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I Am On My Way....To Graduate School!

I am on my way out! Yes, all year it’s been on my mind that this is my final year at college; that I shall be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in May.

What then?



Well, in truth, I have known for a while now which path I wanted to pursue. I have been interested in politics and international affairs for a long time and would like to be a part of that world, whether in terms of policy and decision-making or analysis and commentary. So it wasn’t too hard for me to decide to look for master’s programs in that field. I know politics can be a real pain – both for the politician as well as the citizen – but it’s the one sphere, I feel, where I can achieve a meaningful impact.

As far as research into institutions went, the APSIA website (Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs) was a good place to start. I can’t say I did much beyond that, as that website listed many top institutions. I did also have a look at Ivy League colleges, and – I must confess, even though this is a blog of international students in America – that I looked at options in other countries as well.

GRE and TOEFL

One of the earliest steps in the process involved that peculiar practice in the U.S. of taking standardized tests and exams. I don’t want to be one to complain, but the truth is that the purpose (and definitely the price) of the GRE did not make much sense to me. I managed to take it over the summer in Armenia, though, before senior year, so at least I did not have to spend any time on it during the school year.

Proving English-language capability was fortunately not an issue for me, as my undergraduate studies are in English.

Application Process

Most of the universities where I applied had an almost-exclusively online admissions process. In fact, most of them had outsourced to the same company or software, so the way their websites were setup was similar. But I learned a great deal about the universities just by the admissions process itself, especially looking at what kind of questions those various places asked, what kind of demands they put on their applicants.



It seemed to me that some universities wanted extra reassurances from their applicants that they would be able to pay for their studies. Not that any university did not want such guarantees, but pushing that question was a bit of a turnoff for me.

Contrary to that, only one out of the six places where I applied asked for writing samples. That was really cool. They were also the ones who had real, live human beings respond to my e-mail inquiries within a matter of days. It’s little things like that which leave a lasting, positive impact.

Letters of Recommendation

The letters of recommendation are also a very important aspect of applications. People tend to be busy, so it is useful to remind your recommenders every once in a while to go on to that website and to submit that letter. I found a gentle reminder e-mail once every couple of weeks or so was enough. It is also a good idea to get an early start on your recommenders, so that they have the time to craft a meaningful letter.

I was fortunate in picking a couple of people at my college who I knew shared my interests and also with whom I had had helpful interactions over the past few years, including discussions on politics and international affairs. My third recommender was a mentor and internship boss of mine back in Armenia, so she had seen my “real life” work (as opposed to my academic work) and could speak to that.

If you are graduating soon, but if you won’t be applying for further study this coming year, I’d recommend asking a favorite professor to have a letter of recommendation on file, just as a reference in case of future need, because your professor may not remember as many details about your conduct in class or your character after a year or two.

Financial Aid



Even though the online applications were really similar, many of the universities to which I applied had entirely separate processes for financial aid, which required almost just as much work as the application itself.

I was told that it is difficult to get funding at the graduate level in humanities or social sciences, and, yes, as it turns out, the financial aid has not come to much, at least not as much as the support I'm receiving now for college. Still, every little bit helps, and I am grateful for the assistance.

Personal Statement

I like to think that the personal statement is the most important part of the admissions packet, so I worked really hard to highlight my strong points and to elaborate on why the place where I was applying was suitable for my choice of career and academic interest.

But I tried to be concise as well, as I imagine those universities get thousands and thousands of applicants with only a handful of staff to sort through them. They all put word limits, as a matter of fact, so the choice of words had to be careful too.

Different Paths

I have noticed that many of my fellow-seniors are not sure what path they wish to pursue. A lot will not be going on to graduate school. This seems to be a pretty normal thing around here. Work experience, internships, volunteer work or international experiences are a big plus, in fact, when applying to master’s programs. But I’d had all that before I came to the States, “in-between-schools,” as the saying would go. Since I already had a good idea of my choice of career, taking on this next challenge seemed like the right thing to do.

