Graduate School

Graduate Program Coordinators Handbook

Section 8

International Students


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The University considers a student’s ability to communicate effectively in the English language to be critically important to his/her academic and personal success as well as to safety in laboratories and other academic or research environments. 

The Graduate School requires all international applicants whose primary language is not English and/or who have completed their undergraduate education primarily outside of the USA to submit official TOEFL, IELTS or Pearson’s Test of Academic English scores as evidence of English language proficiency. The University’s English language proficiency requirements may be met by providing qualifying test scores as listed below. To be considered official, test scores must be sent directly from the testing agency to the University and be less than two (2) years old. The TOEFL school-code for the University of Mississippi is 1840.

The Graduate School recognizes a number of countries as being English-speaking (exemption list) and applicants who are citizens of these countries will be exempted from the English proficiency requirement for International Applicants. In addition, evidence that English is an applicant's "native language" can be determined by the medium of academic study, which is defined as the equivalent of four (4) years of instruction at the secondary or college level where the language of instruction is English. Applicants who have earned a bachelors or masters degree from an institution of higher learning where the medium of instruction is English may be considered for a waiver of the requirement for English language proficiency testing.





Full access to undergraduate academic courses granted

79 or

550 or

6 or

53 or higher

Enrollment in Intensive English:
IE-100 required.


69 - 78
523 - 549
5.5 - 5.99

Enrollment in Intensive English courses required and enrollment in undergraduate academic courses not permitted until satisfactory English language proficiency for Admission is demonstrated.

Below 69
Below 523
Below 5.5
Below 47


For a TOEFL Concordance Table, please click HERE.

International applicants who apply for admission as short term Non-Degree Seeking Students must meet the University’s requirements and comply with the requirements of their respective sponsor-programs or sending-institutions as agreed upon by the University. International applicants who apply for admission as short term Non-Degree Seeking Exchange Students from academic institutional partners or ISEP may be exempted from the TOEFL, IELTS or Pearson’s test requirement though must nonetheless provide a certification of English language proficiency issued by the institution through which the exchange program is facilitated.


International applicants who do not meet the English language proficiency requirements as stated above may be admitted with English Language Deficiency to a graduate program of study at the University, provided all other application and admission requirements are met. The condition of their admission in such case may include one or more English language courses over the course of one or multiple terms until the English proficiency requirements for admission-without-conditions to the program have been met.  The University requires that all international graduate students admitted conditionally on the basis of insufficient English language proficiency meet the following requirements:
  • Admitted students whose TOEFL, IELTS or Pearson’s Test Scores are 69-78 (TOEFL IBT), 523-549 (TOEFL PPT), 5.50-5.99 (IELTS) or 53-59 (Pearson’s) must enroll in a 3-credit “English for Special Purposes”-course (IE100) during their first term of enrollment at the University must enroll in a 3-credit “English for Special Purposes”-course (IE100) during their first term of enrollment at the University.
  • Course Description: IE 100 – English for Specific Purposes  (3 credits)-English for Specific Purposes offers international students a hands-on introduction to the practices which constitute academic language use at the University of Mississippi.  Through small-projects, readings, and discussions, students will investigate how academic English is actually used in classes and for various assignments. In particular, students will focus on developing skills and strategies that will strengthen their existing expertise in the following areas:  locating, reading and critiquing academic articles; producing written work across a variety of genres (reaction papers, discussion questions, definitions, syntheses); and leading and participating in oral activities.
    *Students required to take this course may also take additional graduate course during their first term of enrollment.

  • Students who wish to be considered for an exemption of the IE100 requirement may choose to take the English Placement Test offered during the International Student Orientation by the University’s Test Center and facilitated by the Intensive English Program. International students who score at least 80 on the University’s English Placement Test will be waived from the IE100 requirement. Please note that the cost of the English Placement Test (currently $25) will be charged directly to the student’s bursar account upon taking the test.

  • Students whose TOEFL, IELTS or Pearson’s Test Scores are below 69 (TOEFL IBT), 523 (TOEFL PPT), 5.50 (IELTS) or 53 (Pearson’s) must enroll in English courses ONLY at the University’s Intensive English Program (IEP) during their first term of enrollment and until such time the requisite English language proficiency requirements for Fall admission - without language deficiency. Such students may not be able to serve as Graduate Assistants for the period of enrollment at IEP.



Students are responsible for achieving and maintaining their visa status. The Office of International Programs provides assistance and monitoring of international students with respect to immigration and visa matters. The majority of international graduate students will enter on an F-1 student visa, though some may enter with a J-1 sponsored or exchange-student visa, an F-2 dependent or a J-2 dependent visa. Graduate Program Coordinators are advised to direct questions in the area to the Office of International Programs.

An I-20 form is a document that students present to the Consular Officers when applying for an F-1 student visa. In some countries, this document is even necessary to apply for a passport. In order for the Office of International Programs to issue an I-20 to an international student who is not presently in the U.S., the student has to have been admitted by the Graduate School and there must be documentation that the student has sufficient funds to attend Ole Miss. The estimated cost of attendance (ECA) can be found on the Office of International Programs site. Click HERE

If a student is offered a graduate teaching assistantship, with the accompanying partial tuition scholarship and non-resident fee scholarship, this financial assistance can contribute to the resources needed by the student to meet the ECA. If a department offers an incoming international student an assistantship, it is very important that the department informs the Office of International Programs about this offer so that they can include the amount in the I-20 visa application form for the student. Applicants will often need to supplement any University support with their personal funds to meet the ECA.

