Dear Coach Kwan,
I’m planning to pursue a degree in the US. What are some things that I should consider to ensure that I am fully prepared to optimize my time as an international student in the US?
– Aspiring international student dreaming to join a university in the US.
I’m so happy to see you reach out and be so proactive! Coming to America gives you an amazing opportunity to learn and grow toward your future profession. However, success is not a straight line, and the more you’re prepared for it, the better chance of success you will have.
With us today is our guest mentor, Vinod Karri, a former international student from India who’s passionate about helping international students like yourself.
Read below to learn more about the ten points that you need to consider when planning to study abroad (USA).
Study Abroad USA
“I want to experience the American Dream.”
Most international students who want to study in the US want to experience “the American dream” when they decide to take the giant leap and move from one country to another.
But it’s not all about frat parties and sorority houses. There’s a bigger, more realistic picture that you need to be aware of before making life-altering decisions and moving abroad:
1. Choosing the right school and the right program
Often, the school you choose ultimately determines the country you will be migrating to. Make sure that the school you choose offers the program you want. Moreover, it must fit within your budget. Your previous academics and extracurricular activities also have a huge impact on the kind of college experience you will have.
The US provides a wide variety of schools you can choose from: Ivy League schools, private non-profit, private for-profit, and state-funded schools. Learn about each of these categories in depth before making a choice.
2. Talk to a Guidance Counselor, Current Students and Alumni
One should take the opportunity to talk to a guidance counselor to understand and identify the schools that they might be best fit for. Current students and alumni can provide more insight about what the college experience is truly like as well.
3. Money Matters – Costs, Tuition Fees, and Scholarships Offered
Most students, especially international ones, received funds from their parents’ hard-earned money or through school-provided scholarship programs. So, make every dollar count.
Public universities (funded by local and federal governments) are cheaper and could be an affordable option catering to all types of students.
Private universities (like MIT and Stanford) are mainly funded and managed by a trust and less by local and federal grants. The tuition cost for a student going here is bound to be higher; however, the facilities provided could also be much nicer.
Now, the real question is: why should an international student look into all these aspects? This is because, ultimately, whichever school you choose determines your costs, work permit options and chances for employment after graduation.
4. Employment Opportunities (Part-time or Full-time)
The US only offers non-immigrants (students) to work part-time on campus. It means that it is illegal to work at a deli nearby or become a Starbucks barista to meet your daily living expenses.
Nevertheless, if you happen to get a corporate job (OPT) or an internship (CPT) through your college’s career services office as part of your study program or related to the subject that you’re studying, you are eligible to legally work. In such cases, public universities would be a better option to consider since they offer a lot more on-campus jobs than private universities.
Decide on the location of your college: rural or urban. Even such simple aspects of your decision can have a huge bearing on your college experience and post-college life.
5. Attitude Towards International Students
Hundreds of people, students and professionals, migrate to America every year. Without a doubt, one could say that the US has a very positive attitude towards incoming international students.
6. Life Outside College: International Experiences, Travel, and the Ability to Pursue Hobbies
Let’s be honest here: no one is going abroad to attend college just to get brilliant education. In that sense, the US has a lot to offer in terms of exploring the culture and making memories. The country is filled with culturally diverse people and access to various resources. Are you willing to spend a few dollars? Then, you can pursue any hobby or activity you want to.
Climate is another big plus: the US has all four seasons, which is bound to make your stay as a student there more adaptable and enjoyable.
7. Work Permits
It’s not just about getting a foreign education from a well-known university; after shelling out a considerable amount of money and putting in a significant amount of effort and energy into moving your entire life from one country to another, you also need to think about the return on investment.
If you are a STEM student, you are initially granted a work permit for 12 months immediately after graduation. After the completion of this term, you are given an option to extend this period by another 36 months before taking on an H-1B visa.
This is not the case with non-STEM students, though, and a company will need to sponsor a work visa (H-1B) after the completion of the initial 12-month work permit granted by your school.
Work permits (OPT) also depend on the school you attend. Private for-profit universities are not eligible for the additional 36 months after the initial 12-month work permit. The rules for issuing H-1B visas have become tighter, and one needs to be regularly informed about on-going changes that are happening.
Further, the size of the economy should be considered before choosing the country of study. Ultimately, the larger the economy, the better are employment opportunities.
8. Job Security
Work culture and job security are interrelated concepts. When it comes to America, if an individual is willing to put in time and effort into their career, it can pay off tremendously.
However, the guarantee of job security at a company is almost nil, and this has to with the work culture in America. A company that has been in business for the last hundred years might cease to exist overnight. And just like that you’re out of a job, you lose your employer-provided benefits, your work visa (H-1B visa and Green Card sponsorship) are terminated, which in turn, impacts your path to citizenship.
9. Taxes and Benefits
It’s a well-known fact that medical costs in America are sky-high; even with health insurance, because it doesn’t cover all the costs, any major medical procedure can have a very big impact on one’s savings.
In countries with more social benefits the taxes imposed by the government will naturally be higher (e.g. the United Kingdom or Canada), which provides comfortable cushioning to fall back upon in case of a job loss or high medical costs.
Taxes in America are relatively low (compared to other developed countries), which means you have an opportunity to save more if you know how to handle your finances.
10. Immigration Pathways (Skill-based Immigration, Green Cards, and Citizenship)
A critical aspect that one needs to be aware of is the path to citizenship. The US offers citizenship based on skill. However, it’s extremely hard to obtain citizenship, especially as an immigrant from India due to how long it takes.
The other option one could look into is the Immigrant Investor Program (EB-5), which might make your path to citizenship much easier than skilled-based immigration.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article are purely of the author’s and not necessarily of the author’s employer, organization, committee, or any other group or individual. This is plagiarism-free content and resemblance to a piece of work is purely coincidental and not intentional.
About the author:
Vinod Karri works as an Oracle HCM Implementation Consultant and has vast experience working across various industry domains implementing and supporting Benefits and Compensation. He is also an alumnus of NYIT and a mentor for international students. You can find Vinod on Link