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How CPT Can Advance Your Career

During your time studying in the US, you may have heard about Curricular Practical Training, also known as CPT. In short, it’s a program that allows you to take on a paid internship and gain meaningful work experience while you’re studying in America. Beyond just being a source of income, CPT brings numerous long-term benefits and should prove to be a real boost to your future career. 

What is CPT? 

CPT is a special work-study program for international students in the US designed to offer opportunities to work on or off-campus in paid positions both part-time and full-time as part of their overall studies. The idea is to help equalize international students who can’t access government funding for internship positions in the same way that American students can for work-study programs. 

The salaries for these positions come from the employer, not the government, with the chief goal of being able to use the experience gained to advance in your chosen field. It’s not just to provide a source of income, the work must be meaningfully connected to your studies. 

Job positions can be offered both on and off-campus. If they are on campus, international students can work part-time (20 hours or less per week), and the program can begin from their very first semester after enrolling in classes. If the positions are off-campus, students can work for 40 hours a week. 

In addition, CPT is available to graduate students off-campus in their first year in the US, as long as their school in the US proves that employment is a required part of their studies and that it’s necessary for the employment to begin immediately. There are a number of regulations and requirements that have to be met both by the student and by the school to participate. 

Benefits: How CPT Can Help You Advance Your Career 

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of this program that international students enjoy. 

1. You Can Earn Money 

Ok, it’s true that earning money while you’re studying doesn’t directly advance your career, but it does help you to support yourself and your life in the US. It can also lessen the burden of asking your family for financial support. With that extra peace of mind, you can focus on your new job and the wealth of knowledge and experience it offers you. 

2. Relevant Work Experience 

Perhaps the greatest work-related benefit is the experience that you can gain from the CPT program. Because the work you’re doing is directly connected to your studies and your chosen field, you’ll finish your studies with invaluable knowledge and insight under your belt. When students typically look for paid employment while studying, they typically settle for the type of work that doesn’t relate to their course of study: retail clerk, restaurant serving, etc. 

Service jobs are good, honest work for American students, but it splits their focus and means that their working lives haven’t contributed as much to their overall career path as those who undertake CPT. The Curricular Practical Training program is beautifully tailored to create an ideal first entry on your resume as you later prepare to find work in your chosen field. 

3. A Chance to Work on Your Language Skills 

As an international student, if English is not your first language, you have likely been working hard to improve that while engaged in your studies. However, one problem is that your school environment can become too comfortable as you get used to talking to your friends, other classmates, and teachers. Taking part in CPT will place you in a new language environment that will challenge you to take your language skills to a new level. 

A working environment is more formal and one where communication as a skill is extremely important. You won’t just improve your English language skills but also your general communication skills in the American workplace. Proficiency in cross-cultural communication is a skill that is valued around the world today. 

4. Better Chance of Employment After Graduation 

People nowadays like to joke about employers looking for “entry-level” applicants with plenty of existing work experience. It’s a cause of concern for some, but you will actually fit the bill as an international student who has completed the CPT program. Perhaps a few of the other applicants have work experience, but how many of them have work experience directly related to this field? In this way, CPT will help set you apart from others. 

CPT – Grab the Bull by the Horns! 

If you have a chance to participate in a CPT program, then it’s well worth the extra effort to take it on. It may be challenging, but there’s so much to gain that you’ll be glad that you did. 

Contact CSI today to learn about CPT options with our programs. 

How to Start a Study Group to Meet New People and Build Meaningful Connections

One of the best ways to overcome academic difficulties when studying in a new place is to get together with fellow students and pool your knowledge and effort. In other words, start a study group! 

In today’s blog, we’ll share some helpful advice on how to start your study group and how you can use it not just for academic purposes but also to meet new people and build strong and lasting relationships with your classmates. 

Step 1: Start with One 

The idea of suddenly attracting a large group of people at once is quite daunting, right? In that case, start with just one other person. Strike up a conversation with a classmate and bring up the idea of a study group. All you need is that one person to get things started. It may feel like the right thing to find someone just like you, but for a study group, a better idea is to find a group of different people who can all complement each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses. 

Step 2: Take the Initiative and Grow 

With two of you in place, make it your mission for each of you to go out and recruit at least one more person for the study group. You now grow to four from just two people, which is about the minimum number of people you need for an effective group. If you feel that four people are still not quite enough and you need more, then have your two new members also recruit one more person to make it six or have everyone recruit one more member to make it eight. 

We suggest that your study group doesn’t exceed eight, however, since that is likely too many for one group, but in the end, you must decide that for yourself. Remember to focus on building a group of different individuals, bringing a unique strength to the study group. 

Step 3: Pick a Location 

With your group members now chosen, you should pick a suitable location for you all to meet and study. There are a lot of possible choices, so it’s hard to say exactly which place will suit your group best. Some students automatically pick the library, but that can be hard at times because a study group benefits from active communication. Many people can get a bit too loud for some libraries. 

