Educations

“Almost his entire career was paid for with football.” The strategy of young Argentines to study and live in the United States

First Marcos left, then Mateo and in August it could be Mora’s turn. The three Fernández de Oliveira brothers have in common that they are athletes and, thanks to their outstanding performance in different disciplines (soccer, golf and field hockey), they obtained scholarships to study for a university degree in the United States. These are three examples of a trend in full growth, which is not new (it has existed for decades) but is now acquiring renewed interest, not only because more and more students are considering staying to live there once they finish their studies, but also because technology has facilitated these types of applications.

With an average cost of 40,000 dollars per year (including tuition, housing, meals, and books), Studying at an American university is an impossible dream for most Argentines. But if scholarships of 65% are obtained, as most of the young people who leave do, then it seems more attainable… Taking accounts, each family should contribute about 12 thousand dollars a year on average so that their child can study in that country . There are also cases with full scholarships, and others that manage to increase the percentage as they advance in their careers thanks to their good academic and sports performance. The account is even reduced if, in addition, they work on campus fulfilling different tasks in exchange for 15 dollars per hour. But how do they get there?

Mora Fernández de Oliveira is finishing her admission process to study in the United States through hockey;  her brothers are already there
Mora Fernández de Oliveira is finishing her admission process to study in the United States through hockey; her brothers are already there DIEGO SPIVACOW / AFV

Most families choose to do the admission process through specialized consultants that act as intermediaries between the student and the educational institution. The first thing they do is an interview in which they put together the student’s profile, set the academic and sports goals and agree on the financial amounts they are willing to spend. Then, they ask the boys to record a five-minute video practicing the sport for which they are going to apply and they are in charge of distributing it among the sports departments of the different universities. Once the “match” between the student and the institution is achieved, they accompany the entire administrative process, from the papers that must be presented there (visa, high school transcript), to the exams that must be taken before traveling (the SAT and the TOEFL are required by practically all American universities).

But it is not the only way: there are young people who are themselves in charge of sending the emails with the videos to the sports coaches and others are so talented that the same institutions come to look for them to add them to their teams. The interesting thing is that the Fernández de Oliveira brothers accessed through the three paths. “Marcos is received now. He played soccer here (he is number 10) and when he finished school he wanted to go there and he contacted several coaches by mail and did the admission process on his own. He studies Finance at Lyon College and paid for practically his entire career with football. He was increasing the percentage of the scholarship over the years. And besides, he got the desire to play in a very competitive university team, ”says Martín, the father.

Marcos, with the 10, was the first of the Fernández de Oliveira brothers to leave;  is about to be received
Marcos, with the 10, was the first of the Fernández de Oliveira brothers to leave; is about to be received

Mateo, on the other hand, was looked for directly because he was a golf medalist at the Youth Olympic Games and was the Argentine number 1 in junior. “In soccer, being a team sport, they don’t look for you, you have to move. But in other individual sports like golf, if you are good, they come looking for you. Mateo had several options with 100 percent scholarships. Today he is at the University of Arkansas, which is part of the Division 1 universities, the best (there are up to 3 divisional ones). He is in his third year of Strategic Communications and competes on the varsity team at a very high level. The idea, once received, is to jump to professionalism”, says Martín.

If all goes well (she is finishing her admission process) Mora will travel to study in August through hockey, a discipline she has practiced since she was a girl. He is finishing completing the application with the help of a consultant based in Uruguay that specializes in this sport (not all universities have it) because in the context of a pandemic and without games or competitions, it was difficult for him to send the video they ask to start the process. “The advantage of consultants is that they speed up times because they have everything much more oily. Most charge you about $2,700. It can be done on your own, although you have to start well in advance”, says the father of the three brothers, who has extensive experience in the field. “I’m here to start a consultancy,” he jokes.

One of the companies that works the most with Argentine boys is Sport Masters, which sends about 250 students a year. Germán Michaylyszyn, its director, confirms that there is a growing interest in this type of alternative. “There was a change of objective, the majority do it not only to go to study, but as a means to stay and live in the United States. Before, it was the experience of living on a campus, playing a sport and coming back, but today the majority seek to obtain the work permit that the American government gives to graduates to stay”.

