Dear Mentor:

How can I study MIS or MBA in the US?

I would like to know if there are any college and universities in USA, which can offer me courses in management information systems. Right now my destination of USA seems far, far away from me, as I have no information on which kind of universities to apply and what kind of aid or financial assistance I can get. After surfing your site for universities and fees, I have still not been able to make up my mind. The things I need to know are if there are any scholarships or financial aid that I can get for doing MBA in USA. In Pune, India, people have made information their business, and nothing here is free of cost and these people are misguiding students. So if you can please help me, your information would help me make the right career decision. Please guide me. Thank you.

Hesitant Decider, Pune, India

Dear Hesitant Decider:

We can appreciate your challenge of getting the targeted information you seek. There is a lot of data, scattered over the Web and other places, but it is often not very useful information. Providing targeted information requires knowledge, experience, and effort. People may wish to charge for this service, and we do not have any issue with that. As to the quality of their services, we are not in a position to comment on that.

Your question is a bit confusing to us. We assume you wish to pursue an MBA, with specialization in Management Information Systems (MIS). You may, however, also wish to consider doing a Master's in MIS outside the structure of an MBA program. These two different paths to higher education have implications both on your career choice and availability of financial aid.

Generally speaking, the cost of education is extremely high in the US. Depending on the school, program and location, it could cost anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000+ per year. Thus, unless you are independently wealthy, securing financial aid is the only viable alternative. The thought -- all you have to do is to get admission, reach the US and you would be able to get the aid you need -- is patently untrue. We would strongly discourage everyone who is thinking of doing that. We dealt with this specific issue in detail in an earlier Dear Mentor: column (I arrived in the US, but there is no financial support!).

Financial aid is generally not available to International students for the MBA program. In our view, it would be a waste of your time, being a prospective international student in the US, to try to achieve the unattainable goal of obtaining financial aid for an MBA. It is true that MBA programs at good schools have large populations of international students, but these international students secure financing through other means, such as self-financing or financing through their national governments or their employers.

Many MBA programs offer MIS as a specialization. Getting admitted into a good MBA program is fairly competitive. The basic requirements are: a Bachelor's degree in any discipline and GMAT (General Management Aptitude Test). You can find additional information on iMahal: GMAT. We have dealt with the issue of admission requirements and on improving your chances of getting admitted into a top-tier MBA program in an earlier Dear Mentor: column (How do I get into a top MBA program?).

You may also wish to consider doing the MIS specialization within a Mater's degree program in Computer Science or Computer Engineering. Many schools also offer this combination. Although fiercely competitive, at least the financial aid is available to international students in the form of Research Assistantship or Teaching Assistantship for graduate (Master's or PhD) degrees in technical areas. Even if you are fortunate enough to secure this kind of aid, the path has serious implications on your career choice.

By doing an MBA, you learn the general management principles and practices. The MIS specialization within MBA offers insights into what business needs these management information systems must address and how to be of value to a business. On the other hand, doing the MIS specialization within a Computer Science or Computer Engineering program focuses on the design and development of systems and technology for management information systems. By doing the former, that is an MBA, you would be a business manager; while doing the latter, you would be a technical designer and manager.

We hope that information is valuable to you. Please keep in mind that life is an on-going balance between what we want versus what we can get. Excelling within the constraints of reality, thus loosening the constraints is the very definition of success. We hope that you choose your fulfilling career path carefully.

We wish you every success.

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