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The 5 Things You Need to Know About Studying an MBA in the United States

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If you’ve ever considered getting your graduate business degree in the United States, you’re not alone. Each year thousands of Latin American students make their way to the United States to study at exceptional and internationally recognized graduate business programs. It can be an incredibly rewarding experience that opens doors to careers in any industry you can imagine. Business grads go on to work at nonprofits, can leverage their knowledge into career switches, fast track their way to leadership and management, or even gain the work experience to make the move to the United States permanent. But many Latin American hopefuls ask themselves how can I make it happen? Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about studying in the United States. 

Getting a Visa

Just the word visa can bring forth feelings of frustration and anxiety; and while visa processes around the world are as effortless as brewing up some café—which is to say they’re not—don’t let that be a deterrent to your graduate business education dreams. The best advice we can give you is to be prepared and fully explore your options. 

The best place to start is the US Department of State website. You can learn about what visas are available, the requirements and needed qualifications, where to apply for them, what the process entails, and how long it typically takes. Some student visas include:

  • F-1 student visa: This is a nonimmigrant visa to study in the United States at a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, language training program, or other academic institution. Any dependents who also come with you while on an F-1 student visa can apply for an F-2 visa. 
  • J-1 visa: This also is a nonimmigrant visa to participate in work-and-study-based exchange visitor programs. 

The second place to look is at your preferred business school’s website. You might not be far enough along in the process to have a list of schools that you’re considering, but once you do check out what resources they have for international students. You’ll be able to find information on the types of services or assistance they offer as you apply and later once you’ve joined their program, including help sorting through the visa requirements. 

And remember that a visa to study in the United States isn’t the only type of visa for which you should do your due diligence. Consider visa options for working in the United States after you’ve received your US-based graduate degree, such as the H-1B visa. This visa is especially attractive for international students who have studied in the United States, because recent changes to the process have increased your chances of getting one by 16 percent.

Organizations to Help You Study in the United States

There are many organizations and agencies whose mission is to help international students come study in the United States and they are treasure trove of information.

  • Education USA: Run by the US Department of State, Education USA is a great resource for all student visa information. Visit their website here.
  • Study in the States: While the US Department of Homeland Security may not be the first organization you think of when looking for assistance with a US student visa, this government-run website offers information about studying in the United States, maintaining your student status, preparing for your arrival, visa interview tips, and more that Latin American students may find helpful.

Government agencies are not only places to seek out help and guidance for pursuing a US graduate business degree. Business schools are eager to welcome international students because they bring with them different cultural experiences and varied perspectives. Schools know that diverse classrooms simulate the nuanced, global environment that graduates will encounter after graduation. Many dedicate resources to help students apply, navigate the visa process, and be successful in their programs, which you can learn more about on their websites. Some of these resources include things such as:

  • International student services, which generally help care for the welfare of international students with advice, information, and referrals for employment, immigration, travel, and social and personal adjustment to a new culture
  • A welcome reception, usually held before the term starts, to introduce you to academic and community resources particularly relevant to international students and to students like you that hail from other parts of the world
  • Student clubs, devoted to various interests and hobbies that can include cultural and international clubs, can help you find common ground with other students

Paying for a US-Based Graduate Business Degree

Financing a degree can be nerve-wracking for most. Just as with visas, the best way to meet the challenge of paying for your degree is by being informed. There are many ways to pay for your graduate degree such as, loans, financial aid, scholarships, assistantships, grants, or need-based grants from universities. 

International students shouldn’t rely on only one source of funding for their degrees. Hedge your bets by applying for grants and scholarships, which luckily are usually reserved for graduate studies. And don’t forget that scholarships and grants are not the only sources of tuition for international students

Consider these:

Employer Tuition Assistance 

Not every employer offers tuition assistance as an employer benefit, but if you’re fortunate enough to work for one who does take advantage! Talk with your manager or human resources department to set up a plan for your graduate studies. Be sure to think about what you want to learn, why, and how that will benefit your employer to help strengthen your case. If you’re nervous about opening discussions remember that employers love when their employees show this kind of initiative and drive.

Private Loans

An educational loan through a private lender is also an option. Loans get a lot of negative press, especially in the United States with the rising debt problem, but a responsible loan can still be the best option for some students. You’ll want to consider how much you’ll need to borrow once you’ve added up all the costs of attending school and whether you can offset these costs with savings.
Whatever method you choose to pay for your degree, be sure you thoroughly vet the options and choose whatever will allow you to achieve your degree and have the least amount of debt.

Succeeding in a US Grad Program as an International Student

Now that you’ve made the decision to study your graduate degree in the United States, you’ll be turning your attention to doing well while you’re abroad. There are many advantages to studying abroad, as well as a few challenges.

Before You Get There

Any graduate business program you apply to will have tested and verified your understanding of English, but if that’s not an area you’re particularly strong in you’ll want to seek out any university-provided resources that can assist you throughout the school year.

There are practical things to consider too, like living arrangements. How close to school or work can you afford to live? How will you travel there and back each day? Does your potential home have any fringe benefits like a gym or a pool? Try to think about all of these practicalities in terms of how they will help you succeed. For example, if you study better in a library make the proximity to the school’s library more of a priority when you’re choosing a home. 

While You’re in the United States

Once in the United States, find ways to integrate into the school and local community, learn about the culture, and build friendships with other students and neighbors. These things will help you develop a support network that will come in handy. Some tips for this include:

  • Seek out any clubs or organizations on campus for international students or a hobby or interest that will help you make friends. 
  • Keep up with American holidays and find ways of participating in the celebrations to help you feel more at home and give you opportunities to build a support network through friends and neighbors. 
  • Take advantage of your proximity to any landmarks and cultural attractions to really help you learn more about US history.

Lastly, ask for help when you need it!

Want to learn more about the international experience in the United States for Latin American students? Check out Alejandra Parra’s or Mariela Berrocal’s stories.

Students from all over the world choose to study in the United States for their graduate business degrees each year. And you could be one of them. Are you thinking about studying in the United States?