Master’s Admission Requirements


Connecting the World to U.S. Higher Education ™

Master’s Admission Requirements


We explain 17 admission requirements that international students are likely to encounter when applying for admission to a master's program in the USA. This comprehensive list gives you detailed and helpful information with relevant links so you can save time and start completing your master's application to a university or college in the USA.


You are more than likely reading this as you are already in possession of a Bachelor’s degree and are ready to begin two years of advanced study in the USA. As you will notice, we have listed more requirements than are typically listed by other sites or even by the universities/colleges themselves. Based on our experience as former admission officers and international recruiters, we know you are likely to encounter the majority of these requirements, regardless if the university/college is listing them initially on their website or not. Many of them you will not be aware of until you start filling in the actual application form.


Applying for admission to a Master’s program (also known as graduate program) is similar to applying for Bachelor’s admission. Some of the major differences are the standardized entrance tests, the purpose of the letters of recommendation and personal statement, stricter minimum accepted GPA, and potentially work experience and submission of your resume.


Remember that in the USA, a person holding a Bachelor’s degree is eligible to apply for doctorate (Ph.D.) admission without the need of a Master’s degree.


See below for common admission requirements for US Master’s programs.


Admission Requirements

The application form is not much different from the application form for Bachelors study. It will take time to fill in the application form, much due to the time spent on collecting information before being able to actually start completing the actual form. Typically, time consuming areas of the application form involve gathering information pertaining to family members, writing the personal statement, identify and confirm recommenders, and complete English and admission entrance tests. Below are examples of information you can expect to complete on an application form:

  • Basic information (Full name, Home address, Date of Birth etc.)
  • College and/or major of interest
  • Entry term (when do you want to start studying?)
  • Do you intend to apply for grants, scholarship, or other financial aid?
  • Do you intend to live in the dorms (on-campus housing)?
  • You highest degree
  • Demographic questions (citizenship, birthplace, first language etc.)
  • Family information (mother, father, siblings, legal guardian details)
  • Your education history
  • Academics (class rank, sat, TOEFL, current classes)
  • Standardized Test (GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT)
  • Personal Statement/Essay (2-3 pages)
  • Extracurricular activities and work experience

Today most applications are submitted online via the university’s/college’s website. Generally a prospective student creates a user account and completes the application, submit supportive documents, and pay the application fee online

Prospective international students will generally pay a non-refundable application fee when submitting the application. It is very common to both apply and pay the application fee online via the institution’s website. Although, there is no set amount and each US university/college has its own application fee, the fee generally ranges from $50 to $100. The exact application fee is prominently displayed in the same area where you find the other admission requirements.

Typical ways of paying the application fee:

  • Directly on the institution's website with a debit or credit card
  • Sending a check with your application
  • Sending an international money order with your application
  • Pay by phone

Many universities/colleges accept translated unofficial, scanned or faxed transcripts during the initial applications period, but some do not. Since having your academic documents translated and certified could take weeks or even months, it is strongly recommended that you give yourself ample time to ensure that the documents reach the university ahead of any potential deadline.

Ask the university/college if it requires the translated and certified documents to be sent directly to them from the translation provider (e.g. your previous education institution(s) or professional translation service provider), or if you can send them personally. Failure to comply with university/college guidelines could delay your application or, even worse, have your application denied.

Be aware that some institutions require students to upload certified translated transcripts at the time of submitting the online application. This means you need to organize to have the transcripts translated before you can complete the online application.

Most US universities/colleges accept and recognize the following translation agencies and organizations:

Ask if the US university/college you are interested in has a preferred translation service provider. If they do, then use that translation provider.

If you have earned a Bachelor’s degree in the USA, all you have to do is to submit an official transcript from each post-secondary institution attended. Official transcripts must oftentimes be sent directly from your former university/college to your new institution, either electronically or by mail. Usually you have to complete a transcript request form and pay a fee.

