Making the decision to pursue a graduate degree is a big step. Choosing to do so in a foreign country is an even bigger one.
And yet, many international students—more than 1.1 million, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE)—are drawn to the idea of earning an advanced degree in the United States for a variety of reasons. There is no shortage of opportunities for international students in America, but deciding whether the benefits outweigh the challenges of moving to a new country can be a daunting task.
To help make this decision, Tom Kleber, Director of Enrollment Management at Northeastern University, offers the following advice:
“You should understand what your career and academic goals are. There are certainly benefits of studying in the U.S., but most importantly you should make sure that it aligns with what you want your outcome to be,” he says. “For example, if your ultimate goal is to immigrate and find a job in the U.S., having a degree from a U.S.-based institution is going to set you apart.”
If you are considering attending a college or university in the U.S., be sure to consider the advantages, challenges, and opportunities that you might face so that you can make an informed decision and take the next step towards a successful future. Here, we explore the benefits of studying in the United States for international students.
Advantages of Attending an American University
1. Explore Vast Academic Opportunities
Higher education in the United States is known for offering a wide variety of degrees and study options to students. For this reason, there are often opportunities for students to choose a program of study that aligns with their specific interests and goals that may not be available to them in other countries.
With such a wide variety of study options available in the U.S., it can be challenging to decide which program one should pursue. In order to make this decision, it is important that students evaluate their personal and professional goals so that they can identify the degree program that is best suited to their aspirations.
2. Improve Your Career Opportunities
Whether you ultimately want to immigrate to the United States or return to your home country, earning a degree at a university in America has the potential to expand the future career opportunities available to you.
Kleber says, “Even if your goal is not to immigrate to the US, having the experience of studying and working in the U.S. could potentially make you a more desirable job candidate when returning to your home country, especially if you’re going to be working for a global company.”
During their schooling, international students can take advantage of experiential learning, co-ops, and internships, in order to gain hands-on, real-world experience in their field of interest. Not only does this provide valuable learning opportunities, but it can help to build strong relationships with future employers, and could even convince an employer to sponsor you for a visa.
Learn More: Co-op vs. Internship|What’s the Difference?
Additionally, Kleber points out that “There are a number of degrees that are ‘STEM eligible’ that give international students the opportunity to stay in the U.S. for an additional two years post-graduation, beyond the standard allowance of one year, while working for a U.S.-based employer.”
F-1 students with eligible science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees from Student and Exchange Visitor Program certified universities have the ability to apply for optional practical training (OPT). This STEM OPT extension allows these students to stay in the United States for an additional 24 months (for a total of 36 months) to receive practical training. This training is often paid and is related to their program of study.
3. Perfect Your English
One of the best ways to become fluent in a new language is to fully immerse yourself in it, and perfecting your English skills during your time at a U.S. university can have some valuable benefits.
If you are a non-native English speaker, refining your skills can help you gain a competitive advantage in the job market, especially if you hope to work for an international organization. Having a strong knowledge of more than one language and culture can make you a valuable asset to any organization, as it demonstrates your cross-cultural communication skills.
In most cases, students must submit proof of their English proficiency to be admitted to a degree program, often in the form of official TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE exam scores. However, those who do not meet the minimum score requirements for direct entry have options available to them. For example, Northeastern University encourages these students to apply for the Global Pathways Program, which helps to improve English language skills and prepare for the students’ program of choice. Upon successful completion of Global Pathways, students are automatically enrolled in the degree program of their choice.
4. Gain a Global Perspective
In addition to the vast array of academic and career development opportunities that international students are offered in the United States, pursuing education abroad allows for immense personal development. Studying at an American university gives students the chance to expand their global network, experience new cultures, and gain a global perspective.
“Studying at an American university exposes international students to different cultures that they might not have experienced otherwise. Not only are they learning in a different language and experiencing different cultural dynamics in the classroom, but life outside of the classroom is different too,” Kleber explains.
Both inside and outside of the classroom, international students are met with the views of individuals with all different backgrounds. Being able to interact with such a wide variety of viewpoints gives you the chance to consider perspectives that you may not have been exposed to otherwise.
5. Receive World-Class Student Support
While moving to a new country can feel intimidating, international students often have access to outstanding student support from their host university. From academic and career needs to personal development, American colleges and universities strive to provide students with the resources and support they need throughout this stage of their lives.
For example, more than 7,500 international students from 140 countries study at Northeastern University, making it a truly global institution. As such, the university is deeply experienced in providing these students with the support that they need to be successful.
“Northeastern is truly a global university. Not only will we help you through the complicated immigration process and pre-arrival information, but we also have outstanding support services as well. Once you’re here, we continue to support you so that you can be successful at Northeastern. It’s something that we do exceptionally well and we truly are known for,” Kleber says.
Choosing an International Education
Making the decision to pursue a graduate degree in the United States can open many doors in terms of personal, academic, and career development. Once you decide to take the next step toward an international education, you’ll be faced with choosing the right college or university to support you on this journey.
To get started in the process, Kleber recommends that you do your research. “Start by identifying what you want to study and find schools that offer those programs. You should also look into the resources that these schools offer to their international students and see how each school is equipped to help you meet your goals.”
Learn More: How To Organize Your Grad School Search
No matter what or where you ultimately decide to study, remember that there are resources available to you throughout every step of the process. Northeastern’s Office of Global Services is one such asset that can help guide you to success.
Are you an international student interested in studying at Northeastern? Contact the Office of Global Services to speak with a member of the team who can answer your questions.