Ask Test Masters: Cost of Attendance and GRE Scores for an International Graduate Student

ASK TMAsk Test Masters is a free informational service offered by the experts at Test Masters; you ask, we answer. Shravan, an international student interested in attending graduate school in the United States and abroad, has a few questions about admission requirements and the cost of attendance. Shravan writes,

“I’m pursuing a Bachelor’s in Information Technology (3rd year, 2nd semester) and would like to earn my MS in the U.S. or another country. My question is: my average is 60% aggregate and my financials are also not good; if I get a good score on the GRE can I get into at least an average university? Also, which university has the lowest fees for a semester? How much should I pay in total for an MS in the U.S., and how much money will it cost in total? Please give me some suggestions!!!”

Dear Shravan,

Let’s talk financials first. The total cost of your graduate education will depend on a number of factors – Better known schools are more expensive than less well known schools, private schools are more expensive than state schools, and certain degree programs are more expensive than other degree programs. Other factors, like the cost of living and financial aid, can impact your total cost of attendance, but are indeterminate. Universities regularly release helpful information regarding tuition and living expenses online, so getting a general idea of how much graduate school will cost is really only a Google search away. Let’s take a quick look at two examples of what different types of universities may cost.

Rice

Rice University is often called “The Harvard of the South.”

The University of Texas at Austin is a well-regarded state school, and generally considered a great value because of its high ranking and low cost. The cost per semester, when taking 12 hours of course work, for an Information graduate student who is a non-Texas resident at UT Austin is $10,830. Now consider Rice University, one of the United States’ premiere private research universities; the tuition for a full-time graduate student, regardless of residency status (though international students will have to pay certain fees that may affect the total cost of attendance), in the 2012-2013 academic year is $34,900. Notice that the cost of tuition is significantly higher at the private university than the state university. If you would like to do a detailed search of graduate universities by cost, this website is very useful. To get an idea of what your total tuition costs may be, simply research the cost per semester and multiply by the number of semesters it will take to obtain your degree.

In order to qualify for federal financial aid, international students are required to be US citizens or have permanent resident status, which, of course, makes financial aid for international graduate students extremely rare and very competitive to obtain. That said, it is not impossible to obtain financial aid as an international grad student; edupass.org is an excellent resource to understanding your options when it comes to financial aid. There is also the possibility of obtaining “work-study” employment, where you work for the university (as a Teacher’s Assistant or in some other capacity) for a small stipend to help pay for living expenses and tuition costs.

If you are worried that your grades might not be good enough to get you into your university of choice, there are a number of options available to you on how to mold yourself into a competitive graduate school candidate. You can learn more about getting into graduate school with a low GPA here. Remember, a higher GPA improves your chances of being admitted to the graduate school of your choice and drastically increases the likelihood of you obtaining a scholarship or financial aid.

GRE logo

The GRE is administered by the ETS.

In terms of standardized test scores, you should be focused on two things: the TOEFL and the GRE. The Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, is mandatory for international students; its primary purpose is to determine whether you are fluent enough in English to communicate effectively in a classroom environment. You can register for the TOEFL here.

Before pinning your hopes of attending graduate school to achieving a near perfect GRE score, you have to realize the GRE is hard. This exam is designed to challenge people who are not just academically talented, but motivated to succeed. If you need an excellent GRE score to have a chance of getting into your college of choice, the best piece of advice we can offer you is prepare. Practice, study, review and then practice, study, and review some more. You can learn more about how to make your study habits more effective here.

International students are at a disadvantage when it comes to GRE preparation as professional exam preparation is not as widely available internationally as it is domestically in the United States. One excellent resource to consider is a GRE online preparatory course like the one offered by Test Masters.

We hope this helps, and let us know if you have any more questions!

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