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Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of the most common questions asked in regards to the Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) program.

What is the difference between the MSA program and the MAS program?

The MSA program is a one-year professional program in Accountancy for those students who did not receive a U.S. bachelor’s degree in Accounting.  The MAS program is designed for students that have a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from an AACSB accredited U.S. Institution.  

Why can’t I choose the term of enrollment on the application?

The MSA program accepts applications from November 1st – March 1st  (February 1st deadline for international applicants requiring a visa). You will be able to select the summer term when our applications are open.

Why can’t I apply for the fall semester?

Our program begins in June of each year. Many of our courses must be taken in sequence and are semester specific. All admitted students will start in the summer term.

Why does the MSA program start in June?

There are basically two key reasons why the MSA program starts so early.  First, by starting to take accounting classes during the summer, our students can become eligible to take the US CPA exam in the spring semester.  We structure our MSA program to ensure that those students who want to take the US CPA exam can do so either while they are still in school, before they start working in the US or before they are required to return to their home country.  If we started our program in the fall semester, it would be difficult to structure our program to allow students to start taking these exams during the spring or before they would start working.

Second, for accounting majors, the primary US recruiting takes place early the fall semester at all major US universities. This is when most, if not all, US jobs are filled.  In addition, US recruiters focus almost all of their time assessing students’ soft skills.  Thus, by starting in the summer, our MSA students can begin to focus on improving the soft skills they will need to compete for any job openings.  The US job market is very competitive.  That is why, at Illinois, we devote considerable attention to the development of our students’ personal and professional soft skills.  The summer semester gives us an opportunity to do this before the recruiting process starts.  If our program started in the fall semester, our international students would not have any opportunity to prepare for and develop the soft skills they will need to fairly compete.   Thus, we believe that is a benefit of our MSA program that might go underappreciated. 

Can a student extend the period of the MSA program to 1½ years if they choose?

No. Our MSA program is designed to be a 12-month program. We do not offer extensions of our program beyond 12 months.

In general, how does the admissions committee evaluate an applicant?

We evaluate all aspects of your application.  Each member of the admissions committee brings his or her own perspective and judgment to the process.  Grades and test scores, the GMAT/GRE and the TOEFL or IELTS if required, are perhaps the most important part of the application. However, the committee also looks closely at the personal statement, your letters of reference and your resume. 

What type of student is the MSA program looking for?

We are looking for well-rounded applicants that may have varying amounts of previous accounting coursework and/or experience. We expect you to have done well academically.  We also want to know what other interests you have.  The resume and personal statement is your opportunity to share with us something else about yourself and what your goals are so that we can get to know you better and be able to evaluate you not just on your grades and test scores when we make a decision.  For example, what extracurricular activities are you involved in? Have you done volunteer work, been involved in clubs, student groups, or athletics?  What leadership roles have you held?  What did you learn from the work experiences you completed?

If I apply with a limited accounting background, am I competing for an offer in the MSA program with those students who have more extensive accounting or an undergraduate accounting degree from another university?

Applicants are competing for space in our program with applicants that have a similar background.  For example, an applicant with a limited accounting background is not necessarily competing for a space with an accounting major. That is the case because we purposely reserve room in our program for students with limited accounting backgrounds. Remember, however, that we do admit students that are accounting majors as well as students that will have a degree in something other than accounting. Any student that meets the prerequisite requirements is eligible to apply. 

Can the GMAT/GRE test requirement be waived for a student who has sufficient work experience prior to applying for the MSA program?

We do not waive the GMAT or GRE test for any student who applies to our program.

How will I know if my application is complete?

There is an application checklist provided when you fill out the application. If your application is incomplete you will be notified by e-mail. The committee will not review an incomplete file.

When will applicants be notified of admissions decision?

Admission is very competitive. The committee tries to make decisions as quickly as possible so applicants can make plans regarding their future graduate study.  We review applications on a rolling basis.  The timing of any decision is based on the quantity and quality of applications we receive.  Also we will not start our application review process until all application information we request has been received by us in good form.  So make sure you get us all of the information as quickly as you can so that the admissions clock for your application can get started.

Can an applicant submit required information (e.g. GMAT/GRE or TOEFL test scores) after the application deadline of Feb 1 (International applicants)/March 1?

