Q3: Prior Undergraduate Degree and Further Study

November 26, 2007



There is no reason you are limited by your undergraduate degree. Degree in English is perfectly fine to pursue graduate school. Furthermore, your professional background working in radio broadcasting sure helps your resume in the admission/application.

As for choice of school, it is probably the best to look under School of Journalism. Some websites, such as usnews.com, give you a list of top schools in the field of journalism. I would suggest you to look in their websites and see if broadcasting is one of their strength. For example: Medill (Northwestern University) offers concentration in Videography and Broadcasting.

Wikipedia lists more details info on J-school: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_school, you can find a list of top schools in the article. “Schools such as New York University, University of Texas, Ohio University, Indiana University, Columbia University, University of Maryland, University of Kansas, University of Missouri, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Syracuse University, University of Minnesota, University of Florida, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Wisconsin-Madison are typically considered among the best in the United States based upon the success of those who attended these institutions.”

Comment: watch out, J-school is expensive and competitive.


Q2: Schools, financial aid and OPT

November 26, 2007


To answer your question:
– OPT is offered regardless of which school you go to (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optional_Practical_Training). It is usually for one year, given you fulfill the requirements for OPT (such as finding employment for that period). Any decent school will help the students for employment, but none can really promise employment.
– The school you mentioned offers financial aid, but be aware of what it means. Financial aid is different than full scholarship with stipend, in some cases it can mean as basic as 10% off from tuition. Therefore, you still need to come up with your own resources. The best way to find out is to write to the school, and ask the statistics, such as the amount of students receiving financial aids, and the amount/value of the aid.
– Putting the OPT aside (offered independent of school), financial aid is only one item you need to consider when choosing for school. You will spend 1-2 years of your life studying, so the choice of school is critical. Basic rule, go to the best school you can afford (intellectually/your potential). You can check if the school is rated among the top schools in many magazines/rating agencies.

Teaching Assistantship

May 7, 2007

A graduate teaching assistant (GTA) is a student employed on a temporary basis, typically over the academic years, by a department or university in undergraduate teaching-related responsibilities. These responsibilities may include grading homework/exams, leading discussion related to specific subjects, holding office hours and leading laboratory activities. A TA who is fluent in English may also be asked to teach his/her own classes. Typically teaching assistantship is awarded by the department based on the recommendation of professor, and is widely available for competition in science-related departments. Departments such as mathematics & statistics and physics are examples of field that employ substantial number of GTA to cater the need for undergraduate instruction. GTAs generally receive fixed stipend that are determined by the university or department. In many highly ranked universities, the TA appointment also carries the benefit of tuition waiver (for the graduate student) and health insurance. The specificity of benefits offered by each university can be found in the website of each university.

Q1: Application Package

May 3, 2007

Q1: Most of the university website that I visited post obsolete information of post-graduate application (application that has passed the deadline). How am I supposed to prepare for my application?

A1: It is common that the deadline for Fall semester/quarter (starting in September) is mid January, or earlier is some cases. So for admission in Fall 2008 (September 2008), you need to get everything in by December 2007, and preferably 1-2 months earlier. Only limited schools/departments offer admission for Spring semester/quarter, see here for details.

Registration for Fall will be for much later. It will not be closed up until December this year. Therefore, it is probably very unlikely for you to send in the registration in May or June. Sending in in September or November should be early enough to get you some advantages, if there is one. Don’t worry, just wait for a few months and you are set. Alternatively, you can write an email to the schools, there will send you all the applications forms.

Studying & Living Expenses in Germany

April 29, 2007

How much will you spend if you study in Germany?

We can categorize the cost into 2: Studying Expenses and Living Expenses.

Studying Expenses

Previously, the higher education in Germany was free of charge. You just needed to pay a little amount for Student Union, Administration stuffs, etc. It was around € 50 a semester. But nowadays, the German government has already started to charge the university fee. The fee and the admission system are different from each state (Germany is a federal country and education is a state matter).  But there is still a state, which doesn’t charge a fee for its higher education: Berlin. But this will change in short time.

Roughly, you must prepare for around € 500 – 1000 pro semester for your university fee.