If your local weather permits, an outdoor location provides nice surroundings for a study meeting but ensure that there are big-enough tables to hold your books, papers, and other materials. A public place like a cafe or diner is also ideal, and you can eat together before or after study, which eliminates the problem of organizing food and drink. The downside is the extra expense and possibly excess noise. However, there are many places to suit different budgets and tastes. Another option is to meet in one student’s residence or a student common room. 

If one location isn’t suitable for every meeting, you could also set up a “rotating” location.  This way, you could create an order over several weeks: Week 1 in the library, Week 2 in the common room, Week 3 at the diner, etc., and then repeat. 

Step 4: Set Rules and Make Realistic Plans 

With your location confirmed, now it’s time to create a structure for your study. It’s not a good idea simply to all sit in a circle and read books. You should talk to each other and find out where people are struggling. Those who have strengths in one area can work together with those who find that area difficult. There should be a time for idea sharing and discussion. You may want to appoint a group leader to assign tasks and help stay on track. 

With roles and goals defined, your group should also make a realistic plan of study. How much material will you cover in each session? How many times can you meet each week or each month? How long will each session be? Be realistic and make it so there’s little chance you will miss your targets. For example, if your group says you will meet four times a week every week for two years. This is unrealistic.  You need to plan for vacation time, weekends, times when people might get sick, and so on. 

Step 5: Make Study Time Enjoyable 

Finally, there should be some fun and a social element to the study group to keep people coming every time. There’s nothing worse for a group than members who only show up half the time, or even less. You won’t meet your goals. The social aspect also allows you to build more meaningful connections to get to know each other better. 

Here are some ideas for making study time more fun: 

●    Create study competitions, games, and prizes 

●    Bring food and drink 

●    Have breaks! 

●    Place study time and social time next to each other, so you can move from studying straight to something social like bowling, escape room, arcade gaming, group dinners, or something else. 

Hopefully, the above tips will help you build a successful, productive, and effective study group to make your academic life a bit easier. If you’d like to connect with a diverse set of students and work toward your career goals, contact CSI to find out all the options we have for you. 

Computer Systems Institute Welcomes Indiana Wesleyan University Partnership

Expanding on the goal to serve our CSI student community in the best way possible and provide high-quality career-focused programs for our graduates, we’re excited to announce our new partnership with Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU).  

For over 30 years, CSI has been a leader in the educational sectors of Business, Healthcare, and Information Technology. Our partnership with IWU will be an ideal fit for students who wish to work in the US while studying for a new career utilizing Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT) within our program offerings.  

Intending to bridge the gap and supply shortage in IT professionals by providing training to students and connecting them with employers, CSI is expanding student services by creating more educational reach and professional opportunities for students than ever before. This CSI-IWU partnership is an outstanding opportunity for both institutions to add another step in education for our students. 

The Importance of this Partnership for CSI, IWU, and Students 

Julia Lowder, CEO of Computer Systems Institute (CSI), shares how important this exciting partnership will be for both institutions. 

“Our institutions have been providing solutions to domestic and international students for decades. Together, we have connected forces to provide a one-of-a-kind solution to students that focuses on key areas of academic and career development. Together, through this partnership, we are developing innovative solutions to provide students, employers, and our communities [and] designed for the long-term success of our students and our institutions.” 

Additionally, students will be afforded the opportunity to gain access to undergraduate and graduate degree programs that are flexible while helping them become leaders and professionals across the globe. CSI students and alumni will be able to transfer credits earned from certificate level programs directly to Bachelor level programs at IWU.  

A spokesperson for IWU said that “this partnership is a unique opportunity to provide students with Certificate Program completion in their field of study coupled with a well-rounded ethical based bachelor level degree programs.” 

The highlight of the partnership is the international student journey and the availability of options ranging from one-year Certificate level programs at CSI to the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs at IWU. Additionally, CSI will assist in increasing the international student population at IWU and expanding diversity within their student body. 

Opportunities for International Students 

The partnership will allow F-1 international students to meet their educational goals at a higher value and a lower cost compared to other educational institutions and pathway programs. In addition, as a bridge between CSI-IWU, international students can become better acquainted with life in the US and the academic rigor of a college setting at CSI and before committing to a larger university such as IWU.  

Utilizing OPT for extracurricular, real-world training during and aftercompleting their program, F-1 students can use this as an extension of their education to help gain valuable career experience in their field and help find employment in the US.  

The CPT program works as a training benefit before graduation to support the main focus of the curriculum during their time of study. The CSI-IWU partnership will work in tandem to support and advance international student experiences across campuses by utilizing both international student programs. 

