Dear Mentor:

How do I find the best graduate management program for me?

I have done my MBA from PIM, University of Sri Jayewardanepura (Sri Lanka). I now want to pursue higher studies (preferably doctoral) in the field of International Business, Strategic Management or International trade. I have specialised in Strategic Management, specifically in a new performance measurement system called the Balanced Scorecard. I am presently working as an Assistant Manager in a foreign investment promotion agency. Can you provide me some help as to how I should go for higher studies? Which place is more suitable where I can get the scholarships and part time jobs?

Grad Studies in Business, Sri Lanka

Dear Grad Studies in Business:

We are not familiar with the system of education in Sri Lanka, nor do we know about your Bachelor's degree education. Typically, US schools require at least a 4-year college education with at least a Bachelor's degree for admission in a Master's program. You seem eligible for a Master's program but we are not sure about your eligibility for a PhD program.

Let us first address the admissions issue. You would apply to a US school just as you would anywhere else: find the school and program of interest, obtain the application forms, submit the completed application along with the required documentation, and wait for a reply. You would want to apply to a handful of schools, ranging from extremely competitive to moderately competitive based on your academic performance and score(s) on required entrance exam(s). Depending on your program of choice, you would typically be required to take at least one standardized entrance exam. For example, the GMAT (Graduate Management Aptitude Test) is required for the MBA and some other graduate business programs, whereas the GRE (Graduate Record Exams) is required for graduate studies in engineering, computer science, liberal arts, and some business programs. You would have to obtain specific entrance exam requirements from the prospective schools. Just some terminology: a Bachelor's degree in the US is called an undergraduate degree, and the Master's and PhD degrees are called graduate degrees.

You can use the iMahal College Finder to identify colleges, ranging from extremely competitive to moderately competitive for your performance, that match your personal needs. The iMahal Education Section also includes the List of Business Schools in the US. Chances are that the more prestigious the school, the more funding it has for financial assistance for students, but so is the competition for admission and award of money.

Most schools provide on their websites the information on the admissions process, including the application forms. You must keep in mind that schools would charge you an application processing fee, typically from $50 to $100. You must therefore be targeted in your selection and the number of schools.

The cost of education in the US is very high, ranging from $15,000 to $45,000 per year. Your prospective school is the primary, if not the only, source of financial assistance. You should indicate your desire to be considered for financial assistance in your application form. As a would-be international student, you are eligible for research assistantships, teaching assistantships, some scholarships, and part-time employment on campus. The grant of research or teaching assistantship in the US typically carries a tuition fee waiver. You are not eligible for student loans; they are restricted to legal US residents. As a part of your studies, the US INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) also grants you a 12-month training (read employment) visa. Since you must maintain a full-time student status, you can use this training visa for summer employment or for employment after your studies.

The offer of research assistantship requires the candidate to work on a specific research project under the guidance of a particular professor. Professors in the US obtain research funding from various government agencies and private sector companies to work on specific research projects. These professors recruit graduate students to conduct their research projects. Although not necessary, you can communicate directly with those professors who are working in your area of interest to explore the possibility of securing a research assistantship. Regardless, the admissions office would do its best on its own to find the assistantship for you.

Schools offer teaching assistantships to graduate students for assisting in the lab work, grading homework, and for tutoring. For a fixed sum of money per term as a teaching assistantship, you would be expected to carry out the assigned tasks.

A limited amount of money is available through scholarship; however, many scholarships are restricted to legal residents of the US.

As we mentioned earlier, you can work part-time on campus legally for up to 20 hours per week. This form of employment does not carry the tuition fee waiver. The compensation you would receive from such employment is minuscule compared to the cost of education in the US.

As you can imagine, getting admission is far easier than securing financial assistance. A vast majority of offers to international students are only for admission, and very few are admission with financial assistance. You would have to strike a balance between your desire to attend the most reputable school with you need for financial assistance. Admissions officials work hard to match the most desirable candidates with the financial assistance available. Offering financial assistance is obviously a carrot for attracting good students.

By the way, we are quite aware of the Balanced Scorecard approach. It was developed in the early 1990s by Dr. Robert Kaplan of Harvard Business School, who works with one of the iMahal founders, Dr. Srikant Datar, who is a Senior Associate Dean at the Harvard Business School.

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