Application Process for a Master’s Program in USA

Learn about the steps involved in applying for a Master's program in the USA. Discover the requirements for choosing a course, shortlisting universities, and applying for a visa. Get expert advice from MSinUS..

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Application Process for a Master’s Program in USA
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Apr 17, 2023 04:44 AM
The United States is the dream destination for international students from around the world. There are more than 2000 accredited universities in the country and many of them are among the top 100 universities in the world. Pursuing a master’s program in USA will certainly be your gate pass to a bright future.
The duration of a master’s program in USA can be 1 or 2 years or more, depending on the course you choose to study. You might find that the application process could be quite unnerving and time-consuming if you are an international student who is doing it for the first time. Reading about the application process and understanding the requirements beforehand will help you ease into the process.
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Listed below are application process guidelines for a master’s program in USA :

1. Decide the stream you want to study

The first and foremost decision you need to make is decide the subject or the course you wish to study. You can decide to specialize in the same discipline as your bachelor’s or you can choose to branch out. The good news is that the universities in the US offer an eclectic choice of courses to choose from. Make sure you consider several parameters like your interest in the subject, scope of the course and career prospects before you zero in on a particular program. If you are still unable to decide, you can apply for multiple courses of your choice, which can, infact increase your chances of getting accepted in a Master’s program in USA.

2. Shortlist the Universities

The next step is to shortlist the universities. The US has the majority of the world’s best universities, and choosing the best among them could be as challenging as getting admissions in one. Therefore, is it necessary to consider the following factors while shortlisting universities for a Master’s program in USA :
  • Make a list of the courses offered by the university
  • Check the latest acceptance rate of your target university, higher the percentage, higher are your chances of getting accepted.
  • Check the latest acceptance rate of your target university, higher the percentage, higher are your chances of getting accepted.
  • Check the ranking of the shortlisted universities on popular websites such as QS ranking and US news and world report.
  • Check for the cutoff for academic scores.
  • Check for the cutoffs for test scores.
  • Compare your budget with the estimated program fees.

3. Check for the Pre-Requisites

The following are the list of basic requirements for a college application for a Master’s program in USA :
  • GRE : It is a test demanded by most MS programs in the USA. GRE tests your verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills.
  • GMAT : It is a test demanded for business-related masters in the USA. It is designed to test the candidate’s quantitative, verbal, analytical writing, and reading skills.
  • MCAT : A Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a test that is required for admission to study Medicine at a university in the US.
  • English proficiency test : All international students need to take either of these tests -IELTS, TOEFL, MELAB, PTE to prove their proficiency in the English Language.
  • Academic transcripts : All students are required to submit the unofficial or official documents of their academic transcripts, during the time of application.
  • SOP : The statement of purpose is a summary of one’s interest and motivation for studying the chosen subject, educational qualifications and the reason for choosing a particular university. It should be written in a manner that convinces the selection committee that you are qualified and motivated enough to pursue the chosen program.
  • LOR : The Letter of Recommendation is an important document written by your professors in college or supervisors at work. It is written with the motive to highlight your exceptional academic and interpersonal skills and recommend that you are a perfect fit for the program that you have applied for.
  • Credential Evaluation : It is a process that compares the academic credentials earned by a student in another country to the educational system in the US. Some universities have their own credential evaluators while others refer you to take the services of a credential evaluation agency. It is generally advised to use an agency that is affiliated to National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) or similar organisations. The university asks the students to provide the credential during the submission of the application.
Check out the below article for details on documents required to apply for a master’s program in the US.

4. Start Applying

  • Applications for a Master's program in USA are submitted online, in the respective university's website. Universities in the US have four different intakes, namely Fall, Winter, Spring, and Winter, amongst which Fall is the most popular and in high demand. Applications for the fall semester can be accepted anytime between September and January; therefore, it is essential to check for the deadlines to avoid any last-minute rush. It would help if you maintain a sheet with the shortlisted universities list and their respective deadlines.
  • The application deadlines for universities in the US are divided into two types: priority, standard/regular.
  • Although you apply on time, you will be considered for admission only if you submit all the required documents to the universities before the admission committees start their review process.
  • You can check the list of the pending documents on the university’s application portal or enquire about the same to the universities directly through email. Some universities even have a live online communication system, through which you can talk to a university representative directly.

5. Wait for an Acceptance Letter

  • The wait time for an acceptance letter may range from a few weeks to months. The universities usually send their decision letter via email or post. Many factors decide your acceptance to a college, such as acceptance rate, availability of seats, your overall profile, and the number of applicants.
  • You may either receive a conditional or an unconditional visa, depending on the documents or your academic qualification you have submitted. You will receive an unconditional offer if you have satisfied all the admission of the particular university. In contrast, if you lack academic credits or have a pending document, you may receive a conditional offer if you have an excellent profile.

6. Apply for a Visa

  • An acceptance letter from the university has the SEVIS I-20 form, which is required to apply for your F1 visa. It is important to know that only SEVP-approved universities can accept international students and can issue I-20 forms. So make sure that you apply only to SEVP-approved universities. You can check if your university is approved, in this website.
  • You also need to provide proof of your financial funding to cover the total cost of your educational and living expenses for your entire period of stay in the US.
  • The US Department of State requires students to apply for an F1 visa to study for a minimum of 18 hours a week or a full-time program.
  • You will have to apply for a visa at the nearest US consulate. If you meet all the requirements, then you will be called for an interview. They will process your F1 visa immediately after the interview.


There are many important steps involved in the application process for a master’s program in the USA, starting from deciding the course, shortlisting the universities, procuring the necessary documents, and applying for a visa. This article gives you the necessary information that a first-time applicant for a Master’s program in USA needs, in order to complete their application process.

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