The advantages of credit transfer, low-cost tuition at both institutions, and the support from both institutions during and after each student’s success will give international students all over the world the opportunity to pursue their dreams and fulfill their goals for the future. Collaborative work has already begun between CSI and IWU students, as they can take advantage of this partnership as early as the beginning of 2022. 

Computer Systems Institute (CSI) is a proprietary institution headquartered in Skokie, Illinois with six campuses: three in Illinois (Skokie, Chicago, and Lombard) and three in  Massachusetts (Allston-Boston, Charlestown, and Worcester). CSI was founded in 1989 and has been serving 
F-1 international students for over 15 years from 125 different countries all over the world. CSI offers career-focused, one-year certificate programs in Business, Healthcare, and Information Technology with options for CPT and OPT for F-1 international students. 
 

Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) is a Christian, non-profit, comprehensive university of the Wesleyan Church that’s committed to global liberal arts and professional education. The university system includes IWU-Marion, where about 3,000 students are enrolled in traditional programs on the main campus; IWU- National & Global, which includes more than 8,000 adult learners throughout the world who study online or onsite at 14 education centers around the Midwest; and Wesley Seminary, which offers a practical and student-centered approach for busy, working ministers. 

The Feynman Technique – The Best Learning Method You’ve Never Heard of Before

Named for Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, this technique harnesses the power of teaching as an engine for better learning. On the surface, it can seem somewhat like a paradox — teaching something in order to learn it — but it’s proven to be among the most effective and inspiring learning techniques ever devised, not to mention relatively straightforward and accessible, allowing just about anyone to make use of it. 

In today’s blog, we’re exploring the Feynman Technique – what it is, how it works, and how it can benefit your learning. 

What is the Feynman Technique? 

The Feynman Technique is a 4-step learning method originally used by noted American Nobel laureate Richard Feynman. The main idea behind the technique is to take something that’s hard to understand and try to clarify it in your mind by explaining it as if you were talking to a child. In doing this, the learner is compelled to simplify the ideas in their mind and use clear and concise language. The larger idea then becomes simpler to understand. 

The other key element of the “teaching” method of learning is to help identify where gaps in the knowledge are. When one thinks of a concept purely in their own mind, their perception of their understanding is usually fairly warped. We get it in our minds, but when it comes to the details, it’s hard to know what exactly we’re missing. The best way to reveal those missing details is to try and explain them to someone who doesn’t know the idea — like a child. 

When you are explaining something out loud, suddenly, the things you are unclear about yourself become abundantly noticeable. In essence, it’s a way of taking nebulous and incoherent thoughts and then quantifying just how much you really grasp about it yourself. 

How Does it Work? 

As we mentioned above, there are four basic steps to employ the Feynman Technique. 

Step 1: Choose a subject 

First, clearly identify the specific area of knowledge or understanding that you wish to learn about. You can then read about it, make notes and come to your initial understanding as you might normally do so. 

Step 2: Pretend to explain this knowledge to a child 

Speaking aloud, act as though you are explaining this knowledge, theory, or other idea to a child. You will have to simplify your words, perhaps come up with analogies, and be able to cover the necessary details as you go through. 

Step 3: Reflect on gaps in your understanding 

The next step is to then look back at your explanation and see where the gaps in your knowledge were. Which parts did you struggle to explain? Which details did you miss? Answering these questions will reveal where you have failed to pick up on key points, so you can then return to your source material and review those key points to improve your understanding. 

Step 4: Simplify and repeat step 2 

Based on your reflection in step 3 and subsequent return to the source material, you can further simplify and refine your explanation and repeat the second step. When you can create an explanation that encompasses all the elements properly, then you have succeeded. 

Benefits of the Feynman Technique 

Identifying Knowledge Gaps 

The main plank of the Feynman Technique is its help identifying where we currently have gaps in our knowledge. Those who restrict their learning to the confines of their own mind often think that they know the detail, but when they are called on to explain that same detail, the gaps present themselves, and it’s too late. The Feynman Technique identifies early and quickly where those gaps are and how we can plug them. 

Improves Communication Skills 

Understanding something in your head is one thing but communicating it to others is an entirely different skill. When you learn with the Feynman Technique, you not only boost your understanding by filling in knowledge gaps, but you also strengthen your skills in communicating knowledge to others. You are killing two birds with one stone. 

It’s Conducive to Critical Thinking 

A key part of the Feynman Technique is using critical thinking to identify knowledge gaps and then plug them with the source materials. In addition, you have to create new and innovative explanations for tricky ideas. When you put all of this together, you get a strong exercise in critical thinking; being able to look back on something and work on improving it. This skill translates beautifully into our daily lives. 

Learn to Learn with the Feynman Technique 

Now you can see that learning by teaching is not as paradoxical as it sounds. The act of explaining something to someone who can’t grasp all the jargon is the ideal way to ensure that you are completely in control of all the facts. 

