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Evaluate Career Help Before Applying to U.S. Colleges

International students should look for support that goes beyond finding internships or jobs.

“Learning by doing” is an idea that many college students in the U.S. have become familiar with. It has long been a hallmark of U.S. higher education, and it calls on students to not only learn the theories and techniques associated with a particular field of study, but to put that knowledge to work.

“Everyone kept telling me to ask about internships,” says Luyan, an international student from China at Saint Louis University in Missouri, about his own college search process. “They were right, but I didn’t really know what questions to ask.”

Prospective international students concerned with how a U.S. university can help them in their career path may want to consider researching a number of areas – some of which they may not know about. A comprehensive search should include classroom teaching methods, class descriptions or syllabuses, internship, practicum, or cooperative learning programs, career services, professional or career development programs and placement rates for jobs or graduate schools.

[Check out four ways international students can explore job opportunities in the U.S.]

• Teaching methods: Internships extend the classroom into the working world, but they are not the only programs that prospective international students should look for.

A problem-solving-based curriculum is one such option, according to Rachel Salinas, assistant director of international admissions at Indiana University—Bloomington.

“You may find students in classrooms and labs who are conducting research for major companies or organizations. For example, you may find computer science students are working on design projects for Google or Adobe,” Salinas says. ​

[Check out additional tips on studying in the U.S.]

Jody Pritt, director of international student services at the University of South Carolina, says that​ students should research the ways that each school teaches its students. She suggests looking for opportunities to speak with currently enrolled students or faculty as a way of conducting research.

Pritt thinks many students overlook course syllabuses as valuable research tools. A syllabus provides the texts that will be used, class assignments, and projects in detail. A syllabus will show students how a class will be conducted, and provide a great deal of insight into how they’ll be taught.

• Cooperative education programs: These programs, known as co-ops, blend the idea of hands-on learning in a classroom with the practical skill application of an internship. In recent years, these programs have extended beyond the traditional model of a classroom experience that integrates some form of employer-based experience such as an internship or practicum.

“Increasingly, service learning and study abroad programs have been included as an important part of experiential learning,” says Jason Kinnear, associate director of international programs at the University of Missouri Office of Service Learning.

Kinnear feels that students who are successful at working together as part of a learning group to apply their skills for the good of a community, are the same students who will be leaders in a workplace environment.

He says teaching students how to be global and community contributors will have a very direct impact on their ability to work within dynamic teams.

[Find out about ways to work on campus as an international student.]

 Specialized career services and professional development programs: These have grown in importance on many U.S. campuses.

“You have to dig deeper than the admissions pages on a university website,” says Katryna Snow, senior assistant director of international admissions at the University of Vermont. “Finding out what career services are available to international students is important.”

Snow says that career services should go beyond assistance in finding available internships or jobs.

She says students should ask, “Does the university have a specific international student career counselor?” “Do they have programs such as resume writing for international students or international job fairs?”

She points out that career-related programs should be incorporated into students’ university experience. “These specific services will give international students an advantage in the job search,” Snow says.​

“Do the research. Ask the questions,” says Indiana University’s Salinas. “University is a huge investment, and many U.S. universities understand the specific needs of our international students in terms of outcome.”

Preparing to enter his final year, Luyan thinks the practical application of his business studies will give him an edge in the job search. Luyan worked over the summer with a financial analyst team at Edward Jones.

He’s confident that listing work experience with a major financial company will also be advantageous to his studies.

Luyan feels his internship experience has transitioned what he’s learned from concept to application. “When I’m in class now, I think I understand more what a business environment is like,” he says.