US college questions from a Norwegian

I’m currently in the second year of a bachelors degree in engineering here in Norway (that’s next to Sweden). I’m thinking of going to an American college to do my masters degree. So I’m looking for some advice…

Here a bachelors degree is 3 years, and a masters is 2 additional years. From what I’ve gathered, I could go to an American college after those first three years and then do a pre-master and then a master for a total of 2 additional years. Is this correct?

The engineering course I’m taking is called space technology, but focuses heavy on electronics, so I don’t think it’s what’s usually called sapce technology in the US, which I believe is about aeronautics instead. So I’m of course wondering if I should apply for a course in electronics, or if there are other options.

Then there’s the question of which school to go to. I’ve heard about people with worse grades than me getting into MIT. Probably because of some quota or something. I’ll get a scholarship+loan of a little under $20k a year. That’s not very much for an expensive school, and I’m not even sure if it’s worth it. Can foreigners get any financial aid from the school? How does that work?

Ok, a lot of questions there. I’m really just looking for some pointers, as I haven’t actually seriously begun gathering info yet. Thanks in advance.

After a BS you can get an MS in one to two years. An MS from MIT would be very valuable. You may be able to get an assistanship either in Research or Teaching to subsidize your degree. It depends on how good you are. Most graduate students in Engineering do not pay their way in the US.

A what? No, really, what’s a pre-master?

I think it’s like this. A Norwegian bachelor degree is a 3-year degree, and the US one is a 4-year degree. So the pre-master makes up for the extra year before you start your masters degree.

The closest possible thing to a “pre-master” year you’d find in America would be extra classes you might have to take (called “leveling”) depending on the degree requirements for the Master’s program you are in and the courses you have already had.

For example, the program might just require 30 hours plus thesis to earn an M.S., but also requires that the students have completed 9 hours of calculus. If you took those 9 hours as an undergraduate, then there’s no problem; however, if you only completed 6 hours of calculus, then they’d require you to take an additional 3 hours along with the usual requirements for the Master’s degree.

Contact the program you are interested in, let them know what classes you’ve taken as an undergrad (they’ll want to see a transcript eventually), and they’ll tell you what leveling work, if any, will be required.

The thing is, classes don’t correspond to eachother. For example, we have no calculus classes, but instead we have “math 1/2/3”. Maybe I should just explain as well as I can what’s included in those classes.

Bottom line: it’s all up to the department. Especially since leveling work is almost always something determined by the department, rather than the school or University at large, it is highly variable and can seem arbitrary. One department may say, “yeah, whatever, you’ve got a B.S., you’re in!” and another may say, “we’d really like for you to take these undergraduate classes for leveling.” The only way to guess how it’ll go in advance is to contact the departments you’re interested in.

I don’t know anything about Norway in particular, but I deal with issues of international educational equivalency all the time for my job. I second the advice to talk to the particular institution you are considering applying to, preferably both the specific degree program office and the graduate admissions office (or international admissions office, if they have a separate one; some schools do, especially considering that around half the grad student population in engineering and science in the U.S. is foreign-born). They have a great deal of leeway in how they evaluate the equivalency of foreign degree programs.

An example I am familiar with: Russian first university degrees are frequently five-year programs. So although the American undergrad degree typically takes 4 years, plus 2 for a master’s in most fields, the Russian degree is usually evaluated as the equivalent of a U.S. master’s degree, because the coursework is more specialized and more intensive. (There are no liberal arts distribution requirements for, say, a Russian engineering degree, so the Russians end up taking more courses in engineering.) It may also depend on how the Norwegian high school system works; they may decide you started out college on a more solid academic footing, so even having completed a 3-year rather than a 4-year university program, they may consider you on the same academic level as someone with a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. university.

Good luck, and come back if you have more questions!

Eva Luna, U.S. Immigration Paralegal

I’m with EvaLuna. Do a little research on what universities have aeronautic masters programs that you would be interested in attending, and talk to their graduate admissions office about your situation. Chances are, most of your larger US universities are used to dealing with this issue. The school I work at has a very high percentage of foreign graduate students (and from what I understand, a rather good aeronatucis program) and the department will likely know what your courses translate to here, or you may have to provide a (translated) course syllabus for their evaluation. You may have to take an extra class or 2, but the graduate admissions office should be able to let you know where you stand.

Thanks for all the great advice.