The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Information for International Students


The town of Amherst, where the largest campus of the University of Massachusetts is located, is a small but active and growing community. The town population is 37,819, including students who consider Amherst their town of residence. Amherst is located about 90 miles (145 km) from Boston, 170 miles (270 km) from New York City, and 250 miles (400 km) from Montreal, Canada. The University campus resembles "a city within a town," with a present enrollment of about 28,000, of whom approximately 1,600 are from other countries.

Preliminary Considerations

Coming to the United States

The decision to come to the United States to study is a personal one which will undoubtedly affect your whole life. Accordingly, you must consider the drawbacks as well as the benefits of coming here. It is a heavy investment of time and of finances. You will be away from home for many years and will probably look at your homeland with quite different eyes when you return. The loneliness, hard work, frustration, and occasional anxiety you will face are, of course, shared by American students. The challenge and opportunity will reward you in many ways -when you are ready for them- academically, linguistically, financially, and emotionally. Stop and think a moment; when you know you are ready, you will find a warm welcome here.

English Language Proficiency

In addition to meeting academic and financial requirements, applicants whose native language is not English must prove their ability to speak and understand English by taking a standardized English Language Proficiency Test.  The University of Massachusetts Amherst Graduate School accepts the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic), or the Pearson Test of English (PTE Academic).  Official test scores must be transmitted electronically from the test agency to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Graduate School.  Scores are valid for two years from anticipated date of entrance.

Estimated Expenses at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Many applicants assume that the University of Massachusetts Amherst, because it is a public state institution, costs little to attend. This is not the case. Tuition is lower for residents of Massachusetts (U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents), but international and other non-resident students are subject to a higher tuition rate. In general, life in the United States has become expensive, complicated by recent U.S. Immigration Service decisions which make summer and part-time work away from campus unlikely for international students.  You may, accordingly, have to show adequacy of funds not only for the nine-month academic year, but for the entire twelve-month year when you make application for the appropriate visa at a U.S. consulate.

Refer to the Estimate of Expenses for a specific estimate of academic year expenses. This estimate does not include such items as travel expenses to and from Amherst, winter clothing, or furniture and appliances not provided by housing facilities (residence halls rooms are furnished with bed, bureau, and desk; most apartments provide only a stove and refrigerator).

  • Mandatory student health protection is required by the University; family coverage is available for an additional cost.  Remember that there is no national health program in the United States and that medical costs are extremely high. Students accompanied by dependents should plan for the additional cost to meet their basic expenses, including medical coverage.

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Graduate Programs

The Dean of the Graduate School in collaboration with the Graduate Council, exercises overall review and supervision of graduate programs conducted in all of the several schools and colleges and provides guidance in the development of new programs of research and study. Graduate programs are developed in accordance with the highest national professional standards within the respective fields. Inquiries concerning specific programs of study and the possibility of research or teaching assistantships should be directed to the desired program of study.

Required Materials for Admission to the University

A non-refundable $80 application fee must be submitted with the application. This fee can be paid by credit card (MasterCard or VISA only) or paid by check drawn on a U.S. bank made payable to the University of Massachusetts. AN APPLICATION IS NOT CONSIDERED UNTIL THE APPLICATION FEE IS RECEIVED.

Applicants may be considered for admission to master's or doctoral degree programs if they have attained the baccalaureate degree at an American college or university, or possess an equivalent degree. "Equivalent" means four years of university undergraduate work, preceded by at least 12 years of elementary and secondary school studies. Most international four-year degrees are recognized as being equivalent; however, the three-year Indian Bachelor of Arts, Sciences and Commerce degrees and other three-year Asian degrees are not considered equivalent.

The deadline for receipt of the Graduate School Application form for September entrance varies from December 1 to April 1, depending on desired program of study, and October 1 for those wishing to enroll in January. Refer to the desired program of study for detail, as some programs have an earlier deadline or do not admit applicants for the spring semester. Applications will not be fully considered until all required documentation (including TOEFL or IELTS) has been received. An applicant who delays may find that the respective academic department's annual admissions allocation has been filled before his or her application is completely processed. Get your application, credentials, and score reports in early!

