Cynthia Sullivan
Written By - Cynthia Sullivan

Check MarkEdited By Darryl S.

Check MarkReview & Contribution By Erik L. Cato

There are various options for higher education in the U.S., and with vast learning avenues, it can be challenging to navigate which degree is a good fit for you and how to enroll in one. After determining which degree or college you want to apply to, you must evaluate the whole admission process, which could take around 12-18 months on average. Many academic programs can be competitive; therefore, it is a good idea to understand all the finite details of the admission process and get your academic records and other required documents together. According to the new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Education Department data, colleges where Americans get admitted for postsecondary education usually accept most candidates applying to them[1]. Understanding your admission requirement is necessary not just for your admission to the degree but could also determine if you are eligible for financial assistance like grants, scholarships, assistantships, and more. An applicant who has understood the admission process and requirements well and done their research will have a seamless college admission experience, minimizing the mental fatigue one faces during application.

Master’s Program Admission

Table Of Contents

What are the Various Admission Requirements?

When you decide on pursuing a degree, the admission requirements and whether you meet them may be among the first things that come to mind. For most academic degrees, there are various types of that same degree. For example, for a master’s in geology, you can choose a Master of Arts in geology or a master of science in geology. The admission requirements for both differ slightly. Therefore, you will need to scrutinize the various admission requirements of the program and the degree type you intend to pursue to check if you are eligible to apply for such programs. However, there are various standard admission components for most colleges regardless of the degree type you are planning to apply for; some of these include:

Academic Transcripts

All institutions require you to typically submit unofficial and/or official transcripts of all the previous educational qualifications you have acquired. Based on these transcripts, the admissions office may also decide to admit prospective students with an associate’s degree at a reduced GPA requirement.

Standardized Tests

All candidates for whom English is not a native language must submit proof of their English proficiency. Students must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL[2] or International English Language Testing System (IELTS)[3] scores at admission. This requirement could be waived when candidates have completed at least four years of education at a secondary school where they had English as a second language. Other English language tests include Kaplan iBT, Duolingo English Test, Pearson Test of English, and so on. 

Applying students may also submit their  Graduate Record Examination or GRE[4] for graduate programs. Additionally, program-specific standardized tests, like the Graduate Management Admission Test or GMAT[5], are required for entry into business programs.

Statement of Purpose

A Statement of Purpose or SoP is a letter of intent or research statement you write for the admission panel. In it, you inform them about your interests, personal or professional contributions, career paths you want to pursue, and the reason for pursuing the particular degree from your school of interest.


A Résumé or Curriculum Vitae (CV) is often necessary for graduate-level and higher programs. Regardless of whether it is required, submitting a graduate résumé is generally a good idea if you can do so, as it highlights your establishment, making you stand out from other applicants.

Letters of Recommendation

Typically, schools will ask you to provide two or three Letters of Recommendation or LoRs from your previous academic institutions. It involves getting LoRs from teachers you have worked with, who can judge your academic caliber. For graduate or professional degrees, one submits LoRs from a person of authority in a previous workplace, along with academic LoRs.

What are the Admission Requirements for a Master’s Degree?

Getting a master’s degree can be an excellent way to advance your career in your field of study. While some requirements are specific to the program, school, and degree, a few standard master’s degree application requirements can be expected across the board. Here is a list of some standard requirements:

  • Complete, submit, and pay for your master’s application before the deadline.
  • Master’s program requires you to have a previous academic degree, like a bachelor’s in the same field as your master’s or a related discipline.
  • Official transcripts from your previous education institutions are necessary, especially if you want to be considered for transfer credit.
  • Schools typically expect candidates to have a good academic standing with a GPA of 3.0 or more (some institutions accept applicants with lower GPAs as well).
  • Some number of prerequisite courses must be completed before your master’s program, for example, a prerequisite course in English, Math, etc. (if one does not have the necessary prerequisites, they can take them up with their regular curriculum)
  • Some schools may mandate GRE/GMAT scores; however, many colleges are increasingly waiving off this requirement or making it optional.
  • English language proficiency must be demonstrated by international students and those whose native tongue is not English.
  • Most prospective students are required to submit a résumé highlighting their professional experiences.
  • All graduate schools generally require applicants to submit at least two to three Letters of Recommendation, especially from individuals who can verify your professional experience and academic preparedness for the program.
  • Your graduate program may require you to complete an interview in the department from where you will pursue your master’s.