If you want to broaden your skills and take your learning to the next level, contact CSI today to discuss your options. 

How to Write a Personal Bio that Stands out and Gets Noticed

In this digital age, we still have our resumes with lists of educational and professional accomplishments. Still, another element has risen to prominence in place of the traditional cover letter — the personal bio. 

Since so much professional networking, job-seeking, and application has moved to the online space, the personal bio has never been more important. It’s basically a short self-introduction that acts as a kind of summary designed to draw employers and other interested parties into your more comprehensive resume/profile. 

With everyone writing their personal bio, how do you make yours truly stand out? That’s a question we want to answer in today’s blog. 

Short Bio Vs. Full Professional Bio 

First of all, we should be clear on the difference between a short bio and a full bio. A short bio is one that you will commonly find attached to your social media accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Since many potential employers now check personal social media profiles, it’s a good idea to review your own bio. A good small bio will contain the following information: 

●    Name and current professional role or academic placement 

●    Your ultimate goal in your professional and personal life 

●    Your biggest achievement(s) to date – only the highlights, not everything 

As for a full bio, there’s additional information that you’ll want to add in, which we’ll cover in more detail in the next section. LinkedIn gives users quite a bit of space to put in a personal introduction, which acts as your bio. When the platform allows you more room, it’s a good idea to use it, but you also shouldn’t go overboard. Let’s look at what to include in an effective bio. 

What to Include in an Effective Bio 

As with the short bio, you should start with your name. A nice hook to a bio can be a sentence about your name, what it means, or why your family chose it. It doesn’t always work, but in cases where your name is especially meaningful, it’s a great way to hook in readers without looking unprofessional. It can show a bit of artistic writing flair too. 

Next, be sure to mention your current working or academic situation. Explain your position, what you’re doing and what responsibilities you currently hold. As you can see, we’re starting with a lot of simple information, but that’s also helpful because it makes it easy to read at the start, so people will be more likely to keep reading. 

Another addition early on in your bio should be something that some people refer to as your “North Star.” If you’re from the southern hemisphere, you might call it your “Southern Cross.” What is this? It refers to a statement that summarizes your main principles and values. Employers and others today are very interested in people’s values and beliefs. They are a key part of what they call “cultural fit,” which means when a company wonders if your personality and outlook will be a good fit with existing team members. So, create a statement that describes your ethos, outlook on life, and what beliefs you hold nearest and dearest. 

Finally, your bio should include a “top 3” of your main academic or professional achievements to date. We say a ‘top 3’ because if you have already accumulated a lot of work experience, then these lists of achievements can get long and dull. If you list too many achievements, you risk putting off readers who may think the list is exaggerated. More importantly, listing all of your successes shows you can’t prioritize and isolate the “stand-out” achievements. 

Tips on Standing Out from the Crowd 

Make a Plan and a Draft 

Don’t just start writing your bio directly. Create a plan for a structure and make lists of your achievements and goals. When making your list, try to get everything down on paper or on your screen so you can see it all and then isolate the ones you want to use in your “top 3.” Draft a few versions of your bio using different styles and structures and see which one feels the best to you. Choose the one that felt the most natural to write and that you think reads the most smoothly. 

Include a Hook 

Just like any advertisement that gets people’s attention, you need something gripping and interesting to use at the start of your bio. Above, we mentioned an idea of using something about your name. This can work for some, but others may decide to use a famous quote, a line of poetry or literature, something about their childhood or background, or a short idea or comment about someone in their field they admire. The scope for hooks is very wide. The more interesting the first sentence, the better chance your audience has of reading the whole thing. 

Tell Your Story 

Facts and figures have their place in your personal info, but your bio should try its best to tell a story of where you started, how far you’ve come, and where you are now. Proving that you’ve progressed, grown, and matured through your academic and working life is very important. A more story-like bio is one that is more engaging to read. 

Your bio may not be very long in terms of word count, but it is still your digital first impression to potential employers and institutions of higher learning. So, invest time and effort to make it just perfect. 

If you’d like to add to your list of academic achievements, contact CSI to learn more about our variety of Business, Healthcare, and Networking programs. 

Common Job Interview Questions You Need to Know

The world of work may be changing in many ways, but one factor that remains steadfast is the need to pass a job interview before being hired for any position. Companies use a mix of unique questions and some standard questions, although these can take on different forms. 

Read on to find the most common job interview questions you should always be prepared to hear. While the exact words used in your interview may be different, the concept of these questions is still the most common. 

1. Tell us about yourself! 

Let’s start with something easy, right? You may be surprised at the number of people who don’t perform well when talking about themselves or just doing a simple self-introduction. It’s easy to get flustered if you’re not used to talking about yourself. 

Think about things you want to say. State your full name, your current position (if you have one), your responsibilities, and what you do daily. Be sure to include some personal information, too, like what you do in your free time, what your guiding principles are, and perhaps who has influenced you the most up to this point. 

