For many international students, the United States of America is a hot destination for graduate studies. How does the U.S. draw thousands of international students to its fold? The reason is clear: The U.S. is the world-leader in many fields–from computers to medicine to engineering. Naturally, foreign students flock to the U.S. shores to enhance their knowledge and skills and to shape their careers.
Get Started: In America, there are more than 1000 universities and colleges. So, how do you select a university / college? Base your choices on your academic profile, test scores (more on it below), the opportunity for financial aid, your budget for graduate studies, and others. Are you interested to pursue graduate studies only in top-tier universities? Do you want to study in a university in a big city or do you want to enroll in a university in a quite town? Does cold weather bother you? The answers to such questions may also play a role in the selection of a university.
Eligibility to Apply for a Graduate Program: A majority of U.S. universities require that international students have a minimum undergraduate GPA (Grade Point Average) of 3.0. Almost all of the graduate schools require TOEFL. It tests your proficiency in the English Language. Several universities also require GRE / GMAT, which tests your knowledge of high-school level math, verbal reasoning, and analytical writing ability, among others. Note that the test format of GRE and GMAT is different. Visit ets.org and mba.com for official and latest information on TOEFL and GRE and GMAT respectively.
Before you take the TOEFL and GRE / GMAT, select a few universities according to the guidelines in Get Started above. Why should you select graduate schools before you take the tests? Without paying additional fee, you can designate up to four universities, when you take the test, to receive the official scores of the tests. If you wish to send official score reports to more universities you can do so by paying an extra fee for each report.
How to Apply: Many American universities allow students to apply online through their website for graduate programs. Applying online for admission is faster, convenient, and cheaper.
Pay the application fee using your credit card. Next, complete the online application form and upload your statement of purpose / personal essay, transcripts / marks card, and other required documents.
Request your professors to recommend you for admission. Ask them to upload their recommendation letters through the university website rather than send the letters by snail mail. Again, speed, convenience, and cost savings are the benefits of online recommendation.
Financial Proof: U.S. universities require that international students prove that they have the funds to pursue a graduate program. The proof is usually in the form of bank statement that certifies that your or your sponsor’s-parents, relatives, or others-account has specific money. It must cover the cost of graduate education.
Some universities require that applicants send / upload the financial certificate along with their application for a graduate program. With other schools, you have to send the bank statement only if your application is approved. In any case, financial proof should be with the university before it can issue you the I-20 form, which is necessary to obtain the student visa.
Financial Aid: Graduate Assistantship (GA), Teaching Assistantship (TA), and Research Assistantship (RA) are the three types of financial assistance available for graduate students. GA, TA, and RA are competitive and are limited for international students. American universities consider your undergraduate academic record, GRE / GMAT scores, and recommendation letters, among others, to award financial aid to you. The mantra to get financial help from a university is “the better the academic profile and test scores, the higher the chances of financial aid.”
If you’re in the third or fourth year of your undergraduate studies, strive to create as impressive academic record as possible. Through hard and smart work, obtain top grades / percentage and boost your financial aid prospects. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, work toward getting as high a score as possible on GRE / GMAT and TOEFL.
On-Campus Employment: International students often work on-campus that helps cover a small portion of their overall cost of graduate education. You can work up to a maximum of 20 hours per week. Most on-campus jobs pay the minimum wage. It is, at present, $7.25 per hour.
Final Note: With a good academic record, high test scores, and strong recommendation letters, among others, you can fulfill your dreams of getting a masters / doctoral degree from an American university.