Are you an International Student?

We are glad you are considering becoming a student at RTS Jackson. Because the process of becoming an international student can be challenging, we have organized the following guide to help you through. Our Admissions Counselor is also available to answer any questions you may have.

Although you can, and should, begin preparing for each stage as early as possible, you cannot officially submit materials for later steps until the previous ones are completed. For official information about legal requirements, please visit https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students.

Stage 1

Applying to RTS

In order to become a student, you need to apply first. Applicants to seminary programs are evaluated on the basis of academic preparation and potential for ministry. Due to the time needed to complete the entire process, application for admission should be made at least 18 months prior to the date of enrollment. New students may enroll in the fall, winter, spring, or summer terms. The following materials should be addressed to the Director of Admissions:

  1. A completed application form (online application).
  2. Official transcripts from all previous academic work (a baccalaureate degree or its foreign equivalent with a 2.6 cumulative GPA is ordinarily required). Undergraduate transcripts (baccalaureate degree or equivalent) from international colleges and universities should be submitted through the World Education Services for evaluation. Make sure to request the Course-by-Course Report and specifically request that they include the language of instruction on the report. Please see the WES Frequently Asked Questions page for further information about fees and processing times. Official transcripts for post-baccalaureate studies (master’s, doctorate, etc) should be submitted directly to RTS Jackson.
  3. English proficiency exam: TOEFL – All international students must establish English language proficiency. All applicants whose first language (“mother tongue”) is not English must demonstrate English proficiency by taking the “Test of English as a Foreign Language” (TOEFL). Though there are three different forms of the TOEFL exam, the Internet-based (iBT) TOEFL exam is the only form accepted by Reformed Theological Seminary. To be considered for admission to the MDiv or MA degree programs, applicants must have a total score of 84 or higher, with score no lower than 21 on the four components of the exam (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing).  To be considered for admission to the MAC degree program, applicants must have a minimum total score of 100, with scores no lower than 25 on each of the subtests (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing).
    • For more information or to register for TOEFL, please visit http://www.ets.org/toefl. Applicants may also contact toefl@ets.org. Our RTS institutional code is 1646. If you put this number in the appropriate place on the test registration form, your score report will be mailed to us.

Upon acceptance to RTS, a non-refundable $200 deposit is required, which will be credited in your student account for tuition.

Upon notification of acceptance to a degree program and the payment of the non-refundable tuition deposit, you may apply for Financial Aid and Housing. Students who have not completed the application process (including a qualifying TOEFL/TWE score) or have not been accepted to a degree program will not be considered for Financial Aid and/or Housing.

  • Housing Application – this application will be reviewed as soon as you apply for it, and an answer will be given to you as soon as possible. If an apartment is available for you to rent, you may reserve it by submitting a refundable security deposit of $505. When you finish your studies at RTS Jackson and vacate the apartment, leaving it clean and undamaged, the security deposit will be refunded to you. For more information about housing, click here.
  • Financial Aid – In order to apply for financial aid, the student first must be admitted into a program at particular RTS campus. Your Financial Aid Application will be reviewed only one time, and we recommend that you submit your application for the earliest possible review date.
    • Deadlines for Financial Aid applications are dependent upon your desired enrollment date.
      • Summer New Students: Priority deadline is March 15. Regular deadline is May 15.
      • Fall New Students: Priority deadline is May 15. Regular deadline is July 15.
      • Winter/Spring New Students: December 1.
    • To access the Financial Aid Application form, click here. If awarded Financial Aid, the amount of the award may be deducted from the amount of financial resources you are required to document.  (See Step 2).

FORTS and International Student Scholarships

The International Community

International students are drawn to RTS Jackson because of our seminary housing, outstanding area churches, and on-campus work.  Our housing not only creates instant community, but also lowers an already low cost of living, making it much easier for our international students to document the necessary funding to receive their I-20.

International students are celebrated at RTS Jackson.  Each fall the Student Cabinet hosts a Fellowship-of-the-Nations Pot Luck where our whole student body joins in a feast to celebrate our international diversity.  We have graduates in every continent, and international students regularly make up more than 15% of our student body.

Documenting Your Living Expenses

When evaluating financial aid applications, the Scholarship Committee considers the ability of the international applicant to document living expenses.  We prioritize applicants who can document their living expenses so that when the scholarship is awarded, the student will be able to come.

FORTS Awards

The acronym FORTS stands for Friends of RTS.  This historic scholarship is for international students coming from countries with fewer financial resources who are returning to their home country upon graduation.

RTS Jackson has a total of 5 FORTS recipients on campus each year.  The FORTS Scholarship is a 100% tuition scholarship plus a book stipend of $450 per year.

