do Not Memorize a Script

The interview time is typically less than 5 minutes. The visa officer will want to know that you have clear study goals, can financially support yourself and anyone traveling with you during your time in the U.S., and most importantly that you have strong ties to a place outside of the U.S. that you will return to after your studies.

Academic and Career Plan: You’ll be asked if you have thought about why you want to study in the United States, what your major will be (if applicable), and what your long-term academic and career goals are. If you are not sure if you plan to enter a U.S. university after your IEP program, focus on how your improved English proficiency will help you in future academic studies and/or your professional career in your country.
You can demonstrate that you are focused on pursuing your education in the U.S. by showing proof of conditional undergraduate/graduate admission to Western:

  • Take the TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, or ACT.
  • Provide proof that you completed an ESL program or college preparation program.
  • Show that you are familiar with Western and its programs, as they relate to your career goals.

Review your financial support: It is important that you have reviewed and understand all the financial documents in your application. If a sponsor prepared the documents for you, make sure you are familiar with the information so you can answer any questions. This can be difficult to request as this information may traditionally be kept private (especially if your parents are your sponsor) - explain that it is very important for the success of your interview.

Long-term goals outside of the U.S.: After you have demonstrated how much studying in the U.S. will help further your academic goals, you must clearly and convincingly explain your reasons for leaving the U.S. after you complete your studies. Establish strong ties to a place outside the U.S., such as your hometown, home country, or current place of residence. Strong ties may include family, employment opportunities, property, investments, and other financial prospects. Students who are unable to show strong ties to a country other than the U.S. are often denied a student visa.

Note: If you have family in the U.S., be ready to fully explain your relationship, why they are in the U.S., and re-iterate that you have other prospects outside the U.S. that you plan to return to after your studies.

You may be asked what you will do if you are denied a visa. Stay calm - this is not a denial, but you will need to be prepared to answer the question honestly. Highlight your commitment to your studies, and explain that you would plan to reapply at a later date.

First Impressions Count!

Due to the many applications they receive, visa officers must make the process quick and efficient, which means you must make a good impression from the start. While nothing can guarantee that you will get a visa, we recommend the following:

  • Arrive early for your appointment.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Smile and use direct eye contact.
  • Speak clearly, and in English as much as possible.
  • Answer every question honestly, and avoid using a prepared speech (it is okay to ask them to repeat a question).
  • Keep answers brief and to the point, but do explain your plans when they ask what you want to do in the U.S.
  • Do not lie or hide information.
  • Be polite, and never argue with the officer.

If Your Student Visa Gets Denied

If you were denied a visa, we encourage you to maintain a positive attitude. Many students do not get a visa the first time and are successful on their second attempt.

If denied your visa, we recommend the following:

  • Though you may be upset, it will not help you to argue; instead, respectfully request the reasons for your denial in writing.
  • Ask the officer for a list of documents and/or information you need to bring when you re-apply.
  • If you have not done so, read the recommendations for preparing for the visa interview
  • Review the information you submitted. Make sure your documents are clear and complete.

If the information you received as to why you were denied is unclear, contact your agent or our office (iep@wwu.edu) to help understand how you might improve your application.

Note: Staff does not take any responsibility for the outcome of your visa application.


Prepare for Your New Life in the U.S.

Time to celebrate! You have your visa, and the hardest part of the admissions process is over. Here are the steps to ensure a smooth start to your U.S. study experience. As always, if you have any questions please email iep@wwu.edu or make an appointment with an advisor.

Step 1: Claim your Student Account and Submit the Housing Application (if You Haven’t Already)

Use your student ID and account information sent in an email to set a new password for your student account. Make a final decision about living on or off campus and apply via the housing portal or rent an apartment. Things to consider are how independent you want to be, how much you want to cook for yourself, and how much you can spend. The sooner you apply, the more likely you are to get your first choice of housing. Please check on-campus housing or off-campus living for more details.

Note: On-campus housing is especially popular in the fall quarter. IEP has some beds saved for students, but it is important to apply as early as possible and know that you may need to pay a $200 deposit to keep your bed reserved.

Step 2: Book your Flight(s) and Submit your Confirmation of Arrival Form

Most students fly into Seattle and take an airport bus, but there are many ways to get to Bellingham. If you are confused, feel free to contact us! During your planning, remember that if you arrive in Bellingham (not Seattle) inside our pickup window of 8 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Pacific Time) on the Friday, Saturday, or Sunday before your orientation begins, staff will pick you up from the bus station or local airport and help with your housing check-in process.

