Studying in the US: A Strategy Guide for Beginners

By
Ken Burnette

Studying for the American Dream

If you’re considering moving to the US to study with the hopes of staying and finding a job, then this article is for you.

While I was taught in university that the American dream is dead, people from all over the world still dream of moving to the US and pursuing their careers, and with good reason.

Opportunity abounds for skilled workers at the top of their game. If you study the right subject, dedicate your time wisely, and build your professional network, chances are you can make a living here, or in any country you set your sights on.

But it’s not easy.

The competition is fierce, and the best way to compete is to plan ahead.

This article will focus on finding you a job that will allow you to stay in the US after graduation.

We’re going to work our way backwards from our end goal.

If you want to stay in the US and land a job, then you’ll need to focus on your career first, and plan your studies as a way to achieve your career goals.

So we’ll talk about your study plan in this order:

  1. Opportunities for Employment
  2. Life After Graduation
  3. Finding a Company to Sponsor You
  4. Applying for Your Visa to Study in the US
  5. The Cost of Education
  6. The Cost of Living in the US
  7. The Academic Environment
  8. Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone

Opportunities for Employment

You should know your employment opportunities and chances of getting hired before you apply to a single US university.

When researching, go straight to the sources of truth: uscis.gov and travel.state.gov

That’s where you’ll find the most up-to-date information on work, travel, and study visas.

Before reading on, consider if studying in the US is even the best path for you. There are certain limitations associated with getting employed in the US after studying here as a foreign national. Be sure you build a strategy before making the commitment.

Life After Graduation

If you’re set on coming to the US to study, and you want to stay in the US and work after you graduate, then you need to start planning now.

Here at Wonsulting, our career consultants currently work at Google, Amazon, Oracle, Uber, JPMorgan, Nintendo, Reddit and many more companies of the same caliber.

They’re current recruiters, hiring managers, and industry professionals, and if you sign up for any of our career services, they’re the ones who will guide you one-on-one through any step of your career journey.

If you want to work at Google, we have current Google employees on our team who will coach you on your career, help you prepare for your interviews, and even help you build your network.

Life after graduation doesn’t have to be a mystery. Plan it out with our team today. We can help you understand your options, so you have the best odds of getting hired after graduation.

Our clients get hired within an average of three months after signing up for our services.

Check out this link to start today.

But if you’re interested in building your strategy yourself, follow this guide.

Building Your US Network Abroad

This is where it pays to put in the hours.

Build your network up as much as you can before you get to the US. You can do this on sites like LinkedIn, and our blog post does a really good job explaining how to connect with professionals in the US.

Basically, you’ll want to find people on LinkedIn who are:

  1. Working in the US
  2. Tied to your home country or culture in some way
  3. Working in your target industry

How do you do this?

Check our blog post for an in depth guide.

Finding a Company to Sponsor You

Finding a company to sponsor you requires a lot of research on your part.

You can start with sites like myvisajobs.com, but consider that these sites can be out of date, and with the waning pandemic and global tensions, it’s best to reach out to companies directly to see if you’ll be eligible for future sponsorships.

Look into H-1B cap vs. non-cap companies, and understand that companies have to put in a lot of effort and resources to petition you to work for them.

This brings me to another point.

If you can’t find a company that’s willing to hire you after you graduate, it might still be a good idea to come to the US and study.

Why?

Because when you get here you’ll build a personal network of real connections.

As you build your network of connections, you’ll be able to prove your worth to prospective employers. Many students graduate and get internships at companies they never would have imagined. A lot can change in four years, and with the right attitude and dedication, you can make valuable connections that will help get you hired.

After all, if you reach out to companies right now and ask them if they can hire you, they might say no. But if you prove your value over the course of four years, they might consider hiring you worth it, no matter how much the lawyers cost.

Now, let’s assume that you’ve found a company that will sponsor you, or you’re confident in your ability to find an employer over the course of your four year degree.

How do you get started?

Applying for Your Visa to Study in the US

If you’re a foreign national who wants to study in the US, you likely need to obtain an F-1 student visa.

When learning about the application process, remember to go to the sources first: uscis.gov and travel.state.gov.

Here’s their description of the F-1 Visa:

The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program.

(source)

And here’s a handy chart:

Visa chart

Be aware that there are countless scammers who try to prey on international students looking for visas or other forms of assistance related to studying in the US, so it’s very important that you get information from credible sources and websites. Here's how you know you're on a legit US government site:

How to know if you're on an official US government website

The Cost of Education

Now that you know how to start applying for your visa, let's talk about expenses.

The US can be pricey, and education is no exception.

