Treading the Path of Higher Studies : Foreign Admits Part-1

Treading the Path of Higher Studies : Foreign Admits Part-1

National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, has consistently been a hub of hardworking and dedicated students. The vast majority of the students are passionate about placements and jobs, while a few talented and hardworking students opt for higher education seeking to extinguish their inquisitiveness, and by doing so, they do bring about a change or contribute something vested in the larger interests of mankind and future generations.

MS (Master’s) admits, and PhD offers in the world's best universities among the most splendid understudies across the globe have consistently been a renowned accomplishment. Getting admission in one’s preferred field of specialization is a dream for many, which only a few can accomplish. From acing examinations like GRE and IELTS/TOEFL to cracking interviews along with good project and research work, bagging such admits has consistently been a strenuous errand, but with the onset of various research programs, the students of NIT Rourkela never neglect to snatch open doors in such prestigious universities. Thus, proceeding with the legacy, many meriting understudies of this renowned foundation got themselves conceded to esteemed universities.

Hop on to get an insight into their preparation strategy, challenges, and many more about the achievers. 

AMRIT JENA (RUHR UNIVERSITY OF BOCHUM, GERMANY)

Amrit Jena, a graduate from the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, has paved his path into the Ruhr University of Bochum, Germany, with practice and perseverance. We bring to you, his success story in his words.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

I was admitted into the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering as per my JEE score, and in the first year, I was prejudiced that I'm in a branch having fewer opportunities, I had started looking for other options like CAT, Programming from the summer break of the first year. But later, when I got exposed to my branch in my second year, my perspective got changed. I started getting good vibes from my branch. Then decided to put my entire focus on the studies related to my discipline. I realized, if I'm taking a degree from metallurgical and materials engineering, I should justify very well.

Being a person of multidimensional viewpoints, I have explored all possible opportunities starting from entrepreneurship to industrial internship. In the second year, I did some laboratory classes, which was a part of the discipline, and I enjoyed them. I started knowing the importance of material science and was keen to learn more. I have joined the FRP Composite lab of NIT Rourkela and enjoyed working there. Working under the guidance of Prof. Bankim Chandra Ray (One among the six researchers of the institute featured in the World's Top 2% of Scientists) and Dr Rakesh Kumar Prusty did widen up my perspective a lot. Interacting with them has been a turning point for me. I’d like to mention that Mr Shubham, PhD scholar, and all my labmates guided me throughout the journey. With that, I gradually started interacting with Professors and worked under them, and eventually, it went into my career upgrade.

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

With some experience and exposure in this field as an undergraduate research scholar, I was looking for a direct Ph.D. after my bachelor', a widespread culture of NIT. But the circumstances weren't the same due to the pandemic. I had applied for Ph.D. at the University of New South Wales(UNSW). Due to Covid, the officials had reduced the International scholars funding. Even though the interview went well, and the interviewer was positive throughout the course of the interview, I didn't secure admission due to the limitation from the central side. Along with this, I also applied at the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia.

Suddenly, I got rejected from all the opportunities only because of less intake of students. The officials said they had reduced the international financing and I could not stand out in the traffic. I was being frustrated after rejections even though my interview and all went well. I started looking around for the Master's opportunity, which was a backup plan. Being inclined to PhD, from the beginning, I only applied for MS at the University of Bochum, Germany, as I found their courses quite interesting. Point to be noted that Masters' is usually a self-financed course costing approximately 50-70lakhs for North American universities, whereas PhD is generally funded. I'm not financially sound enough to afford self-financed MS; however, your tuition fees will be waived in European countries like Germany. This was a golden opportunity as I was looking for such ones.

One can apply for certain international scholarships (Deutschlandstipendium, Care-concept) after enrolling in a university for your living expenses. In European Countries, to avail of such scholarships, one needs to be socially active, like where you are contributing: your contribution in Rotaract, AASRA, NSS, NCC can make a count. The officials usually prefer to sponsor people who can pay back to the society, who have a good social engagement during their studies, rather than selfish ones who will avail themselves all the resources and won't payback.

I applied for a winter course aligned with my career objective, which will start in October's first week. I found the international Master's course at the Interdisciplinary Centre of Advanced Materials Simulation (ICAMS) from the DAAD's website as the best alignment to fulfil my career objective.

A pro-tip for those planning for foreign universities: start visiting the websites, filling the demo application, keeping an eye on the deadline, and preparing your CV from the beginning; mid of your pre-final year will be ideal. It takes six months; it doesn't matter how many seniors you talk to; they will definitely skip or miss some points. It doesn't matter any kind of studies you are planning; just start preparing for the application from the very beginning. Furthermore, it will end up with ample time in your hand for reviews, suggestions, and improvements.

MAIN CRITERIA FOR YOUR DESIRED UNIVERSITY

First of all, you should have a good educational background in your bachelor's. In most of the foreign university, they don't have much strict criteria written in their website. Some universities have only English proficiency criteria only. You can get a six-band in IELTS or 79 in TOEFL for the University of Bochum, which is very less. If you're NIT, you can skip that process and submit a language course certificate. A minimum CGPA of 8.5 is highly preferable. As I opted for a research course, they also considered my research work. I had some publications as the first author, which was advantageous in this process.