International applicants must generally also submit official evaluations of all degrees earned from outside the United States. This is an evaluation of the courses making up the degree and not just a translation of the transcript (grades and course names). Most universities/colleges recognize the following organizations:

To be considered for master’s study in the USA, international students should hold a degree equivalent to a US Bachelor’s degree from a recognized academic higher education institution. This means an international student is expected to hold a degree equivalent to four-years of full time study at university level. Bear in mind that Bachelor’s degrees awarded by non-US universities/colleges may or may not be considered equivalent to a US Bachelor’s degree. For instance, some three-year Bachelor’s degree commonly found in many countries around the world are not considered equivalent. It is imperative that you consult your university/college of interest beforehand. It is for this reason that you have to not only translate your transcripts but also have your degree evaluated and translated.

If your Bachelor’s degree is not considered to be equivalent, you might still be admitted but under the condition that you successfully complete 4-8 classes to compensate for the difference.

Many universities/colleges do not accept admission to individuals holding professional degrees or diplomas, such as accounting, health education, librarianship, or a four-year degree/certificate/diploma from a technical or vocational specialist school.

Be aware that certain Master’s programs require that students hold a Bachelor’s degree in the same or relating field. Always review the individual program’s admission page for the most updated and relevant information.

Not all US universities/college require prospective international students to take a standardized entrance test for graduate admission. Review the admission page for each individual program to see if the completion of a test is compulsory.

The most common standardized tests for graduate admission are:

GRE (Business School test) – stands for Graduate Record Examination and is a standardized external graduate entrance examination administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS – official website: GRE is often an alternative exam to the GMAT for prospective graduate business students, and is designed to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. Other graduate programs than business programs may also require the GRE as part of the application process. Make sure you obtain the ETS code for each university/college that you are interesting in applying for admission. The institution code is program specific and can be obtain by contacting each individual program (e.g. College of Business).

GMAT (Business School test) – stands for Graduate Management Admission Test and is a 3.5 hours standardized external examination consisting of four sections; analytical writing (30 minutes), integrated reasoning (30 minutes), quantitative (75 minutes), and verbal (75 minutes). The exam is required as part of the application process to many graduate (Master) business programs, and is administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (official website: The GMAT is often an alternative exam to the GRE for prospective graduate business students.

LSAT (Law School test) – stands for Law School Admission Test and is a standardized external entrance examination used by law schools to assess students reading comprehension, logical, and verbal reasoning proficiencies. The exam takes half a day and is administered four times per year by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) at test centers around the world. The exam consists of five (35-minutes each) sections of multiple-choice questions, followed by a 35-minute writing sample that is not scored. Although the writing sample is not scored it will be submitted to each law school you have applied for admission. (Official website:

MCAT (Medical School test) – stands for Medical College Admission Test and is a computer-based standardized external entrance exam used by US medical schools as part of the admissions process. The multiple-choice exam is designed to test applicants in the areas of physical sciences, verbal reasoning, and biological sciences, and is given in 17 countries around the world. The approximately 5 hours test is generally taken by undergraduate students in their junior or senior year (third or fourth year) who are intending to pursue a medical degree in the areas allopathic, osteopathic, podiatric, and veterinary medicine. The exam is changing in 2015, please visit the official website ( for more information.

It is common for Master’s programs to demand a higher scholastic average (GPA) than what is required for undergraduate admission. Rarely will a Master’s program accept a GPA less than 3.0, which translates into a solid B letter grade average. The required scholastic average is always clearly stated under the list of admission requirements for each program.

Interviews are less frequently used as part of the graduate admission process. Interviews are dependent on the academic program and are very often optional. The most likely programs to have an interview are medical schools and some business schools. The admission page for each individual program will clearly list interview as a requirement if it is part of the process. If it is not listed, you can be relatively sure that you will not be required to attend an interview. Always call or email the program’s admission office if in doubt.

If an interview becomes relevant, it is mostly held via phone or Skype, and only in rare cases will a student be required to physically visit the university/college to attend an interview. The student is generally responsible to pay for the travel expenses.

