Could Financial Aid Stop Me From Transferring to My Dream School?

Dear Thuy,

On behalf of the MBA in Design Strategy faculty I am pleased to offer you admission to the California College of the Arts (CCA) for the term beginning this fall 2012. Your application to the graduate program was selected from a strong pool of applicants. We believe the world of business is changing and that you will add in significant creative and intellectual contribution to it … It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to the CCA community. Congratulations!

This is the admission letter I recently received from the MBA program in Design Strategy at CCA. You might be wondering what happened to my current study at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) and why I decided to apply for a new school.

Actually, I was excited to start my master’s degree at CSUF at the beginning of this school year.

Pieces of my life at CSUF

The program is an accelerated 16 months MBA program, so you get your MBA degree earlier than other 2-year MBA programs.  I have learned a lot of really worthy things from it this year, such as how to improve my networking skills, and it gave me a great chance to explore South America on an international field trip.

But in my two semesters of MBA classes here, I found that the program didn’t quite fulfill my aspirations.  I discovered that I define “business” as a means to an end of more advanced society, rather than as a way to make profits.  I want to learn to apply innovative and creative concepts to create a new business model that will promote positive innovations for communities, and the MBA program at CSUF focuses on the practicalities of running a business for income.

So, I started thinking about transferring to a program that would be better suited to my dreams.

Making the decision to change

While looking into other MBA programs that would be more focused on non-profit management, and considering switching altogether and pursuing an art program instead, I came across information about CCA’s MBA Design Strategy program.

It was amazing – from the first thing I read about their program, I knew it was for me. As I started to look more into the application of design thinking and strategies in business, I realized that I had already been applying these concepts in my professional life without understanding that that was what I was doing. I’ve always been interested in beauty and aesthetics, and I think that bringing together a traditional business mind-set and the lens of design can open a new horizon.

Video by CCA student showing off the campus:

The program also has a unique curriculum that includes design studio courses, which would get me closer to my passion for art. It is indeed an awesome moment when you find the thing you love to do.

Even though I knew it meant that I would probably have to start over completely, I decided to apply for the MBA program at CCA.

The application process

My current mentor as CSUF was very understanding when I shared my aspiration to transfer to a new, more suitable school, and he gave me a lot of advice.  He also wrote me a recommendation letter for my application.

Thanks to my mentor’s suggestion, I also contacted CCA’s graduate admissions office to find out whether I can transfer some of my credits from CSUF to the new school or not, and found out I can transfer two credits of business courses.

I had to submit a full application for CCA, with a statement of purpose, portfolio, resume, recommendation letters and other required documents.  I didn’t have much time to prepare for it, because I was taking my MBA classes at CSUF and preparing for my international field trip, but just in time, one day before the deadline, I completed and submitted my application.

And that’s why I am here, overwhelmingly happy to have the CCA’s admission offer and cherish that a part of my dream is coming to reality.

However, it is not an easy decision to switch gears. The amount of money I estimate I will need to pursue this two year MBA program is $100,000 (that’s U.S. dollars). How can I finance my study if I decide to enroll in CCA?

Money becomes a problem

My family is not rich, so the cost of $100,000 is really a burden. My parents have funded the money for my study at CSUF, and their financial capabilities can only help me to finish that program, which I am already halfway through.  If I change to CCA, I am worried about using up the money my parents have saved their whole life to take care of their children and their living when they are retired.

As an international student, I am not eligible for federal financial aid like American students would be, and my application was not competitive enough to be awarded a merit-based scholarship from the school.

There are also severe restrictions about where and how much I can work to earn money towards paying that tuition. Work-study on campus is the only means I can use to earn money, but at a maximum of 20 hours and a small salary, it is truly an insignificant aid for me in affording that huge amount.

The tough road for international students

It’s made me realize for the first time how tough it is for most international students to afford the high cost of studying and living in America.  If we choose to finance our own studies here, the dream of studying in American can only be realistic for rich people.

Despite the fact that there are immigration concerns driving the strict policies towards international student employment, I wish there could be a more flexible policy to help those of us who are in real need of supporting our studies.

America is praised as a land of freedom and equal opportunities, where people all over the world come here with nothing or with only a penny in their pocket to realize their dreams, but I wonder if that is true for international students who cannot get the same opportunities as American students to finance their education.

My future

After I got their admission letter, I sent CCA an email to explain my financial difficulty and seek assistance from the school. At present, I am anxiously waiting for CCA’s response on any kind of financial aid they could offer. Hopefully I will get good news, at least a job offer on campus, and work out my enrollment in their MBA program.

If I don’t get anything from them, I will still try to go to CCA with a small amount financial support from my parent in the first year. But to be honest, I may have to give up CCA and continue at CSUF if this makes my parent worried too much.

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed for CCA!  If the financial problem is solved, I will continue the progress to re-issue my I-20 and transfer two credits of business courses from CSUF to CCA. Meanwhile, I am still searching for other sources of finance to study at my dream school. If you have any good advice or recommendation to solve my problem, I would appreciate that very much!