For international students hoping to attend graduate school in the United States, the application process can seem a little intimidating. The key to getting in is to stay organized and ask for help when you need it. International students and domestic students go through the same application process. If you are a foreign applicant, however, there are a few extra things you should do:
Realistically assess your ability to do well in a program conducted entirely in English.
Graduate programs require a substantial amount of reading, writing and speaking. If you’re not completely comfortable comprehending English, you’ll have problems completing a course of study.
Make sure you have enough money to pay for school and living expenses.
While some graduate programs give financial aid and grants to foreign students, some do not. Be sure you can cover all your costs (including plane tickets home for vacations) if you don’t receive a grant.
Know the deadlines.
Be sure you know when all parts of your application are due, and send everything in as early as possible. If you live abroad, it may take several weeks for applications to reach you and a few more weeks for any materials you send to reach the school.
Find out the transcript requirements.
You’ll probably need transcripts from every university you attended. Also, most graduate programs require you to submit a transcript evaluation along with your actual transcript. A transcript evaluation allows admissions officers to assess your undergraduate coursework and equate it to U.S. standards. There are fee-based services that provide these evaluations. Investigate them early and thoroughly.
Take the TOEFL.
Unless you’re a native English speaker or earned an undergraduate degree from an American university, you will probably be required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). For more information about the TOEFL, check out The Princeton Review’s TOEFL test prep or visit www.toefl.org.
Prepare thoroughly for the GRE.
The majority of graduate programs in the United States require that you take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). While you can take the test more than once, most schools prefer to see no more than two or three scores on your score report. Don’t use the actual exam for practice. Instead, take a free online practice GRE.
Write, rewrite and rewrite your statement of purpose.
Have a native English speaker read it to make sure you haven’t made any major mistakes. Do NOT, however, get someone else to write your statement for you. You will be immediately rejected if (and when) you are caught.
Begin the application for a student visa immediately after you’re accepted.
If you’re late in applying for a visa, you could miss the first few weeks of classes. Your program will be able to help you with the paperwork. You will probably need to prove that you have the funds for at least one year of study in order to obtain your visa.