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I am a 31 year old German Bachelor-student in his 5th semester in a University of Applied Sciences, studying in Business Information Systems. The total time for receiving the Bachelor is 7 semesters.

I am starting to search for a good university for my Master (same area of studies) and I was thinking of the big ones like MIT, Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, and Stanford. Having checked on their websites, the costs got my main focus, as they are all quite expensive.

My question here is, whether there are studentships to support the costs. Does anybody know whether my idea of studies in these universities is realistic? How big can I expect my chance given my age, nationality, university in Germany, money situation?

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    Does anybody know whether my idea of studies in these universities is realistic? — No, nobody here knows. Whether studying at the top schools is realistic depends on several factors you don't mention, like your grades, standardized test scores, research/internship experience, and recommendation letters. Talk to the faculty who would write your letters. – JeffE Dec 18 '14 at 6:10
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    A more fundamental question: what benefit are you looking for from a Masters? I don't think this major actually exists at any of the elite US universities, because it is much more of a vocational/applied discipline, while the institutions that you list typically focus on more foundational subjects. – jakebeal Dec 18 '14 at 8:26
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    @user1938107 Actually, no: if you look at which institutions are offering information systems masters, you will notice that places like MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley simply do not offer such programs, because they are more research focused. – jakebeal Dec 18 '14 at 10:52
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    @user1938107 That is effectively a completely different university that happens to share a similar name. A degree from Harvard Extension School is much less valued than a degree from Harvard University. – jakebeal Dec 18 '14 at 11:00
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    @jakebeal it is actually Harvard. Well, a school in Harvard. It's appears to be a part-time Master's Program similar to others offered by big-name schools, focused on career and industry education rather than research education. It's not stealing Harvard's name, or anything, it just has a different goal from most of Harvard's research university background. – Compass Dec 18 '14 at 17:19
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tl;dr. I think it's unrealistic at this stage.

Note that the Masters degree in America is different than in Germany, in the sense that bachelors are typically longer and the Master and PhD are somewhat parallel in something called 'graduate school'. One question that arises is to what purpose do you want a Masters? Are you interested in doing research on the longer haul? Then it's a PhD you need. Are you mainly interested in the prestige?

My advice, if you are interested in doing academic research would be to already find a German university that will accept you in a Masters program (I don't know if it's possible...). You will be better armed to apply for a prestigious American graduate program.

More precisely about your concerns:

my age,

It's fine, people start grad school later than that.

nationality,

Nationality is a non-issue providing you are accepted in a program and have secured funding (see below). If anything it might take a bit longer for visa procedures, certainly not a killer criterion at any rate.

university in Germany,

German institutions are generally highly regarded in America, the problem is not Germany, it's the type of your institution. A German 'university of applied science' (Fachhochschule) delivers vocational degrees. The focus is to give graduates a set of practical skills so that they can enter the workforce directly upon completion of the degree. It does not prepare you to enter a prestigious graduate school, whether in America or anywhere else. When applying, you will be competing with people who are far better prepared than you.

Top American graduate schools give a enormous importance to recommendation letters. It's already hard to find professors at German/Swiss universities who know enough about the American recommendation culture to write something competitive, I suspect few (none?) of the teachers at a Fachhochschule have experience in that matter.

money situation?

You will need funding. For Masters you already realized how much tuition you will have to pay. Many student fund their studies with loans, and in the business schools it's common for employers to pay tuition. Departments sometimes pay tuition.

For PhDs, It's (almost) never the case that graduate students pay tuition out of pocket, that's also a reason why these programs are so competitive. Your potential adviser will have to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay your tuition and stipend. For the reasons listed above, I think you will struggle to find funding, but it's unrelated to your current account balance.

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    It is not true that graduate students never pay tuition out-of-pocket. It is true that PhD students almost never pay out of pocket. But many master's programs charge tuition that is not covered by the university. (Moreover, for a master's degree, it's not the advisor who usually covers the tuition, but the department, if it happens at all.) – aeismail Dec 18 '14 at 15:33
  • @aeismail edited accordingly. In what cases do departments pay tuition? It sounds an institution giving money to itself. – Cape Code Dec 18 '14 at 15:52
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    @Capecode: For example, in mathematics in the US, very little funding for graduate students is provided by the advisor or their grants. Most PhD students receive teaching assistantships which cover tuition and a stipend. A few may get fellowships that provide the same without requiring work. These costs may come out of the department's budget, but you are right that the tuition part is really an internal transfer within the university. – Nate Eldredge Dec 18 '14 at 16:21
  • @CapeCode: It is an internal transfer, but usually that's the way it's handled when there's no advisor to speak of (for instance, master's by coursework programs, and the math programs Nate mentioned). – aeismail Dec 18 '14 at 16:26
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    even universities within DACH countries don't want to admit applied sciences bachelors without them taking integration courses (which often translates in 1 more year), so I don't think he'll be able to trick big name american universities into thinking it's a normal bachelor degree either. They will have never heard of the place too maybe. The fact that americans do one less year of high school and their bachelor is 1 year longer (although it is more interdisciplinary) further increases the gap in theoretical knowledge for someone from a UAS. So the chance of being admitted is very low. – Formagella Dec 18 '14 at 18:25

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