If you are an International student looking to study in the US, the cost of education and the opportunity to get a well paying job post graduation is at the top of your mind. Education in the USA is not cheap whether you are an International student or a local student. Hence it is very important you make your college choice or your study destination carefully. The factors you should look at while making these decisions are:
- Quality and Reputation of the university or college – This is important and includes the quality of faculty, research facilities, courses offered and the opportunity to learn, build new skills and technical competencies. The reputation and recognition of the college is not only important when you graduate but something you always carry with you later in your life. It may not be the criteria for your success or wealth but does carry social recognition and acceptance.
- Placement, job opportunities and corporate reputation – Unless you are super wealthy or want to start your own business, chances are very high you will be looking for a job after graduation. Also, not only you will be looking for “just a job” but a “job” that gives you a nice package and a platform to be successful in the future. Hence, it is important to find a university or a college which either has a good placement program of attracting number of good companies on campus or is in a location where there are number of companies that are growing and the ecosystem supports further development of new companies. If you are an International student, finding a job may not be as easy as a domestic student given your visa status, so having a good placement program or a good local ecosystem is very critical.
- Total Cost of education – With rapidly growing cost of college education in the USA, how much you or your parents end up paying for your college education is important. Unless you are able to get into your dream college or into a college that is providing you a free education, you need to carefully look at the cost of tuition and the cost of living expenses. Some of the universities may be based in a smaller town which may help in reducing your cost of living. Also it may be easier to find on campus jobs at smaller colleges compared to large universities. Many graduate students and undergraduate students try to either get in-state tuition, scholarships or jobs to partially fund their education.
- Alumni Network – One of the criteria important in your college decision is the strength of your college’s alumni network. Alumni play an important role in funding programs, research, hiring and mentoring students, young graduates. As you decide on your college choice, try to get a feel for their alumni network, where they are located and how well they are doing in your field of interest. For example, some of the colleges may have a strong engineering alumni network and some may have a strong business alumni network.
- Weather, Diversity of students and community – This may not be a top factor on your decision but good to check out the diversity of the college, town and the weather. I remember one of my roommate in graduate studies leaving one school in just few months because he was from a warm weather place and could not adjust to the cold college town he had joined for his higher studies. College life is hectic and at times, stressful, why make it worse.
As I look at all the above criteria for college selections, I believe the colleges in California provide a good value for students around the world. Lets now review each of the criteria and see how California colleges fit into it.
Quality and Reputation of California Colleges – California is a large state and has hundreds of colleges that students can select from. It has a few of the global top colleges such as Stanford, Caltech, UC Berekely, UCLA, USC and many other colleges that would be better than the top colleges in many countries. All of us have heard how the admissions into the UC system is one of the most competitive and UCLA received more than 100,000 applications for their undergraduate admissions last year. You can find more about the colleges in California here
Today California boasts number of universities in the top ranked programs in the world. Some of them are:
Claremont-Pamona (Number of campuses)
UC universities campus such as Berekely, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Irvine, San Diego, Davis etc
Univ. of Southern California
Others – SJSU, Santa Clara Univ., San Diego State, Cal State (Number of campuses)
Placement and jobs – If California was an independent country, it would be one of the top 10 economies of the world. With the growth rate of the California companies, it may move into top 5-6 economies. There are hundreds of global 100 companies that have either their HQ or offices in California. Some of the well known are Google, Facebook, HP, Disney, Netflix, Broadcom, Qualcom and hundreds of other companies with more than $1.0B in revenue. Placement and jobs are closely tied to the local economy and the growth of the economy. With the growth in technology industry, it is assumed graduates from California college will always have an easier time than many other college graduates from states that do not have a thriving local economy. Given it is 2-3x harder for an International student to find a job in the US because of visa limitations, why not select a college that has a thriving local companies and a alumni network that may be employed at these companies. For example, two not so well known universities at global level such as San Jose State University and Santa Clara University do have a strong internship and placement numbers compared to many other higher ranked universities in other parts of the country. Plus, companies and hiring leaders are more open to meet, interview and hire local candidates than candidates from other place. It is also easy to meet and reach out on a weekly basis to alumni, if your are local.
Total Cost of Education – The cost of education is definitely not cheap in California, but you have number of options to choose from. You can select to apply to a private college like USC, one of the public universities in UC system or you can even select one of the Cal state universities such as San Luis Obispo, SJSU etc. Since all these universities are located from large cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles to smaller towns, you can look at the total cost of fees and living expense when deciding where to apply. The tuition fees per year can vary from anywhere $10,000 to $50,000 and the living expenses can vary from $10,000-$20,000.
Alumni Network – Many graduates from the California college tend to find jobs locally within the state. Hence, there is a high concentration of alumni and it is easier for graduating students from the colleges to connect with them as they look at jobs. For example, Stanford has a lot of alumni within the bay area so if you are attending and graduating from Stanford, you not only have the college’s brand name but a strong alumni network in the local area to count on. As most of us who have worked long enough in the industry know that “referrals” is how recruiting happens in the companies. Research has shown that between 60-80% of hires are done though networking. Once excellent way to tap into your network is through the use of social media.
Weather and Diversity: As everyone knows, California is one of the most diverse state in the USA. Less than 50% of the population is white and rest are hispanic, Asians (Indians, Chinese, Filipinos) etc. Even in the white groups there are millions of them from Europe. If you are living in a major city such as Los Angeles or San Francisco, you will be at home with colleagues, students and others from all over the world. You will feel at home if you are an International student.
The weather in Northern California is moderate year round. South does get hot in summers though winters are nice. Shore and beach are just 1-2 hours aways and so is snow. You have so many beautiful places to visit and see. If you are outdoor person, there are a very few places that can offer you a wonderful opportunities to hike, ski, surf or just chill outside.