From Dreams To Reality: Studying Abroad (Part-2)

From Dreams To Reality: Studying Abroad (Part-2)

NIT Rourkela being the bivouac for many talented and hardworking minds across the country has been a brooding ground for the achievers who aim for higher education across the globe to enhance their skill set and contribute to the world. 

MS admits, and PhD offers in the best universities of the world among the brightest students across the globe have always been a prestigious achievement. Getting admission in the preferred field of specialization is a dream for many, which only a few high achievers can accomplish. From acing exams like GRE and IELTS/TOEFL to cracking interviews along with a good project work has always been an arduous task. Still, with the onset of various research programs, the students of NIT Rourkela never fail to grasp such opportunities to pursue higher education at prestigious Universities. 

Continuing the saga of achievers from the previous article "From Dreams To Reality: Studying Abroad (Part-1)", hop on to know more about the achievers:

SAUMYA AGARWAL (UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, URBANA-CHAMPAIGN)

Saumya Agarwal, a graduate from the Department of Food Process Engineering, is ready to pursue her Masters from the reputed University Of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Below is an excerpt from the interview.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

I (Saumya Agarwal) was a curious sophomore who kept on asking all sorts of questions from my close seniors about career opportunities. I always liked the topics of my core subjects, but I knew that there are not many career prospects in my field in India at B.Tech level. In my second year, I got an opportunity to become a co-author of my first book chapter in Springer publications, and that is how I got introduced to scientific and research articles. I found myself genuinely interested in reading them, which gave me the motivation to pursue higher studies. Thanks to Dr Preetam Sarkar, my guide for providing me with such opportunities and constantly encouraging me in my undergraduate years, which ultimately paved the path for fulfilling my higher studies ambition. My elder brother, who is currently pursuing a PhD, has always been my inspiration, and I somehow feel that his presence in academia sparked off my initial interest in research.

There is no single place where you can find all the information, and unlike other career options, there is no single exam that can help you succeed. One critical aspect of MS is profile building. You can't do that in a single day or a few months. Therefore, the sooner you decide that you are interested in doing MS, the better it will be. That's a simultaneous process; you can only know that you can pursue a career in research if you start doing some.

Accurate information can be gathered when you go through the university websites, their procedure, and their eligibility criteria. There are many blogs and vlogs that are very helpful in introducing the necessary know-how of everything related to MS and its application. I used to find the detailed YouTube videos of Parth Vijayvergiya (Purdue grad student) very informative

My seniors, especially Tejaswini Karra and Shubham Panigrahi, were of constant support and guidance for me. I also used to read the MM interviews of seniors who secured MS admits in my second-third year to gain more valuable insights.

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

The application procedure depends on the country one chooses. The deadlines of US universities are around December-mid January, while those of Singapore is a month earlier in October-November. However, the deadlines of Canadian universities are mostly later than January. The main difference between US and Canada applications is that Canadian universities require you first to reach your prospective supervisors and then officially apply on the portal.

In the case of US universities, usually, the applications are first shortlisted by the admission committee, but the process can vary from university to university. It is always best to mail the professors of your interest in a university beforehand to confirm if, after admission, there is a vacancy in their lab for RA/TA. They won't always be fully affirmative. But if the professor is particular that his lab is full for that academic year, then you can cut off that university from your list because even if you get admitted, you won't be able to work under your professor of interest. This little trick sometimes works when one is very confused while deciding where to apply. In most cases, the professor replies that he is not very sure, and you should contact him for the prospective position of a Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant after you join that university.

The main criteria for selection in the order of importance, in my opinion, are:

  • CGPA
  • Profile (Publications, Research projects, and Research internships)
  • Statement of Purpose(SOP)
  • Letters of Recommendation(LORs)

My timeline for Fall 2020 admission was:

Shortlisting: Started in December 2018

GRE preparation start: July first week 2019

GRE: September first week

TOEFL preparation start: October first week

TOEFL: October second week

First university application: October last week

Last university application: January last week

Start writing the rough structure of your SOP and keep revising them every time for a new application. Contact your seniors if they are available for checking your SOP. The paragraphs should be well connected. Just be the real you and link your projects with what you want to pursue there. Sometimes you can mention the name of the professor and reason for your interest in your SOP, but that is optional. Similarly, for LORs, apply before the deadline so that your recommenders will have enough time to submit LOR.

