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How to apply for an USA MBA Programs in Information Technology (IT)

Dasha, our specialist in higher education in the USA, after six years of working in an international IT company, decided to enroll in an MBA program in the USA. She applied to 13 universities, seven of which accepted her. Some even offered scholarships and grants. She tells in this article what difficulties Dasha encountered upon admission and how her studies in the USA are going.

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I was born in Belarus and in 2016 I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics (BSUIR) with a degree in engineer-economist.

In my third year, I was selected for the free Software Testing courses organized by my university. Upon completion of the courses, the best students received paid internships in international IT companies. I was lucky and was hired by Itransition as a software testing specialist.

Six months later, I moved to Gambino Slots, a company that develops gaming products, and worked there for six years. At the beginning I was a software tester, and then became the lead of the development team. I left the company because I entered the USA for an MBA.

How I learned English

I started learning English at school and even took the CT (analogue of the Unified State Exam) when entering university. At the university, I took language classes seriously and got maximum scores, but it was all general knowledge. I could communicate in English while traveling, but very uncertainly.

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When I started working at Gambino Slots, my level of English was below Intermediate. We worked with English-speaking colleagues from Israel, and we had to constantly use English in the workplace. The first time was not easy, there were difficulties in communication, but gradually we learned to understand each other. During my time at the company, I improved my English to Upper-Intermediate.

In 2018, I came across Marina Mogilko’s YouTube channel and was inspired to improve my English. I started watching original films and TV series on Netflix and Ororo – first with subtitles, and then without them. I also read books in English on topics that interested me. I read Michelle Obama’s entire autobiographical book “Becoming” in one sitting—I was so captivated by her story.

Why did you decide to enroll in the USA for an MBA?

In the last years of working at Gambino Slots, I began to think about the next step in my career. Everything worked out for me, but I wanted to develop further. Then I had the idea to enter a foreign university. I understood that education abroad would bring me new challenges and knowledge, and also open up new perspectives.

I didn’t quite understand where to start, what programs would suit me and where to look for them. But I remembered from Marina’s channel that LinguaTrip conducts consultations to assess the chances of admission. I signed up.

During the consultation, I was advised to enroll in the USA for an MBA (Master of Business Administration). The LinguaTrip specialist noted that such programs also exist in IT and that with my background I have a chance not only to enroll, but also to receive 100% funding.

Having made sure that my chances of admission were good, I took a full support service from LinguaTrip when applying to a US university. It includes the selection of a specific university and assistance in paperwork.

The LinguaTrip consultant selected five MBA programs with an IT focus for me, but I decided to play it safe and added eight more programs from other universities that I found myself to this list. As a result, I applied to 13 business schools at the same time.

How was the admission process

I started preparing for admission in the spring of 2018. In total, the entire process took two years, including preparation for the international language exam. I prepared in several stages.

TOEFL Preparation

At the time of admission, my English was at the Upper-Intermediate level. It was necessary to upgrade it to at least Advanced. So I went to a tutor, with whom I prepared for the exam for about three months. As a result, I passed the TOEFL with 95 out of 120 points. The passing score for the exam was different at all universities; on average, I needed to score 90 or higher.

We tell you how to pass the TOEFL with the highest score in our articles “Preparing for the TOEFL: exam structure and tips” and “Typical mistakes in the TOEFL” . 

Preparing for the GMAT

After passing the TOEFL, the most difficult and painful stage began – preparing for the GMAT. I took it for a year and a half, there were four attempts in total: three in Moscow and one in Warsaw, because at that time there was no registration in Moscow.

My first mistake in preparing for the GMAT was entering it with insufficient English level, and the second was using several resources at once to prepare. Plus, at the time of preparing for the exam, I received the position of lead of the development team, and I had many new responsibilities at work, which took all my energy and desire to study in the evenings. All together, this greatly influenced the GMAT score.

I failed the first three attempts: I scored 600–630 points out of 800. The fourth time I got 640 points, after which I decided that I would no longer retake the GMAT and would risk applying to universities with this result. In a good way, I had to score at least 700, but there were universities on my list where the average GMAT was 620.