Students who are already in the U.S., but want to begin studies here, will also need to complete a School Transfer Eligibility form that is available in the Office of International Programs. Though the processing time will vary from country to country, it generally takes a minimum of two months for an I-20 form to be prepared, mailed to the student, and for the student to obtain a visa.

Departments should always provide original letters using University departmental letterhead to the student regarding any assistantship or fellowship award. Some students do have a difficult time in the visa application interview convincing the Consular Officer that they will have sufficient funds for study. It is also important for the student to be able to state clearly and concisely why a particular program in a particular school is important for their career plans. Departments can help by giving the student information regarding the outstanding aspects of the program, the faculty, the research opportunities, etc. at this university as compared to another. The emphasis should not be on opportunities that the student might have to stay in the U.S. after completing a degree, but rather how study here will benefit the student and his/her country upon return. The Office of International Programs can assist students and faculty with questions concerning visas.


To satisfy INS requirements, international students in F-1 or J-1 status must maintain full-time enrollment (defined as 9 hours per regular semester) during the fall and spring semesters until their final enrollment period. During the final enrollment period, an international student may enroll for a minimum of 3 hours (1 hour if a summer term). However, if a student does not complete all degree requirements during this semester, he or she will be required to register for a full 9 hours in all subsequent semesters. A modification of this general rule applies to doctoral students who have completed their comprehensive examination, all required coursework, and are in the condition of candidacy. These students are required to meet the requirements for continuous enrollment, but this may be met by enrolling for as few as 3 hours for two out of the three enrollment periods during a calendar year. To be allowed to enroll for this reduced amount of hours (i.e., 3 hours instead of 9), an international student must have on file in the Graduate School a report of completion of the comprehensive exam and a letter from his or her academic advisor stating that he or she has completed all required formal course work and has given a projected semester for completion of the degree.

Master’s degree seeking international students may also avail themselves of the option of enrolling for fewer than 9 hours during a regular semester if they have completed all required course work. To be permitted to do so, the student must provide a letter from his or her advisor stating that all required formal course work (other than thesis) has been completed and projecting the semester for completion of the degree.
Note that these reduced enrollment options do not change the required enrollment for eligibility for tuition scholarships.

Failing to maintain full-time enrollment will cause the student to lose his or her legal status. Among other things this would mean the student could no longer have work authorization.

Students who hold the immigration status of F-2, J-2 or B are not required to be full-time students for immigration purposes. For questions concerning any other status, contact the Office of International Programs.


International students who hold the immigration status of F-1 and have a valid I-20 from the University of Mississippi are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week on campus when school is in session. During official breaks, such as the period between fall and spring semesters or spring break, these students can work an unlimited number of hours on campus. Students can also work additional hours during the summer if they are not enrolled in classes but do intend to enroll in the fall. Assistantships do count toward this total. Students who hold J-1 status also can have on-campus work authorization but first need to have written approval from the institution that issued their IAP-66. The University of Mississippi's Office of International Programs would need to give the permission. Those in J-2 status can apply for work authorization through INS, which may take 90 days to process. Students in F-2 or B status have no work authorization and therefore cannot accept assistantships. It may be possible to change their status to one that would allow work authorization, but this can take time. A change of status application can take eight months to be processed by INS and work cannot begin until the change is formally approved.


Some graduate programs accommodate opportunities for off-campus internships. If an international student in F-1 status wishes to participate in such an internship, this usually falls under the category of F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT). To be eligible for CPT it is necessary for the academic advisor of the international student to be able to stipulate that the training is designed to enhance the student's overall educational experience, that the advisor will provide a degree of remote supervision of this training experience, and that the training is a course requirement or is required for completion of the degree. Training may be for up to 40 hours per week. While there is no limit to the amount of time spent on CPT, it is important for the student to understand that time spent on a full-time CPT internship will be deducted from the 12 months of Optional Practical Training time that many international graduate students try to reserve for the period just after they complete their degrees. Training that is for 20 hours a week or less is considered part time and requires concurrent course work in order to maintain full-time status. See the Appendix for a form to be used for setting up a Curricular Practical Training experience for a student.


Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization is another opportunity for students to gain professional work experience in their fields of study. Students in F-1 status have a one-year period of eligibility. It can be used in the following situations: (1) during the summer if the student intends to register for the fall semester, (2) while school is in session provided that the training is not more than 20 hours per week, (3) full-time after completion of all course requirements for the degree excluding thesis and (4) full-time after completion of the course of study. GAINING THIS TYPE OF AUTHORIZATION DOES TAKE SEVERAL MONTHS. Students should come to the Office of International Programs well before their anticipated dates of employment to apply for authorization. It involves an application to the Immigration and Naturalization Service and endorsement from the Office of International Programs. Once granted, the student receives an Employment Eligibility Document (EED), which lists the dates they are authorized to work. The authorization is not employer specific, but the work does need to be in the student's major field of study and commensurate with his/her educational level.


Foreign scholars who desire to enroll in the Graduate School but who do not wish to pursue a degree, may be admitted without the required TOEFL score. Those students will be limited to enrollment as auditing students only. Should a student be admitted under this provision later wish to be admitted to a degree program, all admission requirements, including acceptable TOEFL scores or the equivalent, must be met. However, no work taken while an auditing student will be applied in any way to the degree program.


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