Frequently Asked Questions

Will my high school credits transfer?
This depends on your particular situation. To check on your situation, please contact Coe’s Registrar at o-registrar@coe.edu.

What testing does Coe require for admission?
Please see the website of the Office of Admission for a complete description of requirements for admission, instructions for applying, and the online application for admission: http://www.coe.edu/admission/international/applicationprocess_international.

Testing requirements depend on the type of applicant, such as first year, transfer, non-traditional, etc. Applicants can also contact the Office of Admission at admission@coe.edu.

I went to an English-speaking secondary school. Will Coe waive my English proficiency test requirement?
Please visit the Admission Plans page for more information on this topic:
http://www.coe.edu/admission/international/admissionplans_international

To be considered for admission, all international applicants need to demonstrate English proficiency. Coe College accepts a variety of exams scores to demonstrate English proficiency, including TOEFL, IELTS, ACT, and SAT. Students with other means of demonstrating English proficiency are encouraged to contact their admission counselor for more details about fulfilling this requirement. Please see http://www.coe.edu/admission/international

What is a Social Security Number? Do I need one?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is intended to accurately record your earnings in the U.S. International students in F-1 status have permission to work on campus and are therefore eligible for SSNs. (Note: there are limitations to this permission. Consult the International Student Advisor for details.) Initially, international students do not require a SSN, but if you are approved for employment you will need to get a SSN. Also, if you are going to receive a fellowship or scholarship payment from Coe, you will need a Social Security number or an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Information Number) if you are not eligible for a SSN.

What is a credit score? Do I need a credit card?
A person's credit score is a number that shows potential retailers and banks their overall credit rating broken down into a figure. The higher the credit score the better the likelihood of getting student loans, financing, or mortgages. Your credit score goes a long way in determining your trustworthiness as a borrower. If you don't have a credit history or if you have bad credit, banks will likely turn you down when you ask for a loan. That means buying a house or a car, or getting the money to launch a business, will be more difficult.​ In addition, some landlords run credit checks on potential renters to determine whether or not they'll rent their apartment to the person. Also, some employers do the same checks on candidates they're thinking of hiring. ​Two things that help improve your credit score: 1) getting a SSN and 2) getting a credit card, and being a responsible credit card owner. International students in F-1 status may be eligible for both of these.

Do I need to do taxes?
Yes, all international students in F-1 status must file U.S. taxes, even if they have not earned any income over the calendar year. At Coe, students are given two options for completing taxes. You will use option 1 if you have not earned any income. You will use option 2 if you have earned income. The second option requires more work that you will do on your own, but Coe provides free tax completion software that will walk you through the whole process. The International Student Advisor will provide more information about taxes once you are on campus.

What is SEVIS? Why is it important?
SEVIS, or the Student & Exchange Visitor Information System, is an online monitoring program regulated by the U.S. government (the Department of Homeland Security) that determines how many F, M, and J status nonimmigrants are in the U.S., where they are, and what they are studying. Coe has 3 people authorized and trained to access and manage SEVIS: Peter Gerlach, International Student Advisor; Anna Drexler, Director of the ESL program; and Kayli Harlan, Assistant Director of Admission for International and Transfer Recruitment. Records about international students at Coe are updated regularly and; therefore, it is very important that you report any new or changed information as soon as possible.

What documents do I need to travel to the U.S.?
DOCUMENTS YOU SHOULD CARRY WITH YOU DURING YOUR TRAVELS:
(DO NOT PLACE THESE ITEMS IN YOUR CHECKED LUGGAGE. HAVE THEM WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES.)

  • Valid Passport with U.S. Visa
  • Form I-20 from Coe College
  • Evidence of financial resources

IN ADDITION, IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT YOU ALSO CARRY THE FOLLOWING:

  • Paper receipt for $200 SEVIS fee payment
  • Coe College acceptance and enrollment letter
  • Name and contact information for the Designated School Official at Coe College

How do I renew my F-1 visa?
This is a much more complicated question that it may seem at first. Therefore, see link about Visa Renewal Information. Generally speaking, though, F-1 visas must be renewed outside of the U.S. and most students choose to renew their visa in their home country. Be aware that the documents you need will vary with the particular consulate you visit and that the length of time varies for how long this process will take. It is important to plan accordingly. Many embassies have websites with information about their visa application procedures.

