Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mailbag: 5 Questions for Prospective Master's and Doctoral Students

1. Which is most important in the process of admission: GPA, TOEFL, GRE, or research and working background? My GPA is low, what should I pay attention to?

Since most admissions decisions at the graduate level are based on the overall merit and strength of an application, you will want to spend as much time as possible on each area. For many programs, especially for candidates without work experience, academic background (GPA) and standardized tests are more important than other areas. With a lower GPA, you’ll want to emphasize standardized tests, as well as other aspects of your candidacy that stand out as unique. Every school is different with regard to the importance placed on certain pieces of the application. It varies by type of program and selectivity, among other factors.

The TOEFL, given that it's a must-have element, is also important. If your score is low, there may be concern that you will be unable to keep up with coursework. If it's high, then emphasize that you are prepared to integrate into the classroom and contribute immediately. Borderline TOEFL scores may turn into conditional admission based on completion of an intensive English language program. Embrace that opportunity, as it could enable you to demonstrate your ability to study in the U.S. and succeed; it could wind up supporting your overall candidacy. 

2. Can a student earn more than one scholarship at a time?

Yes! Scholarships may be tied to a specific set of criteria or a population. Many institutions offer scholarships exclusively to international students based on their merits. Those students may also apply for partial assistantship. However, it is highly unlikely that an applicant would be offered a stipend or grant money on top of a full-tuition award.

3. Do you recommend getting an internship before applying to a Ph.D. program? 

An internship helps establish your commitment to a chosen field and adds value to your stated goals in applying to a Ph.D. program. Volunteering on a faculty research team or working in a lab are great ways to expose yourself to a field and strengthen your application. Interning may also help you decide whether you've chosen the right field for you -- before you invest a lot of time and money in going for a doctorate.

4. Are students with H-4 visas qualified for in-state tuition in New York? What are the requirements for establishing New York residency for students on H-4 and other nonimmigrant visas? 

Students with H-4 status are eligible to apply for in-state residency for tuition purposes following the same guidelines as citizens. Detailed information on requirements in New York state can be found by visiting
5. Some schools use an online system for receiving letters of recommendation. How does that work?

These systems are typically tied to the online application. You will fill in the contact information on the recommender. Then, the system will email your recommender directly with instructions on how to fill out and upload their letter. It will go into the system where admissions offices can access it. Many systems allow applicants to send reminder emails through the system. It's convenient and proven to be a faster way of completing recommendations.

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