U.S. Education Opportunities for Foreign Nationals

Borders Remain Porous

In a post 9/11 world you might be under the impression that the influx of international students has halted either due to outside influences or from U.S. mandated restrictions. Of course the events of that day generated an involuntary and worldwide knee-jerk reaction that led to blanket restrictions for many foreigners, including student populations. Less than half a dozen years later, and in the face of world-wide anti-terror measures, it’s as if the educational world has embraced the international realm with a new kind of vigor on both sides of the fence.

Despite heavily right-wing efforts to close U.S. borders and limit opportunities for international students, the world of higher education continues to model itself as a multicultural, collaborative Utopia. The sky’s the limit when it comes to programs for international students. Both undergraduate and graduate students are welcome and the post-graduate, research-heavy opportunities are expansive. Educational venues you might have thought offered little for foreign students have begun to market their wares, as well.

History of International Students in the U.S.

U.S.-as-melting-pot has historically included the academic world. The preponderance of international students is not a recent U.S. phenomenon. Universities with lengthy histories report foreign students among their class rosters since the late 1800s. As much as American students and scholars have sought international study sites, so too foreign students continue to zealously seek out a taste of the American campus and culture.

Resources for International Students

Access to authoritative information is critical for international students. Most have little understanding of the U.S. higher educational system and language and cultural limitations may pose even greater barriers.

Federal Resources

The federal government has designed the U.S. Network of Education Information. This comprehensive website is designed exclusively for foreign students. Topics include Visa and immigration status information, college scam warnings, and a thorough explanation of the U.S. educational system, among a slew of other specially targeted topics. Interested students should use this site as a starting point. There are links to professional organizations ordered by field of specialty as well as to professional schools, and graduate and undergraduate colleges and universities.

College and University Resources

Auxiliary information sources are those associated directly with colleges and universities. A good example is Stanford’s Bechtel International Center. The BIC puts Stanford’s best foot forward for international students. Of course Stanford is world-renowned for its high-end educational facilities and cutting-edge research. These kinds of laurels effortlessly draw student apostles from around the world.

International students often feel left out, perhaps overlooked in an academic community. Campus organizations such as the Minnesota International Student Association (MISA) provide assistance and support more akin to personal rights and community integration as opposed to the legalities of visas and criteria of degree requirements. This program has been an integral part of the University of Minnesota’s international education program for over 50 years.

Graduate and Post-Graduate Programs

Without a doubt the post-graduate world of research is well-endowed and highly competitive. Scholarly research knows no social, economic, or political boundaries. International students are welcome to pursue the same degrees as their U.S. peers or to participate in short-term study programs. Of course regardless of nationality, students are expected to adhere to the same degree requirements as American students. Masters degrees are the next logical degree step that follows a traditional undergraduate Bachelors degree. Beyond a Masters degree students may pursue doctoral study and earn a Ph.D., the academic capstone of the U.S. higher education system. Specific types of information portals and programs in the graduate/post-graduate realm include:

Undergraduate Programs

Foreign students might wish to catch up on the complexities of the U.S. undergraduate educational system before considering a program of study.

Four-Year Degree Programs

Unlike graduate and post-graduate programs for foreign scholars, four-year undergraduate programs make little distinction between students’ nationality as far as the application process goes. Foreign students applying for a four-year college or university are expected to show up as academically prepared and fluent in English. Availability of ESL courses at such campuses varies from school to school. Students must also provide scores from an SAT or ACT.

While this may sound as though foreign students are given no preference, nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, internationals are expected to adhere to the same academic standards, but most colleges and universities are proactive in their international scope and accept a significant population of foreign undergrads.

Community Colleges Offer a Step-Off Point

One venue you might have overlooked is the community college system. This sector of the educational system has really ramped up its marketing strategy to encompass the international student population. Why? As I mentioned above, most four-year colleges expect fluency in the language as well as academic accomplishment. Community colleges offer international students the opportunity to study college level courses at the same time they are taking ESL courses. Career and academic guidance in the community college environment is geared toward those that require more personal attention, perfect for all students with remedial academic requirements or foreigners. An increasing population of international students are earning Associates degrees at this level and then transferring to four-year colleges where they subsequently earn their Bachelors.

Wide Range of Opportunities Grows

Ironically it is the fear of some international cultures that may drive the continued increases in opportunities for foreign students. Education seeks to counter ignorance, and provide a model that proves globalization and international collaboration actually works.

Large research universities of course earn their reputations when they deliver world-class, cutting edge breakthroughs that promise to cure the world’s woes. They do this thanks to teams of scholars culled from the best international universities.