Book the exam slots in advance to get the date and time, according to you. Note that ETS takes a few working days to release the scorecard. TOEFL and IELTS are equally acceptable language tests, but if you are focusing for the US, then TOEFL is suggested. Also, some universities outside the US require you to send the hardcopy of application and sealed grade card, which again takes a week or two to get posted. The main issue which I faced was managing the deadlines and shortlisting the universities. Sealed transcripts, if required, can be issued from the Registrar office. Everything should be arranged in advance.

Going through the websites of universities, their application process, their minimum GRE/TOEFL score requirements, and, most importantly, going through the research interests of faculties requires patience. Few rankings which one can refer to for some help are QS Ranking, Times Ranking, and Shanghai Rankings. In general, if you are applying to 10 universities, then 2-3 (ambitious), 3-4 (moderate), and 2-3 in the safe category would work fine.

I had initially planned to apply to Canada too, but before I  could, I got an admit from a US university. NUS was in my ambitious category, but when I got an admit from there, I eventually decided to go with the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Primarily because I was getting a full tuition fee waiver and additional funding, secondly, a US degree can be considered a gateway to enter in job markets of other countries too. I also had Cornell University and ETH Zurich in my ambitious list, but unfortunately, I couldn't get through them.

PREPARATION STRATEGY

GRE: I bought Magoosh subscription for GRE in which practice tests were included.

Quant is easy for students from an engineering background.

Verbal Reasoning requires lots of additional practice, which I did from the Manhattan 5lb book. This section requires you to learn at least 1000 words, which can be done through Magoosh Flashcards (free on the internet). Learn a new deck of words from those Flashcards and keep revising the previous ones. And this is a continuous exercise that is to be performed until the GRE date.

Analytical writing is easy. Observe the format of the two essays and don't skip to practice writing them while giving the full practice tests.

I would suggest giving around 15-20 fully timed practice tests before actual GRE.

I completed reviewing the syllabus around a month before the date. After that, I tried to give practice tests daily, which takes around 4 hours of sitting time. And the remaining time was spent in learning and revising the vocabulary words.

TOEFL: I followed free online videos of NoteFull to understand the type of questions in each section. Some practice questions were included in the Listening and Speaking sections for which I used to record my audio and then check where I am going wrong. ETS provides some sample questions for more practice.

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING A GOOD CV

A good CV should have at least one publication in the submitted or accepted stage. It can also be a poster or an oral presentation at an international conference in your field. Your CV should exhibit some strong research background along with good academics. Without a proper research project, one won't be able to link his past research experience with what he wants to do in his SOP. And neither can one get an idea of what their research interest is. So basically, some past research experience is crucial in converting your application into an admit.

FUTURE PLANS AND MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS 

I will be pursuing an MS in Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at UIUC. My area of research would be microbial food safety, which also includes the development of biosensors for quick microbial detection.

It has been a period of uncertainty, and we realized that things don't go as planned. On a professional forefront, my master's experience and the economy will help me decide if I would prefer to stay in academia or shift to the industry-related profession. On the personal forefront, I aim to have my days productive, where I develop certain skillset every day because that's what that matters in the end.

Keep your goals clear. I would suggest that if you have invested your time and money in applying abroad, give it preference, and don't waste your time sitting for the recruitment process of random companies. The entire application process is tedious, so trust yourself and don't waste your time in creating a backup for you. Don't try to aim for different things at the same time, hoping that at least something will work out. Be patient. It might be possible that your friends are already placed, and you feel dejected that you don't have anything in your hand. In those moments, keep reminding yourself that you have chosen a different life for yourself.

