WES Student Advisor: To begin our interview, could you tell us briefly what the benefits to studying science and engineering in the U.S. are?
There are a lot of benefits. The nearly 200 years of history in science and engineering education in the U.S. has led to today’s world-class research facilities at some of our top universities. The U.S. offers a dynamic environment for research. Our engineering and science programs also blend what students should know theoretically and practically, whether they intend to work in pure research or in industry. Another benefit to studying in the U.S. is the opportunity for inter-disciplinary studies to generate unique solutions – today, the greatest discoveries are at the boundaries between traditional disciplines. Also, don’t forget that U.S. universities provide life-long connections through alumni networks that span the globe.
WES Student Advisor: Aspiring international students may also want to work in the U.S. to gain valuable experience. What tips and advice do you have for career prospects as an international student?
There are a couple of ways that international students can get work experience in the U.S. but it will depend on their visa status. The first option is the Optional Practical Training (OPT) that allows students to gain work experience for a short period of time while in school or post-graduation. There is also the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) that allows students to receive school credit for work experience.
The most exciting aspect is that the U.S. government allows a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) extension of up to 17 additional months of additional time to gain work experience. Beyond that, some companies will sponsor a work visa under a H1B work visa of up to three years (they can renew for an additional three years). If students want to stay longer after that period, you will need to be sponsored for U.S. citizenship.
WES Student Advisor: Cost of education can sometimes be very expensive here in the U.S. compared to their home country. Could you help our students with some advice on what kind of financial assistance is available for international students? Also, how they should go about searching for it?
The first thing that I always suggest to students is to check for scholarships in their home country. More and more governments are sponsoring students to study abroad in the U.S. However, this research takes time, so plan to spend several hours a week looking. The second thing I would suggest is to check if your government has partnerships with U.S. institutions. Sometimes organizations or governments have set up special relationships with funding available to students.
Next, one of the most important things you need to do is to ask U.S. institutions if they offer merit-based scholarships. The policies and amounts will differ among U.S. institutions but getting these scholarships will mostly depend on your grades, test scores, and other factors. But when you are asking, try to be very specific in your questions – some institutions have specific requirements for which international students can be funded (for example, some institutions will only provide funding to doctoral students from other countries).
Finally, another option that students can look into is working on campus. However, be sure to check university policies on international students working on campus, including any restrictions, to get a sense of what kind of funding you might be able to expect.
WES Student Advisor: So now finally moving into the application phase, what is the general application timeline that students should be working with when submitting their applications?
Students should be looking to start preparing many months before the application deadline. For undergraduate studies, you should start thinking about prerequisite courses well in advance for your intended major (for example, many engineering programs require students to have taken pre-calculus or calculus). By the summer, students seeking undergraduate admission should plan to take the SAT or ACT exam, depending on what is accepted by the institutions to which you will apply. For graduate students, you should begin preparing for the GRE. For many international students, an English proficiency exam such as, TOEFL or IELTS may be required, so be sure to plan for this as well.
By the fall, prospective undergraduate students should look into getting recommendation letters from teachers, mentors, and coaches. For graduate admissions, focus on getting them from faculty members – for working professionals, it is also prudent to consider getting recommendation letters from managers or colleagues in your field. Also, make sure to not send in more than what is required; send the best examples, not all the examples. You should also be requesting transcripts from all and any institutions you’ve attended prior to applying. Finally, start your personal statement. My recommendation is to highlight any research experience to demonstrate your interest in the field. Also, explain how you will benefit society with what you will learn – it is important to consider how you intend to “make a difference” through study in science or engineering. Most importantly, before you submit that essay, you will want to get it reviewed by a fluent or native English speaker for any grammatical errors.
By the late fall, you will want to submit any scholarship applications. Also, applicants for undergraduate study should decide on whether you would like to apply Early Decision or Early Action.
- Early Decision: binding agreement to attend the school and cannot apply to any other schools
- Early Action: nonbinding agreement and allows you to apply to other schools
WES Student Advisor: So as my final question to you, what should students do if they need application help or are confused about a requirement?
There are a lot of resources available for international students. My advice is that you should always reach out to the admissions office at the institution that you are considering. The admissions office is there to help you and guide you through the admissions process. There are also international offices on campuses that can assist you as well. Finally, you are not alone in this process. So, search on Google and you will most likely find current students or alumni on forums to help you.
Mr. Raymond Lutzky is the Senior Director, Graduate Enrollment and Admissions, Polytechnic Institute of New York University. Prior to joining NYU, Lutzky was Associate Director of Admissions at Pace University, where he managed transfer admissions and application evaluation for undergraduate study. A native New Yorker, he enjoys visiting the many international neighborhoods of New York City to sample the myriad cultures and cuisines.