Back to Kings Life index

How to apply to graduate school in the USA: essential tips for international applicants

05 Feb, 2024
How to apply to graduate school in the USA: essential tips for international applicants

The prospect of pursuing a graduate education in the United States is an exciting one, with its rich academic culture and endless opportunities for personal and professional growth. However, for international students, the application process is multi faceted, with additional requirements and deadlines to factor in.

This guide is designed to demystify the application process and help you secure a place on your graduate program of choice.

Table of Contents

1. Understand the application requirements

2. Prepare application materials

3. Fulfil English language proficiency requirements

4. Navigate the visa process

5. Complete the application process

6. Prepare for interviews

Post-application considerations

Once you have narrowed down your final choice(s) of university and graduate degree program, the next step is familiarize yourself with the application process and all things that accompany it.

1. Understand the application requirements

Before you can even consider beginning an application, you need a clear understanding of what each institution requires.

  • Establish required qualifications and prerequisites: many programs specify undergraduate majors, relevant coursework, or prior professional experience as prerequisites, all of which are essential to ascertain before starting an application.
  • Organize the schools' admissions requirements with links in a spreadsheet: this document can be used as a checklist, and keeps everything in once place for you to refer back to rather than keep checking back to the various websites.
  • Understand test score requirements: most US universities ask graduate applicants to submit GRE® General Test scores, while some departments might ask for your scores in the GRE Subject Test. The GMAT is another option for those graduate students hoping to attend a business school. When booking your test date, make sure you allow enough time for your papers to be marked and scores sent to each grad school within the deadline. You may also want to allow time to re-sit the test if unhappy with your score.
  • Know your deadlines: identifying application windows and additional requirements for scholarships and assistantships is a vital part of your preparation. Note the application deadlines for each program and give yourself ample time to gather the necessary documents.

2. Prepare application materials

Once you have a clear understanding of what the programs are looking for, preparing the necessary materials is the next step. This includes:

  • Crafting a strong statement of purpose: this is your opportunity to tell your story and demonstrate how you're a perfect fit for the program. Tailor your statement to reflect the unique strengths and values of the institution. As an international student, it can be a good idea to get a native English speaker read it to make sure you haven't made any major mistakes.
  • Securing Letters of Recommendation: these should be from individuals who can speak authoritatively about your skills and potential. Ideal recommenders could be previous professors, mentors, or employers. If possible, schedule an appointment with each person to explain your motivations for attending graduate school, as well as any intended research projects. Make sure your references comply with the guidelines set by your chosen graduate school; your referees may need to submit a formal letter, or complete an online form.
  • Obtaining transcripts and evaluations: Bear in mind that international transcripts often require evaluation by a credential evaluation service. Transcript evaluation allows admissions officers to assess coursework from your bachelor’s degree in your home country and equate it to American standards.

3. Fulfil English language proficiency requirements

In the case of non-native English speakers, English language proficiency tests like Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and International English Language Testing System (IELTS) may be required to provide proof of English proficiency.

  • US universities will often have a minimum IELTS or TOEFL score that the applicant needs to meet to be considered for the MS degree.
  • It is a good idea to practice for these tests and to schedule them well in advance in order to meet application deadlines.
  • In some cases, the English language proficiency test requirement may be waived, but it's necessary to meet specific criteria for this to happen.

Find out more about TOEFL, IELTS and Cambridge English test preparation courses with Kings

4. Navigate the visa process

The student visa process can be one of the more intimidating aspects for international graduate students in the US, but by following this advice, a successful outcome is much more likely.

Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

  • Understand visa restrictions: familiarize yourself with the rules and responsibilities that come with your student visa before arriving in the US.
  • Plan finances: US visa applications usually require a demonstration of financial ability to cover tuition and living expenses. Make sure you have a solid financial plan in place. While some graduate programs offer financial aid and grants to foreign students, this is not the case for all. Be sure you can cover all your costs (including plane tickets home for vacations) if you don't receive a grant.
  • Apply for the correct visa type: the F-1 visa is typically the visa of choice for international students. Ensure you understand the application process and requirements. You can only apply for this after securing a place at an SEVP-approved university. You’ll be asked to attend an interview at your local US embassy, bringing your application and supporting documents with you.

Find out more about what to do if your visa is denied

5. Complete the application process

The application process itself can often feel like a full-time job! Here are some tips on how to stay on top of it:

  • Keep track of deadlines: making sure you meet the application deadline is essential. Use a calendar and set reminders to keep track of all your application deadlines.
  • Start early: preparing a strong application takes time. Begin your preparations well in advance - ideally 6-12 months - of your intended start date.
  • Engage with the university: graduate admissions staff can provide guidance and clarification on any step of the application process. Don't hesitate to reach out to them.
  • Pay your application fee: the exact amount will vary, but won’t normally be more than $50-100. Bear in mind that if you apply to more than one institution, you’ll need to pay multiple application fees.
  • Track your application status: most universities have application systems which users can log back in to at any time to check the status of their application.

