You can apply for an F-1 visa if you have been admitted to a qualifying school and have a valid I-20. It is unlikely that you will be able to work.
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You may apply for an F-1 visa. However, F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions.
There are various programs available for F-1 students to seek off-campus employment, after the first academic year. Your academic adviser can assist you with thus.
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To "convert" you need to first contact the college and see if they are qualified. If they are, the will "convert" for you. As to employment authorization, it all depends.
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You will need to file a change of status form after you get accepted into a school. Also, you will likely not be able to work off campus.
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