Note: You may legally enter the U.S. 30 days before the program start date listed on your I-20. However, on-campus housing will charge you an early arrival fee for each day you need housing before the official move-in date, and usually only allows up to two days of early arrival.

Step 3: Immunizations 

All international students in IEP must enroll in the LewerMark insurance plan accepted by Western, unless they can provide evidence of equal coverage in a current plan. The cost of this insurance will be automatically billed to your account. Check the health page for more details. 

You are required to submit proof of full immunization against measles (usually through two doses of MMR) to the Student Health Portal. Students who do not have proof will be referred to the Student Health Center for immunizations before IEP registration.
WWU requires students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or to have a waiver if immunization is not medically possible. Please see the health page for details on which vaccines are accepted, how to submit your proof, and what to do if you cannot get the COVID vaccine in your country.

New Student Orientation

Orientation takes place every quarter for new students and it is required. See your admission email or acceptance letter for exact dates of orientation. If you are not able to attend the orientation, you may be asked to defer enrollment to the following quarter. Please contact the IEP office if this is the case.

What You Can Expect at Orientation

  • Advising (immigration, safety, etc.)
  • Registration information
  • Introduction to campus life and resources
  • Familiarization about academic and program expectations
  • Meetings with other international students
  • Getting to know the IEP director, instructors, and staff members

What to Bring to Orientation

  • Passport with current U.S. visa and your physical I-20
  • Your new U.S. address and/or phone number
  • Proof of alternate health insurance in English if you have it
  • Email address
  • Parent or emergency contact information in your home country, including a current email address and/or phone number
  • Comfortable walking shoes - you will walk to various locations across campus
  • Extra layers of clothing - you will be spending time indoors and outside
  • Refillable water bottle if you have it


There are two housing options for IEP students, on- and off-campus housing. Please read this information carefully to choose the best housing option for you.

On-Campus Housing

Please note: We recommend that you have your F-1 student visa before you apply for on campus housing, unless you are a transfer student or do not need and F-1 student visa. If you have a late visa appointment, you may be asked to pay a deposit to hold your place.

General Housing Information

International students generally live in Birnam Wood, a residence hall which is set up in an apartment style.

There are two bedrooms in each apartment. You will share a room with a roommate. There are a total of four students living in each unit. Laundry facilities are located near each apartment building.

Western offers many other on-campus options at different price-points. Please explore the options at WWU’s Housing website.

Note: On-campus housing fills up quickly and your first choice is not always available.

Apartment style dormitory with bunks on either side of the room and closets along the back
White painted kitchen in an Apartment style dormitory.
Bedroom with bed, desk and a single lamp.
Living room with couch, matching chair and coffee table. The sunlight pours through a large window behind the couch.
Dorm room with two bunks dressed out in blue and green
Buchanan towers dorm room living area with a small blue couch, matching chair and coffee table

How to Apply

Once you have your Western ID and account information, please log in and apply using the Housing portal. Please contact an advisor at iep@wwu.edu for help with this application if needed. 

Housing Application Deadlines

Deadlines for Priority Housing Application by Quarter
Fall August 1
Winter November 30
Spring March 1

Students who wish to remain in on-campus housing during the summer should talk with IEP staff.

Off-Campus Housing

If choosing to live off campus, is the responsibility of the student to find an apartment or house. There are many different types of apartments and homes for rent. Often, students must have a co-signer living in the U.S. or be able to pay a larger deposit. Most students must be willing to rent the apartment for 12 months or risk losing their deposit.

Studio apartments have a kitchen, living area and sleeping area in one room. These apartments are usually the cheapest. One bedroom and two bedroom apartments and houses have one or two bedrooms separate from the kitchen and living area. A duplex is a house attached to another house. The two homes share the yard. Most apartments and houses are not furnished.

Off-Campus Housing Prices

A one bedroom in a shared house is available in the price range of $600-900 per month. Sharing an apartment with a roommate may be less expensive. Rent is generally due on the first day of each month and is paid directly to the property manager.

How to Apply for Off-Campus Housing

Contact a property management company. Each management company has different applications and rules.

Property Management Companies