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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!

Ask-Test-Masters

Have a question? Ask the experts at Test Masters!

 

Test Masters offers the most comprehensive GRE preparatory course available. Learn more about professional exam preparation here.

Graduate Program Spotlight: Computer Science

IBM’s Blue Gene Supercomputer.

It is safe to say that in the modern world, a Masters or Ph. D. in Computer Science is a safe investment; multiple professional fields have sprung up around or become increasingly associated with computer technologies. Given the increasing demand for computer experts, and the wonderful insights and benefits computer technologies afford other professional and academic fields, it is no surprise Computer Science has become a subject of significant academic importance.

Well-known institutions like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale, etc. consistently rank at the top of almost every graduate program they offer; however, the fact of the matter is you do not have to attend one of these schools in order to get a great education out of a Masters or PH.D. program. At “It’s Not GREek!” we want our readers to be aware of the multitude of options they have when it comes to picking a graduate school. These are some schools, along with the usual suspects, you may not be aware of, but that experts in your field of study certainly are.

Before continuing with our Graduate Program Spotlight: Computer Science, let’s discuss some important and relevant information about the opportunities a Masters or Ph. D. in Computer Science might provide you with; specifically, opportunities in the context of potential employment and annual salary.

In computer terms, this is definitely the “Before” picture.

Computer Science is a prodigious and perpetually burgeoning field; as the influence of electronics and computers continues to expand and permeate everyday life, so too has the demand for computer tech experts increased. The field is so diverse that the US Bureau of Labor, a very reliable and trustworthy source for statistical information for any profession, has over eight general-employment categories relating to the field of Computer Science. There is no doubting that a graduate degree in Computer Science is viable; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor most professions requiring a graduate degree in C.S. are significantly out performing the national average in terms of both job growth and median annual salary. According to the Bureau of Labor’s Occupational Handbook, the median salary for a Doctoral or professional degree in computer science, with no experience outside of the classroom (though admittedly, many graduate programs will require work experience as criteria for admission) is $100,660, and the job market demand for an advanced degree in computer science is projected to increase between 19% – 22% through 2020.

Again, it is manifest that an advanced degree in Computer Science is a safe investment; it’s not quite gold, but it’s not far off either. Now that this has been made abundantly clear to any interested potential graduate school candidates, let’s take a look at some of the best Computer Science schools in the country (according to US News).

TOP 5:

#1) Carnegie Mellon University

This university played a significant role in the initial development of “thinking computers,” and Carnegie Mellon continues to be among the foremost researchers of computer technologies in the world. The School of Computer Science includes the Computer Science Department (CSD), The Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), The Institute for Software Research (ISR), Lane Center for Computational Biology, Language technologies Institute (LTI), Machine Learning Department (ML), and the Robotics Institute (RI). Interestingly, Carnegie Mellon’s Masters program in Computer Science does not require an undergraduate degree in computer science, only “a strong aptitude for mathematics, programming, and logical reasoning.” Annual tuition costs are approximately $39,000. Though exact admittance data is hard to find, it seems that each program only accepts around 25 students annually; if this is true, it makes Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science Department one of the most exclusive in the country.

#1) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department is the largest in the School of Engineering, another testament to the growing importance of Computer Science in a contemporary setting. Currently, the EECS Department has about 700 students in their doctoral program. Admission to MIT is extremely competitive, and applicants are expected to possess a very strong background in math, physics, computer science, or engineering. For their M.S. and Ph. D. programs, the average GRE scores are Verbal: 158, Quantitative: 159, and Writing: 5.3. Though expensive, this program is quite obviously worth the yearly tuition cost of $41, 770.

#1) Stanford University

Not much needs to be said about any of Stanford University’s programs.  The average GRE score is Verbal: 159, Quantitative: 158, Writing: 4.8. Full-time Master’s students (taking between 11-18 credits) can expect an annual tuition of $29,300.

#1) University of California – Berkeley

Though the minimum prerequisites to apply to any of Berkeley’s graduate programs are not especially imposing, a Bachelor’s degree and a 3.0/4.0 undergraduate GPA, in addition to a GRE score, it’s important to note these are the minimum requirements to apply! The average GRE score is Verbal: 153-156, Quantitative: 167, Writing: 4.5; a competitive GPA for admissions purposes is a 3.5 or higher.

#5) Cornell University

Cornell’s suggested minimum GPA for admission is 3.5/4.0. The tuition cost for the 2012-2013 calender year will be approximately $30,000, about $14,750 (Note: this does not include the cost of attendance, i.e. room, board, etc.). Cornell has done a very effective job of not releasing a specific GRE score needed for admittance; however, it would be very safe to assume admission as a MS or Ph. D. student would require a GRE score of 310 or higher.

 

It is unsurprising that these schools are listed as the best in the country; they typically dominate across the board in terms of ranking and national prestige. Though these schools might afford you the best opportunities in terms of post-graduation employment, they are by no means the only options. There are a number of reasons a potential graduate student would look outside the top tier schools in the country: geography/logistics, finances, admission requirements, program requirements, etc., so it is good to know that even if you can’t get in or go to Harvard (or in this case, Carnegie Mellon) there are still plenty of options available that can give you the education and expertise you are looking.

