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Preparing for grad school in the USA as an international student involves a similar process across all states. Here you'll find both academic and personal factors to consider when preparing to make your grad school application.

Please note that the information below is a general guide for students preparing to attend an American grad school, and applies to all states. For the most current and specific details, students should therefore also refer to individual state higher education agencies, as well as individual universities and their graduate studies offices.

International students applying to grad school in any state should begin planning early, since admission is very competitive.

  • Academic preparation first means researching the many options you have in the state. Grad schools in the United States have an incredible variety of degree program and department specialization options, and you should leave yourself plenty of time to search out what's available in your field of interest in the state you wish to live. You may want to also find out who the expert professors and researchers in your field are and which institutions they are affiliated with; many grad students choose their school based on who they want to work with.

  • Academic preparation also means making sure you have the necessary courses and grades to be accepted, and this will largely depend on the program you hope to apply to. Most grad schools in the US require a minimum grade point average (GPA) for admission, which varies by program.

  • Grad schools in the US require international students to demonstrate proficiency in the language of instruction (i.e., English). The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is commonly accepted, but American grad schools may have their own tests for students, or may accept other English tests, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). Confirm language requirement details with the university.

  • Grad school Calendars, student handbooks or admissions offices are the best sources of academic preparation information, including recognition of your home country's academic credentials. Most institutions in the USA now offer their Calendars and student handbooks online. Be sure to also read up on specific application requirements (reports and transcripts, language tests, letters of recommendation, personal essays, portfolio, etc). Preparing for grad school in the USA also means getting your paperwork completed and organized (read more in our How to Apply and Student Visas sections).

  • Personal
    In addition to academic preparation, there's a lot you can do in your home country to prepare personally for grad school.

  • Become more familiar with the language of instruction if it's not your first language: read English-language books, magazines or newspapers (either print or online); watch English TV and/or films; practice your conversation with any English-speaking friends you may know. To improve the vocabulary and comprehension skills for your specialized grad school program, do some English-language reading in the area you hope to study.

  • Grad school admissions committees are often interested in an international student's personal qualities, which can be developed through extracurricular activities. Consider joining or even starting clubs at your university or in your community, whether related to your area of interest or not. This is a good way to demonstrate leadership skills: be able to show your ability to get involved and succeed both within and outside the classroom.

  • Prove your work ethic. Grad school study in the USA is rigorous; therefore, work experience -- paid or volunteer -- related to your chosen field is extremely beneficial.

  • Develop your professional and academic relationships. Grad schools in the USA involve lots of personal work with professors, supervisors and other grad students. Invest the time now to develop solid relationships with your current professors or other professionals in your field of study who will be able to write you reference letters for your grad school application.

  • Contact other international students already studying at the school. Most grad schools have international student offices and/ or student societies that can put you in touch with an international student who can share experience and advice. You can also contact the institution's Graduate Students' Society.
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