Iefa.org states that in the US “international students pay around $32,000-$60,000 per year depending on the university and the course. It is a lot of money but there are various options and opportunities available for international students.”

It’s important to remember that these figures will vary from school to school, institution to institution, and they depend on what state you’re studying in.

If you want a low cost option, look for flat-rate in-state tuition schools like Lake Superior State University in Michigan and Minot State University in North Dakota if you want to find a better deal.

This is where it pays to do your research. Email universities, network with alumni, and weigh your costs and options to make sure you make the right choice. Once you’re accepted to a university and start, it can be costly and difficult to switch.

Weight your options by understanding your priorities.

If you prioritize cost above networking opportunities, then look for a cheaper university. If networking is the most important thing, then look for universities with professors that best fit your networking goals.

Some of the best minds in your field are likely working at a university in the US. Find that university for a chance to network with them.

Cost of Living in the US

The cost of living in the US varies significantly depending on which city you settle in. The most expensive places to live include New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston. The cost of living is relatively lower in cities such as Indianapolis, Atlanta, and Laramie, Wyoming.

We’ll write an article later about choosing a university, but for now, take key elements like weather, culture, technology, and crime into consideration.

If you choose a cheaper university, you might have to deal with intense seasonal weather or less networking opportunities.

You should also budget for monthly expenses such as groceries, transportation, phone bills, and even utilities. For example, the average student spends up to $800 per month on basic necessities such as food and personal items. It is important to keep track of your monthly costs so you know how much money you have left after paying your rent and other fixed expenses.

The Academic Environment

The academic environment in the US is unique.

You’ll probably be in class with a diverse range of students from all over the world, from different ages and from different backgrounds. An important part of the learning experience at university is to learn from your classmates, as well as your professors.

US universities are different. You’re expected to respect your professors, but many will let you call them by their first name, and you can even ask challenging questions in class without worrying about your professors reprimanding you.

Discussion, debate, and open communication are all important elements of the US university system.

The academic environment of US colleges and universities promotes active participation by all students, so it is important that you are prepared to share your knowledge and experiences. If you’re not ready, don’t worry. Most universities require public speaking classes that teach you how to effectively communicate your ideas and opinions.

In general, studying at American colleges and universities tends to be more independent than in most other countries. Professors encourage their students to be self-motivated and take responsibility for their own studies, rather than spoon-feeding them information.

Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone

University life in the US isn’t all about studying. In fact, for many students, studying is secondary to meeting people and networking. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of neglecting your network in favor of grades.

At the end of the day, building relationships with your classmates and American citizens can be incredibly beneficial, as the friends you make will help pave the way for your future success in the country.

When you move from abroad you’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone. You’ll probably miss your home, your family, and your friends. However, with today’s technology, they’ll never be more than an Internet connection away, even if you have to account for your new time zone.

In fact, embracing this change is exactly what you should do as an international student. One of the biggest benefits of studying abroad is being exposed to a new culture.

By doing so, you will become more adaptable to any environment you find yourself in later on in your career or personal life.

Learning how to successfully maneuver through unknown environments will pay off long after your college years are over.

Conclusion

In this article, you learned about practical and useful methods for strategizing your US university experience.

You learned how important it is to start with your career in mind, and you learned about the economic and opportunistic tradeoffs when it comes to costs and network building.

You learned where to start your visa application, and the importance of trusting official government websites.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Build a custom plan around your specific career and education goals. Build it with our team here, or build it on your own.
  • Education is important, but if you neglect networking building in favor of a 4.0 GPA, you're shooting yourself in the foot.
  • Constantly grow your network. It's like a garden. Tend to it regularly and it will give back in compounding interest, with every seed producing fruit, and every fruit producing more and more seeds.

And remember, if you want one-on-one guidance from current employees at Google, JPMorgan, Amazon, Oracle, and more, reach out to our team here to learn more about our services.

You can also reach us at hello@wonsulting.com if email's more your style.

If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn and Instagram. l I love hearing from our audience and helping you however I can, and if you have a good question and it deserves its own blog post, I'll write a post that answers it!

Be sure to follow us on our social channels: Blog, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, & TikTok.

Extra Resources

Here are some extra resources to help you understand studying in the US and how to get here.

Students and Employment in the US

Guide for employers: Understand what employers look for when petitioning foreign nationals

Get sponsored to study in the US

H-1B cap vs. non-cap companies

Ken Burnette
Senior Copywriter & Voice of Wonsulting

Ready to make your dream job a reality?

Get personal attention with each of our services, or join a community of learners in our online courses.

Questions about our services? Check out our FAQs page or schedule time to speak to our team here.