As my earlier posts would give you an idea (assuming you follow my posts! 😛 ) about my GRE and TOEFL experiences. The next on the list definitely had to be the application procedure. As an international student, the application procedure is even more complex than the usual. A lot of hidden costs, tiresome procedures await you. These are things I have discovered down the lane and don’t want it to come as a shock to the rest of you.
Lets begin with the application package. Your application package would consist of your Gradesheets, 3 Recommendation Letters, SoP (Statement of purpose), Financial Document (For most US universities), GRE score and your TOEFL score.Lets look at each of them closely.
First in the list are your Gradesheets or Transcripts. These have to be ORIGINAL copies issued by the controller of examinations of the university. Attested photocopies are NOT considered to be valid.
Coming to the Letters of Recommendation or LoR. You will need three LoR’s from your college professors or someone working in the industry whom you have worked with as in done an internship with or something similar. While asking your professor ensure it is soemone who has taught you so that he knows more about you as it will be weighed more than a LoR issued by a faculty who has not taught you or guided you for any of your projects. Another thing you can keep in mind is that it is preferable to ask professors with a doctorate. Again it is NOT mandatory but surely will be an added advantage. Also, you need to get each copy signed and sealed in an envelope. (Again no photocopies!)
The next document is your Financial document. This is the one document that did not fall in place for me this year so I guess I will have to wait another year to apply. Anyway about the financial document, this has to be a letter from the bank stating that you (or your sponsor) have certain amount of “READILY AVAILABLE FUNDS” for your education. The amount will cover your first years tuition fee and living expenses. Most of us think that property &/or salary slips would suffice but sadly that is not how it works. There are FEW universities in US which do not require the Financial document at the application time.
As for GRE and TOEFL, ets.org is what you should be looking up. You can book your exam dates and everything through that site. It is more like the bible for GRE and TOEFL! Regarding the preparation and GRE experience here is a link. For TOEFL experience and exam details click here.
Next is your statement of purpose. This might seem like a cake walk but you actually realize that this is one of the most time consuming processes. To come up with the final draft you need to come up with atleast 10-15 versions of it! And sometimes in the process of writing one you realize how little you know about yourself! Funny as it may seem but some questions like ‘Tell me about yourself’ or ‘whats your motivation to study’ etc become extremely tough to answer. The challenge is to make your SoP unique. There are a lot of samples available on the internet. I would suggest you DONT read any of them before you do your SoP. Just get some guidelines. I think this link can be of some help. After you have come up with a draft probably you can read some other SoPs and compare and rethink. But make it a point to NOT copy paste any lines as that may lead to a direct rejection. I dont think my SoP is all that great but in sometime I shall surely upload it IF that can be of help to anyone.
So now we are done with the details of the application package. Next thing we need to deal with is the shortlisting of universities. For those of you who do not have much of an idea regarding the good universities or how to come up with your wishlist, you can begin by using some ranking sites like usnews.com for reference. But do not follow these rankings blindly! Go through the universities homepage, department homepage find out about the GRE score required and the financial document details. I would suggest you maintain an excel containing these details (something I forgot to do and was in great trouble! ). This is again a time consuming procedure. You should come up with a list of universities to which you should send your GRE score depending on your score. For those of you who are not aware that as soon as your GRE exam ends you have to enter the college details of FOUR colleges to which your scores can be sent free of cost. So depending on your performance you need to enter your choice of universities. Have around 6 (minimum) universities in different score ranges. The choice has to be wise. Do NOT go for all ambitious universities. 2 in the high range, 2 medium and 2 sure shot universities. To come up with the final list a lot of effort needs to go in.
Application to US universities is not only time intensive but also cost intensive. When the process begins you will not realize that the cost of applying to say 6 universities approximately comes around 1Lakh Indian rupees. This is an approximate amount and is on the upper side but includes your GRE , TOEFL registration fee, score card fee, university application fee (varies from one univ to another), your courier service charges and also other miscellaneous expenses like issuing of the consolidated gradesheets, coaching (if any),etc.
So you need to think real hard before you make any decisions. Apart from the monetary aspect do consider your reasons to study further. Doing an MS because your friends are doing it is definitely not a good enough reason.