Living Expenses

Living expenses are very dependent on your life style, which city you stay and which university you are enrolled. For rough estimation, following expenses must be taken into consideration:

  • Insurance (compulsory): € 55 monthly
  • Living Place: € 200 – 300 monthly
  • Transportation: € 50 monthly or € 150 for semester ticket
  • Meal: € 150 monthly
  • Phone, internet and other communication: € 50 monthly
  • Entertainment: € 50 monthly

So basically, you must consider to spend around € 500 -600 every month.

For living place, there are many options. The first and more good one is if you can stay in university dormitory (Studentenwohnheim), because normally the fee is also subsidized by the government. But the places are limited. Other option is staying in apartment, which costs you more. Another option is living in apartment-sharing community (Wohngemeinschaft), where you share a big apartment together with some people and of course the expenses are also shared.

For Transportation expenses, some universities offer semester ticket, which normally paid every semester and is included in semester admission fee. With this semester ticket, your transportation cost is much less. If you stay in a small city, riding a bicycle can be an option.

Meal: The university normally has canteen (Mensa). The meal offered in Mensa is favourable price, compared having lunch in a restaurant or Imbiss (kind of snack bar). Another option is: cooking by your self.

Phone & internet: Fix phone and cellular phone are optional for your communication means. But I think, at least you must have one of them in order to communicate with other. There are many providers in Germany for this telecommunication matter. You must compare the price very carefully. And don’t forget to see the contract agreement, because normally it lasts for at least 2 years. And for student, there is also a promotional price. For internet, in some student dormitory this is already included. And in university area the internet connection is also widely available. If you take an internet connection for your own apartment, normally they offer it together in bundle with the phone connection.

Entertainment: This stuff is really based on your life style. Cinema, shopping, club etc mostly offer special price for students. Please open your eyes widely for such possibilities.

Basic Information about Education System in Germany

April 26, 2007

The education in Germany has a different system compared to US or other anglo-saxon system.
Basically, there are 2 types of higher education:

– University (Universitaet, Hochschule)

– University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule, which is similar to College).

In University, the graduation level is finished by getting Diplom of XXX or Magistar Art (MA) after 5-6 years of study. Having this degree on your hand, you can continue to Doctoral level, which normally lasts 5 years.

If you graduated from Fachhochschule after 4-5 years, you will get Diplom of XXX (FH). And you are mostly preferred to enter the job directly. To continue to Doctoral level with this degree, a special procedure is needed.

There are special system for Medical and Education Study (This will be discussed later).

Through internationalization, the higher education institutions in Germany is now trying to implement the Bachelor-Master-Doctor Level. This is necessary in order to comply with education system in other countries. But the shifting to this system is still in progress.

Research Area (Opportunity)

April 26, 2007

A research assistant, receiving what is referred as RA (research assistantship), is required to perform research in the area where the funding is granted. Typically professors, in science and engineering departments, write research proposals competing for funding from government agencies and industries. Well-known professors in established research universities in general do not face surmountable challenge to get research grants. These grants provide funding for research assistants – tuition and stipend – along with other overheads and the professor’s supplement.

When pursuing higher degree by research, it is important to choose carefully what area of research you wish to be involved. The reason being is that qualification demonstrated through accomplishment in doctoral (master’s) thesis may be important in finding job after graduation. So, what can one do to learn more about the research interest of professors? With the availability of Internet at the tip of your fingers, one can simply visit the website of the department of interest and learn more the research programs of each faculty member. Typically a faculty member may focus their research in more than one field, however, they may be fall within the same general buckets. For instance, the field of mechanical behaviors of glasses and ceramics cover a broad range of research topics from creep deformation, visco-elastic modeling, lifetime prediction and etc.

Prospective students are expected to indicate within their application packet what the research area of interest. And obviously any supporting evidence demonstrating some experience in the proposed research field would be helpful. Being able to articulate the thought and choosing the right words are important in writing such essay. At the same time, express interest in such area of research and build up a case why you are better candidate to work on such research program than other applicants.

Applicants can also find the information on the current and historical funding of professors at the US universities in www.nsf.gov, by searching the name of individual faculty name. This would provide an idea whether the professor, whose research area is of your interest, might have research grant available for funding graduate student(s).