One of the few things that students applying to study MS, MBA or PhD in America have to be aware of are the offices that handle the admission decisions and how the process flow happens between these offices during admission process. I will try to explain what these offices are how it works. It is very important for you to know this for inquiring about your admission or scholarship decisions.
What is Graduate School in US Schools ?
Graduate school typically is the office that handles admissions of any graduate level degrees, which are any MS, MBA or PhD. The Graduate school is the office from which you get the admission letter. They are responsible for putting your application packet together and then forwarding to the Academic department and sometimes Scholarship office too. If you are a domestic student applying to MS or MBA, then you would send all your application material to Graduate school. But, it depends for international students. Sometimes this office accepts application materials for international students, but for some cases they just do not and work with international student office. Bottom line, Graduate school is the one that makes sure your application is complete with all the requirements like transcripts, fee payment, SOP, GRE, TOEFL scores and other requirements. Application materials are typically stored in this office until the application is complete. Once your application is complete then they forward to the academic department. Some schools do it a little different where the application material is sent to academic department directly, but either case Graduate school tracks everything and they are the ultimate ones who sends you the decision of admission.
Academic departments in US Schools :
Academic department is where your application is actually evaluated and admission is recommended. Typically, each academic department is designated under a school. For instance, Electronics & Comm., Physics, Chemistry will be under School of Science and Engineering. The academic department has admissions committee and they evaluate the applications and recommend admissions. They will be evaluated by a team and decisions sometimes are typically taken by the committee. Academic departments main job is to make sure the student has enough skills for admission, they look at your GRE, TOEFL and Academics and decide. The admission department also recommends funding decisions too for TA, RA and GA positions. Once the decisions are made, the admission decisions are sent to the graduate school and the graduate school informs the student about admission. Depending on the school, in some schools, the academic department directly tells the student about the admission. But irrespective, the graduate school will be notified and you will get a letter from them.
International students office in US Universities :
This office takes care of all the international students’ admissions. Some schools have separate branch in their admissions itself to handle the international admissions, but most of the schools have international students office which handles all the admissions and other stuff related to international students. Some schools ask international applicants to send the application materials to International students office directly, this office then sends to graduate school and then to Academic department. International students office is responsible for issuing I20s to international students once the admission is confirmed. They are also responsible for evaluating any transcripts of international students. They also take care of International students Travel requirements, Handle OPT, CPT for international students..Anything that is related to international students is handled by this office. Sometime the name of the office might be a little different like, “ Center for International Students or International Students affairs office, etc”. The point is, you will have to check with this office for any I20 related stuff, immigration related issues, visa related stuff, travel related issues, etc.
Application packet and information flow between offices
I tried to put in the interactions in the form of a picture. Two way arrow indicates interactions among those two entities. The key idea behind this is for you to know the how the process works, so that you contact the right office when you get a particular response from some office. If you know where your application is currently residing, you can take steps to expedite the process or get things done. As always, every school in US is different and they may have different process that might vary slightly. Personally, I have studied in almost four universities and I do know other few schools where my friends study too and they follow this standard process.