Only the Dean of the Graduate School has authority to admit or deny admission to graduate applicants. Statements about admission, either expressed or implied (verbally or written) from any other source are not final or binding on the University of Massachusetts and will not be honored without approval from the Dean of the Graduate School. When admissibility has been determined, you will receive a formal letter from the Graduate Dean and information from the International Programs Office about the process to receive your visa documents.  A master's degree program can take up to three years to complete while a doctoral program can take six years, especially in scientific fields.

  Applicants from international countries who apply for admission must submit the following materials to the Graduate School:

  • A completed Application Form, including the following materials: personal statement, resume, and an unofficial transcript from each college/university attended.
  • A $80 application fee. This fee cannot be waived or deferred.
  • One official transcript from all colleges/universities attended, undergraduate and graduate, where (nine) 9 or more credits were taken are required. If they are not mailed directly from the college/university, they should be enclosed in sealed envelopes signed by the college/university.  If the official transcripts and/or degree certificate(s) are not in English, notarized English language translations in duplicate must accompany them. Do not list colleges/universities where (eight) 8 or fewer credits were taken.
  • Letters of recommendation (academic references) from two (2) professors or instructors who have taught you in courses in the field you are applying to here. After submission of the electronic application, we will send an email to each referee giving them instructions on how to electronically deliver the recommendation to the Graduate School. All recommendations are considered non-confidential unless the applicant waives his/her right of access. 
  • Scores from the following standard examinations:
    • GRE (Graduate Record Examination)-General Test required by many graduate programs - (refer to Degrees and Programs Offered)
    • GRE SUBJECT TEST (not a universal requirement-refer to the Programs page for those programs requiring a Subject Test)
    • GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test)-for graduate applicants to programs in the Isenberg School of Management
    • English Language Test: Either TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), or IELTS Academic (International English Language Testing System), or PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English)

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The Graduate Record Examination General Test (GRE)

The Graduate Record Examination General Test is administered by the Educational Testing Service in most countries of the world. The GRE is the standardized examination used by the majority of colleges and universities in the United States to evaluate graduate applicants. There is no minimum passing score at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, but results are used, together with transcripts and letters of recommendation, to help the Graduate School and the respective departments in their evaluations. You can usually take the General Test and one Subject Test on the same day; each Test will take three to four hours.
  However, subject tests are only offered on certain dates throughout the year, so plan ahead.

University Funding

The University does not award student funding of any kind unless this is explicitly stated in writing by the graduate department to which the applicant has applied. Assistance in the form of a teaching or research assistantship is becoming increasingly limited. Tuition scholarships and fellowships are few and are not usually awarded during the first year of attendance, before the student has an academic performance record at the University itself. All applicants should plan on being self-financed, without recourse to part-time employment at the University, at least through the first academic year, unless they have specifically been offered some form of assistance by the department.

 Recommendations from the student's academic program play an important part in determining who will be awarded these waivers of tuition, and competition for the tuition scholarships is great. Those incoming graduate students who have not received any other type of financial assistance and who are interested in applying for a tuition waiver should contact their department directly. Applicants should be aware that the competition for new student tuition waivers is intense. Very few waivers are granted to new students and the few that are granted, are based only on departmental recommendations.

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Graduate Assistantships and Fellowships

Graduate Assistantships

The University offers a number of teaching and research assistantships in the instructional and research programs of various departments. Stipends vary greatly. International applicants who are awarded assistantships, and who have no supplemental means of support, must make sure that the assistantship is adequate to meet their minimum financial needs, refer to Estimate of Expenses.  Assistantships are awarded for a maximum of one academic year at a time. A graduate assistantship is not a scholarship, and a full assistantship requires a work contribution by the student averaging 20 hours per week, and Federal and State income taxes will be withheld from earnings.

Research Assistantships

A number of research assistantships, with no teaching duties, are available to qualified graduate students in various departments. Funds are provided by either private industry, the U.S. Government (especially in agriculture, engineering, and the sciences), or by the University itself.