Next assuming you have prepared all the documents. You need to visit the webpage of each of the universities you wish to apply to. There will be an online application form that you will need to fill.For Fall the deadlines for international students start from december mid. Make sure you start the online application also well in advance as you will need to grant your recommender s ample time to submit the recommendation electronically also. After your application is complete you need to pay the application fee and send in the hard copy of your documents to the university. Within 2-3 months you will hear from the university. Cross your fingers and hope for the best! 🙂
If you have any questions you can feel free to ask. I’ll try and answer to the best of my knowledge! And I am hoping this post is helpful to you guys!
FINALLY I am done with my GRE! What a relief! It has been a journey filled with tension, frustration and anxiety but now when I look back it seems amusing!
Three months of cramming words learning roots, similar words and a little bit of history here and there. Initially I used to despise the idea of mugging up words but a while later it was different. But it is not only the effort that goes in that makes it harder but also the tension of how my scores would be that would make the situation worse. Anxiety is a killer and I realized it very well this time. There would be times when I would be desperate to remember words and I knew it but just couldn’t get it! Thats the time you feel all your effort is down the drain as you can’t recollect when you need to. Thankfully I had a friend who had already been through the same process and helped me out through out!
Slowly but surely I was feeling better about it and FINALLY on the eve of D Day I had to travel for 5hours to get to my test center and No tickets available! Got really jittery and was just thinking of the horrible start I had to the GRE trip! Finally I had to travel in an unreserved compartment which meant standing for hours together in an extreeemeellyyy crowded train! Hmpf! Anyway to compensate for this disaster I ate good food as it always makes me feel better and brings a smile in every situation and this was no different…
Anyway the moment I entered the test center, my passport felt more like my alter ego. I had to keep it with me even when i went to the restroom! 😛 Anyway after I entered I had to sign a confidentiality statement and wait till we were called in to our alloted seats after having our photograph taken in a webcam (which as usual was BAD! ).
I was shaking when I walked in. As i entered there was a loooong weird tutorial containing the instructions for the exam. Though I had read it a million times before I did not have the courage to just dismiss it. I read half of it patiently and then got reeaaally bored and dismissed it.
Okay, now my test begins with the writing section. I think having the writing section in the beginning is a great way to relieve your tension as it not only helps you to just relax but also prepares you mentally for what awaits you.
Writing section I think is one of the sections we can sail through as you just need to think critically and be sure about your writing. Well like they say Analyse, Construct ideas and thoughts, Organize and Pay attention to your language. This is it!
After a 10min break it was time to get back to the REALL stuff! Thankfully I got the quantitative section first. I was gained my confidence after doing the math part of it and before I realized it was over. Managing your time for GRE quantitative is not an issue at all. It matters mainly for the most dreaded section which ofcourse is the VERBAL.
After another 60second break I started with verbal. The 2 pattern of questions I was scared about were Reading Comprehension (RC) and Antonyms. To my surprise all the Antonyms were cake walk but RC was awful! Having 3 RC’s itself is bad and 2 of them were more than 140lines! I knew the instant I saw the second RC that I was running out of time and so I chose options that looked “NICE” for the questions related to the second RC. The third thankfully was relatively shorter in length. Many times your actions defy logic in there. Logic says if you do not know the answer dont take a blind guess but eliminate a few options and guess wisely but what you do in there is a different story all together.
Some how was done with the test and it the next question was if I wanted to cancel the scores. Why on earth would I do that??? I cant go through the whole process again and decided to “View Scores” and I was relieved to see that the real score was much better than that I obtained in the Diagnostic Tests. And more than that I was glad that it was OVER…
The last step was choosing the universities based on which state it was in. Then it was THE END of the GRE episode in my life… And I sure was glad it is done! All in the quest of graduation!
For those of you who are yet to take up your GRE, you shouldn’t make the mistakes I made which are:
taking wild guess on certain questions
thinking your LIFE depends on this exam and stressing out yourself
Also that your scores depend a LOT on luck as it is a computer ADAPTIVE test (Assuming you know the difference between a CAT and a computer based test). So keep your cool and hope for the best!
When I was working on this post I realized a friend also has a similar post here is a link to it.