By Rajkamal Rao
Go back to Checklist for Core 4 Undergrads
This page is dedicated to undergraduates who are on an F-1 visa who just graduated from an AS degree and wish to pursue a traditional 4-year US education to get a BA/BS degree.
As the American Association of Community College notes, you are eligible to receive 1 year of Optional Practical Training (OPT) in your field of study when you complete your Associates Degree.
We believe that this is a terrific option to exercise.
By taking a break from studying and working as an intern, you are able to test-drive your newly minted American academic skills. You learn work habits by working and learning with mentors. More importantly, you get to learn how an American firm works. Professionals in the firm will treat you with respect for the commitment you are showing to work at such an young age when many of your traditional friends may be more inclined to having fun. This mark of differentiation will carry for many years into your career.
And you will be able to network with people - and if you are good at what you do, the firm may well extend you a full time job offer when you graduate from a 4-year college. [Obtaining a H-1 Work Visa is difficult with just a 4-Year Degree but there are likely to be changes in the law in the coming years].
Also, you may learn something new about yourself when working - you may get exposed to a part of the organization which may interest you so much that you may want to change your academic focus. Should you do, changing majors is not a big deal since you have not committed to any major yet. You may have to consider taking additional courses back at your Community College and evaluate a different 4-year college to transfer to, but the cost in time and money will likely be a lot less than figuring out your change of mind after you graduate from a 4-year college.
Finally, by working, you may be able to earn some valuable funds in US dollars that will help you pay for some of your expenses when you transfer to a 4-year college - thereby lowering the burden on your parents.
The argument against exercising this option is that you will lose a year and graduate a year later compared to your friends in high school. This is largely a philosophical or emotional point. From a practical point of view, there is no evidence that graduating a year later will place you at a disadvantage with your peer group.
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