Title: Pursuing Graduate Education in USA
Published in The HINDU Opportunities on March 21st, 2012
Online Link to published article
Selecting the right university for your higher education in America can be a challenging and time-consuming process.
Most international students, who come to pursue graduate degrees in the United States, choose a master's degree (MS) over a Ph.D. largely because of the flexibility of the programs.
While a master's program can be completed with two years of coursework and may or may not require a finishing touch such as a thesis, oral boards, or a research project, a Ph.D. program requires years of coursework followed by a thesis requirement.
Hence, a master's degree is a logical choice for many students wishing to pursue higher education.
Kaushik Shankar is pursuing his masters in Industrial Engineering at the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California.
“Since my undergraduate degree was in Mechanical Engineering, I was able to get into a program that matches my background and also helps me broaden my interest and skills in the field, which is a great way to help me prepare for a job in the outside world.”
Pursuing a master's degree is no easy undertaking.
Handling a full course load in a new environment, getting used to the grading system and the curriculum and handling living on your own in a foreign place can be daunting at first.
Many students are concerned with the high costs of studying in USA. The cost of education could be anywhere between USD 15,000-USD 50,000 per year, depending on the course and the institution. In addition to the tuition fee, students also need to plan for funds towards living expenses, books, health insurance, air tickets, transportation, etc.
Many students also take up an on-campus job such as a teaching assistant, research assistant, or working at the campus library, bookstore, cafeteria etc. to supplement their living expenses.
Chandra Reddy considers himself fortunate for receiving a tuition waiver and a stipend for his education at the University of Kentucky.
“Since my tuition is covered and I manage my living expenses within my stipend, I don't work on campus.
Instead, I focus my time on taking additional courses, so that I can graduate earlier and start job hunting sooner than my peers to land a good job in my field.”
For students who are looking to pursue higher education in USA, here are a few pointers that can help you find the right university and make the transition successfully.
Pick a university that matches your interest
Since an American education can be expensive, choose an institution that offers you the required funding, tuition waiver and scholarship potential.
After starting your degree, you can also work for 20 hours per week on campus positions to help with your living expenses.
Make sure that the university has courses with specialisation in your area of interest, rather than applying for the program that your friends are opting for.
Today, there is a plethora of resources available online such as: university websites, department profiles, and research interests of faculty, school rankings, tapping into the Indian student organization (ISO) contacts at the university you are seeking admission for and of course talking to seniors, friends and peers who have already gone through the process.
Other factors to consider
The percentage of international students accepted into the university, the geographical location and weather conditions are other aspects that you may want to keep in mind as you seek admission. Also, being aware of the cost of living in the place where you will be residing, knowing if you will be staying at an on-campus residence facility or if you will be renting an apartment off campus and sharing with other students are all decisions that you would need to make as you go through the process.
The application process
If you are applying to top-ranking and good institutions, make sure that your undergraduate grades are excellent and you also have good scores in tests like GRE, GMAT and TOEFL. For admission into a master's degree you need to have had 16 years of formal education.
Most universities require a statement of purpose essay as part of your application and also proof of your contribution in extra-curricular activities.
Once you have narrowed your universities, keep your list short, as this saves up on time and money (application fees and mailing charges).
Adhere to the deadlines mentioned in the application and apply early to enhance your chances of getting admission in the preferred university.