In my experience, if you are taking the GMAT, the TOEFL score is just for show. The GMAT is also taken by native speakers, so the required level of English is higher than in the TOEFL.

To avoid making Dasha’s mistakes, before taking the exam, read the article “ How to prepare for the GMAT .” You can also sign up for Skype lessons with Mikhail , who has been preparing students for the GMAT, GRE and SAT and LSAT exams for more than 10 years and who himself passed them with a high score.

Collecting documents and filling out an application

For admission, I had to collect a standard package of documents: prepare two letters of recommendation , write a letter of motivation , fill out an application on the website of each university, provide a transcript of the diploma and undergo an interview with the admissions committee. Some universities also required you to write a creative essay , and in some places even two.

Applying for a master’s degree in the USA differs from a bachelor’s degree in that you need to fill out a separate application for each university. And I applied to 13 universities! 

Most of the time was spent writing motivation letters and essays. On average, it took me 3–4 hours to write one letter. I could not send the same work to all universities, because the topics and requirements in each business school were different.

It was easier with letters of recommendation – there was no need to write a new recommendation for each university, you could send the same one. I asked the colleagues I worked with to write the letters, and they volunteered to write the text of the recommendations themselves. This is always a more advantageous option, because you cannot write about yourself as well as they see you from the outside.

Recommendations had to be sent by email to each university separately. The recommender himself had to do this from his email address. I was very lucky with them because they were not intimidated by such a long process.

How to write motivational and recommendation letters, personal references and essays for admission to a foreign college or university, we tell you in our guide “Write – Apply” .

Where did I go?

Of the 13 business schools to which I sent applications, I was accepted into seven. These are the University of Massachusetts Amherst , Boston University , University of Colorado Boulder , Northeastern University , Ohio State University , University of Rochester .University of Rochester ) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison ( University of Wisconsin Madison ).

I chose the University of Wisconsin because their MBA program in Operations and Technology Management is a STEM program . After completing this course, you have permission to work in the United States for three years. And such programs also signal to the employer that the student has completed a course that is aimed at analytics and hard skills (technical skills).

How I received a grant and assistant position

I received good scholarships at five universities, and at the University of Massachusetts I was offered full tuition, living and insurance coverage for the full two years of study (full ride).

Scholarships are awarded based on a student’s outstanding profile in the application, such as leadership achievements or a high GMAT score. In most universities you don’t even have to indicate that you want a scholarship; everyone wants it by default. 🙂 

My MBA program at the University of Wisconsin costs $90,000 (6,668,600 rubles) for two years. I received a grant from the university that covers the cost of tuition for the first year, as well as the position of Teacher Assistant (teaching assistant) for the second year. It automatically covers the cost of the second year of study, plus in addition you are paid a monthly stipend of $1,500 (111,150 rubles).

What needed to be done for this? Receive a high assessment of your application profile from the university. I think that my almost seven years of work experience played a huge role in receiving the scholarship, since I could not boast of a good GMAT – my results were below the average score for 2020 (the average score was 649). I probably also showed myself well in the interview with the admissions committee. It was the tenth one, so I already knew the answers to all the questions by heart and felt confident.

How to get a US visa

I received an F1 student visa in August 2020, when there was only a month left before my studies. At that time, American consulates were just opening after the lockdown, but in Belarus they were still closed. Therefore, I booked places for interviews at the consulates of Poland, Ukraine and Turkey. But everything turned out to be not so simple.

I was unable to get an entry visa to Poland, and the Turkish Embassy canceled my reservation because I do not have Turkish citizenship. I managed to get an interview at the American embassy only in Ukraine.

From the documents I needed: form DS-160, document i20 from the university about enrollment in the program and receiving a grant for study, a fee paid by SEVIS of $350 (25,700 rubles) and a bank statement with an amount that covers the first year of residence in the USA .

I received a visa a couple of days after the interview, but I was not destined to return to Belarus to pack my things. Protests began there, and there was a risk of not being able to fly to the USA in time for the start of school. Therefore, I immediately flew to the USA from Kyiv with only one suitcase from hand luggage.