And that is very significant: to be aware of what it is exactly you want to do with your life. Finding the exact place or program that fits those aspirations comes second. There is an immense diversity of colleges and universities in this country, which is a great luxury. So, I’d say take your time, look into various possibilities, and apply to as many as you can. It will take effort and patience (and, with application fees, a bit of money just to try), but I like to think that it will be a worthwhile investment.

But I won't be able to tell you for sure until a couple of years or more down the road.

See all News Updates of the Day

Report: US could have 2.8M international students in 10 years

FILE - Students walk on the campus of Boston College, April 29, 2024, in Boston.
FILE - Students walk on the campus of Boston College, April 29, 2024, in Boston.

The United States, which currently has 1,057,188 students from 210 countries, could have 2.8 million students by 2034, according to a report in India’s Free Press Journal.

The report says India is likely to make a significant contribution to the increase, along with China, Vietnam, Nigeria and Bangladesh. (June 2024)

Small group of colleges educates 20% of undergrads 

FILE - A cyclist crosses an intersection on the campus of Arizona State University on Sept. 1, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz.
FILE - A cyclist crosses an intersection on the campus of Arizona State University on Sept. 1, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz.

A group of just 102 public and private, four-year U.S. colleges and universities has an enrollment of 3.3 million students – about 1 in 5 of the nation’s undergraduates.

The Chronicle of Higher Education took a look at the institutions, their locations and their students. (June 2024)

After $1B gift, most Johns Hopkins medical students won't pay tuition

A sign stands in front of part of the Johns Hopkins Hospital complex, July 8, 2014, in Baltimore. Most medical students at Johns Hopkins University will no longer pay tuition thanks to a $1 billion gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
A sign stands in front of part of the Johns Hopkins Hospital complex, July 8, 2014, in Baltimore. Most medical students at Johns Hopkins University will no longer pay tuition thanks to a $1 billion gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Most medical students at Johns Hopkins University will no longer pay tuition thanks to a $1 billion gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Monday.

Starting in the fall, the donation will cover full tuition for medical students from families earning less than $300,000. Living expenses and fees will be covered for students from families who earn up to $175,000.

Bloomberg Philanthropies said that currently almost two-thirds of all students seeking a doctor of medicine degree from Johns Hopkins qualify for financial aid, and 45% of the current class will also receive living expenses. The school estimates that graduates' average total loans will decrease from $104,000 currently to $60,279 by 2029.

The gift will also increase financial aid for students at the university's schools of nursing, public health, and other graduate schools.

"By reducing the financial barriers to these essential fields, we can free more students to pursue careers they're passionate about – and enable them to serve more of the families and communities who need them the most," Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP, said in a statement on Monday. Bloomberg received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1964.

FILE - Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg speaks during the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York, Sept. 19, 2023.
FILE - Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg speaks during the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York, Sept. 19, 2023.

The gift will go to John Hopkins' endowment and every penny will go directly to students, said Ron Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University.

"Mike has really been moved by the challenges that the professions confronted during the course of the pandemic and the heroic efforts they've made to protecting and providing care to American citizens during the pandemic," Daniels said in an interview. "I think he simply wanted to recognize the importance of these fields and provide this support to ensure that the best and brightest could attend medical school and the school of nursing and public health."

Bloomberg Philanthropies previously gifted $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins in 2018 to ensure that undergraduate students are accepted regardless of their family's income.

Johns Hopkins will be the latest medical school to offer free tuition to most or all of their medical students.

In February Ruth Gottesman, a former professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the widow of a Wall Street investor, announced that she was donating $1 billion to the school. The gift meant that four-year students immediately received free tuition and all other students will be offered free tuition in the fall.

In 2018, Kenneth and Elaine Langone gave $100 million to the NYU Grossman School of Medicine to make tuition free for all current and future medical students through an endowment fund. The couple gave a second gift of $200 million in 2023 to the NYU Grossman Long Island School of Medicine to guarantee free tuition for all medical students. Kenneth Langone is a co-founder of Home Depot.

Other medical schools, like UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, offer merit-based scholarships thanks to some $146 million in donations from the recording industry mogul, David Geffen. The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine has also offered tuition-free education for medical students since 2008.

