Extra Help for Foreign MBA’s

As you read this post from the WSJ, you will easily recognize that EduGate is already helping Chinese students in China with exactly this challenge. I have posted some courses that we currently offer to Chinese students, helping them get a foothold into USA education.

U.S. business schools have spent years courting international students. Now that they’ve arrived—more than a third of M.B.A. students at many top schools hail from overseas—the institutions are struggling to keep up with their diverse demands.

It’s a daunting task: Some international students have never participated in a classroom discussion, while others may have outsize expectations about job opportunities in the U.S.

Many schools already invest heavily in preterm orientation programs for international students, which can include help with a housing search, opening a local bank account or obtaining a cellphone. Some match foreign students with faculty mentors to tackle homesickness and offer academic advice throughout their time on campus.


 Jasmine He from China says she struggled to join in classroom exchanges.

But some students may need more time to adjust. Ivan Kerbel, former director of the career development office at Yale School of Management, is betting that a three-week pre-orientation preparation program can minimize the burden placed on school administrators and help students get settled just a little earlier.

“Even if there’s boot-camp training at Marine Corps orientation, you don’t want to arrive having never done a push-up,” says Mr. Kerbel.

Starting in July, Mr. Kerbel’s new company, Practice LLC, will offer courses in five areas: academic preparation, career development, language and cultural orientation, software and library research skills and personal performance.

The Practice M.B.A. classes, which will meet at the University of Washington in Seattle, are open to international students and those with nonbusiness backgrounds. Students are expected to sign up for at least three of those five subjects, with a price tag of $1,580 per course.

Jasmine He, a second-year M.B.A. student at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, says she would have liked more than just a few days to adjust, as she struggled to join in classroom exchanges and conduct small talk with recruiters.

Professional networking is of particular concern for many foreign nationals.

During orientation, Tuck’s career-services office advises international students on which companies might hire visa-dependent students, and provides pointers on happy hour mingling and the importance of a firm handshake.

Ms. He, who lived exclusively in China before starting at Tuck the fall of 2011, found a preterm sailing trip with other domestic and international students useful for practicing English and learning cultural quirks, but she said “one week is definitely not enough.” She didn’t attend the optional five-day session for students without prior experience in North America.

Not all students need the extra help. While an increasing share of students hold foreign passports, many also have prior school or work experience in the U.S. And schools are beefing up their foundational courses in finance and operations to bring nontraditional students up to speed, too.

As a result, Mr. Kerbel’s venture caters to a relatively small portion of the M.B.A. population. But he says he’s not concerned, since many business students are keen for a competitive advantage.

Attendance at Columbia Business School’s daylong, optional orientation for international students suggests he is right. Though many foreign students have studied or worked in the U.S., about 90% still show up for the dedicated programming, says Megan Carley, senior associate dean of student life.

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business also sees significant demand for its three-week language and culture primer. That school, where 40% of the daytime M.B.A. class is international, hosts 80 to 100 foreign students each July to help them refresh their English communication skills and prepare for life in North Carolina. The language program costs students an additional $4,065—slightly less than three courses at Practice M.B.A.

“We don’t want them to fail for lack of a few days’ attention, or a few weeks’ attention, on the front end,” says Russ Morgan, associate dean for the daytime M.B.A.

Write to Melissa Korn at melissa.korn@wsj.com

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