New Student Orientation - Spring 2020


Undergraduate Student Orientation: January 6 - January 10 (Arrive No Later Than January 5)

Graduate Student Orientation: By Appointment, January 2 - January 10 (Arrive No Later Than January 5)

Apply for Admission

You will receive a packet from the Office of Admissions with your I-20 or DS-2019 from Iowa State University. This will come via postal service, not electronically.


Accept Offer of Admission

This step is only completed by undergraduate degree-seeking students. Degree-seeking students must accept their offer of admission as soon as possible. This inlcudes a $300 acceptance fee. More information can be found on the Office of Admission's website.

Immigration Procedures

Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee

If you are a first-time applicant for an F-1 or J-1 visa, you are required to pay the SEVIS fee before your visa interview. More information regarding the I-901 SEVIS fee can be found on the I-901 SEVIS Fee website.

Apply for an F-1 or J-1 Visa

After accepting admission and paying the I-901 SEVIS fee, apply for a visa at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. More information can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.

Set Arrival Dates

You can arrive up to 30 days prior to the program start date. The program start date can be found in item #5 of your I-20 or item #3 of your DS-2019. ISSO recommends that you arrive 3 - 4 days before your program start date.

University Procedures

Create a NetId

Your NetID will be your main form of university communication and the key to access several resources at Iowa State University. Your NetID is the first part of your email address and you will use it on a daily basis. Please take a moment to create your NetID by following these simple steps on the ISU Information Technology website.

Submit Immunization Records

Incoming students must have certain immunizations completed to attend Iowa State University. Students can submit documentation of their immunization history to the Theilen Health Center. More information on immunization record requirements can be found on the Thielen Student Health Center website.

If you will be under the age of 18 when you arrive at ISU, it is required that your parent or guardian complete the Consent to Treat a Minor form.

Take the ALEKS Math Placement Test (Undergraduate Degree-Seeking Students Only)

The ALEKS math test is required for all undergraduate degree-seeking students. This test aids academic advisers in determining the appropriate mathematics course selection for you. We recommend you take this before you arrive at ISU. More information can be found on ALEKS Math Placement website.

Arrange Housing

Find Permanent Housing

You may choose to live on or off campus during your time at Iowa State University. More information about on-campus housing can be found on the Department of Residence website.

Register for Orientation Housing

During orientation and before the move-in date for residence halls, ISSO will provide temporary housing. For more information on how to register for Orientation Housing, please visit the Orientation Housing website.

Prepare for Your Trip

Bring required Documents

Students must have the following documents in their possesion when entering the United States:

  • Passport
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • Admission letter
  • Finacial support documentation

Go Through Immigration Processing at Airport

A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will review all immigration documents (listed above) and any supporting materials when you enter the U.S. border. They may ask additional questions about your plans in the U.S. If there are any questions regarding your record, you may be asked to go to secondary inspection for a more thorough review of your documents and record.

Prepare Your Initial Expenses

When packing for your initial expenses, we anticipate that your first few weeks in Ames may range from $1,000 to $1,500 (excluding cost of Orientation Housing or transportation). We recommend bringing sufficient funds to cover the first three months through traveller's checks, ATM, or debit/credit cards until you establish a bank account in the U.S. Never carry large amounts of cash with you or in your luggage when checked in with the airlines.

Getting to Ames from the Des Moines International Airport

Executive Express

ISSO has partnered with Executive Express to provide all incoming international students a FREE shuttle service from the Des Moines International Airport to Ames. This free ride is only available to new ISU international students. The baggage limit is 2 items in the back and a small personal item (that can be stored on your lap). There is a $15 fee for every additional bag.

To register: Email and a registration link will be sent via email.

Returning students and family members can register on the Executive Express website. For information on pricing, please refer to the Executive Express website.

Watch this video to learn more about Executive Express and what to expect.

Uber of Lyft

Uber and Lyft are popular modes of transportation for international students. To use Uber or Lyft, down their mobile application(s) on your phone. You will need to set-up payment with your credit card information. Once the app is set up on your phone, you can request pick-up from your current location to your destination in Ames. Price can vary depending on the day/time, but is typically around $90 USD (including tip).


You can find the queue for taxis directly outside of baggage claim. The price can vary, but anticipate around $100 USD (excluding tip).

Airport Express Shuttle

The Airport Express Shuttle can also take you directly to Ames. Stop by the Airport Express Shuttle counter by the baggage claim area.

Arrange Orientation Housing

During orientation, ISSO will provide Orientation Housing before students move into their permanent housing. Permanent housing information can be found in Step 2 under the Arrange Housing section or visit the Orientation Housing website.


All incoming international undergraduate, graduate, exchange students, and non-degree students who will enroll at ISU for the first time are welcome to stay in Orientation Housing. Family members and/or friends who accompany you can stay at Orientation Housing, but must make payment at the hotel upon their check-in.

If Arriving Before Orientation Housing

For students arriving before the start of Orientation Housing, you will need to make your own reservation for alternative housing.

Move to Permanent Housing

During orientation, students will move from Orientation Housing into permanent housing on a designated move-in date decided by the Department of Residence. ISSO will provide transportation from Orientation Housing to on-campus residence halls, on-campus apartments, and off-campus locations.

Attend Orientation

Undergraduate Orientation

Undergraduate Orientation Schedule

International Student Orientation will be your chance to get acquainted with campus, build your course schedule, and meet new friends! Undergraduates are required to attend all of Orientation.

Course Registration: Incoming international students will register for classes during the week of orientation. Students will have an arranged meeting with their academic adviser from their college who will personally help them develop their course schedule.

Graduate Student Orientation

Graduate students must participate in the orientation presentation, document processing, health screening, and some social events to fulfill their orientation requirements. More information on what to expect can be found on the International Graduate Student Orientation Guide. To register, please visit the Graduate Orientation Activities website.

Oral English Certification Test (OECT): Graduate students with teaching assistantships are required to take the OECT. More information on the OECT test can be found on the OECT Checklist for Spring 2020.

Course Registration: Some specific graduate departments allow their students to register early. This is strictly based on the discretion of the department. Contact your academic department for information about course registration.

Learn more about Graduate Student Orientation on the International Graduate Student Orientation Guide Spring 2020

All Students: Bring Documents for Orientation

  • Iowa State University I-20 or DS-2019
  • Passport
  • Printed I-94 Arrival Record (get yours here)
  • ISU ID Number (found on admission letter)
  • Dependent documents: Passports, visas, and I-20s or DS-2019s
  • Address in Ames (can be temporary address, such as hotel or home of a friend with whom you are staying)
  • Emergency contact information (name, phone number, email address, and physical address) for person in U.S. or abroad. Generally, this is a parent or other family member.
  • Letter of intent (for graduate students on assistantship)
  • Financial guarantee (if educational expenses are to be paid by a government, agency, or institution instead of by you or your family)

All Students: Take The English Placement Test

English Placement Test for Non-Native English Speakers of English (EPT) is required for all incoming students whose first language is not English and do not meet any of the other exemption categories. The English Placement Test results aid academic advisers in determining appropriate English course selection for you and determine whether English as a Second Language coursework is necessary. For registration, exemption, and all other information, review the English Placement Test website.

Pay Tuition

All International students must pay their student account balance (or U-Bill) on time to avoid additional charges. Iowa State University is now working with Western Union Business Solutions to provide international students an alternative method for paying student bills. This payment option allows you to pay your U-Bill balance in the currency of your choice and provides a simple and reliable way of initiating payments electronically. More information can be found on the Accounts Receivable website.