What Are the Entry Requirements to Study a Postgrad Program in the US?

Most American universities are happy to welcome postgraduate applicants from all cultures, countries and backgrounds – what concerns them most is finding the brightest and the best students. They accept candidates from small towns and large cities, as well as public and private schools. And of course, there is an understanding that some candidates will require funding in order to complete their course.

Even so, given that the most popular institutions are likely to attract applications from many more students than they could ever admit, the selection process can be competitive. Each applicant will be assessed in terms of the grades they have achieved and other academic strengths. However, consideration will also be paid to the personal qualities a postgraduate student can offer to the university, such as their talents, energy and intellectual curiosity.

For people who aim to study at a US university the entry requirements can be diverse, here are a few examples of the criteria used by many institutions offering postgraduate courses:

1. An excellent past academic record

One of the key factors in gaining admission to a college in the USA is having a North American four-year bachelors degree gained on a program at an accredited university, or the international equivalent. A three-year diploma or 2.2 graded UK bachelors degree is accepted, so long as the candidate agrees to complete a pre-masters program first. This may seem unfair, but if people are taking on the challenge of a masters degree it’s vital to show they have the ability to cope with the pressure of such a course. There are exceptions however and individual universities often have their own minimum requirements in terms of grades, so if the profile of a candidate is impressive in other ways they may be accepted with a lower first degree.

2. Relevant work experience shown on a strong CV

For courses with a vocational element admissions staff often require evidence of work experience that is relevant to the subject. A real-life work placement that has lasted at least a couple of years shows that an applicant can apply what they learned in a first degree, moreover, it gives them the chance to identify areas they’d like to pursue in further study. Applicants with work experience can relate what they learn to real-world situations and enrich class discussions using examples drawn from their role. This is why a CV is also requested from the potential postgrad student by many American colleges, especially for those wishing to study an MBA course. In order to impress admissions staff, your CV should include details of professional employment along with achievements and positions held.

3. A personal statement

Often called a Personal Essay by American students and universities, this entry requirement enables tutors to assess applicants as individuals. The most successful written applications are reflective, honest and thoughtful; they will convey a significant point about the student’s intellectual or personal interests without resorting to gimmicks. No one can present their personality in its entirety within 500 words, so applicants should concentrate on letting the university know what is most important about themselves. Common topics are perfectly acceptable, but it’s important to weave in reasons for wishing to study this particular course at this university. Sometimes business schools set essay questions in a more formal way and these will often touch upon subjects that require a personal, as well as professional opinion.

4. Suitable proficiency in the English language

As the majority of teaching on postgraduate courses at American universities is delivered in English, the tutors must be convinced that potential students can cope from the start. If they are coming to the USA from abroad, as well as having the correct student visa in place, applicants will also have to prove their ability in both spoken and written English as an entry requirement. All candidates who don’t speak English as a first language will be asked to satisfy one of the following requirements or another very similar one set by their university: A TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) qualification should have a minimum score of 100 on an internet-based test, above 600 on a paper-based test or 250 on a computer-based test. For students with an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) qualification the lowest acceptable mark is 7. If a candidate has taken a PTE (Pearson Test of English), they should have a score of 70 or more.

5. Two letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation are highly valued by admissions staff for postgraduate courses. These statements are written by professional people who know the candidate as either a student or employee and can comment on their suitability for the course. The content should showcase the individual’s talents and give specific examples of their past achievements.

Related Editorial Links

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