RISHABH BAJAJ (UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO, CANADA)

Rishabh Bajaj, a graduate from the Department of Civil Engineering, marked his way into the University of Waterloo for a 5-year PhD program. Given below is an excerpt from the interview.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

Initially, I (Rishabh Bajaj) was confused about whether to go for an industrial sight job as a Civil Engineer or take up research or a PhD ahead. After my 2nd year, I went for the SPARK program in IIT Roorkee to check if research is my cup of tea. If it's not, I won't be wasting much of my time and opt for an industrial one in the pre-final year. I went to the University of Victoria for a research internship through MITACS under Dr Rishi Gupta. After that, it was apparent for me to choose research ahead.

Students need to look out for Universities in their field, go through the profiles of professors, read a couple of abstracts, and then find out the work they are interested in. 

The best way to go is to look up for the area of interest, search profiles of professors, and then eventually lookup for the Universities.

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

Honestly speaking, English is the only requirement for most of the University of Canada. I would say keep your scores ready by mid-September. In these tests, you don't need to score high, just passing is well-appreciated!

Students need to find professors and maintain a database, after that draft emails for each of them and make sure they don't draft the exact email to everyone with fake details. Start sending emails, including CV, Cover Letter, and the reason behind your research objectives by October.

The actual application procedure starts when you get a positive response, which is usually before December or February. The entire application procedure takes around 2-3 months, which includes getting references and approvals from the NITR administration.

Between TOEFL and IELTS, I chose IELTS and appeared for it while being an intern in Canada. So, before my final year, I had my IELTS score ready! I had some positive responses by November end, and luckily I got a response from the University of Waterloo by mid-January, as the deadline was January thirty-first.

You may find it as an obstacle or hurdle while presenting your profile to someone whom you never met before. So, sort it out what to mention in your CV and put your best foot forward.

Since I had experience as an intern at the University of Victoria, it was in my bucket list along with the University of British Columbia and the University of Waterloo. This was based on the replies I received, although one can apply without getting a response. If you are applying for a research-based Masters, the supervisor matters more than the university. So, try to contact various existing students through any platform and ask them about the first-hand experience in the lab with the supervisor.

PREPARATION STRATEGY

I didn't give GRE because I was clear in my mind that I want to apply to Canada itself. Most of the department of Engineering doesn't require a GRE score, but only the language score in Canada. So, go for the admission requirements of your department before making any future decisions. IELTS consists of 4 sections, namely- Reading, writing, speaking, and listening. For the listening part, a student needs to listen to a recording and fill the sheet simultaneously. Candidates need to find out their lacuna and work on their weak pieces.

Study materials can be easily downloaded from the IELTS website. Cambridge IELTS has books in pdf form along with some audio for practice. The site inherits few recordings similar to the actual tests.

I had appeared for 5-6 mock tests after dedicating practice of 1.5-2 hours every week.

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING A GOOD CV

Once you are on the database of the placement committee, they will give a CV format and how to prepare. I preferred OVERLEAF, which provides a professional CV format. Since my CV is research inclined, I had topics like research objectives, educational research, work experiences, publications, etc.

Everybody should have a couple of experiences and projects in their hands. Try to include things that depict your passion for exploring beyond necessity.

FUTURE PLANS AND MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS

My field of study is Smart Infrastructure and Computer Vision. During my final year, I was allotted a project with Dr Pradeep Sarkar, which involved the use of IoT in Civil Engineering. It was something uncommon. So, I used sensors and IoT to determine the properties of concrete without any traditional destructive way, which usually demands labour-intensive mechanical tests. Keeping this in mind, I applied to Prof. Sriram Narasimhan's lab at the University of Waterloo, as he does something similar.

One of his projects is Bridge Inspection, which involves a tin that goes over a conduction pair on the bridge to determine failures or deteriorations. This can be usually done with Machine Learning and using a collection of photographs. It is multidisciplinary research between Civil Engineering and Computer Science.

