Dear Mentor:

Tell me about financial aid in top US engineering graduate schools.

I am an undergraduate [Bachelors degree] student in Electrical Engineering. I am interested in pursuing the Masters degree from a top-tier school. I am aware of the financial aid system in Canada. Since I am also considering some US schools, it would be helpful for me to know about the financial aid opportunities in the US.

Reed, British Columbia, Canada

Dear Reed:

The financial aid system in the US is fairly similar to that in Canada, and so is the admissions process. As you know, you will be an International Student in the US. Just as in Canada, you, as an international student in the US, will not be eligible for any government scholarships or fellowships, as well as student loans. They are restricted to the legal US residents. But donít despair, there are many financial support opportunities for international students, pursuing Masters and PhD degrees in Engineering and Computer Science. We like to note that such is not the case for other programs. Accordingly, the following discussion applies strictly to the international graduate students in Engineering and Computer Science.

Generally speaking, you are eligible for a research assistantship, or teaching assistantship, or a combination thereof. These assistantships typically come with some tuition fee relief, up to a 100% waiver, which is often not the case in Canada. This waiver of tuition fee, partial or full, is extremely helpful since the tuition fees are high, significantly higher than in Canada. You may wish to note that tuition fees are much higher in government-supported institutions for out of state or international students, just as in Canada.

Research assistantships are typically offered by professors from their own research grants. You will effectively support the research efforts of a professor aimed at fulfilling the requirements of the grant. Professors obtain these research grants from either the government or the private sector. Academia and the private sector have much closer research relationship in the US than they do in Canada. Thus, professors at top-tier institutions tend to be better funded than their counterparts in Canada. Professors recruit graduate students as research assistants to complete research for these grants. You should apply for research assistantship along with your admissions application. You may also wish to reach out to certain faculty members either before or after applying for admission to explore the possibility for research assistantship.

Teaching assistantships are offered by the schools themselves. In return for the teaching assistantship, you will be required to perform certain duties to support the teaching efforts of various professors. These duties include supervising labs, grading homework, tutoring, etc.

Financial support availability varies across schools. You are well advised to research this information on prospective schools of your choice.

One final note, certain Canadian federal and provincial government scholarships, fellowships, and loans are available to you for studying in the US.

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