The All-Indian Dream: MS

The all Indian Dream: MS in US.

Whether you’re a first yearite considering the idea of an MS abroad, or a third yearite frantically looking for information, this is the right article for you. We at TDB have crowd sourced several questions from BITSians who were interested in an MS abroad and turned to our very own BPHC alumni who’ve gotten into the very top colleges for MS in the US. They’ve gone through the grind and lived to tell the tale. Here is the advice they had to give about doing an MS in the US.

MS VS Placements:

Before we get into the numbers and statistics, we asked our alumni why they chose to apply for MS rather than sit for placements. Essentially, it boiled down to a few major aspects:

  • Job security after an MS increases tremendously. As our alumni Naveen Kodali put it, “Just simple logic. If you can make 26 lakhs after BE, you can do much better after MS for sure.”
  • Interest in a particular field in which one would like to deepen their knowledge and sharpen their skills. As Simran Kapur put it, “I feel that as of now, I lack certain skills that are essential for my dream job. I would like to fill those gaps in my skill set and also dig deeper in the scientific field I am interested in.”
  • Exposure to another country that is more involved in the field you are interested in. As said by Shrivani Pandiya, “In my case the area of research I am interested in is running about ten years behind the US, back in India. I decided for MS in the US as I knew it would give a much better exposure to the nuances of the field and help me direct my interests in the direction I wanted them to go in. I didn’t want to settle for a job I didn’t want to do.”

Putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea. Contrary to popular opinion, you CAN apply for MS AND sit for placements and most of our alumni recommend it as a backup option. The placement season finishes within a month of the start of the semester. So, it’s not very tough to manage placements with applications considering the deadlines are after November and the last semester is relatively free.

GRE Prep

In true BITSian style, most of our alumni started intense prep for the test just around two weeks before the test, and gave the exam in their fourth year. However, they recommend that you finish your GRE by the third year itself. As Simran suggests, “The best time to give it would be the December break of your third year for single degree students and fourth year for dualites. For the preparation, make sure you give the two full-length ETS mock tests which are available online for free. The first one should be given three weeks before your test day and the second a week before. Most people usually get a final score between these two ETS scores.”

Good vocabulary and writing skills are a big plus when it comes to doing well on the GRE. Provided you have the time, these skills can be built by regularly reading novels, the newspaper etc.  

CGPA

Oh that dreaded number. Unfortunately, your CGPA does matter. When we asked our alumni what a ‘safe’ CG would be, they said that having an 8 plus is recommended, although the more, the merrier. Before your hopes and dreams of an MS in US come shattering down, Chirag Garg has a say –  “CGPA again is not the only decision making criteria. Had it been that way, I would have not got an admit ( A sigh of relief?)

What matters more than your CGPA as a whole is the grade you get in the courses relevant to the Masters you wish to pursue. Universities consider two types of CGPA: overall (a little less important) and major CGPA (CGPA from all Maths courses and core courses are a really important factor)”

Trump

Yup, we’ve actually reserved an entire sub-heading for this. It’s important! We received several mixed responses from our alumni. While some of them firmly believe that Trump being president will have an impact on this all Indian dream and that the work permit and F1 Visa rules may change, others believe that there will be absolutely no impact as far as MS in US itself is concerned. Nothing is solid for now, so let’s hope for the best, while expecting the worst.

Selecting colleges  

The most important part in selecting a college is the course that it offers, not just its ranking. As Janani Padmanabhan concisely summarizes it, “Most importantly, you should be sure if the deliverable of the program you choose resonates with your interest and career goals. Other factors to be considered might be financial aid provided, location of the University etc.

Most people shortlist 10 colleges or fewer, with 4 ambitious, 3 moderate and 3 safe universities.

An important point that Shrivani mentioned was not to sell yourself too short while selecting colleges. “I regret not applying to two top universities thinking I wasn’t good enough and for the lack of time. I would just advise you to try and optimize your universities in such a way that you don’t regret not applying to good ones later.”

Research, Projects and building a Profile

Build a profile with good internships, projects and research. That being said, don’t flood your resume with projects that have no relevance to your field of interest. This simply adds ‘fluff’ to your resume and more often than not, admission commissions can see right through it. Try to focus your efforts on projects that you think are genuinely helpful. Embrace internships, projects and research as not only a profile builder, but also the stepping stones to discovering what career field you would be interested in pursuing.

Managing expenses

MS in US is not cheap. Your living expenses can be taking care of by taking up part time jobs, which are very common in the US, but tuition is still very expensive. RA/TA (Research/Teaching Assistant) jobs are options for highly motivated students. Scholarship and funding are dependent on the University you apply to, so keep that in mind while selecting colleges.

There really is no ‘secret formula’ to getting into your dream college. Here’s what Simran Kapur had to say about the same – “You need to figure out what your USP is and highlight that factor the most. It could be your CGPA, your project experiences, a paper you have managed to publish etc.” – and before you go on to google what USP means, it’s Unique Selling Point. I did your work for you, you’re welcome.

But this statement is vital in understanding the entire MS admissions process. The alumni we interviewed were a mixed bag – ranging from students with low CGs, but amazing research publications, to others with average projects, but high CGs. Understand what works for you and work with it.

This article wouldn’t have been possible without the following alumni’s enthusiastic responses:

  • Chirag Garg – Georgia Tech
  • Naveen Kodali -Georgia Tech
  • Simran Kapur – University of Pennsylvania
  • Janani Padmanabhan – Carnegie Mellon
  • Shrivani Pandiya- Carnegie Mellon

– Supriya Subramanian

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