2. What interests you about this position? 

It’s important to do your research before attending an interview and find out about the job you’re applying for. Some people just apply based on the title and don’t actually investigate what the job is about. Instead, learn about the position, read about the expectations, and then you can talk confidently about why you’re interested. 

Talk about which aspects of the position and responsibilities are interesting to you and why. You could discuss some parts you expect may be challenging that can help you grow and develop professionally. This is good for an employer because it shows you’re serious about the role. 

3. Why do you want to work in this company? 

This question is quite similar to the previous one about why you want a particular position. You should know enough about the company to give specific answers on what you like and why you want to work for them. For example, you might point to their charitable work, overall company philosophy, facilities, reputation, leadership team, or more. There are many possibilities. 

4. What are your greatest strengths? 

For some, this question sounds easy in the same way that a self-introduction seems easy. However, when you’re feeling the pressure of an interview, this is a question that can trip you up. It’s important that you take time to think about what your true strengths are. Write them down on a piece of paper and practice saying them aloud. They should be real, measurable, and practical things. Avoid vague statements like “I can work well independently and on a team”, unless you have specific examples to support them. 

5. What would you say is your greatest weakness? 

This one is hard for a lot of people but remains a common question. Some think they are being smart by expressing a weakness that actually sounds more of a strength when you think about it. For example, saying, “I work so hard that I sometimes forget to eat,” or “I’m such a perfectionist, sometimes I can’t even reach my own high standards.” These answers are transparent and useless. Do not use them. 

Instead, prepare a genuine weakness that you’ve experienced as a student or employee. Once you’ve revealed the weakness, go on to talk about active steps you took to improve. For instance, “I found that I’m not as good with computers as I thought, and often lagged behind classmates/colleagues. So, I took an evening class in IT, and now I find using computers much more enjoyable, but I’m still working on that.” 

Showing a real weakness and how you overcame it or are overcoming it is what they really like to hear. 

6. What will you bring to our team? 

For this question, you again need to have practical, tangible examples of things you can do to make the position, the team, and the company work better. More vague statements like “I’m a good team player” are not helpful. Instead, talk about your personal qualities and strengths and how they will contribute to the team’s efforts. 

7. What would you do differently than the previous person in this position? 

Some people are tempted when hearing this question to try and flatter the interviewers by saying that everything looks great, and they wouldn’t presume to say that anything needs improvement. This is not what a good interviewer or employer wants to hear. They’re hiring new people to help make the company a better place for everyone to work. Your ideas on how they can do that are invaluable. 

8. Do you have any questions for us? 

Finally, the question that finishes the interview is the most common that people get wrong. So many candidates hear this question and think, “Phew! The interview is over!” It’s not. Before your interview, and while you’re researching the role and the company, be sure to write down any questions that occur to you. Then, if no natural opportunity arises during the interview for you to ask these questions, you’ll get this opportunity at the end. 

Always prepare at least two questions to ask. It could be a matter of policy like “what is the company’s stance/policy on recycling?” or “how does the company approach community outreach and service?” It could equally be something more significant like, “where does the leadership hope the company will be ten years from now?” or “will there be opportunities for advancement from this role?” 

We hope that our advice on interview questions helps you succeed in more of your future job interviews! If you’re ready to take the next step in training for your dream job, contact us today. 

5 Growing IT Careers to Consider

As the job market becomes more flexible with remote working and the economy runs more dependent on digital platforms, the need for information technology (IT) skills has skyrocketed. Employment for a variety of computer science and IT roles is projected to grow almost 15% between now and 2030 – that’s faster than projections for all other occupations combined!  

The talent gap between the economic demand for these jobs and the ability to supply that demand with qualified individuals is significant. In addition to that, international students make up between 50% and 80% of the most highly-educated undergraduate and graduate students, across both science and engineering fields. International students and graduates have the advantage when entering newer technology markets. 

That’s great news for you!  

To put it simply, if you’ve ever been interested in putting your skills into a new IT career, now’s the time.  

But which job is right for you? 

There are so many opportunities waiting for you to use your skills and knowledge to make a difference in today’s technology market. A lot of organizations need workers with technical knowledge and support to navigate our ever-changing digital and online world today. You could be just the person to help them – and have a fulfilling and lucrative career doing it. 

Here are 5 of the fastest growing IT jobs to consider for your next career move: 

1) Technical Specialist 

Technical Specialist is someone who coordinates an organization’s use of technology. This means they understand a company’s procedure in order to assess the need for any new or updated technological processes to make them more efficient and effective. They can also supervise computer configuration and manage cybersecurity needs.  

2) Desktop Specialist 

Desktop Specialists maintain the hardware and software systems for an organization. These IT professionals manage software updates and hardware installations, vet and recommend new programs, and provide troubleshooting support for fundamental technical issues. 

