America wants more and more Brazilian students to study in the United States. Although Asia and other countries have understood the value of an American education for decades, Brazilians are now beginning to recognize that American colleges provide the highest quality education plus job opportunities and business networks that are not available in Brazil. However, Brazilians must be careful to pick the right college.
Although studying in America can be a good idea, it is important to finish your education. Many, many international students fail to complete their education in U.S. colleges. Unfortunately, many American universities seem to be more interested in making money than in helping students.
There are three basic types of American universities. The best schools are private colleges, such as the Ivy League, Stanford, and MIT. America also has very strong public universities, such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Texas and Georgia Tech. There are also many, many lower-quality colleges, with both 4-year and 2-year degrees.
As a general rule, 80% of the students at the best private colleges graduate on-time. At the best public universities, students graduate in four years at a lower rate, usually between 40% and 70%. Unfortunately, at the lower-quality schools, students graduate at a much lower rate. Usually, the on-time graduation rate at these schools is very low, only 10%-20%.
Students and families in Brazil have the opportunity to meet American colleges at large “college fairs” in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and a few other Brazilian cities. However, the best American universities usually do not send representatives to Brazil. Because they are well-known, these schools have no trouble collecting applicants from Brazil, so they don’t need to travel to Brazil to recruit students. Also, they usually do not have representatives who are fluent in Portuguese.
Therefore, most of the universities that come to Brazil are the kind that have trouble helping their international students graduate. Although they want you to graduate, they know from their statistics that you probably will not finish your studies. Their schools do not do a good job of supporting their students, especially students who are not familiar with the American lifestyle.
Every student, whether from Brazil or China or the U.S., must be careful to pick the right college. Picking the wrong college leads to wasted time, wasted money, and failure. Avoid colleges that try very hard to recruit you. They need your money.
When researching American colleges, look for their 4-year graduation rates. Be careful: most American colleges advertise 6-year graduation rates, not 4-year rates. If you have never heard of a college that is interested in you, research them very closely.
If you are unsure about how to find the right American university, you should probably get assistance from an independent consultant. Unfortunately, many Brazilian “consultants” are often hired by the universities to find students. Although these agents and companies appear to be working for their students, they are also paid by the schools. Making money from one college, but not another, influences the advice that they give you. Which universities hire these people? The lower-quality schools where students struggle to graduate.
When selecting a consultant or agent, ask if they are paid or receive a commission from any U.S. university. If they do, realize that they will probably recommend a college that pays them but may not be good for you. The best consultants are never paid by schools, and they take the time to do more than identify a college for you. A good consultant will prepare you for success by taking the time to explain how the environment of each college does or does not match your strengths and personality, not just your test scores. They will also help you write the essays and prepare for admissions interviews that American universities require.
The American university system is the best in the world. However, U.S. colleges are all very different, so whether you live in the U.S. or in Brazil, understand that not every college is a perfect fit for you. At the right school, your success can be wonderful.