University: University of Wisconsin, Madison
Course: PhD in Computer Science
Date: May 2018
Counter No: 30
Visa Interview Experience:
VO was a lady in her thirties. I was patiently waiting for my turn as a B1 Visa applicant was giving her interview. VO was asking way too many questions to her. She rejected her after around 5 minutes of interview and wished her luck. Then came my turn, I already had my passport and I-20 in my hand by then:
ME: Good Morning ma'am
VO: Please pass me your passport. I passed my passport along with my I-20 and she said Oh yes, and your I-20. Since, there weren't many F-1 students around my time slot, she might have forgotten to ask the I-20.
VO: Which University are you going to?
ME: I'm going to University of Wisconsin, Madison
VO: Looking at my I-20, Oh, a PhD degree in Computer Science. Do you have a Masters degree already?
ME: No. I'll actually be starting as a Masters student.
VO: Even I wanted to do a PhD but my Masters thesis itself was hell enough for me and she laughed. (I too laughed and didn't really know what to say.) (I was so close to asking her what did she do her Masters in, but luckily I realized she was the interviewer and not me)
VO: So, your Bachelor's too is in Computer Science?
ME: Yes, ma'am.
VO: I thought so, but still wanted to ask anyway and she smiled
VO: How much was your undergraduate score?
ME: My undergraduate score was 9.88 out of 10.
VO: Did Madison require you to take GRE?
ME: Yes, ma'am.
VO: How much did you score in GRE?
ME: I scored 324 in GRE and a 5 point in Analytical Writing.
VO: Why do you want to do a PhD?
ME: I want to establish my own company based on a high scale distributed database back here in India. Madison is well known for it's research in Databases.
VO: How many Universities did you apply to?
ME: I applied for a PhD at 4 Universities and for an MS at 5 Universities.
VO: How many admits did you get?
ME: I got an admit for PhD at Madison and an admit for MS at Georgia Institute of Technology
VO: Oh, but you want to do a PhD anyway. (I think she answered herself a subsequent question of Why did you choose Madison over GaTech)(She started looking at the screen and typing. I was getting so nervous but still tried to keep my calm. She didn't say anything for at least 30 seconds)
VO: My next question was going to be about funding, but since it's a PhD admit, I thought it should be funded. Then she looked at the I-20 and verified whether it was funded.
VO: How long will the studies take? 4 years?
ME: It'll take around 5-6 years ma'am since I'll be starting with an MS. (She took a pause again and started typing something looking at the screen. This time she took the booklet containing yellow slips and kept it near her. I was getting soooo anxious. This pause was around 30 seconds too.)
VO: Which other countries have you been to?
ME: I had been to the United Arab Emirates when I was in my 5th grade and to Saudi Arabia when I was in my 4th grade. (She took a 3rd pause, I tried to convince myself since I hadn't screwed up anything yet and had prepared really well. She had no reason whatsoever to reject me. This pause as well was around 30 seconds.)
VO: Okay, I'm approving your Visa. Study hard.
ME: Thank you ma'am. Collected my I-20 and ran so fast from that place.
Some key observations based on my experience:
- They really just want to check your intent, whether you have proper funding and whether you'll come back. As long as you can demonstrate all of these, they won't reject you.
- You'll be able to hear lots of interviews happening around you when you're waiting for your turn. Don't pay attention to anything at all. Maybe try to recollect some song lyrics or something. Just keep your mind diverted. Hearing people get rejected would just make you nervous.
- Greet them with a smile, try to keep a jolly look on your face throughout your interview. Don't let them feel as if you're under pressure (even if you are). Treat it like a normal conversation and everything will go well.
- Be clear, concise and to the point. Don't over exaggerate or say too less.
- Prepare well before your interview. I did a mock interview of myself in the morning standing in front of a mirror. The mock contained around 40 FAQs. And guess what? It contained all the questions she asked! :P Visa Interviews are no rocket science but preparation gives you a psychological edge that of knowing you’ve prepared and hence adds up to your confidence.
- Don’t go too early, They’ll start taking you inside only before 15 minutes of your appointment time. Reaching 30 minutes before your appointment time should be the ideal scenario (at least for Chennai embassy).
- Wear something you’re comfortable in. It need not be too formal and surely must not be too informal. There shouldn’t be any external factor obstructing your performance (entirely my opinion)
- Don't assume beforehand that your interview duration will be 1-2 minutes, it entirely depends on the VO. Furthermore, don't get upset if the interview lasts long. Keep your calm and have the belief to hear the golden words.