3) Help Desk Specialist 

Help Desk Specialists are responsible for providing assistance with technical issues and are the main internal support for troubleshooting software, hardware, or any other computer systems used by an organization’s staff. These tech wizards can answer questions and address potential issues in user or system errors. 

4) LAN Administrator 

Local Area Network, known as LAN, Administrators maintain the server and security of their organization’s network through the equipment and computers being used. They help configure their local area network and do routine maintenance checks and repairs to restore connectivity and stability.  

5) Systems Administrator 

Systems Administrators are responsible for the daily operations of network and computer system management. Their tasks include organizing, installing, and supporting computer systems across an organization’s network. This can include local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), intranets, any network segments, and other communication or data systems used in a company’s technical processes.  

If any of these IT careers sound great but you’re not sure how to get started, check out  CSI’s CompTIA/Microsoft Track of the Networking Career Program. This comprehensive, hands-on program combines instructor-led classwork with an online learning platform. The goal is to give you the best way forward in your career with a strong foundation of fundamentals in technology with practical training in computer networking and information tech resources and procedures. 

To stay competitive and knowledgeable in any information technology or computer science position, getting your professional certification is the best way to get into one of the fastest growing industries to date. 

A certification exam preparation course and fee for 1 exam are included within this program, focusing on CompTIA© exams and the new generation of Microsoft© Exams. International students must take a computer-based standardized ACCUPLACER® ESL Test in order to enroll. 

With CSI’s CompTIA/Microsoft Track, you’ll be trained by information technology experts in their field.  After completing the exam, international students may be eligible to apply for up to 12 months of OPT work authorization to gain experience in their field of study.  

Tech companies aren’t looking for traditional degrees like they once were. Instead, they want people with real-world certification and experience. Computer Systems Institute has a goal to help international students get the education, training, certification, and career they’ve always wanted by providing both theoretical and hands-on approaches to your education and training.  

Contact us today to find out more! 


Resources: 

1 Occupational Handbook, Computer and Information Technology. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm 

2 ’International Students in Science and Engineering’ NFAP Policy Brief. https://nfap.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/International-Students-in-Science-and-Engineering.NFAP-Policy-Brief.August-2021.pdf 

3 ’Networking Career Program: Get the Technology Skills You Need For The Career You Want’. CSI Now. http://www.csinow.edu/programs/networking-career-program/ 

What Is Optional Practical Training and How to Meet Requirements

As an international student, you may be eligible for practical training related to your field of study. One type of training that may be available to you is Optional Practical Training (OPT). 

Let’s discuss what OPT is and the requirements involved to be eligible for this popular training. 

What Is Optional Practical Training? 

Optional Practical Training is extracurricular, real-world training, F-1 students like you may want to consider. Rather than an integral component of the school’s required curriculum to complete your program, OPT is an extension of your education that can help you gain valuable career experience. This training may assist you with your employment in the US, during and after you complete your studies. 

Types of OPT 

Three types of OPT exist per the US Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS

  • Pre-completion OPT – Any OPT portion you use before your program end date 
  • Post-completion OPT – Any OPT portion you use after your program end date 
  • Cap-Gap OPT Extension – Available if your prospective employer submits a qualifying H-1B-cap subject petition 
  • 24-month STEM OPT Extension – Available if your primary course of study is for a DHS-approved degree in a field of Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math 

A Pre-completion OPT can be either full-time or part-time, but a Post-completion OPT can only be full-time. 

To qualify for a STEM OPT Extension, you must have completed your allotted 12 months of regular OPT. 

How to Meet OPT Requirements 

To participate in OPT, you must meet all eligibility requirements and complete the authorization process. 

Eligibility 

To qualify for OPT, you must be enrolled in college, or another qualifying post-secondary educational program, for at least one academic year. 

You are only eligible for OPT in your major field of study. One exception to this is if your major is English as a Second Language (ESL), in which case you cannot qualify for OPT. 

You can only participate in 12 months of OPT per educational level. When you advance to a higher level of education, you can receive authorization for an additional 12 months of OPT.  That means you can apply for 12 months of OPT at the Bachelor’s level and another 12 months at the Master’s level.  

You do not need to conduct your OPT before your program end date and may do so afterward. If you begin OPT while school is still in session, you can only participate in OPT part-time, up to 20 hours per week.  

Regardless of whether classes are in session or not, you can only begin OPT after the start date listed on your work permit. 

You are ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) for at least 12 months if you participated in full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT), the other form of practical training available to F-1 students. 

Note that full-time CPT participation at the same program level while enrolled at a different school applies toward your allotted 12-month total for that level at your current school. Participating in CPT at another program level, however, does not impact your OPT eligibility.  

Authorization

When you request your Designated School Official (DSO) recommend OPT for you, the DSO will enter the recommendation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS.) Your DSO will then print and sign a new Form I-20 affirming the OPT recommendation.  

