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Are International MBAs Taking Over the American MBA?

In the U.S., the number of MBA applicants is continuing to decline.

In fact, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the number of U.S. citizens taking the GMAT dropped by 1/3 between 2010 – 2015. Even more interesting, the total number of American applicants to U.S. MBA programs accounted for less than half of the 2015 applicant pool (45%). That’s why many programs are looking to beef up their number of candidates with international students.

The U.S. is the top international study destination in the world; 66% of prospective students from across the globe choose to head to America.

According to the 2012 World Geographic Trend Report, Western European citizens sent 39.5% of their GMAT scores to the U.S., an 11% increase over 2008. The truth is that the number of international applicants applying to American MBA programs is growing in proportion to the declining number of American candidates.

Unfortunately, ramping up international applicants is only a stopgap measure for American schools. While international students pay higher tuition and make the student body more diverse, an aspect that school’s love, the downside is that international students have a hard time landing a job post graduation.

Struggles for International MBAs

The issue for many international MBA graduates who earn their degree in the U.S. is what happens afterward.

Unfortunately, many students have a difficult time earning legal permission to work in the U.S. It can also be difficult for those same students to navigate the American job market, particularly when cultural differences become glaring barriers.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Fabio Bergamo, a Brazilian who graduated from Columbia Business School, spoke about his struggle. Even though he got a job with a fashion overstock startup in New York, and one who was willing to sponsor his work visa application, it doesn’t come with a guarantee of staying in the U.S. The government may not approve his visa as part of the lottery. “You come here, you study, you want to stay here, you have a company that wants you to work for them, and the lottery just might not pick you,” he said. “I’m in the dark if I’m going to be here after July.”

International MBAs most commonly try to obtain an H-1B visa. The problem is that the U.S. only allows 65,000 of those visas per year. The ugly truth is that, in 2014, nearly half of all H-1B visa applications were rejected, which doesn’t look good for the 87% of international MBAs who want to stay and work in the U.S. post-graduation.

Poor and uncertain job placement can also be a problem for MBA programs that rely on high job-placement statistics to attract more students.

So, what are schools doing about it?

Help for International MBAs

Many schools have implemented programs to help bridge the gap for international students, increasing their chance to land a job. Other schools are even lowering their cost of tuition for international MBAs as further enticement.

At the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University, international students have a variety of resources to help them out before they ever enter the MBA program. In fact, there’s an entire portion of the website that’s dedicated to helping International MBAs get around Los Angeles, make the most of their time in school, and even gain employment post-graduation.

Goizueta Business School at Emory University offers a special international-student orientation week to give non-U.S. students a head start at bridging the cultural gap. As for the Foster School at the University of Washington, they offer MBA students a unique two-day career development training course for 15 to 20 Chinese students.

Where to Go to School

So, where should international students head to school?

The U.S. News recently compiled a report of the top 10 MBA programs in the US where international students are a majority. At these schools, more than 63% of MBAs are from outside the U.S.; that’s compared to 33% average.

  1. University of California: Riverside Anderson School of Management
  2. Syracuse University Whitman
  3. Thunderbird School of Global Management
  4. Hofstra University Zarb School of Business
  5. Babson College F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business
  6. Lerner College University of Delaware
  7. Bentley University
  8. University of California San Diego Rady School of Management
  9. University of Connecticut
  10. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Unfortunately, even with all the help and information available, schools and consultants still recommend a backup plan for international students. To better guarantee their future, international students should seek out multinational corporations, running a dual job search in the U.S. and their home country.

Students can also explore the Optional Practical Training (OPT) privilege attached to the F-1 student visa. The OPT allows international students to work in the U.S. for one year, then transfer to an office abroad if they can’t stay in the country.

There’s no doubt that international students face an uphill battle when getting a job in the U.S. post-graduation, but that hasn’t made it any less attractive. Schools and prospective employers love diverse student and employee bodies, which allow for a more global perspective.

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About the Author

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Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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