Thursday, October 2, 2014

5 Answers to Applying to Graduate Social Science Programs

By Susan Jacobs
Director of Graduate Operations, Villanova University

If you're applying to graduate school this year for a degree in the social sciences or liberal arts field, you're in the right place. Our Admissions Expert, Susan Jacobs, Director of Graduate Operations at Villanova University answers five important questions received from our student audience on applying to U.S. graduate schools. Continue reading below for more information. 

Ricardo: What is the age range for universities to accept students? Is there a "too old" policy?

Universities in the U.S. cannot discriminate against students based on age, so, this is not a factor in admissions. It is certainly more typical to find students in their twenties and thirties in graduate school, but it would be illegal for schools to factor in a candidate’s age when determining admission status.

Rossana: To apply for financial aid or scholarships do I have to apply first and be accepted?

This depends on the school and/or program, but many times your admission to the program is determined first and then students who are admitted are considered for scholarships. However, some programs make one review of candidates and offer admission and scholarship to candidates at the same time. This is why it is always a good idea to be aware of deadlines so you are sure your application is complete in enough time to be considered not just for admission but for any scholarships available, as well.

S├ęguibyam: Is there a list of funding or scholarships available to international students online?

I am unable to recommend one list, but I can point you to an article written recently by US News and World Report that mentions several ways for international students to begin their search for scholarships. Many times, the best thing to do is to contact the universities in which you are interested in gaining admission and ask them if international student are eligible to apply for scholarships there. Most likely, international students are encouraged to apply for scholarships!

Xiao: What is the minimum TOEFL score to be accepted to U.S. universities? 

This will vary by university so it is hard to mention one specific number. Some universities and programs that offer more quantitative-based programs may have a lower score requirement and other programs that have writing-intensive programs may require higher TOEFL scores. You will have to do your research to find the score you need to achieve to enter the program you desire.

Olivia: Is the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program a part of the graduate degree?

No, this is an option for students after completing course/degree requirements. So, you do not have to complete OPT as part of the degree. You are able to extend your VISA for about a year, I believe, if you obtain employment in the field you are studying. This gives you a chance to get some experience working in the US and to put the knowledge you obtained in your studies into practice. The international student office at your university will advise you on the specific laws and rules in place that international students must meet to complete OPT.


Susan Jacobs serves as the Director of Graduate Operations for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University. She manages the recruitment and admissions processes for 20 different master’s and Ph.D. Programs offered by Villanova in Arts and Sciences. Susan has worked in the field of graduate school admissions for nearly ten years. Susan is also familiar with the concerns of international students as she previously worked for eight years in international education as an advisor to American students studying abroad around the world.

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