Upon receiving your new Form I-20, you must complete Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and mail it to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with a filing fee. USCIS will then authorize you for OPT and issue you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD,) commonly known as a work permit.  

You can take advantage of OPT multiple times as long as it is related to your education.  However, you cannot participate in more than one OPT at once or overlap OPT periods.  

Overview of the OPT Authorization Process 

The OPT authorization process requires you, your DSO, and USCIS to each complete the following steps: 

  1. You request OPT through your schools’ established procedures. 
  1. Your DSO recommends it for you in SEVIS and provides you with the appropriate documentation. 
  1. You file a Form I-765 with USCIS applying for OPT. 
  1. USCIS adjudicates your application. 
  1. You receive your EAD allowing you to report to your DSO and start work. 
  1. Within 21 days of your receipt of your EAD, your DSO must update SEVIS with your employer’s information. 

USCIS must receive your application for OPT within 30 days of your DSO entering your OPT recommendation into SEVIS. USCIS will deny any applications received more than 30 days after your DSO requests it for you in SEVIS. 

In Summary 

Optional Practical Training is separate and distinct from Curricular Practical Training your program may require for completion. You should therefore be clear on these distinctions before you start seeking out or accepting training opportunities. If you are an F-1 student at CSI and would like to discuss pursuing OPT, contact CSI online or call 847-967-5030. 

What Is Curricular Practical Training and How to Meet Requirements

As an F-1 student, you may qualify for practical training related to your primary field of study. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regulations permit two types of practical training; one is Curricular Practical Training (CPT). 

What Is Curricular Practical Training? 

Curricular Practical Training is real-world training in your main area of study woven into the school’s curriculum as an integral part of your education. This means CPT is required to complete your program.  

A sponsoring employer, in agreement with the school, may offer CPT in several different ways, including: 

  • Cooperative education program 
  • Internship/Externship 
  • Practicum 
  • Alternative work-study arrangement 

CPT may be either full-time or part-time. ICE classifies full-time as working over 20 hours per week. 

How to Meet CPT Requirements 

You can only begin CPT once you meet all eligibility requirements and receive CPT authorization. 

Eligibility 

To participate in CPT, you must be an F-1 student enrolled full-time for at least one year in an SEVP-certified institution or another qualifying program, such as a conservatory or seminary. The one exception is if you are taking graduate studies that require prior practical training.  

To qualify for CPT, your primary field of study can be in any subject except for English as a Second Language (ESL.) 

You cannot participate in CPT for your minor area of study or general graduation requirements. 

If you participate in CPT full-time for one year, you become ineligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), the other form of practical training available to F-1 students.  

Authorization 

A Designated School Official (DSO) will authorize your CPT opportunity in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. That authorization will then appear on your Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.  

You do not need additional authorization from ICE to participate in CPT.  

CPT authorization is for practical training from a specific employer. Therefore, you must secure your CPT opportunity before you can receive CPT authorization. An employer must sign a letter or cooperative agreement affirming the CPT opportunity for it to be authorized.  

You may secure authorization for multiple CPT opportunities and with more than a single employer at once. However, you must receive separate CPT authorization for each segment and employer that hires you.  

CPT authorization is exclusively for work performed within the United States. If you  

conduct your training abroad, such as taking on a summer internship in your home country; you do not need CPT authorization.  

You must complete your authorized training before your Form I-20’s end date, as the authorization is for a pre-determined period of time. 

Overview of the CPT Authorization Process 

The process involves you, the student, and DSO taking the following actions: 

  1. You complete the process your school has established for requesting CPT. 
  1. Your DSO reviews this request and determines your CPT eligibility. 
  1. Assuming you meet all eligibility requirements, your DSO authorizes a specific employer for your CPT in SEVIS. 
  1. Your DSO prints a new Form I-20 containing the CPT authorization and signs it. 
  1. You can begin work for your authorized employer either before or after the start date listed for your CPT on your Form I-20. You cannot start your CPT before the listed start date, and you must complete your training by the listed end date. 

You must receive CPT authorization before starting work for a particular employer. A DSO cannot backdate CPT authorization.  

Be sure you can start and complete your CPT within the time frame listed on your authorization. A DSO can only cancel your CPT before its listed start date. After that date, your DSO can only change your end date to shorten the CPT period. Your DSO can also defer or update your authorization after this time.  

In Summary 

Curricular Practical Training is not interchangeable with Optional Practical Training. It is therefore essential you understand the difference between the two before pursuing one or the other.  

If you are an F-1 student at CSI still enrolled in your program of study and would like to discuss fulfilling your CPT requirement or begin the process of authorization, contact CSI right away. The sooner you start the CPT authorization process, the more time you can give yourself to complete this integral component of your education. 

