First-Year International Students Face Challenges During Transition to DePauw


International students make up more than 10% of the first-year class, yet many individuals in this population of students have noticed a lack of accommodations to help them through their transition to life both in the United States and specifically at DePauw. Some students expressed that it is difficult to get used to the environment, the people, and especially the new government system and paperwork they have never dealt with before. 

Two of the most common problems that incoming international students face are the social security number (SSN) application process and the bank account age limitation.

Applying for a Social Security Number (SSN) 

An SSN is a nine-digit number that helps the government identify and accurately record your covered wages or self-employment earnings. This number is given to domestic citizens when they are born, but international students must go through an application process to receive one. Not all students need an SSN, but if you want to legally work on-campus jobs or have any other U.S. income in the future, you must have an SSN to proceed. 

Many international students are struggling with the SSN application. “It is too difficult and complex for us to keep track of what we need to prepare for the SSN application as there is a ton of paper you need to finish,” according to first-year Shaelyn Xie. 

Normally, DePauw students cannot work on campus over 20 hours per week. Students can use Handshake to look for on-campus jobs and apply for positions that they are interested in. According to another first-year, Lucia Jing “the most difficult part is writing a resume”. However, this problem can be solved by contacting the Hubbard Center, which aids students in preparing their resumes. 

For more information on applying for an SSN, students can visit the Social Security Number & Driver's License section of DePauw’s website. Some of these documents are done by the employer, so students need to have a job before applying.

“My advice would be to try and get all the documents you can as soon as possible,” sophomore Aneesa Ahmed said. After checking their documents and status, DePauw International Student Affairs can help international students make an appointment with the Social Security Office. The nearest DePauw shuttle to take students to the Crawfordsville Social Security Office, is about 35 minutes from campus. To sign up for the shuttle when it is available on September 16 or 28 , students can watch out for an email with more information or email Beth Haymaker who is an interim International Student Services Specialist.

Another issue that students tend to run into is formatting their documents correctly. “Make sure your name in the documents the employer gave you and your name in your passport are exactly similar,” Ngan Tran, a first-year international student said. 

Documents are vital; if any error appears, the process can be postponed for over 10 days.  “Making a list for all required documents that you need for SSN and asking for help if you do not know what to do,” Xie said. If students have any difficulty, they can reach out to Beth Haymaker or LaToshia Everson and ask other students who have already gotten their SSN.

Creating a Bank Account 

Last week, the DePauw shuttle took students who wanted to create a U.S. bank account to the PNC bank. During the trip, several international students ran into trouble because they were not old enough. DePauw had not informed them that, due to the bank policy, only students 18 years or older can legally open bank accounts. 

“We did not know that information until we came to the bank and surprisingly be rejected by the bank staff. I was really confused as I planned to pay this month's tuition after having my bank card,” Duyen Nguyen, another first-year, said. 

“I still have to wait until my birthday to open my bank account,” first-year Linh Nguyen said. 

Both students are using the credit card they brought from their own country. If students have the same issue and do not have U.S. cash, this is the only solution. “One disadvantage is the higher exchange rate and service charge compared to a U.S. card,” Nguyen said.  Students who intend to go to the bank for a card or account should consider their age and their card options beforehand.