We talk about pitfalls and life hacks for obtaining an American visa in the articles “ 16 mistakes and reasons for refusal of a US visa ” and “ How to get a US visa – a complete guide .”

Need help obtaining a US visa ? Our visa specialists will assess your chances and help you obtain the coveted document.

How was the move to the USA?

I flew to the USA a week after I started studying, and at first it was difficult for me to study and arrange my life at the same time. I was lucky that there were many international students in my program, and they helped with advice, for example, in which bank to open an account, which SIM card to buy. Apart from the fact that I had almost no belongings with me, my move to the US went well.

It took me a long time to settle in, so I advise you to arrive at least a month before the start of your studies to rent housing, open a bank account, buy a local SIM card, etc. 

How I looked for housing

I live on campus, but not in a dormitory, but alone in an apartment in a separate building near the university. Other international students told me about this option. I agreed because I didn’t have time to look for housing. But I don’t recommend doing this; it’s better to look for housing in advance. The ideal option is to arrive a couple of weeks before school, book a room on Airbnb or stay with friends and walk around the area looking for long-term housing.

I advise applicants to the USA to choose universities that are located not in big cities, but in small towns. Housing there is much more affordable, and the infrastructure on campus is great. For example, at the University of Wisconsin we have a huge sports center that was recently built. There is a swimming pool, gym and various group fitness classes. 

How much money do I spend per month

I live in Madison, Wisconsin. It is a small and inexpensive city. Housing and food per month costs me approximately $1,000 (74,000 rubles), textbooks cost about $200 (14,800 rubles) per semester. The pass is included in the tuition fee, so I travel for free on public transport.

How is studying in the USA?

Due to the pandemic, we have a hybrid class model: half of the classes are online via Zoom, the other half are in person at the university. But you can take all classes online. This is very convenient because you don’t have to go anywhere and you have time to attend several additional events.

Before the pandemic, we studied four days a week from 9:00 to 13:00, then until 17:00 there was time for various student activities and events. Now, during quarantine, we sit at our laptops from 9 am to 9 pm and move from one Zoom conference to another.

Studying in the USA is different in that there is a lot of independent work and you constantly have to take some tests. But this is a plus, because you learn the material right away and you are almost ready for the final exam.

The workload at the university is heavy even for local students whose native language is English. But this is an MBA program, you have to be good at time management by default. Sometimes I don’t manage to do everything: there may be debts in subjects, but the teachers are loyal to this.

My group is very international: many guys are from India, there is a guy from Bulgaria and a girl from Turkmenistan. 

As for the assistant job that the university offered me, this position is only for the upcoming 2021–2022 academic year. It involves working about 13 hours a week. It is necessary to check the work of undergraduate students and give them grades. As I already said, this includes a stipend of $1,500 per month and health insurance.

How I spend free time

Besides my studies, I am involved in many student activities and organizations.

I participate as a speaker in international events, and also organize events at the Tech Product Club. This is a society for students, where speakers from top IT companies talk about their experiences and conduct master classes. We invited a former graduate of our program who works as a Program Manager at Google.

I also work as a Russian language tutor on campus. Our university has a Russian Flagship Program, according to which those who learn Russian and do well in it can additionally study with a tutor.

When I have free time, I walk a lot. During the pandemic, there are not many options for where to go, but when it was warm, my friends and I went hiking in the parks.

Hiking route at Devils Lake

What are my plans after studying?

After studying, I want to take the opportunity to work in the USA for a couple of years to gain work experience. Then, perhaps, I will return to Belarus, but for now I have no clear plans.

The university does not provide any job guarantees, they only provide resources and support throughout the entire period of study. But the results of my MBA graduates give hope: this year, some received offers from Google, Intuit, Amazon, and Facebook.

I would like to get a job in a tech company as a product manager, because I don’t want to change my field of work. But in the modern world, everything changes so quickly, so you never know where you will end up in a couple of years.

Dasha went through all the stages of entering an American university and now helps other students realize their dream of enrolling in the USA. Sign up for a consultation with her to take the first step and radically change your life. Enter promo code DASHAHIGHER to get a $10 discount.

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