Are US Colleges a Good Fit for International Students?

A friend asked this question and at first, I was dumbfounded. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer, because in my mind I was going, well, it all depends. It depends on what the US Universities have to offer and the profile of the individual student. After further deliberation, I thought maybe it is a good idea to really understand what US Colleges are doing to attract more international students. I am going to address the question at a macro level and I will speak to a single dimension (because fit goes both ways) only, i.e. why are the US colleges a good fit.

Historically (colonial age), colleges and universities were set up to meet the local and regional needs. Things are different now. Most colleges have partnered with international schools and are encouraging exchange programs to address globalization. No place leads in this effort better than the United States, where thousands of colleges have launched initiatives like more seats for foreign nationals, programs that enable students to study in a foreign university for a semester or two and setting up campuses on foreign soil, to name a few. Just as globalization is redefining the educational programs of leading universities, it also promises to reshape the way research is done. International students stand to benefit the most from such a push to address globalization in academics.

Since WW II, significant government funding has gone into US universities for fundamental and applied research, as opposed to Europe where research was narrowly pursued by national institutions. As a result, US has been the leader in the commercialization of new technologies, from mainframe computers, integrated circuits, personal computers to Internet, abetted by the groundbreaking research being carried out in its colleges. It is sometimes difficult to see the connection between how university-led research helped the industrial world. However, there is enough evidence, for example, in the form Silicon Valley and its proximity to Stanford, route 128 with the presence of MIT and Harvard, and Silicon Alley with NYU and Columbia. It is also a well-known fact that some of the more groundbreaking business models, e.g. Google, started out as pure university research. According to the 2016 US News Global Universities ranking, 17 of the top 20 are US Colleges! Other nations are seeking to improve the quality of their universities and are attempting to introduce elements of the U.S. research university model. For millions, outside of the US, that are aspiring to be on the cutting edge of innovation, US Colleges offer the best.

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It is an established fact that the US attracts the best talent from all over the world. In capturing a major portion of the international students studying abroad, US Universities find themselves in a virtuous loop. Many universities have set up exchange programs with other international schools to facilitate innovation and understand complex global issues such as human rights. This has been aided by the opening of national borders to the flow of goods, services, information, and especially people. Through such exchanges, lifelong personal ties are created. Not only does the flow of students across national borders enable global leaders of tomorrow but also deeper mutual understanding, toleration, and global integration.

I am comfortable making a general statement at the macro level that US Colleges are a good fit for international students. Needless to stay, to figure out the best fit, a lot of other parameters need to be addressed.

Featured Image Source: NPR

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