U.S. graduate schools see a rise in international student applications in 2012

By Katherine Hafner

American graduate schools saw a steep rise in international student applications for the upcoming academic year compared to recent years, according to a recent survey by an organization that predicts global trends in graduate education.

The survey, conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools, collected data from more than 200 graduate institutions. Its survey showed a 9 percent increase in applications in 2012 from countries outside the United States.

The survey only measured the number of applications submitted to institutions and does not refer to how many students have been accepted, or how many intend to enroll. Countries such as Mexico and Brazil showed particularly high increases since last year, but China saw the largest spike, with an 18 percent increase in applications since 2011.

The trend has also reached graduate programs at UCLA. Craig Hubbell, associate director of masters admissions at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, said the program’s biggest increase in graduate applicants this year was from international students.

“Applications are up around 20 percent overall since last year, and the percentage is even greater among international applicants,” he said.

The UCLA School of Nursing has also seen a small boost in the number of international student applications, said Suzette Cardin, assistant dean of student affairs.

Janet Mentes, an associate professor at the School of Nursing, said she has noticed an increase in students from mainland China, as well as other Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

“People feel more comfortable venturing out and studying in other countries,” Mentes said.

The School of Nursing is in the process of creating a program to help international students with the transition to the U.S., Mentes said.

Yunfei Zou a biophysics graduate student in the department of Physics and Astronomy, came to UCLA after completing his undergraduate education in China. He said the sentiment among his peers in China was that if they wanted to pursue a graduate education, the United States was the place to be academically.

“The economic level in China is rising, and parents in China are finding themselves able to send their kids to the United States for school,” Zou said.

International applicants showed an interest in both public and private institutions across the United States, but the increase in international applicants was highest in western states, including California, according to the survey.

Tradition and the opportunity to make connections with professors and academic advisors factored into Zou’s decision to come to UCLA, he said.

Hubbell attributed the increase at Anderson this year partly to recruiting activities abroad. The management program recruits annually in more than 20 countries, including China, by making presentations and attending job fairs, he said.

International students make up roughly one-third of the Anderson population, Hubbell said.

Seunggon Jeong, an international graduate student from South Korea who is studying Korean linguistics in the department of Asian Languages and Cultures, said he has noticed about half the students in his department are international.

While he was the only person he knew coming to the United States in his major from his undergraduate university in Korea, he said he has met people from Korea, China, Japan and other Asian countries in particular since coming to UCLA.

Jeong said he thinks publishing his thesis paper in English will give him an edge in the job market.

“For Asian students, studying in the U.S. (for graduate school) is an investment to do better in the future and get a better job,” Jeong said.

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