The initial impulse many students have when they go to college is to let off some steam. The environment is unfamiliar and exciting. Many students are free of their parents for the first time. And most of all, for the first time there will be many classes that no one will actually force them to attend.
However, whether you are studying in the U.S. on an exchange or moving to America as a full-time international student, these years matter. While some international students may find their grades don’t strictly matter at a home university, there are still plenty of reasons to give your time in America your all.
[Don't fall for these five myths about U.S. colleges.]
Here are a few good reasons not to coast through your U.S. college career:
1. Academic performance still matters when you're abroad: Don’t choose all the easy options when you are studying in the U.S. Whether you’re an exchange student who just needs to make up that required grade or a full international student taking a pass-fail class to clear your minimum number of units, scraping through with the bare minimum of time and effort commitment will reflect on your transcripts.
There will always be classes that may ensure you an easy pass, but taking the simplest options may count against you in the long run. Try something that challenges but interests you.
While my study exchange did not affect my final grade, I found that students who demonstrated a strong effort while in America would often have the balance tipped in their favor if their grades were on the fence.
[Consider studying abroad as an international student.]
2. Working hard in a different environment can have a long-term effect: If you fully commit to your college classes, you may find new methods and techniques of studying that could improve your academic skills.
Most students I have spoken with discovered that after returning from a period of study abroad, their academic performance had considerably improved, and their course work and exam results reflected this.
3. Employers are interested in your U.S. experience: I recently had my first significant job interview, and in the process the interviewers asked me a lot about my time at the University of California–Berkeley and how I had used my study abroad experience during my year in California.
Even if your grades don’t count toward your degree or translate very easily in your home country, copies of your academic transcripts will be forwarded to your universities and to future employers. A good GPA will always reflect well on a job application.
[Take four steps to excel at U.S. interviews.]
4. You will need references from tutors and professors: When it comes to job applications after graduation, in addition to your transcripts with performance, you will need references from people who can testify to your performance. Often these references can make or break a nearly-there application, so be aware that getting the teachers on your side is a necessary process.
Working hard is a foolproof way to secure a good reference, and while thinking ahead is hardly at the front of your mind as you embark on your college career, remember that college is also a steppingstone to the next stages in life.