When Carlos Eduardo arrived on the campus of Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business as a freshman, he came with a nickname and a joke. While attending a British international high school in his home country of El Salvador, Eduardo adopted the “English version” of his name — Charlie. But when he arrived on Northeastern’s Boston campus, he saw an opportunity to reinvent himself — as the Super Latino Carlos. “I told everyone my name was Carlos in the thickest Spanish accent as possible,” Eduardo laughs. “It made a quick impression on people.”
Jokes and accents aside, international students enrolling in U.S. business schools face two potentially massive hurdles: language and jobs. Eduardo tackled both from the get-go. Upon his arrival on campus, he began volunteering as a campus guide for prospective students and their families, a role that “taught me a lot about speaking English, and giving presentations, and relationship building and establishing rapport,” he says. In short, as an international student he learned the importance of getting involved in as many campus activities as possible.
Eduardo’s solution to the jobs problem was the reason he chose D’Amore-McKim. “A big challenge international students go through is the ability to find a job right after college,” he says, explaining that Northeastern’s co-op program was the reason he chose the school. Each student must complete at least two six-month full-time co-ops with an organization. “It wasn’t just an internship I would do over the summer,” Eduardo says of the co-op. “It was a full-time job — 40 hours a week with a company performing tasks a full-time employee would.”
NORTHEASTERN: 43% INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS, 99% PLACEMENT
It paid off. By the time Eduardo graduated last spring, he had completed six-month stints at San Francisco’s Adobe office, Wellington Management in London, and HubSpot in Boston, where he is now working full-time. Overcoming the dreaded H1-B visa hurdle is something Eduardo and many of his international classmates have achieved. This past fall, D’Amore-McKim enrolled more international students than any other school that reported those numbers in the Poets&Quants‘ Best Undergraduate Business Schools. Amazingly, D’Amore McKim also placed 99% of its 2016 graduating class in full-time positions three months after graduation — more than any other school in the top 50 — largely thanks to the co-op program.
“Our students do everything,” Peggy Fletcher, associate dean of undergraduate studies, told Poets&Quants late last year. “They’ll do two or three co-ops, they may do two or three international programs, they may do a combined degree. We have hundreds of study-abroad programs, and we also have international programs that can last from one week up to two years.”
NEW ENGLAND AND NORTHEASTERN SCHOOLS DOMINATE TOP OF LIST
Of the 42 schools to track and report their percentage of international students entering last fall, Northeastern topped the list at 43%. The next highest school was Babson College at 29%, Emory’s Goizueta Business School followed at 27%, and rounding out the top five were New York University’s Stern School (26%) and Boston University’s Questrom (24%). This year’s data points to some interesting trends. For one, three of the top five schools are in the Boston area, and seven of the top nine are in the Northeast. Only two public schools are represented in the top 10 — Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business at 22.5%, and the University of Virginia’s McIntire School at 19%.
According to Lukas Leftwich, associate director of undergraduate programs at Indiana’s Kelley, thanks to a “Chinese boom” the school has been on an upward trajectory in enrolling international students for the past few years. Now, Leftwich says, the school has embraced its international potential and built “systems” around it — for example, investing resources and developing curricular opportunities to mitigate culture shock for international students and help them feel more comfortable with communication. Teams are often set up in classrooms to include at least one, and often more, international students.
At Emory, Andrea Hershatter, senior associate dean for undergraduate education, says Goizueta draws from a pool of Emory students: the two-year structure of its undergraduate program keeps the admissions selection in-house. “So our first priority is to find among our applicants those students who bring the best profile to our class,” Hershatter says. “Because they are already at Emory, there is more emphasis on their current collegiate extracurricular activities and on their academic performance and programs than necessarily their country of origin.” However, Hershatter says, Emory has been emphasizing enrolling international students in general over the past few years.
Still, she adds, “if they are qualified in the pool, we admit them without much consideration whether they are from the U.S. or another country.”
B-SCHOOLS WELCOMING INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS WITH OPEN ARMS
The relatively recent influx of international students has brought much debate. On one hand, they generate added revenue for universities and communities. Not to mention, the value in different thoughts, backgrounds, and opinions. But on the other hand, critics claim they take up spots deserving of qualified U.S.-born students. Of course, educators within business schools largely see international representation as a major plus.
“The research on creativity suggests people are far more creative when confronted with people who are enough like them that they can share common frameworks and references, but different enough they are bringing unique perspectives,” Hershatter, who teaches entrepreneurship at Goizueta, says. “It certainly makes them stronger than when MBA programs were founded in the 1940s and everyone in the classroom was a white male.”
In particular, both Hershatter and Leftwich mentioned South Korean men as being a demographic that brings a particular level of perspective and maturity, largely stemming from the required military service. “They bring a maturity and professionalism that brings a lot to the class,” Hershatter says, noting some at Emory will leave after their sophomore years to fulfill the requirement before returning for business school before their junior years. “They bring a lot of majority to a classroom with our more traditional domestic students,” Leftwich concurs. “Some of that maturity and worldliness is special in how they interact their their domestic classmates.”
TRUMP’S BAN COULD PLACE U.S. SCHOOLS (AND THEIR STUDENTS) AT A GLOBAL DISADVANTAGE
At the bottom of the list, five schools enrolled 2% or fewer international students last fall. The College of New Jersey and Texas A&M’s Mays School both scraped the bottom, enrolling just 1%. They were followed by the University of Missouri (1.2%), the University of Georgia (1.6%), and Elon University (2%). Of the 42 schools to report data, 26 had fewer than 10% international students.
An elephant in the college admissions room moving forward will certainly be international response to the Donald Trump administration. At Indiana, Leftwich believes the commitment and drive from international students will not be hampered by an administration many see as antipathetic to immigration. “Where we are politically is not going to change the drive of international students,” he says, noting that Indiana University’s president is Australian.
“I would like to believe it is going to stay open,” Hershatter says of the metaphorical door to international students. “Were it to close, it’s not only the international students that would be at a disadvantage, it’s also the U.S. institutions. Our students learn a great deal about operating in a community that is globally diverse, and if that becomes harder to practice when they are students, that will be much tougher learning once they get out of school.
“I believe the European schools will keep enrolling students from other countries, so if the U.S. decides to stop doing that, it would place U.S. schools and their students at a competitive disadvantage.”
COMING TO THE U.S. FOR THE ‘MELTING POT’
Regardless, Eduardo says it’s essential for international students to know what they want and start working toward it on “day one.”
“From the first day, everything will count towards your goals,” he says. “Begin investing in your resume or something that sets you apart at a very early age. For me, it all started with very small steps and really understanding how to set myself apart.”
For Eduardo, it came down to investing in the “one thing” that set him apart, as well as finding his weaknesses and improving them. He knew, for example, that he was not strong in finance, so he decided to major in finance to develop those skills.
Either way, Eduardo says, being in an international setting is beneficial — and the reason he wanted to study in the U.S.
“Talking with people from around the world helps you look at problems globally and from many different angles,” he says. “When I thought about that, I wanted to go to the U.S. because of how people used to call it the ‘melting pot.’ People from all over the world would gather in a classroom and discuss their thoughts. And for me, that is why I came to U.S.”
See the next page for a chart of the schools with the most and least international students to enroll in the fall of 2016.