How to Choose a Major of Study as an International Student in the United States

by | Feb 14 | 0 comments

How to Choose a Major of Study as an International Student in the United States

by | Feb 14 | 0 comments

Studying in the United States cost thousands of dollars, and for international student this cost is twice as high. Foreign students usually pay twice or triple the cost of tuition in the country. This is also called the out of state tuition fee. International students are unable to get student loans, but if they are able to provide a co-signer, then private loan companies do give out loans to them. As a foreign student, when your family invests that amount of money in you, it is imperative to venture into a major that is worth the cost.

There are several things that a foreign student should consider when choosing a major in a U.S university/college and some of these are listed below

Is this a STEM major: STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and math. It encompasses any major in the above listed category. Usually STEM majors receives more scholarships and opportunities than social science or art majors. However this is not the only reason why a foreign student should venture into STEM. The duration of OPT one receives is different for STEM vs non STEM majors. OPT which is the optional practical training is the time given to foreign students to legally work in the United States in a job from their field. For non STEM majors, this duration is just a year, after which the student is expected to go back to school, change their status or go back to their country. For STEM majors, their is an additional two years that is allocated after the first year of OPT

Would I get a Job Easily: The next step to consider when choosing a major is the current job market for that major. You have to know and understand how easy or hard it is to get a job in that field. Domestic students (citizens and residents) are able to take a year off after college and figure life out if they are yet to find a job. They take this time to explore, travel and understand what they want from life. Many of my classmates after graduation went to Korea and Japan to teach English, while experiencing a different culture. As an international student, you do not have that luxury. By law, you are required to maintain your visa status at all times or leave the country. This implies that if your visa status requires you to be in school, you are legally expected to fulfill that. After graduation, international students have only 3 months of grace to find a job before they are out of status. A job in STEM gives more options as there is more demand for jobs in those majors.

Would I comfortably be able to Pay my Bills: Most people advocate to study what you love in college. That is idealistic, but not realistic for many foreign students. Studying a major that would pay peanuts each month and have you struggling to pay your bills is not ideal. As a foreign student, you already have no back up. Saving money for the future and unexpected incidents is one of the ways to be sure you are in a secure position. However, if it is nearly impossible to save a couple of dollars each month for a rainy day, then that major might not be for you. I told my story about how sometime last year, the savings I had accumulated while in college kept when afloat when I was yet to start working. I shudder to think what might have happened if I did not have those savings. I believe it is better to study what would comfortably pay the bills, while working on what you love by the side. This was the same path I took. I went for a major in technology, and after I was established enough in that field, I began working on my blog and doing what I love – writing.

Will companies sponsor me: Another point to consider before venturing into a major is if companies would sponsor you if in that major. While working on OPT, international students are still on F1 Visa which is the study Visa. However, if they win the H1b lottery their status changes to work visa. Therefore even if their OPT expires, they do not need to leave the country but can legally keep working. To be able to win this lottery, you first have to be sponsored by your company in a H1B lottery. H1B is expensive and most companies do not sponsor. As a result, even when an international student in over qualified for a job position, they are rejected. Companies that sponsor for the H1B lottery usually sponsor specific majors, particularly majors in science and technology.

With a lot of these restrictions, international students do not have the luxury to simply study any major they love. Spending thousands of dollars to study in the United States, only to be told to leave the country before even gaining any experience is not ideal. This is why many foreign students venture into STEM majors. Being an international student is tough. Apart from the distance from family, there are still tons of hoops to jump to remain legal in the country. However, the key is to keep going and never give up.

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