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  • A Guide for International Applicants to U.S. Business Schools

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    An MBA from an American program holds international cache and is valued on the global market. Getting into a good American business school, however, can involve some extra work for foreign students.

    If you're an international applicant, here are some factors you should consider before you apply:

    English

    Business school requires a substantial amount of heavy reading, group projects and papers. If you're not comfortable reading, writing, speaking and comprehending English, you'll have problems completing the program. Can you read an entire section of the Wall Street Journal without feeling fatigued? If not, you may need to work on your language skills.

    Unless you're a native English speaker or you've earned an undergraduate degree from an American university, business schools will probably require you to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

    Transcripts

    Your undergraduate university will need to send an official transcript of your courses and grades to your prospective schools. Expect to pay a fee for this service. It can take anywhere from three weeks to three months for the transcripts to be sent, so request them as soon as you have chosen the business schools to which you'll apply.

    Also, it is likely that you'll need to submit an evaluation along with your actual transcript. An evaluation converts your transcript into the U.S. format. It allows admissions officers at American schools to assess your undergraduate coursework and compare it to U.S. standards. There are fee-based evaluation services that will do this for you. Investigate them early and thoroughly. Some evaluation services will even provide you with a standard U.S. grade point average (GPA) equivalent.

    Recommendations

    Request recommendations from people with whom you work and who know you well, and who write English well enough to be understood. The more specific the recommendation is, the more powerful impression it will make.

    It's better to get recommendations from people who are familiar with your work and can give an accurate description of you, even if they are not influential or well-known.

    Essays

    Essays are your chance to show the admissions committee what makes you stand out from the other applicants. Be direct and honest, and allow your own personality to come through. Although the admissions committee will know if English is not your native language, have a native English speaker read your statements to check for mistakes.

    Student Visas

    Once you are admitted to a business school, you should contact them immediately to begin the application process for a student visa. You don't want to miss the first few weeks of classes (and all that important networking time) because you're not allowed into the country. Your program will be able to help you with the paperwork.

    Money

    Most American MBA programs don't offer any grant money to foreign students, so you'll need to be sure you can pay your own way. Many will also require a substantial deposit, if not the full amount, before classes begin. If your company will be paying for the program, begin making the arrangements as soon as you choose a school. Know what your employer will and will not cover. And take note: you'll probably need to prove you can pay for at least one year of school in order to receive a student visa.


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