If you’ve been working towards a degree in the U.S, it would be completely understandable if thoughts of your post-graduate options have been overshadowed by the amazing feat you've just achieved - you’ve graduated - congratulations! You took a brave leap of faith, travelling to the other side of the world to broaden your horizons, and even though the vision of life after graduation may have taken a back seat, you've earned yourself so many more exciting prospects than you ever could have had before earning your degree, and whether you decide to continue jetsetting the globe, to apply for graduate school, or to return back home for work, obtaining that degree is a well-deserved success that will undoubtedly lead you on to bigger, better things.
Next step: think about your visa
Before you start making any plans for when you finish university, make sure you're aware of the restrictions that apply to your visa. The U.S. immigration system is complex and constantly changing – and you'll need to take an in-depth look at all your documents to understand exactly what it means for you – but, in brief, below are some of the most common visas and their terms:
F – You'll apply for an F-1 Visa if you're studying at a “university, college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or another academic institution including a language training program.”
M – You'll apply for an M-1 Visa if you're studying at a “Vocational or other recognised non-academic institution, other than a language training program”
Practical Training on an F-1 Visa - one year of post-completion practical training is allowed for an F-1 student. You can request the forms directly from your host institution.
I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification - Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States.
I-765, Application for Employment Authorization - Certain foreign nationals, who are eligible to work in the United States, use Form I-765 to request an employment authorization document (EAD).
I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status - To apply to adjust your status to that of a permanent resident of the United States.
For more information on visas see the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Applying for graduate School
Medicine, business and law are just a few of the options for graduate school in the U.S. – where some of the institutions are the most revered in the world in terms of a particular specialisation, making them fantastic a fantastic option for prospective international students. But they are also very competitive and very expensive, with little available financial assistance coming from the school itself, so your decision really need to take into account your income and debts, as well as the kind of salary attending graduate school is likely to land you when it comes to looking for a job.
Fellowships and assistantships are a good way to fund your graduate school ventures. A fellowship will cover living expenses and tuition, but they tend to be pretty rare. An assistantship will require you to work for a professor or department, and is likely to be much more easily accessible.
Scholarships can also be used to help fund your education. Again, these are rare and hard to secure and also varying in amounts, from as little as $500 up to thousands of dollars.
Loans are available to pay for your post-graduate education, but bear in mind that as an international student you might require a U.S. citizen or permanent resident visa in order to cosign.
Start the process of applying for graduate school with research on the schools that interest you the most – look for information on courses, tutors and professors, curriculum details and any corporate affiliations. Remember that you may need to interview for a place on the course, so submit your application early so you can stand your ground against competitors.
Looking for employment
While the U.S. jobs market is a really exciting place, it can also be difficult to navigate for foreign students in particular. There could be visa complications, issues with spoken English or an employer might be concerned about hiring someone who could return home at any point.
But all things considered, navigating the system is certainly not impossible – here are a few tips on exactly how it's done:
1. Remember these things can take time. The right role isn’t just going to fall into your lap so start looking as soon as you can.
2. What does your host school have to offer? Whether it’s careers advice, practice interviews, tracking down recruiters or discovering career fairs, your host university can be a valuable resource.
3. Networking is key. Around two thirds of jobs are found through forged connections, so get out there and work your charm with as many people as possible!
4. Don’t give up. Stay positive and confident. Even if you don’t see results straight away, it's crucial that you don’t give up – if you really want that job then you need to be more persistent than everyone else involved.
5. Job hunt effectively. Have you researched your potential employer? What are your personal strengths and weaknesses? Do you know how to prepare for an interview? These are all valuable points to consider with any job search. For more advice detailed advice on how to boss your interviews, check out our article on How to get a job after graduation.
If you’ve enjoyed your U.S. experience but feel it’s really about time that you return home, remember to cut yourself a break for a little relax and recuperation. Jet lag, hopping time zones and even a degree of culture shock can leave you feeling out of sorts, so it's important to give yourself some time to recover. Stay in touch with those you've met throughout your studies and just spare a moment to reflect on your time abroad - but be sure to throw yourself into life as soon as you get home, because despite your studies reaching an end, your adventure is far from over...
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