So, my 5-year P.h.D. program deals with Computer Vision and its application in Civil Engineering. To-be-honest, I have both the options open for me, whether industry or research-oriented. I am not rigid.

Before aiming to pursue a Masters, you should know that this is something you are genuinely inclined to. Don't be fickle-minded while choosing career options. It’s ok to be unsure at the initial stage. Don't be too rigid and try different things before setting your firm goals. So, start early and look around what's going on!

TANAY KUMAR (UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON, CORNELL)

Tanay Kumar, a graduate from the Department of Ceramic Engineering, has successfully achieved a Master's degree admit to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cornell staying true to his ambitions. Given below is his success story encompassed in an interview.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

I (Tanay Kumar) was always inclined towards pursuing a Masters. My mother being a professor has always been in the research field, so I always had an inclination towards it as well. I had participated in many competitions when I was young, and last year, I was declared the young scientist through a competition. So, all paths were leading to one destination for me. Although I wasn't much satisfied with the branch I had got at NITR, I gradually understood the prospects of my branch. In due course of time, I was confident that the research-line is meant for me.

I was lucky in this aspect that I have a mother who has been through this process. She was always guiding me about the procedure. I had enough idea that I had to mail professors for 5-6 months in a row even to get a response. I knew that it was all about tenacity, perseverance and to keep on trying until you get a response from the professors with whom you want to work with. I also had a great group of friends who were interested in research as well, and discussions with them also helped a lot.  I didn't have much idea about research from the beginning per se. For beginners, I would suggest they check the videos of professors. It's a myth among students that the professors being very busy wouldn't accept their mails. They are very humble and even like the students who want to work under them. I think it is always a good thing to give it a try and contact the professors.

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

I would suggest students give GRE and TOEFL either in the early weeks of your final year or in your pre-final years. These two tests are important, and it is necessary to provide your entire focus to it when you do not have anything else on your plate. I couldn't prepare for these exams in a very organized way as I started my preparation in the final year of B.Tech. I would suggest appearing these exams in the pre-final years. These aren't many difficult exams. 

As soon as you enter your final year, you should try and search for the universities you want to apply in. I applied to some universities after discovering many aspects of selection in my final year. First, you should have a tentative list of colleges with your dream college at the top. I always had an inclination towards Canada after my MITACS internship.

I shortlisted 4-5 universities in Canada. Then I moved onto universities in the US. Then I searched for universities to have a very strong work in my particular subject which is nano-science and nano-materials. Then I finally went on to European universities. Following finance, I had a pretty clear list of universities I didn't want to apply to.

PREPARATION STRATEGY

I started preparing for GRE and TOEFL in my final year. If you are comfortable conversing in English, the exam gets simpler for you. GRE is reading comprehension. It requires practice for sure. I downloaded study materials from online websites. If any of my friends had any book, I would borrow it from them and practice it within a stipulated time. GRE is important, and students should prepare for it sincerely.  I wasn't much focused on GRE because I was more interested in Canadian universities where the GRE score is not taken into consideration. But it is necessary to prepare for that seriously to have a good score because it matters.

With the preparation of 1-2 hours daily for 2-3 months constantly working on the aspects of speaking and reading comprehension, one can do well in these exams. 

I downloaded study materials online. If any of my friends had any book, I would borrow it from them and practice it within a stipulated time.

For speaking, you are provided with a topic or situation, and accordingly, you have to speak about it. For me, being a part of the Clarion club helped a lot.

I couldn't give many mock tests because I didn't have much time for it. But I would suggest if a student prepares from pre-final years with giving 4-5 hours daily for the preparation, he should download different apps, give tests, and understand the meaning of different words. Take full advantage and enjoy the process of preparation. Don't keep it pending till the end. 

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING A GOOD CV

I'll suggest some of the things which I have learned from my own experience. One thing is internships are important but not the most important thing in the world as portrayed by people. CVs of students are judged on the following basis (a) have they done any research project, (b) have they contributed a substantial amount of time to the project, and (c) have they completed the project or not. If you can put in efforts and resources for a longer period and have more information on your project, you can have a stronger CV than a student who has done a higher number of projects within the same period. I would suggest that others contact their professors.

