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!
After I wrote the previous post I thought I should also publish one having about my TOEFL experience for those who will be taking up their TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language). Well, I think for those of you who can speak english it should be a cake-walk! This test is aimed to test all four parts of a language which are namely reading, writing, speaking and listening.
On the day of the test, make sure you carry your identity proof. Here in India, ONLY passport is considered as a valid ID proof. So do NOT forget to carry it.
As soon as you enter your examination center, you will be required to read, write and sign a confidentiality statement. Once that is done you will have to keep all your belongings including your pen, pencils etc in a locker. After which you will have your photograph taken by a webcam. Probably I wouldn’t recognize myself in that photograph! It came out THAT bad!!! After being handed a few sheets and 2 pencils I was directed to my seat.
My test center wasn’t the best of places. The seating was just not comfortable and too congested. After an attempt to settle down the reading section began and I before I could realize it was done. But yes, I did find I had to make a conscious effort towards managing my time as the passages were very lengthy.
After that came the listening section. Most people think it is very difficult to follow the American accent. I realized it wasn’t true at least when it came to the test as the speed of their speech was moderate and thus easily understandable. But I think for this section it is very important we take notes especially when listening to a lecture on art, psychology, literature etc of which we have no prior knowledge. I remember using 5sides of paper for this section.
Anyway after this there was a break. Walked around a little and was back for the speaking section. This is the one section you should NOT be nervous else you might stammer and stutter which obviously is killer for the speaking section! There are 6 questions in this section. Anyway, easy stuff I am sure everyone can sail through this.
The last section was writing. Just 2 questions and more than enough time even for those who do not have great typing speed. One of the questions is to express your views on a topic while the other is write about a topic after reading a paragraph on it and also listening to a lecture. All of this is easy and I am sure that no one would find this exam challenging IF you consider your english skills average. This cannot be compared with the GRE test which is a nightmare! 😛
Your score’s will be available after 2 weeks and when they say two weeks they mean EXACTLY 2weeks!
For those who will be taking the test I would suggest you go through the sample questions, here is a link to it. Also, try speaking and recording your responses to judge yourself before you go in for the test.