What does “D/S” mean on the Form I-94?
“D/S” means duration of status, which correlates to the program completion date on your Form I-20. Please look at your Form I-20 to find your program completion date.

How many classes am I required to take each semester?
To maintain your F-1 status as an international student, you are required to be enrolled in a “full course of study.” At Coe, this means that you need to take at least 3 credits per semester. There are some exceptions to this, but all must be approved by the International Student Advisor first.

What is a Reduced Course Load (RCL)? When do I qualify for one?
With a RCL, F-1 international students are considered to be maintaining status even if they are not registered for a “full course of study,” and they continue to be eligible for F-1 benefits if they are otherwise eligible. The International Student Advisor must approve all requests for a reduced course load and update SEVIS prior to the student reducing his or her course load. A student who drops below a full course of study without the prior approval of the ISA will be considered out of status. There are several types of RCLs, and they generally relate to academic performance or medical concerns. If you think you may qualify, please speak with the ISA.

How many credits do I need to graduate?
To graduate at Coe, all students must earn at least 32 credits with grades leading to cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or higher. If students have transfer credits, either from secondary school or from another higher education institution, they should disclose this during the application process to see how many will be approved for transfer.

Can I stay on campus during break? If yes, is there a charge?
International students on F-1 status may stay on Coe’s campus over fall, Thanksgiving, winter, spring, and summer breaks. There are various costs for remaining on campus. For the 2016-17 academic year, the costs for all degree-seeking students are as follows: fall and Thanksgiving breaks are no cost. For both winter and spring breaks, students must pay $35 per day. However, to stay on campus for the entire winter break, students must pay $300. For the entire spring break, the cost is $150. To stay on campus over the summer, students pay either $50 per week for one of the residence halls or $100 per week for one of the apartments on campus.

I was awarded “work-study”. What jobs can I take?
International students on F-1 status are awarded employment authorization. That is, “work-study” is a federal program for which internationals do not qualify. The result, however, is the same; international students may choose from (mostly) the same set of employment options as domestic students and are bound to the same expectations and requirements as their domestic “work-study” counterparts. Additionally, it is important to note that international students on F-1 may only choose from on-campus job options until they have completed a full academic year of study. Jobs on campus vary greatly; though, most first-year students work in either the dining hall or with the plant department (maintenance and janitorial). Many other options exist in offices and departments across campus. All of these can be searched on Coe Connections in the mycoe.edu webpage. For internationals, employment of every kind is limited to 20 or fewer hours while classes are ongoing, but can be extended to up to 40 hours while on fall, Thanksgiving, winter, spring, and summer breaks.

What do I need to do for off-campus employment?
You will need to have a meeting with the ISA to discuss all of your options. At Coe, most off-campus employment for international students on F-1 status is approved through CPT.

What is CPT? What is OPT?
CPT stands for Curricular Practical Training. This is a program which allows international students on F-1 visa status to work off-campus. After one full year of studies in the U.S., you may request an application for CPT from the ISA. The important thing to keep in mind is that CPT is temporary authorization for practical training directly related to your major field of study. Your major field of study is listed on your I-20. "Practical training" will be documented in SEVIS and can include employment, internship experience (paid or unpaid), cooperative (co-op) education experience, practicum participation, etc. To complete the application, you will work together with the ISA and your academic advisor. Also, keep the following in mind: CPT may be part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week). If you accumulate 12 months (365 or more days) of full-time CPT authorization, you lose your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT), another type of employment authorization for F-1 students. Part-time CPT and fewer than 12 months of full-time CPT authorization does not affect your OPT eligibility. Finally, to be eligible for CPT you must also have a declared major (pre-major students, those who are not yet admitted into a major, are not eligible for CPT. CPT cannot be authorized based on a minor or certificate program). See link for more information.

