While earning engineering course in the United States can be a best way for international scholars to sharpen their technical and English skills and gain cultural exposure, not everyone has the choice to quit their job or move their family overseas.
For students with restricted mobility, online education will be a more sensible alternative. In 2014, international students made up about 7 percent of the 12,870 students who pursued engineering degrees at the master’s programs ranked by U.S. News.
Admissions at the most prestigious online graduate engineering programs will be ranging, competitive anywhere from 44 percent to 90 percent at the top most schools, U.S. News data show. Like their U.S. peers, international scholars will need to have great grades, stellar references and strong test scores to get into those programs. In some cases, therefore, school officials look at applications from international students through a different lens.
When it comes to international student’s applications, admissions officials say English proficiency is their primary concern. The ability to write well is important in all degree programs, but mainly for online students, who need to give even more time writing than their on-ground counterparts, they say.
Most online engineering schools need international students to have certain scores on exams such as the Test of English as TOEFL or a Foreign Language, for admission. But that is not the only way students should be prepared to show their English, says Dale Harris, executive director of engineering professional education—Lafayette.
Engineering graduate programs that need the GRE tend to put most of their emphasis on quantitative scores, he says. But international students could be wise to also prioritize their writing and verbal scores, even if they do nice on the language tests.
“In our case we do not have cutoff scores or anything like this, but if we’re dealing with a student whose admissibility is marginal, we might take a look at those things,” says Harris. “They are maybe a little more important.”
At University of Bridgeport, where 70% of online engineering students are international, the GRE also plays a big role in the admissions process, says administrator Justin Hume.
“Because of the inconsistency in international education, we put a bit more impact on standardized tests scores,” says Hume, assistant director of international admissions for all courses. “It’s different but it levels the playing field for all kids.”
In addition to having strong English writing skills, international students could also speak the language fluently, experts say. At Purdue, for instance, students are expected to participate in group main projects, so knowledge of English is important key, Harris says.
“With written materials, someone would hire someone to correct their materials,” he says. “But in the verbal interview we get a better understanding of who they are – their ability to interact meaningfully with someone remotely.”
In addition to English proficiency, outsiders should also take how their employment might affect their admissions chances. In some online graduate engineering programs, for instance, international students who are previously working at a well-known company have a distinct advantage.
Students working for big companies have, in a sense, been vetted already by their employers, she says. The arrangement also makes sure students have access to the appropriate technical equipment for the program.
“Students can be in some small town is some country, and if they don’t have the right connectivity, we want to ensure they can be successful,” she says. “Generally those things can be satisfied if the student is working for a corporation.”
Assessing final projects is mainly useful for evaluating students from that region because various students are required to produce work that is of publishable quality before graduating.
Regardless of how students get accepted into online engineering courses, administrators agree that their attendance is in high demand.
“Having an international group is valuable to everyone, because now in the workforce teams are so global,” Harris says.
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