HONORABLE MENTION:

#39) University of Utah

The University of Utah offers two degree programs for Masters and Ph. D. students through their School of Computing, one in Computer Science and the other in Computing. Emphasis areas include Computer Engineering, Data Management and Analysis, Digital Media, Game Engineering, Graphics and Visualization, Image Analysis, Robotics, and Scientific Computing. Approximately 100 individuals enter the University of Utah’s graduate School of Computing each year, with an almost even split between M.S. and Ph.D. students. The average new GRE score for the University of Utah is above 314.

#61) University at Buffalo – SUNY

The University of Buffalo – The State University of New York – offers two degree plans through its Department of Computer Science and Engineering: the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.) and the Master of Science (M.S.). SUNY’s DCSE consistently ranks in the 60 in programs in the world. Full-time non-resident total cost of attending the University of Buffalo is approximately $9,200/semester. Though the University of Buffalo has a large graduate/professional student population, almost 10,000 students, there are only 80 Ph. D. students in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering; this means there is both a vibrant graduate community and a more intimate support network related to your specific field on interest.

#63) Iowa State University

Iowa State University’s M.S. program has approximately 50 students. ISU’s grade requirements are a grade of B- or better in each course and an overall average GPA of 3.0, in addition to other grade requirements. In order to be considered for the Master’s program students must have at least 3 Computer Science courses from 2 different “breadth areas,” for a total of 9 credits. Out of state Graduate student tuition costs per semester are approximately $9,900. Many applicants might appreciate the ISU Department of Computer Science motto, “All science is Computer Science.”

#63) University of Tennessee – Knoxville

The University of Tennessee’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is the largest in the College of Engineering. They offer three programs: Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science; all three programs offer degrees at the M.S. and Ph. D. levels. UT – Knoxville offers concentrations in a variety of specialized fields, including Artificial Intelligence, Circuit Theory, Computational Biology, Robotics, and many more. Graduate admissions require a 3.0/4.0 minimum undergraduate GPA, at least two semesters of calculus and two additional semesters of college mathematics, and a course in formal languages as well as in systems programming. Students may use a valid GRE score received within the last three years for admissions purposes.

 

Still interested in graduate school, but not sure what field is right for you? Click here for more information! Want to know more about the GRE? Click here! Interested in GRE courses in your area? Click here to find out more!

 

GRE Subject Tests Part 2

In addition to the GRE, ETS also offers eight GRE subject tests covering the following topics: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology.  In our last post, we provided an overview of four GRE subject tests.  Below are the remaining four subject tests, along with the material covered and some basic information on the structure of the tests.  Happy studying! Continue reading “GRE Subject Tests Part 2” »

Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 2

In our last post, we gave some suggestions for graduate school applicants with low undergraduate GPAs.  Remember, a low undergraduate GPA does not mean you have to kiss your graduate school dreams goodbye.  Here are some more tips on how to make an application with a low undergraduate GPA more attractive to graduate schools.

Retake the GRE until you have a stellar score.  Thanks to ETS’s new ScoreSelect policy, you now have nothing to lose by taking the GRE multiple times. (Graduate schools won’t even see your lowest scores!) If you took the GRE already and are not satisfied with your score, study harder and retake the test to see if you can get a higher score.  A high GRE score can do wonders for offsetting a low undergraduate GPA, particularly if several years have passed between your college graduation and your application to graduate school. Continue reading “Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 2” »

GRE Subject Tests Part 1

If you’re applying to graduate school, chances are your program may require you take specific GRE subject tests in addition to the GRE.  Much like the SAT subject tests, the GRE subject tests are designed to help you stand out from other applicants by emphasizing your knowledge of a specific subject area.  Even if your program does not explicitly require a GRE subject test, a high GRE subject test score could help your application stand out from the crowd.

There are eight GRE subject tests currently offered by ETS: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology. Continue reading “GRE Subject Tests Part 1” »

School Spotlight: Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Vanderbilt University Peabody College of Education & Human Development

“Our well-rounded community includes five unique departments, a top-ranked graduate school, national research centers, and the largest undergraduate major at Vanderbilt…Peabody professors are well-known scholars and practitioners who actively mentor students. Our undergraduate, master’s, Ed.D., Ph.D., and professional development programs all attract people who share a deep concern for the human condition and education.” Continue reading “School Spotlight: Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development” »

Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 1

Is your college GPA abysmal? Are you worried this will keep you from being able to attend graduate school? While a low college GPA will limit your graduate school options, it does not necessarily mean you have to kiss your graduate school dreams goodbye.  Here are some suggestions for how to compensate for a low undergraduate GPA in your graduate school application.

Be realistic. Many of the top graduate programs will do an initial culling of the applicant pool based solely on their GPA and GRE scores.  A low average undergraduate GPA for admitted students can bring down program rankings, and many of the top programs receive far too many applications to truly be able to consider each application individually. If your GPA does not make the initial cut, then you will not be considered for admission.  Before you send in your application, call the program and ask them if there is an undergraduate GPA cutoff.  Make sure the programs you apply to are willing to evaluate your application as a whole. Continue reading “Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA? Part 1” »

Student Spotlight: MFA in Film Production at Boston University

As part of a new series, “It’s not GREek!” will be interviewing current graduate students about why they picked their program, their experiences in graduate school, and what they hope to do with their degree.  Today, we spoke with Joe, who just finished his first year in the MFA Film Program at the Boston University College of Communication.  It is a small (14-person) two-year program where students take courses in film production, screenwriting, acting, directing and producing, as well as electives such as editing and film studies.
Continue reading “Student Spotlight: MFA in Film Production at Boston University” »