Academic Programs Catalog

Graduate Education

International Student Admission

Michigan State University welcomes applications from international students and is authorized by the U.S. government to issue Forms I-20 and DS-2019 to assist non-immigrants to apply for F and J visas.

A prospective international student should contact the graduate department to which they wish to apply.  We recommend that prospective students obtain application information well enough in advance so that the completed application can be submitted well before the program’s start date.  One official copy of all records of any previous postsecondary schooling (mark sheets, transcripts, diplomas, certificates, etc.) must be submitted as official documents directly from each institution. These records must show courses taken and grades earned, and must be translated into English if the original records are in another language. Translations must be done by the issuing institution, a certified translator in the country of study, or by an American Translator’s Association certified translator in the US.  The original record should be also included.  The chief academic officer of the university has authority to grant waivers of usual entrance requirements upon recommendation of the Dean of the Graduate School.

U.S. immigration regulations require that non-immigrants who intend to study in the United States hold a student visa (F or J) and attend the institution that issued the Form I-20 or DS-2019 they used to obtain their visa.  Michigan State University is required by U.S. government regulations to obtain evidence of a non-immigrant student’s financial ability to meet their educational and living expenses for each year of their proposed study before issuing the Form I-20. Estimated expenses may be found by visiting  Thus, providing written verification of the source and amount of financial support available for at least the first year of study is part of the application process.  This information should be sent to the Office of Admissions. It is common that a teaching or research assistantship serves as the required evidence of financial support. If you are awarded an assistantship, your department will notify the Office of Admissions.

If the student is approved for admission, the university will mail a letter of acceptance and the Form I-20 to the student.  The student will need to present the Form I-20 and evidence of financial support to a U.S. Consular Officer when applying for a student visa and later, to a U.S. immigration inspector at a U.S. port of entry.  If a student must obtain a J Exchange Visitor visa, they should contact their sponsoring agency, or Michigan State University’s Office for International Students and Scholars ( for information about the issuance of a Form DS-2019. 

There can be lengthy delays in the time it takes for the visa application to be approved. We recommend non-immigrant students apply as far in advance as possible for the student visa.  More information about the process to obtain a U.S. student visa can be found at:

A student who currently attends another institution in the U.S. will need to notify the U.S. government of their school transfer.  An international student advisor can provide the information about the procedures to transfer a student’s visa sponsorship from one institution to another.

English Language Proficiency

All international applicants and applicants for graduate programs whose first language is not English must be able to demonstrate their English language proficiency. Those applicants who do not demonstrate English language proficiency must fulfill the requirements stated below as part of the admissions procedure. Graduate students may be admitted on regular status or on provisional status.


Minimum Requirement for Regular Admission

All international applicants and applicants whose first language is not English must be able to be proficient in English as a condition for regular admission to Michigan State University.  Such applicants will be required to demonstrate their proficiency by meeting certain minimum standards on any one of the following tests:

  1. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A total score of 550 with no subscores below 52 (paper version), or 80 with no subscore below 19 (22 for writing section) (Internet-based version) is required.  The official report must be received by the Office of Admissions directly from Educational Testing Service.
  2. Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) (Testing and Certification Division, The English Language Institute, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA). An average score of 83 or higher with no subscores below 80 is required for the main test parts. A MELAB speaking score of at least 3 is also required. The official report must be received by the Office of Admissions directly from the University of Michigan English Language Institute. 
  3. International English Language Testing System (IELTS). A minimum average score of 6.5 is required, with no subscore below 6.0. The official report must be received by the Office of Admissions directly from IELTS. 
  4. Michigan State University English Language Test (English Language Center [ELC], Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 48824–1035, USA). An average score of 80 to 85 with no subscores below 80, or a minimum average score of 85 with no subscores below 78 is required.
  5. Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE A). Minimum overall score of 53; no subscore below 51 for reading, listening, and speaking; no writing subscore below 59. 
  6. Michigan State University Certificate of English Language Proficiency (CELP). Regular admission: score of 65 with no subscore below 15 (17 for writing section). Provisional admission: score of 60.

All of the above tests must have been taken within two years of a student's application.

Minimum Scores for Provisional Admission

International applicants who have acceptable academic credentials may be admitted to Michigan State University on a provisional basis with average TOEFL scores of at least 520 (paper version) or at least 70 (Internet-based version), or an average score of at least 72 on the MELAB, or 6 on the IELTS, or 72 on the Michigan State University English Language Test (MSUELT), or 48 on the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE A).


Provisionally admitted students must take classes at the English Language Center, and restrictions are placed on the number of academic courses that they may take. Any student admitted provisionally because of an English language deficiency must correct that deficiency within one calendar year.


Required English Language Center Attendance

As the language requirement is a University policy, a decision by the English Language Center (ELC) for a student to enroll in its program is binding and is not negotiable by the student. Students who are required to attend ELC classes are obligated to show good class attendance and make an earnest effort to remove the language deficiency as soon as possible. The ELC program must be completed satisfactorily before regular admission status may be granted.


Teaching Assignments

All students whose first language is not English and who are admitted to graduate studies at Michigan State University with teaching assistantships involving recitations, discussions, or laboratory sections will be given the Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit (SPEAK) test by the English Language Center upon arrival on campus. Students may submit a current (within two years) Test of Spoken English (TSE) in lieu of the SPEAK test. Students who do not pass the initial SPEAK test or TSE may not assume teaching responsibilities until they complete English 097, an oral skills course for international teaching assistants, and pass the International Teaching Assistant oral interview or pass a subsequent SPEAK or TSE test. The chairperson of the student's teaching assignment department may request an opportunity for a special review by the International Teaching Assistant Oral Review Board if the student does not pass the initial screening. The Board determines whether the student may be cleared for teaching duties. If the student fails to pass the minimum all–University standard of English proficiency for regular admission status, they may not be assigned to do any classroom teaching,  including laboratory instruction and recitation or discussion sections, without approval of the English Language Center. Units may hold a higher–than–minimum performance criterion if they so choose if the content and/or the teaching models warrant.

See Costs in the General Information, Policies, Procedures and Regulations section and English Language Center in the College of Arts and Letters section of this catalog for additional information.

International Student Accident and Health Insurance

International students are required to have health and accident insurance. Students are required to purchase the Michigan State University Student Accident and Health Insurance Plan unless they have evidence of alternative insurance equal in benefits and provisions to the Michigan State University plan. Fees for the student's insurance are included with the bill for tuition and fees during registration. Waivers to allow purchase of alternative plans must be approved by the Human Resources Office, Human Resources, 1407 South Harrison.