What is a Scholarship?
Today we are going to speak about scholarship and funding opportunities for MS in U.S. A very important and often a very exciting topic you know when education and money meet.
It can be very exciting and you know before I begin irrespective I would like to say that an MS in the US in itself is a fantastic opportunity. It will broaden your horizons and you should base your decision on the opportunity that you get and the scholarships or any funding would be an added bonus.
So just because you don’t get scholarship doesn’t mean you should not look for ways to fund yourself because the opportunity of doing the Masters there in itself will be fantastic.
What is a scholarship?
A scholarship is an award that the university decides to give students that it has admitted based on various criteria. For one it could be on academic excellence namely the GPA that you obtained in your undergraduate in your degree program and it could also be based on any talent that you have demonstrated.
For example very interesting projects that you’ve done you know hackathons you’ve won awards, accomplishments and so on so a combination of these and in addition to these factors a university may also decide to award you a scholarship based on certain other factors such as your ethnic background which is mostly relevant to American citizens, your field of study and so on.The financial need and the background are particularly relevant for Americans.
Scholarships can come from different sources – colleges and universities can award you the scholarship and that is predominantly the type of scholarship we speak about when we talk or when we discuss with international students.
So if you are not an American citizen or not a Canadian citizen then you’re unlikely to get other sources of scholarships. For example the government scholarship for private organizations usually fund people who are native to the place.
Public & Private Universities
A quick differentiator between public and private universities. You must know that in the U.S. you have two kinds of universities- public and private universities and let me tell you upfront that it’s not like public is better or private is better.
Both universities can be really good or both can they really crappy.
For example the University of California at Berkeley is a fantastic public you know it’s a State University. Stanford University located just a few miles away is a private university and they are both highly ranked.
A public university is primarily funded by a state government and they tend to be larger in terms of their student strengths, they have large class sizes and they have a wide selection of topics and subjects you can major in including a lot of stress on liberal arts programs liberal arts these are things that you would normally do in your undergrad in the US but there are things like humanities and sociology and subjects like that.
Private universities tend to operate as Educational NPO – nonprofit organizations and they are usually smaller than public universities have a smaller selection of majors but can offer a lot of specialized of academic programs.
Merit Based Scholarships
Both of these are universities do award scholarships and typically when you think of scholarship you think of merit-based scholarship. In order to qualify for a merit-based scholarship you have to demonstrate excellence in a particular area it can be your GPA and so on. In terms of ethnic background merit scholarships are limited to typically removed Americans.
This is a very important table I have in front of me the chances of funding if you apply for a PhD program and if you are admitted it’s almost 100 percent. It’s very rare that you are admitted to a PhD program and you know you do not see it it almost never happens.
For an MS it’s highly likely that if you try you will find something MS or an MA you can find something if you try definitely.
For an MBA it’s a harder, funding is harder people usually find themselves through loans but there’s nothing wrong in trying you should still try might be able to get some kind of a Partial scholarship.
Types of Scholarships
What are the different types of scholarship? First you have a fellowship. Fellowship can be fun they don’t expect you to do any additional work for the fellowship just study your course really well. But they are very hard to get.
Everybody wants a commission right so a university has a certain amount of budget every year that it will award as fellowships to admitted students and these fellowships are typically announced during your acceptance letter or very shortly thereafter.
It’s unlikely that you will hold the university you know start studying and then they’ll give you a fellowship. Usually they will give your fellowship then you when you by the time you get your I-20 you are likely to know whether or not and on this fellowship that they were useful when you apply for your visa.
The next type of scholarship is what is called a teaching assistant-ship or a TA it’s commonly known as a TA. So a TA is expected to work 20 hours a week for sure and it always includes a tuition waiver. The tuition is that component of your degree fee that you have to pay University as your tuition fee paid directly to the University.
The stipend is meant to cover your living expense you know expenses such as your rent or your food you know bills electricity all of that. So you need a little bit of money every month to spend on your living expenses and food and clothing and so on and the tuition free that you have to pay the University so these are two different things the tuition is usually waived that means that the university tells you hey you are teaching you are you’re working as a TA in our school therefore you do not have to pay us out the tuition.