These funds have been given to see the spread of the Gospel around the world.  Our FORTS applicants sign a Financial Aid Application Addendum agreeing, among other things, that if they do not return to their home country, they will pay the scholarship back in full.

To apply for the FORTS Scholarship, students must first apply and be admitted to a degree program and then fill out the Financial Aid Application by March 15, which is the priority round of review.

International Student Scholarships

We value international students.  Students who come on a student visa aren’t allowed to work off campus and this creates a financial hardship that is unique to our international students.  International students coming on a student visa who don’t qualify for the FORTS scholarship are eligible for International Student Scholarships.

International Student Scholarships range from 25% to 50% of tuition.

Stage 2

In order to apply for your F-1 Student VISA at a US embassy, you must have an I-20 form issued by RTS Jackson. The I-20 states, among other things, that you have the necessary funds (for tuition and living expenses) for the time of your study. The US Government requires that you provide proof of financial support in an amount not less than the cost of your program of study plus living expenses (see table below). Therefore, you will need to certify the source and amount of your annual financial support for Visa purposes. These are the documents you need as Proof of Financial Support:

  • Personal resources: your bank statement
  • Support from individuals: letter of support with the amount indicated and a bank statement (or other legal document that proves financial ability to pay the amount promised)
  • Support from churches: letter on church letterhead stationery promising a certain amount of support

The letters of support must state the amount that will be given to RTS Jackson for your support (annually/ each year) and for how long (how many years it will be given).

If you have been awarded with a scholarship (and a work study position) you can deduct the amount awarded from the amount that you need to document.

You will be required to transfer $5,000 to your RTS student account before the I-20 is issued to you. This money is yours and will be available for your use on the first business day after your arrival. The length of time for which an I-20 is issued is based on the number of years necessary to complete the degree which you applied (Master of Arts: 2 years, Master of Divinity: 3-4 years).

The estimated monetary requirements for each year of study (tuition plus living expenses) are listed below. Be aware that these estimates are based on a frugal budget. Also, a number of factors will affect your actual costs: your degree program and the number of years you will study in the United States, your marital status and number of children, and your personal preferences and spending choices.

Single Student (On Campus)

Tuition and Fees: $18,845

Living Expenses: $9,000

Total Annual Expenses: $27,845

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Married Student (On Campus)

Tuition and Fees: $19,023

Living Expenses: $9,000

Dependent Expenses: $6,000

Total Annual Expenses: $34,023

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Married Student, 1-2* children (On Campus)

Tuition and Fees: $19,023

Living Expenses: $9,000

Dependent Expenses (spouse and 1* child): $8,000

Total Annual Expenses: $36,023

*plus $2,000 for second child

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Please note that international students on F-1 visas are required to purchase health insurance for themselves and also any dependents on F-2 visas. There are a number of options from which you may choose a health insurance policy. The estimated expenses above include some health insurance, but the cost varies according to the choice you make.

Stage 3

After RTS Jackson sends you the I-20 form, you can apply for your student VISA. The F-1 (Full-time student) VISA is granted to a student whose sole purpose is to pursue full-time education in the US and who intends to return to his/her home country after the completion of studies.

“To apply for a student or exchange visitor visa, all applicants must make an appointment at the US Embassy or Consulate. All applicants for a student visa must provide the following documentation:

  • The eligibility form issued by your school (I-20).
  • The SEVIS fee receipt. All international students must be registered in the SEVIS system, which maintains current information on students and exchange visitors. Your school is responsible for registering you in the SEVIS system and issuing your individual SEVIS number. After the school issues the SEVIS number, each student must pay the applicable SEVIS fee online at www.fmjfee.com.
  • A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the US.
  • A 5x5cm photograph taken within the last 6 months.
  • The visa application fee.

Additionally, all applicants should be prepared to provide during the interview:

  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended and other evidence of your qualifications, such as standardized test scores (such as TOEFL).
  • Financial evidence that shows you or your sponsor (usually your parents or an institution that has offered you a scholarship) have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study. For example: your family’s most recent IRS form, bank statements, or a letter confirming your scholarship”  (These are the documents that you already sent to RTS in order to receive the I-20).

You should be completely prepared for the interview. It is your responsibility to prove that your intentions are legitimate. “Applicants applying for a non-immigrant visa to the US must overcome the presumption that they are intending immigrants. (…) To this end, they have to demonstrate that they possess strong and sufficient ties to their residence outside the US that compels their return. Applicants do so by providing evidence of their familial, economic, and social ties to their residence at the time of interview. The burden of proof rests with the applicant. Applicants who are unable to overcome this presumption are refused under Section 214(b) of the INA.”

