Where to Apply for a Masters in the US as an International Student?
Choosing to study MS in the US is a big decision, but choosing where to apply is just as big of a decision. As an international student from India coming to the US, I remember being baffled by the vast number of universities available to apply to, but it is important to narrow down your choices to a few key schools which would make the best fit for your application profile, in considering many factors including your international student status (F-1 visa or J-1 visa holder), your academic performance thus far, and of course, the cost of the MS/MBA program.
Understanding what the “right fit” is
Everyone would like to apply to the best master’s degree programs at the top universities for MS in the US with the highest ranking, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone should. Of course, you should always have some “reach” schools, so to speak, but it is important to be pragmatic throughout this process. Unlike some other more subjective parts of your application, your GRE and TOEFL scores are an objective way to shortlist some good schools for your academic profile. Especially given that many schools receive thousands of applications and use these scores as a primary method to weed out applicants. As such, always check that your standardized test scores fit the schools you’d like to apply to. Most of this information, along with acceptance rates and previous class profiles can be found on university websites, so start researching! From my own experiences, researching extensively allowed me to not only effectively evaluate how competitive the schools I applied to could be, but also to ultimately end up at a school that was perfect for me.
The role of rankings
You may find yourself often going back to US graduate school rankings when choosing where to apply, and there isn’t anything wrong with this, but it is important to not depend on them solely. I remember thinking rankings were only thing that mattered, but I could not have been more misinformed – of course, they’re important, but one must always look at other factors as well. Additionally, you will notice that many rankings of graduate programs are general, and not department specific. As you can imagine, this won’t be very helpful if a certain university is very highly ranked in the humanities or arts, and you intend to pursue a masters of science program, for example.
Things to Look Out for When Researching
- Programs offered and their unique characteristics
Some schools are notorious for having very challenging coursework or a range of general requirements to graduate, it is important to always be mindful about this, and ask whether this is something you like. Along with this, make sure to check for the length of the courses – some may offer opportunities to graduate early by taking extra courses per semester (granted that you can handle this), while others may have very strict limitations.
- Tuition, payment structure, and external costs
The tuition is a factor that will likely play an important role, as well as the structure of the payment, as in when payments are required (e.g. by semester, by month, etc.). This is information to look out for especially when considering an education loan, scholarships for international students in the US, or any other forms of financing. Additionally, universities in different locations will often have vastly different costs of living, based on location and availability of on-campus jobs, so make sure you are entirely aware of this!
- Use your peers!
Often, you may know people who are already studying in the US in MS programs that you’re interested in. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them as they’ve gone through the exact same process you’re in right now and are the best people to give you first-hand advice from their own experiences. In fact, from my own personal experience, what played a very large role in putting me at my dream school was simply reaching out to and speak with people with relatively similar profiles who were already at the school.
Undoubtedly, for the vast majority of international students studying in MS programs in the US, there are practical reasons for this. As such, it is very important to consider post-graduation opportunities available for international students on H1-B visas. Look out for what sorts of jobs students with simple profiles have gotten, as well as what employers recruit on-campus. Also, look out for the STEM optional practical training (OPT) extensions for some programs, such as MS engineering.
Weather, Location, Culture, Size
In your search process, you must decide how important these factors will play in choosing the MS program you matriculate into. Some applicants aren’t very concerned, but for others, things like the cold or warm weather may have a large impact on their decisions. This is something very personal which you must evaluate individually.
While it is also important to look at US master’s programs rankings, be mindful and recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Although you should never sell yourself short, it is always good to be realistic and make full use of all the tools at your disposal. Use resources such as profile evaluations for MS in the US, specifically tailored towards international applicants, and never be afraid to reach other to people for guidance!
In all of this, doing in-depth research is your best bet to finding the perfect school for you. Make sure to look at the full range of MS programs available at US universities, be very alert about the master’s applications deadlines at each university and choose your schools very wisely!
Nomad Credit is happy to help you navigate the difficult process of school admissions and help you search for funding options to study abroad.
Please visit us at www.nomadcredit.com to search for student loan (also known as an education loan) options. Please don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.