OPT stands for Optional Practical Training. At Coe, only post-completion OPT is granted. In other words, with the help of the ISA, you will apply for OPT once you are in your last semester of studies and you will begin your OPT job after you have graduated. If approved by SEVIS, this is a full-time, usually 12-month, employment opportunity. While approved for OPT, you are still in F-1 status and must report address changes and employment information to the ISA. See link for information about employment requirements, reporting rules, travel, and other regulations pertaining to your OPT authorization period.

Additionally, most international students with declared STEM-related academic majors may apply for the STEM OPT Extension. If approved by SEVIS, you will have an additional, usually, 24 months to continue your employment in the U.S. For more information, please see link.

I am traveling outside the U.S. for break. What do I need to do?
If you are planning a trip outside of the U.S., you will need to do several things. You’ll want to be sure you have of the required documents as well as the recommended documents with you. See link for list. Shortly before you leave, you’ll schedule a visit with the ISA to get an updated I-20 travel signature. Additionally, it is wise to pay attention travel alerts to the countries you plan to visit, both before you leave and while you are abroad. If you have additional concerns or questions, please contact the ISA.

I want to borrow/buy/rent a car. What do I need to do to get a driver’s license?
Many international students on F-1 visa status in the U.S. do choose to get a driver’s license, and, in some cases, a vehicle of their own, because public transportation in non-large cities is not always so good. Also, many U.S. Americans do have their own vehicles and do not rely on public transportation. If you are interested in borrowing a friend’s car, renting a car, or buying your own vehicle, then there are several things you will need to do. First, you must get a driver’s license. http://www.iowadot.gov/mvd/driverslicense/newresidents.htm. But this is not the only thing you need when considering driving in the U.S./Iowa. What are the rules about insurance? And what about buying and selling a car? Finally, what happens if the police pull you over while you are driving? For these issues, please also read this handy PDF called “New to Iowa? 8 Things You Need to Know to Get Where You Need to Go.” Finally, if you are interested in renting a car, it’s important to know that different companies have different policies. This website will help you get started, though: https://www.internationalstudent.com/travel/student-car-rental/.

Links of Interest

Which banks have branches in Cedar Rapids? Is there an ATM on campus?
There are several banks operating locally in Cedar Rapids; however, only one bank, U.S. Bank, has an ATM on campus (this is located in the first floor of Gage Memorial Union). At Coe, if international students are interested in opening a bank account based in the United States, we encourage them to choose U.S. Bank. This is for convenience reasons: first, they have an ATM on campus and; second, there are several bank locations within walking distance to campus. The other large, well-known banking option is Wells Fargo. There are also smaller, local banking options within walking or a short driving distance (these are often preferred by locals): Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust, Hills Bank & Trust Company, Guaranty Bank & Trust Co, NXT Bank, and Collins Community Credit Union.

I am looking to get a mobile phone. What carriers work well in Cedar Rapids?
As with banks, there are many options in the U.S. for mobile phone service. The most popular options include: Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T, and U.S. Cellular. As you would expect, prices and service capabilities will vary. There are also various short term, pay-as-you-go, and phone card options available at stores like Target and Wal-Mart. The best advice will probably come from currently enrolled students who can tell you what works best for them and why.

I am sick/injured. Where can I receive health care? (Hospitals, nurse practitioners, health insurance, mental health.)
Let’s begin with insurance. At Coe, international students on F-1 visas are required to purchase ISO student health insurance. See link for costs and other information about your plan. This will be added to your student bill and be done prior to your arrival on campus. Many internationals do already have a health insurance plan from their home country, but all will be required to buy this Coe-approved insurance, too.

In terms of health services, on campus, Coe has both a school nurse and a mental health counselor. Students may visit both free of cost. Off campus, there are several options in the Cedar Rapids area.

Beyond these on-campus options, when choosing between health care options off-campus, it is important for international students to visit locations that are approved by ISO student health insurance. This is a reality for all people in the U.S. Therefore, for physical health issues or problems, students should generally choose St. Luke’s Hospital (located next to Coe’s campus) over Mercy Medical Center. Additionally, international students may prefer to go to smaller clinics, or “urgent care” facilities. There are several in town to choose from, but those that are pre-approved by ISO student health insurance include: x, y, and z.