A Guide For Graduate Students Educated Outside the US

Pasad is a software engineer at a high-tech company. He is happy at his company, but knows that a graduate degree will help him advance, plus, his company will reimburse his educational expenses.

Pasad has always been proud of his Bachelors degree in Computer Science from a good school in India. So he was surprised and disappointed that he could not be admitted to the MBA program at a local state school. The reason was that his bachelor’s degree was from a 3-year program in India, not the traditional 4-year degree.

Employees educated outside the US who come into the country for jobs usually have their credential evaluated by private companies. These “job position and experience evaluations” usually show that the employee’s college credits, plus their work experience equal a degree in the US. This evaluation is to obtain a job, only, not to be used to gain admission into a local graduate program.

If you are employed, desire a graduate degree and have been educated outside the US, here are some suggestions for pursuing a US degree:

1) Have your overseas credentials evaluated by an accredited school or agency to see if your degree is equivalent to a US bachelor’s degree.

Two ways to obtain that information:

A. Select a college that offers the graduate program you desire and apply.

The college, as part of the admission process, evaluates prior courses and credentials. The advantage: No extra fees for the Foreign Transcript Evaluation. The disadvantage: You may have to complete the entire admission process before getting the results and may be rejected if your undergraduate transcripts show your degree is not U.S. equivalent.

B. Have your credentials evaluated before you apply.

The National Association of Credential Evaluation Services, Inc. (NACES) accredits evaluation companies such as Educational Credential Evaluators or World Evaluation Services to perform this service. Most colleges will acknowledge the results by these evaluation companies. The advantage of using a private evaluation service: You will know beforehand if your foreign credentials are U.S. equivalent. The disadvantage: There is a fee attached to this service of approximately $100-$150.

2) Plan to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The TOEFL is a computer-based test, so results are immediate. Almost all graduate programs require the TOEFL for students educated outside the US. There are several good books and software available to study for the TOEFL. Check the website: toefl.org

3) Plan to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) if applying for the MBA degree or the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for non-business degrees: computer science, engineering, psychology, history, biology, etc. Information on taking those tests can be found on these websites: mba.com ; gre.org. Check to see if your chosen college requires these admission tests or another, such as the Miller Analogies Test (MAT).

4) Once you have your overseas transcript evaluated and it is declared “US equivalent” and you have taken the TOEFL, the application process to graduate school becomes the same as anyone educated in the US. Colleges will admit you from a combination of several criteria: undergraduate grades (or marks), GRE or GMAT scores, reputation of undergraduate institution, type of major, work experience, written recommendations and other factors.

If your overseas education is not equivalent to US standards, you may have to take courses required for a bachelor’s degree. Several universities, including some online degree programs, offer a Bridge Program for students with 3-year undergraduate degree. Students take 30 units of academic credits to make-up for the fourth year of school, but usually the prerequisites for the Master’s degree are also included.

Pasad found a Bridge program at a university close to his house and is taking his 30 units to be admitted to the MBA program. He found that the Bridge program helped him with his writing skills, communications skills and business skills and the classes were equivalent to the prerequisites he needed.