It’s that time. The time when high school students are preparing for their next step in education. And you’re the one they look to for guidance, direction and assistance. For some considering international studies, it can be an overwhelming process.
The United States of America is one of the most popular international study destinations for Canadian students and according to the 2016 QS University Rankings, hosts four of the top five universities in the world.1
Students who have made the decision to pursue education in the US most likely have a specific program or career goal in sight and with that, their post-secondary choices will require research and thorough consideration. The final choice will undoubtedly provide your student with an unforgettable experience, unique skills and academic knowledge that they will carry with them into their professional career. But, the information seeking process will be grueling and extensive, and as a guidance counsellor, they will expect you to have the answers to a lot of their questions.
The post-secondary education system in the United States is diverse and rewarding. Its’ universities offer international students a plethora of options, with courses in traditional disciplines, practical and vocational fields as well as in new and upcoming areas of education and research. For every student with an interest in exploring post-secondary education in the US, most often the options are numerous, regardless of their interests and/or passion. This can be overwhelming not only for the student, but also in most cases, their families as well.
As Canada’s closest geographical neighbour, studying in the US can be a very appealing option for Canadian students. However, the strong US dollar can make it a most costly option and students struggle to find a way to justify this spending; another reason to be sure the choice they make is the right choice for them.
Educational recruitment fairs and expos provide students and their families with access to several institutions, and are a great way to alleviate some of the stress that is associated with finding the right fit for the right student.
With a variety of exhibitors, recruitment fairs and expos instantly provide a shortlist of potential schools that are actively recruiting international students. Keep in mind that they are here with one goal – to capture the attention of prospective students. And important to note is that they are often offering incentives to do so. With the realization the US dollar impacts students’ decisions, they will share with you (and students), monetary offers and/or incentives. To offset the higher rate of exchange, some with offer international students in-state tuition. In the US, the education system is controlled by the individual state as opposed to the federal government. Each state has it’s own “public” institutions that are run and funded by the states. Funding for such schools comes from the state residents in the form of taxes. Therefore, students who are residents of said state are able to attend the public institutions at a lower tuition cost than those residing outside of the state. And the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition are significant so having someone explain the differences at the time will go a long way to determining whether or not the school is a viable option for the student.
Perhaps they can provide you with information about available scholarships: both merit and need based. Some schools also offer to the settled student, the opportunity to do paid work on campus for up to 20 hours/week. Again, many schools will give international students this option to subsidize costs.
Once you’ve decided to attend the event, you will quite likely have access to what institutions will be exhibiting and will be present. Having this information in advance allows you to plan your time efficiently to make certain you are able to meet with everyone you and/or your students are interested in interviewing and learning more about. Doing so will allow you to manage your time there effectively and allow you the required time to gather the relevant information that may be of use when discussing the pros/cons with the student that will help them reach the important final decision.
Most often the event will have admissions representatives from various institutions present. Take advantage of this time; International Admissions Officers are there to encourage you and your students to explore the opportunities at their institutions and to share, first hand information regarding the application process, the requirements and how and when to proceed in order to ensure acceptance. They will as well dispel any concerns about “only top students” being accepted by clarifying the requirements from the onset. With a variety of institutions present under one roof, a student is given the opportunity to speak with many different advisors and have a first-hand understanding of whether or not they meet the required criteria. In the event they’re not, they have quick access to what other options are available, many there within arm’s reach.
And, while they may not be able to afford their first choice, the fair will offer them the chance to meet with a state college or community college that may be more within their financial means.
This information, as well as the application process, what’s required and timelines will be readily available by most exhibitors, and in most cases will be offered to you and your students as part of a take home package for review.
In the US, students can choose from a variety of courses without being categorized. They can choose between a two or four- year college program. A bachelor’s degree offers a broader range of general knowledge through a wider range of courses, personal development and academic skills; specific direction becomes more a focus during the second phase of study. And, this provides the option of more choices being available by combining programs (i.e. one could graduate in liberal arts with a major in science). To have an admissions officer explain this in depth and in person when a specific program is being considered helps to eliminate the stress of navigating an institutions’ website and FAQ’s. There is a clear and concise one-on-one explanation that offers the student reassurance.
And let’s face it, the institution’s that are present at the fairs are there for one reason – to take advantage of the opportunity to woo prospective students. This also sets up a environment where counsellors, students and their families can take advantage of the information being offered and evaluate the options for which they are best-suited for.
Preparing the Students
Most students will have done the initial legwork regarding the specific program or field of interest they are seeking admission to. Checking out university or college rankings in advance will provide some insight into admission requirements. Have them list all questions they may have – unique questions related to the specific degree program to which they seek acceptance. As most admissions officers will be there for the initial meeting with prospective students, it should be treated similar to a job interview and they should realize that making a good first impression would go along way in determining their future through the application process.
Typically universities in the US will require an SAT or ACT. Education expos and recruitment fairs will often hold seminars and workshops to help students learn more about this testing and the admission requirements.
The recruiters and admissions officer understand that once they leave the fair, the questions they didn’t get, or perhaps didn’t answer will be redirected to the guidance counsellors. Therefore, they will do everything to ensure that you have all the facts and latest information at your fingertips before you leave the fair.
The job market – particularly for those pursuing careers with the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) areas of study – offers international students a number of job opportunities not only back at home, but in the U.S. The American universities provide international students with the access to re-known facilities and research opportunities. As a result, not only will graduates hold a much more competitive edge over their counterparts, but will also be much better prepared to enter the workforce. Seeking culturally competent, and mature individuals to join their organizations, employers across the US see these graduates as strong, viable candidates to fill their needs. By opting to study in the US, your students will not only benefit from a strong academic and professional skillset, but will be given top consideration for overall employability.