Teaching Assistantships

Many departments offer teaching assistantships to qualified, enrolled graduate students. International applicants are eligible for these assistantships. Since teaching assistantships involve instruction, all incoming students who have been awarded a teaching assistantship and whose native language is not English must demonstrate oral English proficiency, either by passing the Test of Spoken English administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) before their arrival on campus at their own expense or by passing the SPEAK test upon arrival at no cost to the student. In order to pass the TSE or SPEAK test, students must score 50 or above.

University Fellowships

These Fellowships are awarded to graduate students on a very competitive basis and are intended to help superior students pursue graduate study without a work requirement and obtain a degree in the minimum possible time. They are normally awarded only after a graduate student has completed two semesters at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A University Fellowship is for only one year. A tuition waiver accompanies a University Fellowship, and no service is required.

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Obtaining a Visa

International students admitted to any American university need a "Certificate of Eligibility," issued by the admitting institution, indicating that they have been accepted as full-time degree-seeking students, that they have the required proficiency in the English language, and that there is sufficient financial support for their education. The University of Massachusetts Amherst will normally provide the international applicant with either the I-20 or DS-2019 form to enable him/her to apply for a visa with which to enter the United States. The University of Massachusetts Amherst cannot issue the 1-20 to part-time or online programs. Visa documents will not be issued until the applicant has accepted the University's offer of admission and has satisfied International Programs Office requirements for document issuance.

Travel Considerations

Amherst, the town where the University is located, is about 90 miles (145 km) from Boston and 170 miles (270 km) from New York City. The closest major airport is Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut, and while few flights go directly to Bradley from abroad, it is possible to get connecting flights from other major U.S. airports. (Bradley Airport is about 50 miles (80 km) from Amherst and does offer bus service to the University. Bus service is also available from New York and Boston.)


Limited graduate housing is available in Cashin Hall of the Sylvan Residential Area, the University's only graduate student housing for single students. Married students can apply for housing in the University-owned apartments, but there is much competition for this type of housing, and it is not always possible to obtain one of these apartments. There is no special consideration given to international students who apply for any type of university housing. All students have equal opportunity for housing, and housing assignments are made based on the date of application. In addition to University-owned housing, there are many privately owned apartment complexes in Amherst and the surrounding area. Many students choose this type of housing which, while sometimes more expensive than University housing, offers many facilities not found in campus accommodations.

Health Care and Insurance 

All students who register at the University of Massachusetts Amherst must pay a basic health fee as part of their registration fees, entitling them to access low-cost service at the University Health Services. For eligible graduate students with assistantships this fee is waived. In addition, the University of Massachusetts requires that all students maintain adequate hospitalization/major medical insurance coverage. This requirement is usually met by enrollment in the University's Student Health Benefit Plan (SHBP).  Complete medical coverage costs for a family plan are available and is strongly recommended as there is no national health program in this country.  Visit the University Health Services website for more information and up-to-date costs.


F-1/J-1 students are allowed to work on-campus. However, immigration regulations concerning off-campus employment are strict and require authorization from the International Programs Office (IPO). For specific questions regarding any type of employment, refer to IPO's website or speak to an IPO representative.

Extracurricular and Community Affairs 

Many cultural, recreational, and social activities are offered by student societies and other groups of the Five College community. The International Students Association organizes a number of activities which are helpful and enjoyable to international students. In addition, there is an active Hospitality Program which introduces interested students to local families and may be the start of many friendships. There are also special cultural and language programs for spouses of students.

Climate, Clothing, and Sports

Autumn is cool and sometimes rainy, but it is a beautiful season of colorful foliage. Overcoat weather begins in October or November, and snow usually remains on the ground through March. Overcoats, boots, and rainwear are essential. Spring is warm but unpredictable, with occasional rain, and the months of July and August are often uncomfortably hot and humid. Outdoor sports include bicycling, hiking, cross-country and downhill skiing, tennis, and swimming in nearby ponds or on-campus indoor pools.

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