Stage 4

When planning your trip, we recommend that you arrive a couple of weeks before the semester starts, in order to get settled before classes begin. For instance, if you are coming for the fall semester, please plan to arrive in Jackson early August. You must tell us of your anticipated arrival date, airline flight number and time so that we can arrange for someone to pick you up at the airport. An international student orientation will be held, and all international students must attend these sessions. More information about orientation will be available when you arrive. When you or your travel agent reserve your airline tickets, make sure that your final destination is Jackson, Mississippi. There are cities named Jackson in several other states and there is a Jacksonville, Florida.

We hope that nothing will happen to prevent you from attending RTS, but if your plans change and you cannot enroll, please notify the Admissions office immediately.

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Once you arrive in the U.S., at the port-of-entry, you must present the following:

  • The I-20 form RTS sent you
  • Completed I-94 (you will be given in your fight an I-94 form to complete)
  • A copy of your financial documents

Your I-20 will be returned to you. This document is extremely important since it legitimizes your presence in the US.

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Documents that you need to bring to the USA:

  • I-20(s) – Passport(s) (with the I-94 attached).
  • Birth Certificate(s) (translated and certified).
  • Marriage Certificate (translated and certified), if you are married.
  • International Driver’s License (or your national Driver’s License translated and certified).
  • Immunization records (translated and certified – essential if you have school-aged children).

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In your budget you should include settling-in expenses such as:

  • Lease Deposit:
    • Single and Married Apartments: $505
    • Off-campus Townhomes: $605
  • Utilities Fees. There are some fees charged by the utility companies:
    • Single Apartments: no fees (the utilities are already installed)
    • Married Apartments
      • Entergy: $200 deposit
    • Off Campus Townhouses:
      • Entergy: $200 deposit
      • Atmos Energy (Gas): $85 deposit
      • City of Clinton Water Department: $100 deposit
  • Setting up a home: furniture and appliances.
  • Buying a car. Most students find it necessary! You must also be aware that car insurance is legally required.
  • Laptop.

One more thing to remember when moving to Jackson: our appliances run on 110 volts(!). Foreign appliances do not work well here. Converters for your appliances are not recommended for long term use.

Stage 5

There are several things to do once you arrive:

  1. Admissions Office – You must come to the Admissions office. Bring your Passport(s) and I-94 card, and your I-20(s). We are required to check these documents to confirm your status in the US. We will also provide you with important orientation materials.
  2. Housing – If you are living on-campus, you need to sign your lease as soon as possible. You must come to the office of the Director of Student Services. The Lease is very important as a proof of residence.
  3. Bank Account – Once you arrive, you can apply for a bank account. Only the community banks will accept an account without a social security number.  You will need the following documents:
    • Passport with I-94
    • I-20
    • Proof of residence (you can use your original housing lease contract)
  4. Driver’s License – Once you arrive, you can get your Driver’s License, which includes a written test and a road test. In order to be excused from the road test, you need to bring an international driver’s license or your national driver’s license translated and certified.
  5. Social Security Number – If you have been awarded an on-campus job, you can apply for a Social Security number ten days after you arrive on-campus. You must have a Social Security number before you may begin working on campus.  Only students with on-campus employment may apply for a Social Security card.
  6. Health insurance – Due to the high cost of medical care, it is RTS’s policy that every registered student must have major medical insurance. In addition, international students receiving financial aid are required to have major medical insurance coverage for all dependents listed on form I-20.   Medical services are much more expensive in the U.S. than in most countries, and individuals are responsible for all of their own health care expenses. It is essential that you have a policy that will provide adequate protection for you and your dependents in the event of illness or accident.
  7. Children’s School – The school year is generally mid-August to the end of May. For information about public schools in the RTS area, please contact the Hinds County School District. In order to register your child(ren) you need:
    1. Birth certificate and passport
    2. 2 proofs of residence (for example, Lease and one Utility bill)
    3. Immunization records – you must have a “MS Immunization Form 121.” Take your original immunization records (translated and certified) to the Mississippi State Department of Health in order to get the form. If you live in the townhomes, the closest office is:

                                   Hinds County — Clinton Clinic

                                   408 Cynthia Dr, Clinton 39056.

                                   Phone: 601-924-6012

                                   Open: Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

During your time at RTS you should give special attention to the following on-campus sources of communication for academic and social announcements:

  • Every Friday, while school is in session, you will receive the RTS campus newsletter, the Reformed Informer, by email. You may subscribe via the Director of Student Services. The Reformed Informer, our weekly campus newsletter and primary source of communication between the seminary and students, is emailed weekly and announces upcoming events, advertises items for sale, lists job openings, and delivers important information directly relevant to the entire student body (critical dates, financial aid information, deadlines, policy changes, etc.).
  • There are also bulletin boards in the Biblical Studies building and near the mailboxes in the Student Center.