6. Prepare for interviews

Many graduate programs, particularly those at the more prestigious institutions, will include an interview as part of the application process.

  • Intensive interview preparation: if your program requires an interview, be ready. Prepare for common interview questions and specifics about the program. Practice answering questions verbally with a friend or mentor to ensure clarity and brevity.
  • Understanding interview structures: some programs may have panel interviews, while others use one-on-one discussions. Research the typical format for your program's interviews so you know what to expect.
  • Showcasing your strongest self: an interview is your opportunity to bring your application to life. Be prepared to talk about your experiences, your undergraduate degree, your aspirations, and why you're the ideal candidate for the program.
  • Dealing with technology hurdles: interviews can be nerve-wracking. If the interview is virtual, ensure you have a stable internet connection and a quiet, professional space for the call.

Post-application considerations

Once you've submitted your applications, there are still a few more things to consider:

  • Funding: determine what scholarships, assistantships, or other funding options are available. The financial aspect is often a significant part of the decision-making process.
  • Housing and arrival: get an idea of your housing options and how you'll get to your new city, assuming your application is successful. Arriving in the US a few weeks before the start of your program can help you settle in and avoid complications.
  • Preparation for the transition: the cultural, academic, and social differences can be significant. Get ready to adapt and make the most out of your US grad school experience.

Transitioning to a US graduate school as an international student is an intense and rewarding process. Patience, attention to detail, and a proactive approach will serve you well.

The effort you put into the application process will not only lead to a new chapter in your academic life but also enhance your personal and professional prospects long-term.

You don’t have to do it alone

Kings provides international students with a range of exciting US graduate pathways to get a master's degree across some of the most popular and in-demand disciplines.

Whether you are looking to fast track your career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects or business, our range of university partners will offer you an unrivaled US graduate education.

Ideal settings for international students

Our partner universities are located throughout the US, and offer a range of locations. You can choose from smaller, city center colleges to large public state universities.

Each university (Fisher College in Boston, UW Stout in Wisconsin and Southern Oregon University in Oregon) has been carefully chosen because they offer international students an exceptional US campus experience and exceptional learning outcomes.

Graduate Student Success ProgramKings at University of Wisconsin-Stout

UW–Stout offers 20 graduate degrees and over 45 undergraduate degrees. It is known as “Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University”. There is a strong emphasis on applied learning, innovation, and professional success.

The 120-acre campus offers state-of the art learning and recreational facilities, and is located in Menomonie, Wisconsin - ranked by Smithsonian as one of the 20 best small towns in America.

The Stout International Graduate Student Success Program equips international graduate students with the tools and support they need to thrive academically, culturally, and professionally in the United States.

The Kings Guarantee

  • Kings guarantees students will receive at least one job offer following the successful completion of our program.
  • We guarantee students job placement within 3 months of graduation for those studying in a STEM field.

Graduate Student Success Program: what’s included?

1. Graduate Studies Preparation Seminar

Students arrive 3 weeks prior to the academic year start date to enlist in a multi-week preparatory program composed of seminars and customized workshops aimed at ensuring that students are adequately prepared for the start of their degree program and beyond. This series of seminars and workshops includes aspects such as

  • Academic writing and the implication of plagiarism in an academic setting
  • Cultural awareness
  • Professional and academic etiquette
  • Understanding student visa regulations

2. Career Placement Services

These include elements such as:

  • Career counseling: one-on-one counseling sessions help international students explore career options, develop career plans, and create a blueprint for the job search.
  • Interview training: help with developing interview skills, understanding cultural nuances, and receiving constructive feedback.
  • Networking events: networking events, career fairs, and employer panels all help connect international students with potential employers and industry professionals.
  • Internship and job placement assistance: support in finding internship opportunities and in securing full-time employment post-graduation, including visa compliance information if applicable.
  • OPT workshops and guidance: in-depth workshops on Optional Practical Training (OPT) regulations, application process, and maintenance of non-immigration status.
  • Housing assistance: help with finding suitable housing options, understanding lease agreements, and navigating local housing regulations.

3. Academic Support Services

Academic support for international students on the Graduate Student Success Program include:

  • Academic advising: each student has the support of an academic advisor to help them navigate program requirements, course selection, and academic policies.
  • english language support: this includes English language workshops, tutoring, or language labs to help improv language skills, especially in academic writing and oral communication.
  • Study skills workshops: topics include time management, effective study techniques, and note-taking strategies to help international students adapt to the academic rigors of graduate school.
  • Peer tutoring programs: advanced students or graduate assistants provide academic support and assistance to international students struggling in specific subjects.

4. Additional Support Services

Addition support is offered within the fields of visa/immigration regulations and health/wellness:

  • Visa and immigration assistance: all program participants benefit from support with visa regulations, work permits, OPT/CPT applications, and other immigration-related matters.
  • Health and wellness services: these include counseling services, mental health resources, and access to healthcare facilities to support overall well-being.

Find out more about more about graduate programs at UW-Stout

If you would like to receive more detailed information about Kings and our university pathway programs, please get in touch with us at

Back to top