Interested in Graduate Schools in the USA? Here are Some Tips to Consider

Purdue University CLA

Joining graduate school is a life-long dream for many people. However, many people lack enough information about what the application process entails, and some of the considerations to make when looking for schools. The application process is even more difficult for most Africans where the awareness of various vocabulary used in the academic calendar of many American schools is scarce. Below I offer some tips that prospective students and/or their families can follow when making the choice of the US school to attend.

Do you want to join in the fall, spring, or summer?
Most American schools accept admissions for the fall, spring, and summer semesters. However, most international students tend to join in the fall (Aug or September) and spring (January). In most anglophone countries, the fall season is what is known as autumn, but in the USA, it is known as fall, I guess because that is the time when trees shed their leaves in preparation for the start of winter. Each university and the program of interest might have different admission conditions. Therefore, it is good to reach out to the school of interest and inquire about their admission requirements.

Know what you want and where your interests lie
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. It is important to know the program that you are interested in and its requirements. For example, different programs have varying requirements for GRE and TOEFL requirements. Therefore, evaluate your interests clearly, and know what is required of each major of your interest.

Prepare well for GMAT/GRE/TOEFL
Almost all programs require prospective students to take a standardized entry exam. With the exemption of business schools, which require prospective graduate students to do a Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), most programs require students to do a Graduate Record exam (GRE). The required scores vary across schools. However, those interested in medical and law schools do different entry level exams.
Additionally, international students are also required to take a language exam to assess their fluency in the English language. This can either be the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. These exams require thorough preparation because they are anxiety provoking, but they can make your admission easier if you score highly. So, know which exam is required of you and prepare well in advance. You can check the details of these exams by googling them online.

Are you interested in scholarship, assistantship, or is your family meeting your education expenses?
Most schools have assistantships, and some have scholarships available to support graduate students. Assistantships are the most common forms of financial support for international students. Depending on the requirements, if offered, the assistantship require the incoming students to either be a teaching assistant (TA) to a professor or be a research assistant working in a lab. In exchange the school pays for your tuition and gives you some monthly stipend. If offered, the federal law requires international students to work for a maximum of 20 hours a week, and these are spread out in a way that working does not violate your classes. The application process for both scholarships and assistantships is separate from school application. If your family is supporting you, well and good, you do not have to worry about this! However, life is very expensive in the US, so trying either a scholarship or assistantship does not hurt!

Keep an eye on the deadlines
Schools are strict on deadlines and they won’t extend them for you! Make sure you know when the deadlines for the application are, and plan ahead! Schools start accepting applications a year earlier. For example, for those interested in the Fall 2020 admission, the applications will open starting the fall of this year (Aug to Dec 2019). Knowing the deadline is important in getting your references informed and for effective preparation for the entry exam.

Ask questions
Show interest and connect with the faculty and students in the school of your interest. For instance, ask about the assistantships available, admission requirements, and if the school can waive some requirements for you. Some schools waive TOEFL requirement for international students from anglophone countries.

Robert Nyaga is a Ph. D. Candidate studying Health Communication at Purdue University

Fountain Winter

Are You Joining Purdue in the Spring Semester? Tips to Survive Winter

For those joining Purdue in the spring semester, there is always an extra challenge to acclimatizing- that of having to deal with cold weather. Most places in the Midwest, where Purdue University is located, start experiencing cold weather from mid-October and then temperatures keep dropping till mid-March when they start to peak again. Here are some few tips that can help you to prep well for cold spring weather:

  1. Shop for warm clothes before flying: most often, clothes might be cheaper in-home country than here. Besides, you might experience delays in your flight itinerary if the airports experience temporary closures due to severe weather, such as snow storms. These clothes would therefore keep you warm during such times before you can shop for extra ones after arrival.
  2. Shop for winter boots. Make sure you bring a winter boot- one with good tread to use during snowy days. If you are coming from a warm climate, this might be your first-time experiencing snow and your normal dress-up shoes might be too slippery or lacking a good grip.
  3. Check weather before leaving your apartment. In winter, weather can fluctuate drastically. Checking weather regularly is important in ensuring you don’t underdress for the day or even walk out during severe weather.
  4. Check university news regularly. Sometimes the university closes down if temperatures drop to dangerous levels. This could be during times when there is snow storms or when there is risk of frost bites due to extreme low temperature.
  5. Leave your apartment warm, even when attending classes.  If you turn off your heater, your water pipes might freeze, so it is important to make sure your leave the heater on. In case of any freezing of the pipes, remember the landlord might charge you for repairs.
  6. Join a connection group. Winters can be isolating because it is the time of the year that most people remain indoors. Luckily, there are several connection groups on campus that you can join. If you don’t drive, members of the connection groups often help international students with shopping and just being mobile around the community.
  7. Avoid winter blues by staying active. Find something fun to do. For some people this would be going to the gym or joining a singing class. Winter blues are real, and sometimes they resemble clinical depression. It is important to therefore stay active, be present in the moment, and take it easy! Winter season does not last forever!
  8. Stay warm! Don’t forget to buy a flask to keep your tea or coffee hot. Remember, you still need that extra energy to hack the assignments and research projects!
  9. Got questions, please ask. Most people at Purdue and the surrounding community are friendly. If you have any questions, please ask. It never hurts to ask!