FUTURE GOALS AND MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS

My field of study would be in nano-electronics. I would be working with semiconductor materials and materials that can be used in energy storage. This is the field I always wanted to be in, and it has worked out pretty well for me.

I don't have much idea about my career-trajectory for now. For now, I am sure about my master's degree. After my masters, I will decide whether to continue for a PhD or I will opt for a job if I am more interested in entrepreneurship in the research sector. I have a long-term goal to be in the research and development sector and probably go for entrepreneurship on the line if I get a chance. 

One important thing you have to keep in mind if you want to study abroad is to keep good connections with alumni. One of the alumni helped me a lot to choose the universities. NIT Rourkela has a very strong alumni base, a student should take advantage of that. The college name does have an impact, no wonder, but it is not everything. If you have funding, if you have confidence in yourself and you are getting a decent university, go for it if you are comfortable after checking all the aspects on your check-list.

CHETNA MOHANTY (UNIVERSITY OF MONTREAL, CANADA)

Chetna Mohanty, a graduate from the Department of Chemistry, has been selected for admission to the prestigious University of Montreal, Canada. Here's an excerpt from the interview.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

I (Chetna Mohanty) always had this dream of studying abroad since most of my family members had done the same. And after joining NIT, I tried to fulfil this dream of mine. I started doing various internships so that I can have a presentable resume. Interning with the great minds from all around the world in such a beautiful city, Montreal, through the Mitacs internship program, strengthened my aim. I always enjoyed the lab hours watching the minute changes in the chemicals, and it was my 'happy place' to be. Therefore, I was headstrong right from the first year that PhD is my ultimate goal.

Gathering information about PhD abroad: It's always wise to plan out things since you will be spending a lot of money on applications and exams—some of my seniors who already are pursuing higher education abroad. Starting with Tejaswini ma'am (2018 batch), she was the one to help me create my first ever resume. Then there was my branch senior, Soumyashree ma'am (2019 batch), who was also a Mitacs intern and had similar plans of doing a PhD abroad, was of great help. Rest aside, my friend Akanshya Patra (2019 graduating batch), currently doing Master's at the University of Southern California, has been rock-solid support since the starting of my Mitacs application to editing my SOP till now. But in the end, it's you who is going to make all the decisions. 

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

The University of Montreal has an official application (French), SOP, resume, work experience, three letters of recommendation, grade card (cgpa>3.3/4.3). It doesn't require you to submit any English proficiency scores. Once accepted by the Department officials, your application is then forwarded to the professors mentioned in your application. They conduct interviews then only after the approval of your professor, your application is forwarded further. For PhD applications in Europe, they publish various positions on different websites like (www.academicposition.com). You can apply as many as possible since they are free! For the US, most Fall admits have deadlines around December. And the Canadian applications generally start late around January - February. The few things I learned from the application procedure are:

  • Start planning from the summer if you want to apply for the Fall semester or even sooner. 

  • Select your GRE, TOEFL, IELTS dates after shortlisting universities since then you will have a fair idea of the requirements and cutoff and then aim for the same.

  • For PhD students, make your choices of topics wisely since this is something you will be working on for a long time.  

  • Take your Masters thesis seriously, since you are working on it for a year, you might even get a publication out of it which strengthens your application a lot.

  • Try to make your application appealing. Highlight the good points of your work experience or your personality. 

  • You will get rejections even from the most expected universities too but learn to accept it instead of letting it ruin your further applications. Stay motivated and don't forget to enjoy your last days on campus.

The bucket list of colleges: There were three colleges in my bucket list apart from UdeM University. They were University of British Columbia, Canada, USC, US and University of Sydney. 