You should be proud to be invited to an interview since it means that you are on the shortlist of applicants that the university/college are seriously considering for admission. Common questions include:

  • Why did you choose to apply to our program?
  • What do you know about our program?
  • How will you be able to make a contribution to this field?
  • Tell us about your experience in this field? Challenges? Contributions?
  • Describe any research project you have been involved in?
  • How will this program help achieve our career goals?
  • What skills do you bring to the program?
  • Why should we accept you and not someone else?
  • General questions about your strength/weaknesses, interests, what motivates you etc.?

Depending on university/college, students may be required to have taken undergraduate classes related to the program they are applying for admission. Other institutions may require that prospective international students submit a portfolio, writing samples, or other supplemental items such as published work, video or photography work, or examples of digital or multimedia work. Always check with the individual program office for any specific program requirements.

Some graduate programs, such as the MBA, may require 1-5 years’ work experience in order for a student to be eligible for admission. Students are not required to have worked for a large international corporation as universities/colleges will consider internships, community service, volunteer work, academic projects, etc. Universities/colleges may still consider international students with limited professional experience if the applicants instead have outstanding GPA and GRE/GMAT scores.

Likewise, universities/colleges might consider waiving the standardized entrance test (e.g. GRE or GMAT) requirement if the applicant has considerable and relevant work experience.

Always check with the individual program’s admission office for information related to work experience.

Although work experience may not be a requirement, it is common practice for universities/colleges to require students to submit a résumé (CV) as part of the graduate admission process.

The résumé/CV should provide information about work and volunteer experiences, research, awards, recognitions, and activities pertinent to the program you are applying for admission.

Make sure you tailor your résumé to the program you are applying to and highlight any relevant skills, experiences, qualifications, awards, interests etc.

A common US résumé format is a so called “chronological résumé” where employment and education history is listed by most recent first (on top). A US résumé should not be longer than 2 pages unless you have extensive employment and education experience. Typically, a résumé would include the following sections:

  • Basic Information – Name, street address, phone #, and email. No need to write date of birth or marital status.
  • Objective – This is optional. It should answer the question, “What do I want to do?”
  • Education History – For each institution attended, list the following (most recent first):
    • Institution name
    • City and Country
    • Dates attended
    • Degree & Major
    • Relevant courses taken
  • Employment History – list any employment or internships (most recent first)
    • Company/organization name
    • Title
    • Dates
    • Location
    • Key responsibilities
  • Recognitions/Awards – list any awards, honors, or other recognitions here
  • Interests – list interests and hobbies. Universities/colleges want to see that you are well-rounded and have interests outside of academia.

There are many online sources that offer helpful information on how to write and structure a US résumé. However, most résumés are filled in online as part of the online application form, so it is simply a matter of completing the requested fields and not worrying about the structure.

By far the two most common and accepted English tests are TOEFL and IELTS. Each university/college will have its own minimum acceptable scores, which you will find on their respective websites typically under a menu labelled “Admission,” “Applying for Admission”, or something to that effect. A good starting point is always to explore the International Student Office homepage for information on English requirements.

For more information about TOEFL and IELTS in your country, go to:

The proof of English proficiency requirement can potentially be waived if you have earned a bachelor’s degree in the US or any other English speaking country. It is strongly recommended that you ask your university/college of interest if the TOEFL/IELTS requirement can be waived and under what conditions.

According to U.S. federal law, any international student aiming to enroll at an U.S. higher education institution is required to submit proof of sufficient funding to meet the cost of all first-year expenses. What this means is that you have to show proof that you have enough money to cover you first year of study. The cost varies greatly from one university to another, much due to variation in tuition fees and cost of living. Each university will stipulate the exact amount required. Remember that the required amount varies depending on your major (field of study) as well. Just as the admission requirements vary depending on if you are applying for the School of Business or School of Engineering, so will also the cost of attending these programs. You will typically find the information on each respective program’s website – this means the website of each individual program (such as College of Nursing or School of Business) and not the website of the larger university/college or the International Student Office. Email or call the university/college if you are not sure.

