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Application Procedure - Graduate
(Master’s and Doctoral) Courses in USA

This section explains the process of applying to US universities for Graduate courses. For details on how to select a university that matches your interests, needs and academic background, go to the Selecting Universities section.  

Pre-Application Issues
Application Requirements
  1. Academic Records
  2. Standardized Tests
  3. Work Experience Details
  4. Letters of Recommendation
  5. Statement of Purpose (SOP)
  6. Financial Support
  7. Interviews (If applicable)

The Importance of Networking in Admission Decisions and Aid

Send enquiries at least 15 to 18 months before the proposed date of admission. There are two ways to get application forms.
  1. Requesting Application Forms via email : You can request application forms from the universities website. Most universities have a form on their website which can be completed online to request application material.

  2. Requesting Application Forms via Air Mail : The other way is to send a request by airmail for application material. The request should contain a brief description of your educational background, academic objectives, source of financial support, English proficiency and standardized test scores.

  3. Downloading from the university website : Many universities have a downloadable and ready to print versions of their application forms  on the net. These can be used for applying just as regular forms.

Most schools require qualifications comparable to a U.S. Bachelor’s (Honours) degree (Four Year Degree Program). That means a minimum of 16 years of formal education. In the Indian context, it implies qualifying in a professional four-year degree like engineering or other such courses.

For Doctorate programs, most universities require a Master’s degree in that subject. In a few exceptional cases like a good undergraduate engineering degree, they may offer a direct admission to a Doctorate course.

If you have completed a three-year degree program in India, the advisable plan of action to maximize eligibility for U.S. graduate schools is to apply for a Post Graduate degree here in India. A one-year university affiliated program will make up for the fourth year of a U.S. Undergraduate degree.

  • Professional programs like the CA, ICWA, part time diplomas from a university such as those in management, communication may or may not be accepted. Though many universities, especially Business Schools, have started recognizing the Indian CA.

  • Independent certificate courses offered by private institutions like Aptech, NIIT, etc. may or may not be accepted based on each individual university’s evaluation.

  • One-year education of a two year degree course (like M.Tech, MA etc) may not be accepted by most schools. The full course has to be completed for qualification, unless there is a recognized university exam at the end of one year.

No standardized policy exists regarding the acceptance of such programs. Some universities may accept the three-year Indian Graduation Degree for a few programs. Confirmation can only be obtained by either writing directly or formally applying to the universities concerned.

Application Requirements

Your past academic record is one of the most important deciding factors in securing admission to a college abroad. Most schools require you to have a reasonably good academic record especially for programs and courses offering a master’s or doctoral degree. Each university has its own minimum requirement for its programs, which are flexible depending on the candidate’s profile.

Universities in USA have their own marking and evaluation systems, which are considerably different from the Indian system. They follow the GPA (Grade Point Average) system which is based on the 5 points scheme – A,B,C,D & F.

It is advisable not to convert your marks in the Indian system of grading to the American Grade Point Average system or any other system since the conversion may not be accurate. You may attach an explanatory note from your college to indicate your rank in your class and/or university. The letter may also indicate your relative place in the class and the university average, along with the number of students in the class and the number of colleges and students in the university. You may also provide any other information or documents that you feel may help you in the admission process.

Students applying for Graduate courses (MBA, MS etc) are required to submit an official transcript (mark-sheets) from each college or university that they have attended after secondary school with complete details of the subjects/credits involved (for each year) and other details like correspondence courses, diplomas etc. Most universities ask for the transcript (mark-sheets) to be sealed in an envelope and signed and attested across the seal by the registrar. This procedure is to be done for each and every college that you have attended. Some universities may ask for more than one copy of the transcript. 

If the transcripts are in a language other than English, they must be translated into English only by the issuing authority or university.

Standardized Tests


Many Courses and Universities in US require you to take one of the standardized tests like GRE, GMAT along with English Proficiency tests like TOEFL, TWE and TSE.

English Proficiency Tests

TOEFL: This test is mandatory for International students applying to a Graduate course or University in US. The minimum score required by most universities for admission is 570 (Paper-based test) and 230 (Computer-based test).

TSE : This test is important if you intend to apply for a Teaching Assistantship. Though many universities don’t mention it, but it is advisable to take this test if you are looking for a Teaching Assistantship.

Other Tests
Different programs require you to take certain standardized tests for admission and there is a certain minimum that you have to score in those tests to get admitted to those universities :

The various tests are:

GMAT : For Graduate Courses in Management.

GRE    : For Graduate Courses in fields other than Management.

LSAT   :For Admissions to Law Schools.

USMLE :For Admission to Medical Colleges.