Shortlisting of colleges: For shortlisting of universities for PhD, I searched for the science in articles and publications I would love to work on, then I found the professors, and after that, I got in the official procedure of the university. Based on the diversity of my resume, my priority list was somewhat like this:

  • Field of science

  • Rate of publications and the journals they were published in

  • Type of the research group (if they are involved in other curricular activities as a group except working in the lab)

  • Professor's research overview 

  • Funding

  • University ranking and requirements of an applicant (test scores and GPA)

  • The city 

  • Work-life balance

  • Working hours

PREPARATION STRATEGY

I started my preparation a little late around the first week of August. I gave GRE and TOEFL in October within a gap of 15 days and appeared for IELTS in January. My favourite part of preparation being Quant I spent more time on that. For the vocabulary, I completed the flashcards of Magoosh with some 1500 words and then did my exercises. I used two books: ETS official GRE book and Manhattan's pdf. For AWA, I practised only the exercise provided in the book. I practised around five mock tests for final preparation. For IELTS, I just got acquainted with the test pattern.

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING A GOOD CV

The best way to a good CV is to have a good reference and consulting seniors. Try to make it relevant and appealing by highlighting important points. Develop your work experience. Even for the extracurricular part, mention how participating in the club culture has shaped you as a person, how it has developed your personality. If you are planning for higher studies, try to utilize your leisure time, especially the summer and winter breaks doing internships at different platforms. It not only adds a new column in your CV but during the process you get a better picture of your goals, your field of study (for chemistry: organic/inorganic/ physical/ polymer or something else). 

FUTURE PLANS AND MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS

I will be working on the material/polymeric chemistry at the University of Montreal. After PhD, I wish to work as an independent researcher by doing a Post-Doc and then work in the R&D sectors of industries exploring and challenging myself in numerous fields of work. 

In my older phase of life, I wish to contribute my work experience and knowledge to the new generation as a professor who will be strict in the lectures but later shakes a leg with the same students in the evening.

Firstly, I would say, "Are you sure you want to do a PhD? Think again." No doubt you will be working on something which was never invented before and it's pretty tough to do that. The only thing you need to have to do a PhD is a strong mind and will power. Rest about the science, you will learn that anyway with your experience. 

Always try to look at the bright side of things, even if you have failed a reaction a 100th time, you have to believe that the 101st time will be a success.

SANDRA SUNIL (UNIVERSITY OF GRONINGEN,NETHERLANDS)

Sandra Sunil, a graduate from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is ready to start her journey with the University of Groningen. Given below is an excerpt from the interview.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

Initially, I (Sandra Sunil) witnessed many people saying that the job prospects after my degree within India are pretty bleak. So, I was sure to go into the core subjects of Biomedical Engineering, preferably in R&D, hence made up my mind to seek higher studies. At the end of my pre-final year, I decided that a Masters program would be suited for me.

The internet proved as a primary source of information where I started researching universities, and the programs offered by them. Second, comes LinkedIn. I connected with many alumni of NIT Rourkela and students studying in the universities of my interest. Interacting with them was invaluable, as talking to someone who was already in your shoes and made it to where you want to be is a huge help!

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

I'll be doing a program called CEMACUBE. It was initially an Erasmus Mundus degree program but now runs under EIT Health, a body of the European Union. Under this program, I'll be studying in two universities for the two years of my degree, the University of Groningen in Netherlands and Trinity College Dublin in Ireland and will receive a degree from each of these universities.

The application process was straight forward. The universities required that I apply with all the necessary details along with three letters of recommendation and SOP, which took around a month or more. They were also considering GRE and IELTS scores, so I handed in the scoresheets of those as well. All these were over by the first week of January.

By the end of the month, they informed me about an interview to finalize the decision. I was asked to prepare a PPT about a research area that I was interested in and was working on. The challenge was summing up and making my interviewers intrigued in the work I was presenting in just seven slides. But my professors came to the rescue there, Prof. Devendra Verma helped to compile all the necessary information, and Prof. Anju R Babu also proved as a helping-hand.