Common ways to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds include:

  • Paying by yourself – Submit a certified bank statement demonstrating that you have enough funds. Keep in mind that the bank statement does not need to show the total amount of funds in the account. It only has to show at least the amount required by the university/college for you to support one-year of study.
  • Privately Sponsored (e.g. family member or company is paying) – submit a signed letter of support from the bank that states the amount (in U.S Dollars) that is sponsored + a bank statement (same as above).
  • Government Sponsored – Submit a certified copy of the award letter that includes the amount awarded for per year. The award letter should also state the duration for the award and a list of the expenses it covers.
  • Scholarships – Submit a certified copy of the award letter that includes the amount awarded for per year. The award letter should also state the duration for the award and a list of the expenses it covers.

The above is for guidance only. Always check with each specific university/college on what they deem as acceptable proof of funds.

Recommendations at graduate level are used to give a university/college the opportunity to get to know you better and determine both your academic and research ability and potential. Universities/colleges are looking for qualities and experiences that will demonstrate to them that you are ready and prepared. The recommendation letter should be specific to the program and not generally speaking about your ability and potential to pursue a degree at university level.

Most universities/colleges will only ask you to provide the name and email address of your recommenders on your online application. The university/college will then contact your recommender by email asking the person to return the recommendation within a short period of time – sometimes within 24 hours. You are wise in informing your recommenders in advance that they can expect an email from a certain university/college.

Regardless if the recommender is an academic (former professor or lecturer) or a professional (former manager or supervisor), the recommendation letters are a crucial part of the admission process and will be given great attention by admission officers. Speak with the persons that will serve as your recommenders and make sure that they know you well enough to write a compelling letter of recommendation. Depending on graduate program, you could be asked to submit three to five recommendation letters.

The personal statement, also known as Statement of Purpose, is a 2-3 page statement where students outline how the degree will enhance career plans and meet educational goals.

The personal statement is an influential component of the admission process and admission officers consider written communication skills, clarity, and structure, in addition to the actual content.

Follow instructions carefully and make sure that you not only describe the specific academic and professional qualities that have prepared you for the graduate program, but also write about the purpose of your Master’s degree (what goals you hope to achieve with your degree).

Writing a personal statement can be time consuming but there are many online sources giving helpful advice to help you get started.

As neither the US federal government nor state governments bear the cost of health care for its residents, any person in the USA must cover their own health expenses. As such, international students are required to maintain adequate health insurance while attending a US university/college. Generally, this means that F-1 and J-1 students are required to have medical health insurance in addition to both evacuation and repatriation coverage. It is common for US higher education institutions to require international students to purchase health insurance from a partnering insurer. However, sometimes this requirement can be waived if the student has a comparable insurance, either from its native country or from the US.

In addition, some universities/colleges, such as in the State of New York, require students to be immunized against measles, mumps, and rubella. Generally this can be done once you have arrived on campus, but always double check with the institution and make sure to follow the directions given. You will not be able to register for classes before you have complied with this requirement. Not all universities/colleges have immunization as a requirement.

Some universities/colleges require you to submit a color copy of your passport during the initial application period. However, most universities/colleges wait to request a copy until you have accepted their offer of admission and you have been granted a student visa. The university will clearly state on their website or application material when you are required to submit a photocopy of your passport and visa. Call or email the university/college if you are not sure.

This part is really not that difficult. Some universities/colleges will ask you to submit a photo of yourself with the application. There might be some predetermined photo specification that you have to follow, such as the photo must be in a US passport format, color photo only, or that you have to type and sign your name at the back of the photo. Always double check with the university/college if you have to submit a photo and if they have any particular photo requirements or specifications.

© 2017 Study Destination USA. All Rights Reserved.