Candice Chen, associate professor, Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University, has researched the social missions of medical schools and had a strong reaction to the recent major gifts to John Hopkins, NYU and Albert Einstein.

"Collectively the medical schools right now, I hate to say this, but they're failing in terms of producing primary care, mental health specialists as well as the doctors who will work in and serve in rural and underserved communities," Chen said. She would have loved to see this gift go to Meharry Medical College in Tennessee, for example, which is a historically Black school that has produced many primary care doctors who work in communities that have shortages.

Bloomberg granted Meharry Medical College $34 million in 2020 as part of a $100 million gift he made to four Black medical schools to help reduce the debt of their medical students for four years.

There have been only a handful of previous $1 billion donations to universities in the U.S., most coming in the past several years.

In 2022, the venture capitalist John Doerr and his wife, Ann, gave $1.1 billion to Stanford University for a new school focusing on climate change.

The small liberal arts school McPherson College has received two matching pledges since 2022 from an anonymous donor totaling $1 billion. The school, which has around 800 enrolled students, has a program for automotive restoration and is located 57 miles north of Wichita, Kansas.

Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, gave $3 billion to charities in 2023, making him one of the largest donors, according to research by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Fewer job opportunities for computer science majors 

FILE - Students walk out of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.
FILE - Students walk out of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Recent computer science majors are finding entry-level jobs harder to come by, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper found that tech companies are scaling back on hiring and turning more attention to artificial intelligence. (May 2024)

Bangladeshi protesters demand end to civil service job quotas

FILE - Students and job seekers shouts slogans as they protest, calling for a ban on quotas for government jobs, at Shahbagh Square in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 3, 2024.
FILE - Students and job seekers shouts slogans as they protest, calling for a ban on quotas for government jobs, at Shahbagh Square in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 3, 2024.

Thousands of Bangladeshi university students threw roadblocks across key highways Sunday, demanding the end of "discriminatory" quotas for coveted government jobs, including reserving posts for children of liberation heroes.

Students in almost all major universities took part, demanding a merit-based system for well-paid and massively over-subscribed civil service jobs.

"It's a do-or-die situation for us," protest coordinator Nahidul Islam told AFP, during marches at Dhaka University.

"Quotas are a discriminatory system," the 26-year-old added. "The system has to be reformed."

The current system reserves more than half of posts, totaling hundreds of thousands of government jobs.

That includes 30% reserved for children of those who fought to win Bangladeshi independence in 1971, 10% for women, and 10% percent set aside for specific districts.

Students said only those quotas supporting ethnic minorities and disabled people — 6% of jobs — should remain.

Critics say the system benefits children of pro-government groups, who back Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was Bangladesh's founding leader.

Hasina, 76, won her fourth consecutive general election in January, in a vote without genuine opposition parties, with a widespread boycott and a major crackdown against her political opponents.

Critics accuse Bangladeshi courts of rubber-stamping decisions made by her government.

The system was initially abolished after weeks of student protests in 2018.

But in June, Dhaka's High Court rolled that back, saying the cancellation had been invalid.

'Wasting their time'

Hasina has condemned the protests, saying the matter had been settled by the court.

"Students are wasting their time," Hasina told female activists from her party Sunday, Bangladeshi newspapers reported.

"After the court's verdict, there is no justification for the anti-quota movement."

Protests began earlier in July and have grown.

"We will bury the quota system," students chanted Sunday in Bangladesh’s second city Chittagong, where hundreds of protesters marched.

In Dhaka, hundreds of students disrupted traffic for hours, police said.

At the elite Jahangirnagar University, at least 500 students blocked the highway connecting the capital with southeastern Bangladesh "for two hours," local police chief A.F.M. Shahed told AFP.

Bin Yamin Molla, a protest leader, said at least 30,000 students participated in the protests, although the number could not be verified.

Bangladesh was one of the world's poorest countries when it gained independence in 1971, but it has grown an average of more than 6% each year since 2009.

Hasina has presided over that breakneck economic growth, with per capita income in the country of 170 million people overtaking India in 2021.

But much of that growth has been on the back of the mostly female factory workforce powering its garment export industry, and economists say there is an acute crisis of jobs for millions of university students.

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