I never experienced an interview before (or used Skype for a call), but I was told that professors abroad are usually amiable in interviews. We lost internet connection in between and switched to an audio-only call, which helped with the anxiety a lot. By the 2nd week of February, the results were out.

Along with the SOP, you also need the GRE and IELTS exam scores, so, writing these exams early on is ideal. The end of the pre-final year or beginning of the final year is the perfect time to begin your preparation. This way, you get an option to restudy and retake the exam if you ended up scoring poorly in the first attempt.

Most universities start the process around September for the classes starting next fall, that's almost a year in advance. Universities usually inform you of their decision maybe within 6 or 8 weeks. Some programs offered are called Numerus Fixus, and they accept only a fixed number of students every year, so the earlier you apply, the better your chances.

Applying and being admitted early has other perks as well. Most scholarship universities have very early deadlines and usually require that you have already been accepted or applied. I missed many scholarship deadlines because I applied a bit late.

I started shortlisting universities probably around the beginning of my 4th year, which now I think maybe a bit late, so start early!

I shortlisted eight universities offering the specialization all around Europe. Some of the main ones were ETH Zurich, University of Groningen, Trinity College Dublin, TU Eindhoven, Imperial College London, and Utrecht University. The primary thing I was looking at was how much research had been undertaken in my field of interest, Tissue Engineering. I analyzed the entire course curriculum offered by the universities before deciding on where to apply. And the cost of the degree was also a major deciding factor.

The important things to keep in mind while choosing the universities are:

1. Check if the program fulfils all the criteria you were looking for in your next degree? Always go through the course curriculum for the whole two years, so that you know what you are signing up.

2. Talk to students from the university, so you know what to expect regarding the practical aspects of the degree, the ones not found on Google.

3. Make sure the universities and courses you are looking at are accredited. Beware of 'University Scams.'

PREPARATION STRATEGY

GRE: I started preparing for GRE prior three months before the exam, but my preparation started gaining momentum a month after. Byju's resources were helpful for the preparation. They had a comprehensive study plan with videos on every topic of GRE, Quant, VARC, and AWA. There were also a lot of mock tests available. ETS ( the official website of GRE) was also essential for preparation.

IELTS: I did not prepare much for the exam. As for speaking in IELTS goes, they only require that you can convey your ideas effectively. So, being a South Indian in NIT Rourkela helped, English was my primary language for communication with my friends. I have some unconventional advice when it comes to sections like Listening, watching the right amount of Hollywood movies without subtitles will do! IELTS test you with multiple accents. So, I would say if you can understand a whole film without needing to turn on the subtitles, you are good to go. Reading and writing preparation for IELTS is synonymous with GRE reading and writing preparation.

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING CV

CV building will take some time as you need to revise it multiple times. 

Universities abroad are looking for a comprehensive profile, so they give significant weightage to your extracurriculars. So, involve in club activities or take up some volunteering work. Presenting data in your CV, in the right way is also vital. It is advisable to list down the details and skills learned from past working experiences. You can seek the help of professors or seniors to review your CVs. Along with Prof. Indranil Banerjee, seniors in the lab also helped me a lot in this process.

You can also enlist the services of agencies that help in polishing the data on your CV. As for skills, good industrial or research experience in the field that you are applying for is always a plus. A decent CGPA of 7 or 7.5 will also be required for clearing the cutoff. 

Give importance to soft skills as well while building your research experience. You can convince an admission committee to admit you even if you lack some expertise in some area based on how you present yourself through the SOP and CV and sometimes the interview.

FUTURE PLANS AND MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS

I am hoping to work in R&D in the field of Tissue Engineering, things like Building Artificial Organs or Organoids. I might take up a PhD in the future if I feel like the area demands that level of expertise, but for now, looking to build a career in R&D.

Don't be intimidated by the process; it might be easier than you realize. Also, start your applications early so that you have the maximum chance of securing funding, it'll take the expense factor of Masters abroad out of the equation or help you reduce it significantly.

Team MM wishes all the achievers the best for all their future endeavours!

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