What Should You Do to be Eligible for a Specific Master’s Degree?

After completing your undergraduate or lower degree, you may pursue a master’s degree. The master’s program can help you advance your career by providing in-depth knowledge and expertise in your domain of study.

A prospective master’s student must meet some standard requirements of their degree. There are many common prerequisites, including completing an undergraduate program with a GPA of 2.5 or more. Many schools also require standardized test scores like GRE, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, etc. 

Some master’s degrees have unique requirements that apply specifically to the discipline, such as:

  • Master’s in Accounting: The accounting degree requires you to have a GMAT score, along with completion of prerequisite courses like financial accounting, managerial accounting, principles of federal taxation, and more. 
  • Master’s in Nursing: Most nursing programs in the U.S. require you to have either a Bachelor of Science in nursing or be a registered nurse. The prerequisite courses include English, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. 
  • Master’s in Geology: Geology applicants are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in environmental geology, earth sciences, geology, or other related degrees. They should have completed prior courses, like physics, chemistry, and integral calculus. 

Students can enroll in some programs without typical prerequisites. Examples include:

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA): The MBA is one of the popular programs in the U.S. that requires you to have a GMAT score, although schools can waive this requirement. A minimum of two to three years of work experience makes you a stronger candidate. 
  • Master of Public Health (MPH): Candidates applying for the MPH degree generally need to hold a bachelor’s degree in any discipline with the required GPA. The entry requirements are typically flexible, and a wide range of applicants with diverse backgrounds can enroll in the program.

How to Apply to a Master’s Program in 10 Steps

The process of a college application can be pretty challenging and frustrating, especially for those who do not have family support or are first-generation college goers and do not have any member of the family who can guide them. Students should generally consider researching colleges and programs at least a year or two before starting their application process. A lot of prior preparation needs to be done before you can begin applying to a university. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process more efficiently:

Step 1 – Plan and prepare well in advance. List your interests, like the domain you want to study, the degree that will further your professional goals, the specialization you can consider, etc.

Step 2 – Shortlist the universities offering the degree you want to apply for and review their application requirements. Check if the specialization you wish to pursue is available in the college of your interest and if any prerequisites must be met.

Step 3 – Note the basic details like application deadlines, documentation required for the application process, and funding options.

Step 4 – Fill out the application with your personal information carefully and accurately.

Step 5 – Submit a Personal Statement highlighting your traits and abilities as an individual and the unique strengths that match the program and college. If the requirement is for a Statement of Purpose, highlight why you want to pursue the program and why you chose the college.

Step 6 – Submit all academic transcripts from your undergraduate studies and grades received in class.

Step 7 – Gather Letters of Recommendation from professors who have taught you or employers who have worked with you. Make sure to have a minimum of 2 to 3 Letters of Recommendation, as it is generally required for a master’s program. 

Step 8 – If your program lists prerequisite courses to be completed, check if you meet the requirement or need to take those courses during your master’s.

Step 9 – Have all your standardized scores, like GRE, GMAT, IELTS, TOEFL, etc., ready to be submitted during your application.

Step 10 – Some programs have an entrance exam to check your knowledge of the relevant subject. Find out such program-specific requirements and prepare to meet them in advance.

Applying for a master’s is generally easy with good academic standing. However, having a lower GPA may make it challenging for you among candidates with better scores. Although some schools accept students with lower GPAs, if you want to apply to highly sought-after programs with a low score, here are some tips you can use:

  • You can enroll in graduate-level courses or certifications to add to your résumé.
  • Discuss your low GPA with the admissions committee and help them understand how you have gained skills and abilities in various ways (like extra courses, professional experience, voluntary service, etc.)
  • List all your professional experiences, including non-profit work and other non-academic achievements.
  • Consider retaking the standardized tests mandatorily required for your programs, like the GMAT or GRE.

FAQs on Admission Requirements

What are the essential factors influencing the admission decision?

Most colleges prefer candidates with excellent academic records or proficiency in their chosen field. Generally, the grades received from the previous degree(s), usually a bachelor’s degree, are essential criteria for admission. A GPA of 3.0 or more is typically considered good.

Do I need to meet all the admission criteria prescribed by the college?

How can I check my application status?

What can I do if I forget to submit some documents?

How can I check if the institution has received all my application materials?

What if I have questions about the requirements of a program?