At a minimum, we require that you apply to the MSA program via the on-line application system before the Feb 1/March 1 deadline.  Any information that we request as part of the application process that is received after the Feb 1/March 1 deadline will still be reviewed by the admissions committee, as long as we still have space available in the program.  An application file is considered incomplete until all required information is received by us.  We will not initiate a review of an incomplete file.  As we make admissions decisions on a rolling basis, it is very important that you get us all of the information we need as soon as possible.

If I am admitted but cannot attend, can I defer my admission?

The MSA program does not defer admission. If you were offered admission and cannot attend we can re-code your application for 1 year. You would go into the following year’s applicant pool. Please note that there is no guarantee of another offer of admission.

Common Questions for International Students

What are the job prospects for international students?

Our international students consistently seek job opportunities either in the U.S., in their home country, or in both places at the same time.  Based on information that our students have provided us, job placement on a combined basis (i.e. globally, including the U.S.) is very high.  When just considering employment in the U.S., job placement for international students who require a H1-B visa is still very challenging.  Why is this?

To work in the U.S., an international student must obtain a H1-B visa from the U.S. Government. The number of available H1-B visas that can be granted in any year has been capped at 85,000 since 2004.  Since 2004, the number of H1-B visa applications has exceeded this cap.  For example, for the two most recent years, there were almost three times as many applications as the cap.  Thus, two out of every 3 international employees could not get a H1-B visa and had to return to their home country.

Because of the likelihood that many H1-B visa applications will not be selected, U.S. employers are trying to balance the desire to diversify their workforce with the risk that losing key international employees could be disruptive to their business.  As a result, many U.S. employers are reducing the number of U.S. employment opportunities they are willing to offer international students.   In other words, this cap on H1-B visas and U.S. employers’ reactions to this are limiting the total number of job opportunities available in the U.S. for international students.  This is true regardless of where you go to school or what program you choose to pursue.

Now the good news: there will be U.S. job opportunities available for international students.  But they will be very competitive.  If you have a strong desire to work in the U.S. it is very important that you are well prepared to compete.  Recruiters focus most of their efforts on evaluating a student’s “soft skills,” including your English speaking proficiency.  Those international students who have good language and conversational skills, have a variety of work and leadership experiences, and can exhibit a confident, enthusiastic and engaging personality are generally the strongest candidates.  These soft skills can be learned and developed.

So if you really want to work in the U.S., it will be very important that you choose a graduate accounting program that is committed to developing these soft skills for you – where it is as much a priority as making sure you pursue academic excellence.  That is why the Illinois MSA program is the right choice for you.  Our Student Experience is geared to help you develop your personal and professional soft skills.  Since our MSA program starts in June, we leverage this summer term to help you get ready for the competitive fall recruiting process. With our leading Business Career Services office, we work with you year-round as you pursue various U.S. job prospects. 

Can I request a waiver of the English proficiency requirement?

Yes, we will waive this requirement if you meet any of the exemption criteria outlined by our Graduate College.

Can the English Placement Test be waived for an international student who has a TOEFL score less than 103 or an IELTS score less than 7.5?

No.  See the minimum requirements on the Graduate College website.

Can I submit my certification of finances after receiving an offer of admission?

Yes. Funding documents are no longer required with your application for admission. However, in order for your I-20 to be issued, we will need appropriate funding documents to be submitted but that can happen after admission to the program.

How do I convert my university’s grading scale to a 4.0 grading scale.

When listing your GPA on the application you may use your university’s scale. Our committee will do any required conversions.

Can I receive financial aid?

The MSA program cannot offer financial aid to international students. You should be prepared to verify and fully fund the cost of the program.

What is the best advice for international students who want to apply to the MSA program?

The best advice we can give you is to continue to study hard and exercise a strong work ethic. You should also become involved in extracurricular activities to help expand your interests and horizons.  Finally, and this is very important for whichever university you decide to go to, “Do not neglect practicing your communication skills after you have taken the TOEFL or IELTS.”  By continually practicing your English and communication skills, you will be able to more easily adapt to your new environment both inside and outside of the classroom.  No matter which university you decide to attend, you will be presented with numerous opportunities for growth and personal experiences. The important part is that you are ready and willing to embrace those opportunities as they become available.

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