That’s called a tuition waiver all right and a stipend is also possible often they are granted together. In a research assistant-ship again the workload is quite similar although it can go a little higher depending on projects that you’re working on and these also a very similar to a tuition waiver and typically include a stipend to the extent possible.
So these are the three types of funding that a university will typically grant you and I just want to clarify something that in the US you are not allowed to work outside the campus during the regular semesters but only during the summer term can you work outside the campus such as an internship.
Even if you’re working on campus a TA or a RAship you can you’re allowed to do it for the twenty hours a week and this is called halftime. That’s called a half-time or the half workload and the full workload is considered as forty hours a week.
A fellowship that’s the one that they typically grant you along with your admission letter. It provides financial support to students you know it’s like saying here you’re so awesome you don’t have to pay a tuition fee, will give you a stipend as well maybe you know you just you don’t have to do any work in return. But they’re typically merit based.
If your application profile is so impressive and universities like you know what I’m going love to have this person come on board and study with us, their profile is so interesting and they’re so promising then they are likely to award a fellowship.
You don’t have to do any work for it typically.
Teaching Assistant (TA-ship)
Let’s move onto teaching assistant-ship or a TA ship as it’s often called. This one of the best sources of funding. You are kind of like a mini teacher or like you’re teaching and you assist the faculty who conducts the course by kind of being like assistant.
For example let us say the faculty comes in and teaches a course, they come in and they lecture students so students will want to have somebody to whom they can ask questions maybe they did not understand what was being taught. You are their go to person for that if you are a TA. Obviously you will understand that you first have to know that course in and out. You will have to have complete mastery over that entire course for which you are TA-ing.
It will look very bad if students come and ask you questions and you’re like I don’t know I haven’t studied that yet and then they’re going to be like oh my god this student is not suitable to be a TA-ite.
Typically you are likely to if you get it TA-ship it would likely be for undergraduate courses because you are going for a graduate degree program a masters whereas they can assume that you are likely to have known the material which is taught in undergrad programs which is a bachelor’s degree program. Perhaps an introduction to biology class or perhaps you know CS101 Programming in C and C++.
You will be expected to spend of twenty hours a week on your TA effort.
What do you be doing?
Any administrative help that the professor needs with your TA ship, with the course you will be expected to provide. For example making sure all the handouts, making sure that homework is graded on time. Depending on the course and the size strength, you might be the one grading the homework or you might have another graduate students who are known as graders and they are paid on an hourly basis and that’s an additional source of funding although it’s very very meager source of funding, graders can be assigned to grade courses particularly there are a lot of students taking that course.
As a TA, you will grade homework and exams you will assess projects you will also help clear their doubts, you will help them do their homework.
Every course has what are called TA office hours alright so when people take a course there’’’be TA office hours and you will have to sit in that office during Tuesday and Thursday 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. and you sit there and whoever comes whichever student comes there and they have any question on any topic that is being taught in the class up until that point you will have to help them understand it.
If they come down there are need some help understanding the homework you will help them. You’re not going to solve the homework for them but you will help them understand the homework a lot better.
Clearly because you will be speaking and explaining to a lot of students from different parts of the world your spoken English has to be really really good which means your TOEFL score especially your speaking section score counts a lot and even if the TOEFL speaking score is high and they have awarded the TA-ship, some schools will require that after you arrive at the University they will still ask you to take another speaking exam just to make sure that you can speak clearly enough so that all the other students from different countries can understand what you’re saying.
Research Assistant (RA-ship)
Let’s move on to a research assistant-ship or an RA-ship. They are very common to particularly in research oriented universities, well here you are not required to help other students understand the materials but you are required to work under a professor or under a group of professors or under a project.
Professors typically have grants which are essentially like a funding grant they have like $5,000 this year and I can work on various projects that this is for my seven PhD students this is for my three postdocs I have this money left, this is for conferences and then this I’m going get a couple of RA-s and I’m going to make him work on some projects – crude way of putting it but that’s kind of how they portion their funding.
