What EDGE taught me on living the American dream…

Blogpost for the series GradNe-X-t

This post mainly focuses on students who intend to study abroad. I understand there comes a lot of pros and cons with it and it needs some experience and research to understand the process. Hence, this post will be a tad extensive, so pardon me for being verbose. Also, this is just from my experience, so please consider doing your own research as well.

Let me answer some of the typical questions that usually I come across –

1. What is the cut-off to get an admit in a “good” university in the US?

Ans- There is specific “Good” university. Every school is good in their own way. You need to figure out what you want to study and then find out how good is that university in your research field. There is no such cut-off in general except for very few universities.

2. How do I prepare to get good score in Quants/Verbal etc?

Ans- Try mock tests. It helps more than just remembering words (atleast for verbal).

3. What are the important attributes which I need in my profile to ensure admits from good universities?

Ans- No specific attribute is necessitated by anyone.

4. What coaching institutes would be helpful?

Ans- Honestly, particularly none. If you know what to study and are smart enough to prepare a study plan, you don’t have to spend hefty amounts on any counseling.

5. Which ones are the really good universities based on “My” profile?

Ans- No one can answer this. Each university is deemed to accept/reject student profiles without proper reasoning. One needs a thorough research about each such university to understand the trend of admits.

6. What are these OPT/CPT/Work permit things?

Ans- Do not stress yourself with these. There would be ample time to work on these things once you start your studies.

7. How is the job scenario in the US? By taking such courses, can I be ensured a job after my graduation?

Ans- No one guarantees a job here. No specific course will give you a job. America has huge variety of industries and you need to specifically talk to people who are in those industries where you want to work in.

8. I would rather apply for PhD because I do no have to pay for my tuition. Is that a good plan?

Ans- Definitely a big NO. PhD is not a free pass to the US. Do not apply for PhD unless you are absolutely sure and you are “willing” to carry intensive research work.

Many a times this question might have occurred to you, what next? I can barely can get back to studies and I certainly am not happy with my remuneration. This is a very genuine thing which everyone goes through at some point of time and it is perfectly ok to freak out a little.

From my experience, and looking at current trend of college tuitions with respect to US jobs, I think it is easy to figure out if you want to push yourself to study abroad on asking these simple questions to yourself —

a) Is financing a big problem to you? Either funding out of your own pocket or have some arrangements to apply for Educational loans?

b) Can you invest 1.5-2 years of your life to serious studies? If yes, do you have rough idea about your research interest?

If your answer is YES to all of them, you should definitely start applying.

Money has and always been problem to most of the students. Fees and other expenses widely varies on location, university stature etc. Usually top notch universities are really expensive but that doesn’t mean that relatively inexpensive schools aren’t that good. Costs go up and down majorly based on the location of the school and the reputation (IVY league etc.) Schools which are in industry district/cities are usually expensive, but it comes with the nice factor of higher internship/full time job opportunities. You are more likely to get an interview call if you are in California like states rather Louisiana or Florida type states (if the profile stays similar). So, you need to weigh your expenses with respect to opportunities. Here is a rough estimate of the initial costs from writing the exams through finishing off application process.

(Most of these processes are online now, except for the exam, which you have to visit an authorized ETS center)

Write GRE/GMAT/TOEFL examination ($350-$400 for GRE-TOEFL etc combinations).

Receive your test scores. Report/Send (online mostly) these test scores to the universities you intend to apply (Usually about $30 towards each university).

Form the Application Packets with several documents viz. Statement-of-Purpose (SOP), Letters of Recommendation(LOR), Resume(optional), latest degree Transcripts (Usually several 100 bucks INR each from universities in INDIA) etc.

Each university has different requirement for application packet, so, check on the University’s Graduate studies (dept.) website.

Pay the application fee (about $40-$100 each university).

Book appointment for US F1 student visa fee (F1 student visa fee $160) and pay the SEVIS fee ($200).

Sums up to ~$1300 if you consider applying to 5 universities. Do the unitary if you intend to apply less or more. Once you figure out your interest looking at this figure, you can proceed further.

Research Area Selection – Usually, with my own experience and talking to my peers, I understood that major proportion of students have no clear idea of their about their “Research Interest”. Now, this becomes important and non-trivial because this drives your subsequent selection of universities(schools), and courses and eventually jobs.

University Selection – is usually the second major step towards the masters application. This can go with the preparation of GRE/GMAT/TOEFL etc competitive examinations. Most of these exams require you to nominate 4-5 universities that you intend to apply. The caveat is, your exams scores are reported to these nominated universities free of cost (thus saving $30 on each university). Remember, this list usually appears at the end of your exam screen, just after your achieve score range is flashed on screen after the exam. So, clever way to go about it would be 2 tentative list of universities, one for the good score and one for a bad score you see on screen after the exam. Do some combinations of selection based on your achieved score rang. Due diligence is of utmost importance here.

Sorting out your finances – It goes without saying that pursuing a degree abroad is really expensive and you need to figure out the finances properly. Talk to your parents or relatives and/or banks about how can you manage big funds. The fee structures for a year before are usually shown in university department websites.

Course selection – You are certainly not expected to plan out every single course before you start your masters. Sometimes, your selections are too heavy to complete, sometimes they do not cater to market needs (only if you want a career in industry) and sometimes, they are important but you need to drop it cleverly and yet study it out of mainstream course. Better approach is to talk to industry experienced people and get their suggestions. Suggestions are usually filtered and coloured based on their own’s experience. You need to gather all their inputs and crossect it with your area of interest. Never take a course which you do not have any interest but it is somewhat needed in the industry.

Life in the US – This is the beginning of your student life in the US. Get over the cultural shock as soon as possible because this keeps haunting you time and again and affects your academics majorly. It may sound easy to tackle but really it is not. It is perfectly ok to feel homesick and your mind keeps pushing you to go back. Hold tight and engage in some useful activities. Work on projects, talk with positive and likeminded people.

Internship hunting – You get a decent GPA and you have fairly good list of project/lab experience in half way in your Grad work. Now would be the time to apply for internships. Itself it is a huge topic and I might come up with a separate post on this. Bottomline, it takes about 2 semesters for you to start applying to internship in your area of students, which means pursuing a graduate degree in engineering will not allow you to work at McDonald’s (officially 😉 ). You need to find and work in your area of research.

Full time job hunt – The sort of final goal in finding a perfect full time job for you which matches your area of research and which highly interests you. This would also be a separate topic of discussion which needs a new thread.

If I talk about the EDGE connection, I learnt to make something out of nothing with just sheer hard and team work. There is a famous quote which goes like this, “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people no smarter than you”. You do not have to be born genius, but you have to be smart enough to figure out what you want to do. Everything else will fall into places.

In a nutshell, coming from an relatively smaller undergraduate university and dreaming about top notch universities abroad, working in world’s biggest organizations making something which influences human lives and essentially living the American dream is absolutely worth trying for. All you need is to dream big, put down your head and work on it. Nothing else matters.

P.S. I really thank all my (within and outside) EDGE peers and seniors who helped through my application process and I owe every bit of whatever level of success I managed to achieve to them all 🙂

Some of the very important links (You would probably only need these for your application) –

GRE Registration

TOEFL iBT Registration

F1 Visa application Process


I found this link most useful and trustworthy –

US News Grad School Rankings

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