Dear Mentor:

What are my chances for an MS in the US?

I am doing engineering in electrical and electronics. My ultimate aim is to do an MS from a good university in the USA that can provide financial help, as I belong to a middle class family. My cumulative grade point average is only 7o5%. And right now I am in the 3rd year of engineering, and will be completing this by 2003. I would be highly grateful to you if you help me in achieving my goals.

Money for Education, India

Dear Money for Education:

First of all, we can not understand your grade point average (GPA), due to a typographical error. We did correct other such errors in your inquiry. We try our best to edit the inquiries to make them more readable, by editing them. Some items are beyond our abilities to correct, such as your GPA information. We suggest to you and others who write to us to avoid errors in your writing. We are not suggesting this just for writing to iMahal; we are suggesting this because it is simply good practice.

The cost of education in the US is very high. Most international students can afford to study in the US only because of the financial assistance from their schools. Your prospective school is the primary, if not the only, source of financial assistance. Competition for financial aid is fierce, but financial aid is more readily available to international students at the graduate (Master's and PhD) level than at the undergraduate (Bachelor's) level.

The primary ingredients for getting admission and financial assistance are: the quality and reputation of your academic institution, your academic performance (that is, your GPA) and your performance on the GRE (Graduate Record Exam, a standardized entrance exam). Whether you can get into a good university and whether you can obtain financial assistance is entirely up to your demonstrated performance. The rule of thumb is: Get good GPA and score well on the GRE. We can not comment on whether your GPA is good enough for good schools in the US. Keep in mind that getting admitted to a school is much easier than obtaining financial aid. You would have to balance your ambition of going to a good school with your need for financial aid. You can use the iMahal College Finder to identify colleges that best match your needs.

By the way, whatever is your GPA, it is not consistent with the GPA system in the US. The US GPA system is based on a scale of 4. We have addressed the US GPA system in an earlier column. You may wish to visit: Please explain US terminology such as GPA and official transcript..

The admissions cycle in the US starts almost a year in advance. The admission cycle for the fall 2003 session would start in the fall 2002. You should apply for admission by December 2002, and take your GRE prior to applying. We responded in detail in an earlier column on the process of admission in the US and preparing for the GRE: How early should I start planning for the GRE?.

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