Once you have completed your undergraduate education in the United States, it can be tough to determine what you want to do from there. One option that you might consider is to attend graduate school. The U.S. is well known for its wide choice of educational opportunities. Whether you want to apply to earn a master’s degree, a Ph.D., attend medical, business or law school, you will have any number of programs from which to choose.
Graduate school is a different atmosphere compared to your four-year undergraduate studies. The coursework is generally more difficult, and students may be much more competitive with each other.
Graduate school can be extremely expensive and you will need to consider whether it is the best option for you. If you have already accumulated debt while working toward your undergraduate degree, is it a viable option to incur more debt? Do you think that you will make enough money after you have completed your graduate work to pay off this debt? You will have to weigh up your options.
One of the most common misperceptions held by international students is that their school will fully or largely fund their education once they are admitted. In reality, financial aid from the school is extremely limited, and most is reserved for US students.
Fellowships and Assistantships
You might consider applying for fellowships or assistantships in order to help fund your grad school education. Fellowships are extremely rare, and are reserved for the most qualified candidates. Fellowships generally cover tuition and occasionally living expenses, but you do not get paid. Assistantships, on the other hand, require that you work for or assist a professor or department. You might help a professor with their research, teach a class, or tutor other students. Assistantships are much more commonly supplied than fellowships.
Fellowships and assistantships are both renewable, meaning you can receive aid for more than one year, as long as you maintain good grades.
Unlike fellowships and assistantships, scholarships are generally awarded for one year or one semester only. Like fellowships, they do not require any work on your part, but they are almost always used to cover tuition, and rarely living expenses. The amount of money varies by scholarship; some award large amounts, while other may be just $500.
Another options for financial aid is to apply for a loan. Loans for international students generally have very reasonable repayment terms, but you might need a cosigner who is a US citizen or permanent resident.
When applying to graduate school, a good way to start is to create a checklist. This will help you keep track of everything you’ve done, and everything you still have left to do, and make sure nothing gets left out or forgotten. It will also help to make sure the whole process seems manageable, and reduce the amount of stress you experience during the process.
The first thing to do is to conduct research on all of the schools you are considering. Any information you need, such as application deadlines, curriculum details, and information about professors, can generally be found on the school’s website. If you cannot find the answers you need online, you can email the program director with your questions.
Some US schools might require an interview as part of the application process. It is generally a good idea to schedule an interview with a school as soon as you decide to apply, even if you haven’t yet started your application. Contact the school to set up a time—but make sure you take time differences into account!
Think about questions the interviewer might ask, and make sure you have answers prepared. Typical questions include why you are interested in the school, and how much you know about the school in general. Although you should prepare your answers ahead of time, make sure you aren’t reading your prepared answers during the interview. Make a list of talking points and try to speak like you would during any everyday conversation. It is generally a good idea to start preparing at least a week before the actual interview.
When it is time to start working on the actual applications, make sure you are familiar with the school’s application deadline. You will also want to set your own personal deadlines so that you can finish your application as soon as possible. Setting your own deadlines will allow you to monitor the whole application process in a timely manner. For example, if the school’s deadline is December 15, set a deadline such as November 20, so you will be sure that you have all your materials prepared with plenty of time to spare.
Being ready early will ensure that you have time to polish all of your application materials, such as your essay and resume. Last-minute work is easily recognizable, and will not help you get into your dream school.
For more information about grad programs in the USA, please see:
If you have decided that graduate school is not for you, or if you think you’d rather take some time off before returning to school, you might consider working in the US following your graduation. Visit our job search page to learn more about finding work after graduation.