You will have to approach professors who have grants who have sufficient funding they must have enough in their kitty for them to give you from you as an RA.
What would you do for the professor?
You can run experiments, you can do projects often a lot of programming or write research papers set up labs you can help their Post Docs or PhD students conduct their research there’s a lot of things that you can do in a research assistant-ship. It’s very varied and it depends on that particular professor and but typically it also gives you a tuition waiver and covers your stipend living expenses as well.
Here’s something very important I want to point out if you happen to be good at computer programming or data analysis statistics things like that you can also find RA-ships in non-computer science outside your department because a lot of other departments including the Departments of Physics or you know molecular biology or whatever they require computation nowadays it is a lot of data that they get they need to crunch it, they need to make sense out of it or then maybe there’s some programs that they need to write in order to make sense of you know research that’s happening in their field.
It’s not necessary that you must find a nice RA-ship in your own department you can actually approach other departments and offer to do projects for them. Especially if you have the skills that are needed here for example you can approach the international language processing your interdisciplinary department may be part of something between say the English and the computer science department and they can say you know I can help you do some national language recognition for you right and and you will be dealing with people who work in English so you can always approach other departments do not restrict ourselves to the department where you will be doing your higher degree.
Importance of GRE Test Scores
What do you need to get scholarship, definitely your GRE test scores are very very important. Specifically your GRE score if you’re going for MS or a PhD well the students have a greater chance of getting financial aid if you have if you have high GRE scores all right.
So here’s what a typical percentile table this is the table that is published by ETS the organization that conducts the GRE and here’s what the percentiles look like. Now what I mean by a percentile?
Let us say that on the verbal section you scored a 144 a 144 on 170 that sounds good right it doesn’t because 130 is actually zero. Let us say your verbal score at 144 what that means is you are only you are only 22nd percentile which means out of every hundred people only 22 people who are found to be worse than you which means a full 78 people perform better than you they perform much better.
So if your score is a 154 then 63 people out of every 100 perform worse than you that’s that’s for these percentiles tell you and similarly for Quant a score of 160 in quant it sounds good but it’s 78 percent which means there are still 22 people out of every hundred who performed better than you.
Always look at your GRE score not in terms of the skills score which is what you what people will typically share and universities get this percentile number in the score report that ETS sends so most people typically look straight for the percentile they don’t even the admissions department they look at the percentile even though they know they might give you GRE cutoff scores they look at the percentile.
Why do universities look at percentiles?
Universities look at percentiles because the percentiles will give you very interesting information. For example a lot of people the GRE test takers find verbal harder than Quant. Look at 162 same as in the previous table 162, 90 in verbal and as 83 in quant. That means that are out of hundred people 90 are worse than you in verbal but in quant it means that 83 are worse than you.
Same GRE score can mean two different quite quite different percentiles. Similarly if you were to look at the 150 to 155 range it’s not such an awesome score in the sense that this is the average you see that the percentiles here these are roughly right between 0 and 100 right these are the fifties so a score and this range means that you are better than 40 to 60 percent of all test takers. So I strongly urge you to try and get as good a GRE score as possible very very important.
Other Criteria for Scholarships
You should have a decently high GPA you cannot expect to have a very poor undergrads scores and then you impress the department that admits you by saying this person deserves a scholarship, scholarship on the grounds of what? You must show evidence of a high GPA I’m not saying it should be your batch topper but you should have a good GPA.
Submit a strong statement of purpose (SoP), the essay that you will be submitting to University and they will read it and base their decisions on this.
You should have fantastic letters of recommendation (LoR) from professors or perhaps your working professional from your professors and your boss and so on.
Good projects, paper presentations, internships can never hurt they will always help you then high quality samples of you know any writing that you’ve done of publications, conferences attended all of these things.
If you specialize in a field or have a research interest and it’s very closely aligned with that of the department and the faculty that does that same research there has sufficient funding then that also increases the chances for RA-ship so make sure that your application has all of these. I understand if some of these are hard to come by but you can compensate by making some of the other parameters stand up.
