Your dream job is looking farther away than you thought, so why not take advantage of it? Grad schools are waiting for you to step through their doors, and if you do, you’ll become more prepared to meet today’s ever-increasing bar. The question of where to study may be as important as what to study, and an American grad school may be a very sound choice.
Increasingly, students from around the world are attending American schools. More than 723,000 international students from more than 200 countries around the world pursue a higher education in the U.S. each year. Of these, five percent come from Canada. While the many, many American universities can make the choice seem overwhelming, there are many reasons to consider attending these schools.
Quality of education
American universities are some of the best in the world. Of the top 25 universities listed in The Times World University Rankings for 2011 – 2012, 18 are American. In addition to the usual Ivy League names, dozens of U.S. schools appear on the list of the world’s top 400 schools, and are widely known for their high quality education.
An American school may offer you an opportunity to work with some of the finest minds in the world. Research funding is more available to American faculties than it is to Canadians, so you may be exposed to cutting edge research. At many U.S. schools, you’ll find the latest technology and specialized equipment. Alexander Castilla, the director of Ivy Educational Systems, says, “The American brand of higher education is linked with technological innovation, openness to people and ideas, and a commitment to academic excellence. These are perhaps the primary reasons why people from all over the world decide to study in the US.”
Variety of grad programs
The multitude of programs in the U.S. is daunting but also encouraging; the sheer numbers make you more likely to find one tailored to your needs. Almost every field of study is available. “There are over 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S., and this means there’s a wide range of options for students. This makes the American university system incredibly appealing for both local and international students,” says Castilla.
While Canadian universities have a limited number of programs in particular fields, the U.S. will undoubtedly have many more. Take veterinary school for example; there are five programs in Canada and 28 in the US. And if you want to do a master’s in real estate, you won’t find it in Canada. Instead, you’ll need to look south of the border at NYU, Cornell or one of about two dozen other schools. And across programs, there are different orientations and specializations, as well as opportunities for internships, study abroad, and local research. You may find the perfect match for your learning style and career aspirations.
Of course, you want your graduate education to optimize your career opportunities. Many U.S. programs have established affiliations with employers, enabling you to develop contacts in the field. Professors may belong to international research teams, and as their student, you may also be able to connect with experts in your field of study. Castilla agrees: “There are several career benefits … such as participating within social and professional networks that students use for the rest of their lives … this exchange of ideas, knowledge practices, and other forms of social capital will continue to be intrinsic to understanding and facilitating human development.”
These relationships may help in shaping your future career even upon your return home. Erica Borchiver, a graduate of Western University studying dentistry at Nova Southeastern University, experienced this first hand. She says, “There are a few professors here with whom I’ve developed a student-mentor relationship, and I’m hopeful that their guidance will aid me in establishing a career when I move back to Toronto.”
Studying in the U.S. can provide you with a new and different perspective that may be valued in the Canadian market. Jane Rendely, a Canadian career and educational counselor, says that “When a person comes back to Canada and they have been trained in the United States, there is a cachét that comes with that… there is an edge.” But at the same time she cautions that “It depends on the school … not all American universities share such cutting edge training and hold such a high reputation.”
Many Canadian students are hoping for a leg up from an American school. Emily Kate is graduating from McGill University and planning to pursue a joint degree in social work and public health at NYU. This degree combination was not available to her in Canada, and she hopes that it, along with the American school it comes from, will open doors for her. “I believe that many schools in the U.S. may be more recognized by employers than Canadian schools,” she says. “In addition, I hope it’ll separate me from the others applying with the similar qualifications.”
A satisfying social experience
Between the lectures, logbooks and late night lattes, social experiences are also important. Attending an American school may be your chance to round out your academic experience with new social and cultural ones. In her American experience, Borchiver felt a renewed energy: “Americans are very spirited. There is a certain energy that I didn’t see as much when I was attending school in Canada. ... People are expected to join a team and support it … whatever the activity may be. Students are encouraged to be active whether it’s in the classroom or outside.”
Choosing an American grad school can be an opportunity to gain valuable life experience. Jennifer Brownstein, a student at McGill University who will be pursuing a Doctorate of Psychology in the US, says she’s “excited to gain experience out of her comfort zone and to take on a new lifestyle.”
Borchiver feels the same way. “Living in Florida has exposed me to a number of new experiences that have forced me to make my own decisions and carve my own path,” she says. “I’m dependent on myself to resolve the day to day issues I face, and grow as a person.”
But how will I pay for it?
Many American graduate programs have their own internal scholarships, some of which you may qualify for. You can also look for funding sources on scholarship sites such as International Financial Aid and College Scholarship Search, EducationUSA, and ScholarshipExperts.com. These sites house databases containing scholarships and grants for several levels and fields of study.
Going to grad school in the U.S. takes planning and persistence, to make your way through what seems like an overwhelming process. But the possibilities for a life enriching experience and a fulfilling future may just lie south of the border.