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Guide to the MBA for International Students

Get answers to questions about earning your MBA from a U.S. school in our guide to the MBA for international students.


What are the advantages of a U.S. MBA for international students?

As a business school student in the U.S., you will be exposed to the latest business practices, research and theories under the guidance of experts in business fields. Hundreds of private and public colleges and universities ensure a number of options to any prospective international student. An MBA degree from an accredited American institution will prepare you to be a leader and will open doors to opportunities that may have not been available to you before.

What English language skills should I have?

It is extremely important to have strong English language skills, particularly if you wish to enroll in an advanced degree program (like an MBA). Poor English skills may jeopardize your ability to excel at required exams like the GMAT.

If you need additional preparation, several options exist. If you are admitted to a U.S. college or university, it may offer part-time or full-time intensive English as a Second Language (ESL) courses for international students. There are also many private language institutions in the United States and worldwide, but be aware that some universities may not accept credits from institutions that are not accredited by a national accreditation organization like the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation.

Are there extra steps to applying for a U.S. MBA for international students?

  • Business schools are highly competitive so plan to find prospective schools and contact them approximately one year before you intend to apply. MBA for international students slots can be limited, although business schools tend to accept a greater numbers of applicants than other graduate programs.
  • Apply to MBA programs in different locations—applying to several in the same area may make the U.S. consulate in your country think that you are coming to America for reasons other than education (family, work, etc).
  • Find out what range of test scores each school prefers and take all required exams well ahead of time.
  • Be sure to have documentation that proves you will be able to fund the duration of your stay in the U.S.
  • If you are accepted, send in your deposit immediately to contend for financial aid packages and on-campus housing.
  • Finally, conduct appropriate research if you are in need of financial aid. Few business schools set aside substantial aid packages for international students.

What about MBA entrance exams?

Most business schools require international students to submit test scores from the TOEFL and GMAT. The Test of English as a Foreign Language and Graduate Management Admission Test is computer-based, although paper TOEFL exams are still given in some areas. Test dates are scheduled several times during the course of a year, which gives you adequate time to be well prepared. Each school has different requirements for TOEFL and GMAT scores, so contact them to find out what range is acceptable.

Are there differences in grading systems?

You will need to send official transcripts of your academic record along with certified English translations if the transcripts are in a different language. Some schools may also require you to have your school send an explanation of their grading system.

What do I need to do to obtain my Visa?

  • As a full time college or university student, you need to apply for an F-1 visa.
  • Upon acceptance, your school should send you an I-20 application form.
  • You should take this and your passport to a United States Embassy or Consulate, where an official who oversees non-immigrant visas will assist you.
  • You then need to fill out the "Affidavit of Support" form to prove that you have the finances to fund the length of your stay in the US.
  • After you submit all of these forms, your visa application will be processed.
  • After September 11th, some international business students have experienced longer delays in the visa application process. To avoid problems, fill out your paperwork as soon as you are accepted.

Can I fund my education by working in the U.S.?

Working in the U.S. can be challenging:

  • If you arrive on an F-1 student visa, you are not allowed to accept any employment outside the campus for a period of 9 months.
  • You will not be allowed to work more than 20 hours per week if you have a job on-campus.
  • In most cases, you will not be able to work full time during your initial year.
  • Because you must be able to show that you have the financial resources to fund the duration of your education before you can obtain a visa, it is crucial to plan ahead. Your time in the United States must be largely financed before you arrive.

Can I receive financial aid?

International students are ineligible for United States government funded loans, grants, or aid programs. Your selected schools will be able to tell you if there are any loans or aid packages open to international students. The GMAC recommends that you consult with individual school financial aid offices to determine what financial information needs to be provided: requirements for non-citizens often differ from those of citizens.

Keep in mind that the amount of aid available to international students is limited and varies between colleges. You may need to rely in large part on your own savings, but be resourceful: explore funding options in your home country. Overall, financial aid applications should be sent to schools as soon as possible, since the awards are made early in the admission process.

How about scholarships or work study programs?

Some institutions offer scholarships to international students which may or may not also provide living stipends. Many schools also offer work-study programs on campus to students in graduate programs. Additionally, individual departments typically offer teaching assistantships (TA) and research assistantships (RA) to qualified graduate students, although these are competitive positions. Eligibility requirements will vary from school to school.

What are my housing options when I choose an MBA for international students?

Most universities have a housing office that addresses student living concerns. Graduate students often have several housing options, including graduate dormitories and graduate floors within dorms. You can also choose to live off campus, although finding an apartment, room, or shared housing arrangement may require greater preparation ahead of your arrival. Many admissions offices have staff members who can assist you during the transition to an American university.