They came to look for Mateo Fernández de Oliveira and they offered him a hundred percent scholarship;  he studies at Arkansas University
They came to look for Mateo Fernández de Oliveira and they offered him a hundred percent scholarship; he studies at Arkansas Universitygentleness

Most obtain partial scholarships, except for athletes who are elite. “Last year we sent Joel Dos Santos, Pan American champion in athletics, with a one hundred percent scholarship. But the average is 60-65% of the total cost, including accommodation, meals, medical insurance and sports activities that travel includes, says Michaylyszyn. They are very high scholarships and many of the boys, in addition, work at the university and that way they are self-supporting. In total, we save families about $120,000 for the entire race. We have brought from children of well-known businessmen from Argentina to boys from the interior who have never set foot in Buenos Aires”, says the director of Sport Masters, who also adds that it is not necessary to have a high level of English or be a crack in sports.

“These are two issues that are part of the myths surrounding these scholarships. Knowing English is desirable but not exclusive –he clarifies–. There are universities that offer intensive language courses and then start the race. They are not just for sports either: there are artistic, e-sports or exclusively academic scholarships. Most of them go to average universities, but we also send them to those of the IVY League (the most prominent ones such as Harvard or Columbia) and there is even the possibility of studying at tertiary schools called community colleges and they are short, 2-year courses. It is the fastest and cheapest option. Another possibility is to advance a semester online and then travel. That reduces costs”, says the director of Sport Masters.

Concord University Campus
Concord University Campus

Tomas Isoardi played 5 in the youth team at the Brown de Adrogué club. Next August he will begin his degree in Administration with an emphasis on Finance at Concord University (NCAA division II), in addition to being a member of that university’s soccer team. He has just obtained his visa and, he says, is looking forward to this opportunity. “I started with this in fourth year. I always liked the United States, and since I was a child I thought of going there, he says. My parents thought he was a joke. But when they saw that he was investigating and was serious, they helped me and I contacted Sport Maters to start the process. The reality is that it is complex, you have to do many things, present many papers. Without the help of the consultant it would have been complicated. If it was on my own, I don’t know if he did it”, says Tomás, who had the opportunity to visit the university a few months ago and was shocked. “I loved it, I visualized myself studying there. It is in West Virginia, which is a place similar to Bariloche, with mountains. I had the possibility of going to New York, I had already talked to the other coach and everything, but this one offered me an academic scholarship in addition to the sports one and it is also further south, it is less cold and it is better to play football.”

Tomás has even had talks with his future coach: “He is a very competitive, demanding person. I stopped playing soccer here and I see this opportunity to make the leap to professionalism – he is excited. In Argentina it is difficult to study and play football at the same time. If I go I can do both. From what I researched, you can get from the university to the MLS (professional soccer league in the United States)”, he says, adding that academically the university is quite well ranked. “It’s in the top 100. And I also spoke with students who told me that it prepares you a lot for work: instead of making you read so much they make you work on more specific things, they prepare you for work. It’s 4 years, there is the possibility of advancing subjects in the summer and doing the degree in three years. If you have an exam and you just have to travel to play, they bank you, they run the date. But if you do poorly in academics, it affects you in sports. They don’t let you play”, describes Tomás.

Another agency that works with Argentines is ScholarshipsUS . “There are options for different levels. I clarify it because the first thing they think is that if you are not very good in a sport this is not an option. But it is not like that, the entire range of levels is covered, even if you practiced it recreationally, you can also get a scholarship. Obviously, the higher level and better academic average you have, the more scholarship you receive, but there are variables in terms of areas and universities. There are some that are more accessible than others. If you don’t have preferences in terms of places, a range of opportunities opens up for you,” says Federico Palombo, ScholarshipsUS advisor. At the top of the preferences of Argentines are the universities of Florida. “It also depends on the race or the sport. But Miami attracts because many have family or friends there and that weighs.”

The search, he says, is an almost artisanal job. “Although the system is fairly standardized, it can be customized,” explains Palombo. In fact, there are families that prioritize that their children go to a better university and are willing to pay, for example, 20,000 dollars a year”, he says and assures that more and more children, after finishing their studies, want to stay. “At least half seek to take advantage of the work permit given to graduates.”

Study, graduate, be part of a team and succeed. The American dream adopts its own Argentine version and is more relevant than ever. And there are many young people who seek to achieve it.

40,000

Average dollar amount of a university per year. Includes accommodation, tuition, meals, and study material at an average North American institution. There are also tertiary schools called community colleges that are cheaper

65%

It is the percentage, on average, of the scholarship obtained to study. Most access this number, but there are cases that obtain more or less, depending on the sports and academic level. And it can go up or down based on student performance

12,000

It is the average dollar amount that must be contributed to pay for college. This is a figure calculated from the average cost of a university and 65% of the percentage of the scholarship

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