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid While Being Interviewed

One of the main reasons people further their education is to get the academic training they need to pursue a meaningful career. Once academic studies are complete, and students graduate, the next step is submitting resumes, landing interviews, and starting a career.  

While job interviews are necessary, they can also bring on anxiety regardless of age, experience, or position. It can be an intimidating experience, and your nerves may end up getting the better of you. Your interview may not be one hundred percent perfect, but there are some big mistakes you should avoid to maximize your chances of landing the job. 

  • Mistake #1: Failing to Prepare 

Too many candidates show up for job interviews without researching the company in question or the people conducting the interview. If you don’t know the individual who will interview you, you should at least know about the company, its business, philosophy, mission, and history. It would be best if you also were prepared to talk constructively about things you might do differently and what you bring to the table. 

  • Mistake #2: Not Dressing Appropriately 

Failing to wear proper business attire or unwashed or wrinkled business attire is a one-way ticket to a poor first impression. There’s virtually no way to recover from that since so much of their prevailing attitude towards you will depend on that first impression. For example, if you appear shabby in your job interview, what would stop you from appearing that way in front of important clients? 

  • Mistake #3: Being Late 

This behavior creates another poor first impression. Imagine applying for a job, getting an interview because the employer believes you might add value to the organization, only to turn up late. What does that say about you?  It shows the employer that you don’t care enough about the position to be on time and/or that you are generally irresponsible when it comes to timekeeping. You should arrive at the interview between 5 and 10 minutes before the scheduled start time for an in-person interview. 

  • Mistake #4: Speaking Negatively About Previous Employers 

Let’s say you are interviewing for a new job that will replace your current position where you are having a miserable time. It’s understandable and a big reason why people leave their jobs. What’s not good, however, is bad-mouthing your current employer to your prospective new one. In their minds, they are thinking, “If they are willing to bad-mouth their last employer to us, will they do the same if they leave here?” 

 Having said that, you should be prepared to give a reason why you want to leave. Focus on the positives of the position you are interviewing for. Be positive about previous experiences by focusing on what you have learned, what skills you have gained, and what you have to offer this new company.  

  • Mistake #5: Seeming Distracted 

Turn off your phone for the interview, or at the very least, put it on silent (not even on vibrate). Stay focused on the interviewer, and show positive body language such as nodding to acknowledge you have heard and understood what the interviewer is saying and maintaining eye contact as you listen and talk. 

  • Mistake #6: Overcomplicating Answers 

The phrase “less is more” when it comes to an interview is important to remember. It’s easy to think that the more you say, the better, right? You may feel a longer answer that sounds more detailed is better than a shorter, more straightforward answer. In fact, no. More concise and more to-the-point answers are always better. Answer each question with your main points, and then stop. Talking too much with overly complex answers won’t serve you well. If you find yourself talking too much, it is always ok to just stop talking. If the interviewer wants more detail, they will follow up. 

  • Mistake #7: Dodging Questions 

You might think that evading a tricky question with a “creative” answer will impress the company, but the opposite is true. Never be afraid to answer questions directly. Some people dodge questions not because they don’t know the answer but because they don’t fully understand the question. If you need to ask a question to clarify what your interviewer has said, then do so. Being honest and bold enough to ask for clarification will impress them more than some slick question-dodging tactic. 

  • Mistake #8: Answering the “Weakness” Question with a Strength 

One classic question that interviewers may ask you is about your biggest weakness. Some candidates think they are very clever when  answering this question by saying things like: “I work too hard” or “I stay late at the office so much, I make no time for a social life.” You can easily think these answers are impressive, but they’re not. Actually, these answers come across as dishonest. 

When asked about your weaknesses, don’t be afraid to tell them one. The difference, however, is that you should focus on the steps you actively took to fix the problem you had. When you can admit a fault and show how you fixed it, that’s impressive. 

  • Mistake #9: Failing to Ask Good Questions 

Always take the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. When they ask if you have questions, you should have some ready in your mind. Ask about aspects of the job that interest you, the office culture, how the company tries to boost team spirit, etc. Avoid questions about salary, benefits, and vacation days. Those can wait until you have an offer on the table. 

  • Mistake #10: Failing to Follow Up 

After your interview, send a polite email or hand-written thank you card to the person who interviewed you. Thank them for the interview and opportunity, and add any other questions you might have forgotten to ask. If you don’t hear back within a week, don’t be afraid to follow up again with another email or a call. The follow-up is often seen as further evidence that you are genuinely interested in the job and willing to commit to that company. 

Good Interview Skills Lead to Good Opportunities 

Avoid these errors to the best of your ability, and you will at least generate a positive interview for all parties. This may lead to final success at this interview or give you more experience for future interviews. 

At CSI, we’re ready to help our students prepare for interviews for externships while they are in a program with us or after they graduate. Contact us today to get more information.  

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