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WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

Applying for Master’s and Doctorate Degrees

Tuesday | July 19, 2016 | by Kaitlin Ramby

Graduate student

In a recent webinar, we spoke with Joshua LaFave and Christopher Connor, two college admissions experts who weighed in with their best advice to international students looking to apply to master’s and doctorate programs in the U.S. Read on to discover their insights.

What’s the Difference?

A master’s program is more of a professional degree. The educational approach in master’s programs is more holistic, and normally has a specific career outcome in mind. For example, an individual applying for an M.B.A. degree would typically have the goal of eventually going into management in the business world.

Ph.D. programs are more research-focused and typically require funding. A Ph.D. builds even more upon the master’s level of education, with a sharper focus on a particular subject. An example of this could be someone who earned a master’s degree in biology and then went for a Ph.D. where they were given funding to conduct research on a specific disease.

Finding the Right Program for You

When it comes to choosing which institution(s) you want to apply to, the three most important things to keep in mind are choice, quality, and value. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What am I looking to get out of a graduate school experience?
  • What are my ultimate career goals?
  • Will a specific program help me achieve my ultimate goals?
  • How will the location of the school play into my education experience?
  • What is my cost of living budget?
  • What degrees are directly correlated with a higher salary?

There are many resources out there that can help you answer these questions and more as you search for the right program. LaFave recommends to calculate the true cost of your education, as well as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, and when considering schools and programs.

Application and Admissions

When you’ve decided on the program(s) you would like to apply to, create hard deadlines for yourself so you are staying on track with taking exams, procuring recommendation letters, submitting the application, writing essays, etc.

Because certain processes are out of your control and can take up a lot of time, begin things like immigration processing, credential evaluations, and recommendation letter requests as early as possible. That way, if there is a problem at some point in the process, you have plenty of time to correct it.

Connor also says that from the start of your application, treat the process like an interview, because your application is the first impression you make on the admissions officer. Be sure that every aspect of the application reflects your specific strengths and aligns with the goals of the program. Submitting your application early also shows your eagerness to admissions, and can help improve your chances of being accepted.

School Response Time

So, once exams are taken and you have submitted everything you needed to, when should you expect a response? Hearing back from school admissions is much like hearing back from a job application. Each entity has its own timeline and way of reviewing applications, so the amount of time it takes for each applicant may vary.

Just like a job application, it’s important that you remain engaged in the process. It is very acceptable to follow up and ask about your application status; however, do not overwhelm the admissions department by asking about your status weekly or daily.

If a school has rolling admissions, you can most likely expect a decision to come much quicker than schools that have deadlines prior to making decisions.

Want to hear more on this subject? Complete the registration to watch the full webinar here.

Applying for Master’s and Doctorate Degrees Webinar
For other tips and best practices for international students, you can browse a wealth of other articles on our WES Advisor blog.

Kaitlin Ramby

Kaitlin Ramby is the former Digital Content Producer and a Contributing Writer for World Education Services.