At our recent Graduate Admissions for International Students webinar, our attendees had so many questions for our panelists that we were unable to respond to all of them during the webinar. That is why we have dedicated this blog post to answering your graduate admissions questions.
Panelists and graduate admissions experts Aimee Akimoff, Director of Recruitment at Willamette MBA, and Wanchen Villegas, International Graduate Admissions Counselor at Wheaton College Graduate School, provided the following responses to your webinar questions.
What are the differences between an MBA (Master of Business Administration) and an MS (Master of Science) degree program, and which one is better from a career perspective?
Aimee: There are quite a few differences between an MBA and an MS degree. Because the MBA is typically more general, it does tend to offer more career flexibility. However, if you have a specific career plan, especially in a more technical area, such as finance or data analysis, an MS degree might be a better option. The MBA tends to incorporate more of a focus on career outcomes. Usually, an internship opportunity is provided during an MBA, but not always with an MS. Most importantly, because of the difference in length between the two programs, you should consider the two programs based on your career needs. If you are earlier in your career, you might want to consider an MBA that builds in real-world experience and an internship opportunity.
Can I directly apply for a master’s degree program in the U.S. after finishing my three-year bachelor’s degree in my country, or should I transfer my credits first?
Aimee: Many graduate programs consider applicants with a three-year bachelor’s degree. For example, at Willamette University MBA, we do consider three-year degrees for admission as long as they are the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. You should ask each school to which you would like to apply if they will consider a three-year degree.
Application Process Questions
I have heard that if you select “I want a scholarship” on your application, it will hurt your chances of being admitted. Is that true?
Aimee: No, we understand most students are interested in scholarships. It will not hurt your chances of admission to say you want a scholarship; however, you should be aware that many graduate programs in the U.S. will ask you to contribute your own funding to the cost of the program. It would be good to show your understanding of this and not come into the application process expecting to receive full funding because that is quite rare.
Can I use an older recommendation letter from a couple of years ago for my application?
Aimee: We do prefer more recent recommendation letters because they will be more relevant to your recent work/experience. As long as you can obtain additional recommendations that are more recent, you could submit the older recommendation as a supplement. If you are having a hard time finding recent recommenders, we encourage you to establish relationships with previous faculty members or people you have worked with.
Sometimes the application instructions will say “you can answer the questions either in a single narrative or answer each individually;” in this situation, which would you recommend?
Aimee: If the application gives you an option like this, my guess is that they do not have a preference for how you answer the question. I would recommend choosing the format where you feel you can provide a stronger writing sample.
I just moved to the U.S. a few months ago and would like to continue my mathematical studies. Do I have to send academic transcripts for all institutions I previously attended or just the ones I have degrees from?
Wanchen: It depends on the schools you are applying for. At Wheaton, we do require all transcripts from all the schools students have attended, even if it was just for one credit!
How long does the form I-20 release process take?
Wanchen: It is wise to give it one month. Each school processes it differently. It also depends on how fast you can provide your financial documents to prove your ability to afford graduate education.
Financial Aid Questions
It seems you have to be admitted to a school and you have to be in the U.S. before you can apply for most financial aid. Is that true?
Aimee: It depends. Many schools consider applicants for financial aid (i.e., scholarships and graduate assistantships) either during or after the admission process. In many cases, they will provide you with scholarship information either at the time of admission or after the admission decision. It is probably not common to have to be in the U.S. already to be considered for scholarships, because as part of the student visa process, you have to show financial ability to cover the costs of studying in the U.S. Scholarships are an important way to reduce how much you have to show on your financial documentation during the visa application process.
Is there a difference between financial aid and a scholarship? Is a scholarship only for citizens, and which one is easier to get?
Aimee: Financial aid is a broader term that incorporates scholarships, graduate assistantships, fellowships, and even student loans. Scholarships are purely a reduction in the amount of tuition or other expenses that you are asked to pay. Some scholarships and federal loan programs may only be eligible for U.S. citizens. It is important to ask the school about the scholarships and loans that may be available to international students.
I completed my undergraduate degree in my home country and I have been living in the U.S. for several years. I recently became a U.S. citizen. Do you still consider me an international student, and can I apply for international student benefits?
Aimee: We would consider you as a U.S. citizen during the application process. There are actually additional benefits to applying as a U.S. citizen because you do not have to apply for a student visa and you may be eligible for U.S. federal loans. If there are specific scholarships for international students, you should inquire if you can still apply. I would assume that they also have similar scholarships for U.S. students as well!
What is the minimum GRE test score for most universities, and is there a minimum GRE score for obtaining a scholarship?
Wanchen: I would say it depends on how competitive the programs are. Most schools list a minimum score or desired score on their website. If not, you should inquire about it. The same is true for scholarships. You always want to check and see if the schools offer merit-based or need-based scholarships. The higher your GRE scores are, the more scholarships you might get.
We frequently host webinars on a variety of topics related to studying abroad and immigration to the U.S. and Canada. Check out our WES Events page to see all upcoming and previously recorded webinars. And be sure to sign up for our next webinar, Securing Financial Aid for International Students, on November 16.