For other tests, click on Tests to be Taken

Work Experience Details


A number of professional and vocational courses require relevant work experience. For instance, many MBAs or master’s courses in information studies require at least a couple of years’ work experience. Most Australian universities are pretty strict about this.

A detailed R�sum� is an important part of your application. It should include all information of professional work experience along with the details like positions held, achievements and range of work.

Find Resumes a problem? Check out our Resume section for tips.

Letter of Recommendation


Letters of reference or recommendation letters play a very important part in your admission especially in courses that earn you a master’s or doctoral degree. A recommendation letter is a signed statement from a person who knows you well professionally or has taught you in a subject that is related to the course you are applying to. It should list your positive and negative qualities, strengths and other such information.

The author or teacher must indicate his position, how long he/she has known the applicant and in what capacity. He/she should briefly discuss the need, importance and usefulness of the study the applicant proposes to undertake. Authors are usually asked to rank applicants in their letters of recommendation, which helps admission officers to interpret the academic credentials of foreign students. Students should obtain letters of recommendation (often on the prescribed forms sent by the institutions) from teachers who know them as a person as well as a student. You may like to request your author to give concrete examples that may show your qualities and help your case.

Many universities have their own format and questions that have to be answered by the person who is giving the letter of recommendation on your behalf. Letters, which do not give enough information, can jeopardize a candidate’s chances of selection. 

Note : Even if not mentioned, it is advisable to include at least two letters of recommendation in your applications as they increase your chances of getting admissions.

For more details on letters of recommendation, formats and tips, check out Letters of Recommendation

Statement of Purpose


The personal essays, and/or statement of purpose, play a very important role in the process of evaluating your application for both admission as well as financial aid because it gives the faculty assessing your application their most significant impression of you as an individual. This section is the key to distinguish your application from other suitable candidates and a chance to market yourself.

A personal statement should include your reasons for choosing a particular course, the suitability of your education and experience for the chosen course, your personal interests and career goals.

Some courses like Business school courses will have their own essay questions and format. Others may ask for a r�sum� or reasons for applying to that particular course.

For more details on various essay topics, tips, sample essays, check out our Essays/Statement of Purpose section.

Financial Support


You must submit a financial aid application if you desire financial help for your graduate studies in a US university. Financial assistance for non-US citizens is very limited.

The evidence of financial support is required by universities to issue the documents needed for visa application. Although it is a requirement for application, it is usually not taken into consideration into factors that determine admission. Most universities make their admission decisions without regard for the source and amount of financial support.

You would be required to submit documentation of your family’s financial resources to help schools assess your need. Most of the universities have their own financial aid form, which you would have to complete.

You would also be required to submit a bank statement demonstrating your financial capacity to support your education in US. Some US state institutions offer tuition waivers to international students in return for some type of educational contribution.



Interviewing prospective candidates is getting common in the US admission structure. A few universities may take your interview to know you better. The interview could be with a college representative or "third party" representatives, staff, faculty or alumni of the college or simply a telephonic interview. These interviews are usually informal and more of an opportunity to exchange information. The interviewer will try to judge your abilities and interests.

For more details and tips on interviews, check out our Interviews section

Importance of Networking in Admission Decisions and Aid


Many graduate departments at universities offer teaching assistantships or research assistantships to their graduate students (students pursuing a master's or doctoral degree particularly in engineering). Assistantships usually involve a tuition award and some sort of salary in return for teaching or research duties. Every school has a limited number of openings for assistantships based on the amount of funding allocated. As a result, such scholarships are merit-based, meaning they are competitive, based on your academic performance to date.

Individual departments at the university generally control funds.  It always helps to write directly to the department to inquire about available funding.  Students who are research oriented or have published papers in a particular field should contact professors interested in that field.  By contacting professors in advance and building a relationship, you can greatly enhance your chance of getting aid.

Unfortunately, there are many deserving students who do not get aid along with the admission.  If you are one of them and plan on joining anyway, we strongly recommend you arrive a few days prior to the registration time.  This will give you an opportunity to personally talk with the professors and sell your skills.  Professors usually have funding available for various projects and you may be able to find something that matches your skill set. We also strongly recommend that you don’t restrict yourself to your particular department.  There are several opportunities in other departments particularly for students with strong computer skills.  You have to be aggressive and persistent in your approach.  Although there is no guarantee that you will get financial aid, it is well worth the try.  Always remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  We have met a number of students who have received assistantships in several U.S. universities after joining the school.
The story is very different for MBA programs.  There are very few MBA schools that provide any assistantship to international students.  There is no assistantship available in private schools.  Some state schools receive funding for projects and provide some opportunity to receive aid.  However, if you have skills that you can sell, we would recommend you try to find aid from other departments (engineering) even if you are applying for MBA.  It’s a long shot, but you have nothing to lose.


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