4 Scholarships Search Mistakes
Just a quick warning I often see students make these 4 mistakes and we do not want you to make them so I’m spelling them out for you.
Getting a late start and limiting your search can make life very hard so on the moment you receive your you know admission from the University if you haven’t received scholarship let’s start writing to various professors in the university saying hey, I’ve got an admission now I’m looking to decide whether to accept or not these are the kinds of skills I bring in I notice that are you know your research interests me or maybe if you have some programming projects that I can do for you whatever it is, start looking for funding as soon as you’ve received your admission, preferably start looking for funding even before that so you can write to certain universities but but often professors will tell you to get your acceptance letter and then I will talk to you so either way is fine.
Do not wait till August or September when you are at the university and you’re looking for funding because everybody else is going to be hunting for the same stacks of funding that ate left. A lot of the funding is already allocated before that so the moment you should get your acceptance letter start you know just start you know talking to various people at that Institute and try and get your money. Do not start too late do not limit or such like I said do not limit yourself only to the department that you are doing or MS in or only the minor research field that you are in unless you’re very confident of getting a RA-ship look for teaching assistant-ships in any course that you are very good at.
Let us say during your undergraduate you were the topper in control systems you know in my microprocessor lab and you understand the ins and outs of that really good you’ve checked out what’s the course the corresponding course at university teachers, you’ve looked at all of the material their syllabus and you are confident you know what I know all of that I can teach it then start applying for TA-ships for all those courses.
Very important don’t write a cookie cutter application and expect it to work for everything.
What is a cookie cutter application?
You know how the cookies are baked you have the the dough that’s laid out on the pan and before you put it in the oven and you want the cookies to have a nice round shape or a square shape or a star shape they have you know sharp metallic thing and then they put that on the dough and all and then guess what they remove all stuff from the other side all the cookies come out looking exactly the same.
That is a cookie cutter metaphor for you and in this context if you ever hit the same control A control C you know hit Send control C control V and send the same application all it doesn’t matter if it’s the different Department you know the English department the psychology department gets in a cover letter from me, the same resume what is the difference that you can add to them?
This professor that professor get the same thing from me it doesn’t make sense you have to you have to modulate and personalize and customize your application for the particular department or the area of research that you’re applying interested in applying for.
You have to make sure its is customized so they can look at your profile and say well sounds interesting I think it just might have the work for this guy, I think this this person’s profile is so interesting we must have her on our team so you want to write something that is very customized.
Don’t expect to get everything right in your first try, don’t relax after you’ve got admission decisions that’s when the real hard work begins. Try and reach out to people and get funding in case you’re not one of those lucky ones who got a fellowship along with your offer of funding.
So keep trying, send multiple emails you know if people have rejected you ask them for a reason very politely be very very polite and courteous and ask them nicely I understand and I respect your decision not to offer me assistant-ship but if it really helped me become a better student and a better professional if you could tell me why here on what on what grounds my application was rejected so it can help me in future.
Not everybody will respond to that but some people might and that feedback will be very useful to you in formulating your subsequent applications. Some departments might even ask you have Skype interviews with you– one of our students had multiple rounds of Skype interviews with all the post-docs from that professors department six hours of grueling Skype rounds they made sure he knew everything that he said that he did in his resume they made sure that he would be a top contributor to their project from day one when he landed and after that they gave him a beautiful little offer that said you full tuition waiver, full stipend you know come on and join our research group.
They will make their decisions based on how strong your profile is so don’t quit, keep trying.
Bonus Scholarship Resources
Getting Powerful Letters of Recommendation
Writing a Winning Statement of Purpose
The GRE Scores & SOP needed by Top Global Universities
now it's your turn
I'd like to hear from you
Which scholarship from today’s guide do you think will work best for you?
Have you started applying for your scholarships as of yet?
Or maybe you’re looking to do a TA-ship or a RA-ship?
Either way, leave a comment below right now.