Planning to pursue higher studies in USA often gets complicated as one doesn’t know on what basis he/she should select a university. Selection of a university depends on the following factors:
Friends and Classmates
Tuition fees and cost of staying
Location (Small town or a big city)
Acceptance rate of International students
Of these the most important factor is COURSE/STREAM. Your future is decided by the course you opt for. Ask your seniors who have been there in the previous Fall and tell them about your course.
Result: You will get an ideal list of universities as they themselves must have surveyed a lot.
Alternative: Another fool proof but major time consuming method is to browse through the websites of Universities and learn about them.
To how many universities should I apply?
You can apply to as many universities as you wish, with only one factor restricting you, MONEY! Yes, the cost is pretty heavy on your pocket. On an average one application costs your around $100. Sure you want to know what costs so much. The split is as follows:
Online application form: $60 approx.
Reporting your GRE score through ETS: $23 (official scores are compulsory)
Reporting your TOEFL score through ETS: $17 (official scores are compulsory)
Generally, students apply to 8-10 universities with 4 ambitious, 3 moderate and 2 safes (Huh?!? What’s this??)
Ambitious: An ambitious university means the acceptance rate is low and the best profile gets in.
Moderate: A moderate university means the acceptance rate is medium and the chances of making to these universities are above average.
Safe: By now you would have understood what does safe mean. Yes, it means the acceptance rate is pretty high and the chances of getting through are very high (though it is never 100%)
Caution: Don’t apply to all safe universities so that you get more admits. There’s no point of getting an accept from all the safe ones. Getting at least one admit from an ambitious university should be the target. One admit from an ambitiouswins overmany admits from safes.
What is the ideal time to apply?
This is by far the most common question you would hear from a student applying for MS. Ideally, the application process should begin by November first week. Generally, engineers apply during this time as after a month they have to go through the university exams which is stressful. In other words, all the documents required for the application should be ready by the start of November.
As soon as you have shortlisted your universities, start filling the online application forms. Generally, the deadlines are around mid December , though some have in January, and some have arolling admission process.Earlier you apply better it is, as many universities have two deadlines-general deadline and Financial aid deadline which is usually 1stweek of December. In short, if you are applying for Fall 2011, then you should start applying in November 2010.
Note: You get a financial aid only if you apply to a respective university before its ‘financial aid deadline’. Secondly, you are eligible for an F-aid if your scores, academic marks and achievements are marvellous.
Is applying early to a university an advantage? Answer ismostlyNO. Good universities review the applications after the deadline. That doesn’t mean you should delay your admission process. Few of the good universities start evaluating the applications as and when they receive it. This is known as ‘Rolling Admission’.Example: University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). The advantages of an early application are that if you satisfy the criteria of the University you will get a admit at the earliest irrespective of other applicants.
How to apply?
First and foremost, you need a credit card. You are going to pay a hefty amount (around 50,000/- INR) for applying to the universities (8-10) so you can’t keep knocking on your relatives or friends doors for a credit card.
Go to the particular university’s website and see the tab forprospective students or apply now.See to it that you select the graduate section as there will be a lot of data on the website which will be general for both undergrad and grad students.
The forms are generally quite long extending upto 7-8 pages and you are bound to get bored and restless. But, make sure you are careful while filling the form and use the autosave facility available in all application forms.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Start filling the form even if your SOP isn’t ready (usually it’s not ready). Enter your recommender’s email address as early as possible. The university will send an email to them and they will complete the rest of the procedure.
Note: Recommender’s are EXTREMELY SLOW. You have to keep on reminding them frequently.
Preparation of Packets?
Packet (in application terms) is a set of documents enclosed in an envelope which is to be mailed physically to a university. A packet generally consists of the following:
Cover letter: It’s a letter which contains list of documents you’re sending inside the packet to the university. It consists of your application ID No. along with address of the college. The letter is directed to the admissions committee or the Graduate Admission office.
Official transcripts: This is the most important document inside the packet. It’s the official copy of your marks issued by your undergrad college and junior college (if required).
Resume: Usually the resume is uploaded when you fill the application form but if there is no provision for it, then get a resume print out and send it along.
Attested mark sheets: You have to get attested photocopies of your mark sheets of all attended semesters. The universities prefer that you get it attested by the Principal or the Registrar of the college.