If you are planning for higher studies in your discipline, try accumulating the required things: interact with professors and do some projects. These things do make a difference as hardly any university's website states the criteria properly.

PREPARATION STRATEGY

I've given TOEFL and prefer passing the exam in mid of the pre-final year as it has a validity of 2 years. Due to the COVID scenario in the country, I got delayed and would suggest to people give one of the English proficiency tests from the 3rd year itself.

They have points on different aspects: how many semicolons, how many symbols you are using, how complex the sentence is, how long the sentence is. You need to write the sentence in that manner even though it doesn't look fascinating. There is some Artificial Intelligence Website to check your answer as well as some human resources that will verify it. There is a difference between your English skills and scoring high in TOEFL. So you need to customize your things according to TOEFL. Go through the official website and practice the sample papers, that's what I did. I used to watch TST Prep Youtube Channel during my preparation, which also helped me.

Just start your preparation early from the pre-final year as all these processes consume time. Final years are usually hectic and to prevent panicking just try to complete them beforehand only. These all processes do consume around six months. Until you yourself are not going through the process, you are not knowing everything about it, no matter how many seniors you talk to. For these reasons, people wait another year to apply. A major concern is deadlines like usually Indian universities like IIT, NIT has a central deadline or a university deadline whereas foreign university has a university deadline as well as a deadline for the courses. I was a bit short of time and did apply at the last moment as I mistook the university deadline as the only deadline for applying.

DEALING WITH ACADEMICS

If you are from NIT, you have to deal with a rigorous curriculum for your academics. And if you're planning for higher studies, then academics do matter a lot as it will give a lot of leverage; it doesn't matter how good professors' recommendations you have; the academics come first.

I’d say academics in two ways: One is you can look to score high, another thing you can learn with the knowledge. If you want to score high, be attentive in the class, have all the notes prepared, try to utilize your class hours with a positive outlook. Being an active member in many clubs as well as post holder in them, I primarily studied during the class hours, had prepared my notes well, and need not worry in the end. Scoring high doesn't require much effort if you do the above-stated things while practising previous year's questions is a must. If you want the knowledge simultaneously, you need to go to the library and study besides your syllabus. Doing projects under professors does make a difference if you wish to pursue higher studies. Interacting with professors will also widen up your perspective.

ONLINE SEMESTER: A BOON OR A CURSE

The Online mode semester was an advantage for us as we need not have to put more effort into academics, and we did the classes in our comfort. Putting the application does need a lot of effort like, at some point, you'll get frustrated. Everything will seem new to you once you start filling the form. The online mode did give a lot of time to devote to this process.

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING A GOOD CV

In foreign universities, they see how good a person is from his dimension: is he very limited to a certain thing or not. Coping up with foreign culture and curriculum is quite different; you have the opportunity to learn many things there. For that, you should have a multidimensional CV stating not only the academics and research work but also your co-curricular activities, social activities, and creativity. Just put your best internships that actually make a difference, rather than stating all of your internships. Try to have a balance, be selective rather than putting everything in the CV, something about your academics, your research, some about your extracurricular activities, some about your work experience and internships. Compile them to one page or a maximum of two pages; that's it.

Reviewing your CV from your seniors and friends and improving every time will help you make a good CV.

INTO YOUR NEW VARSITY AND FUTURE GOALS

I enrolled myself in a course-based MS ~ Interdisciplinary centre of advanced material simulation (ICAMS), which is not a typical masters' course. ICAMS is a dedicated research centre that focuses on advanced simulation and multi-scale modelling techniques to obtain optimized materials behaviour. I've already attended the enrolment session, and the courses are mostly basics that we have already completed in NIT as part of our theory. I'll be doing the stimulation part, moulding part, and computation along with the numerical analysis. With that, I'll be studying all the numerical simulation and the advanced moulding techniques of the advanced material present.

They are technically way advanced and coded with world-class facilities, taking such courses there would be worth pricing. I want to learn the technologies and come back to my nation and serve in ISRO or DRDO or any other leading organizations where I can make my country proud.

MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS

There will be setbacks, but the comeback will be even stronger. In my case I was with zero offers on 31st may(almost end of the session), just a night difference, on the 1st June I got simultaneous offers from VISA Steel(core), GANIT (Analytics) and a master's offer from RUB, Germany on the same day. Anything can happen in the process never give up on your process, stick to it results are just the byproduct of it.

Be open to everything; if you are not going through something, you'll not know whether it's good or bad for you. That may not be good for somebody, but that may end up something good for you. Be open to every opportunity available to you because, until the 30s, you can get hustled, then you can decide your career, don't decide pretty early. Don't be scared to jump from one opportunity to another, don't limit yourself; you'll end up with no regrets. Good wishes for the upcoming batches. 

ABHIJEET PATHY (UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA, CANADA)

Abhijeet Pathy, a graduate of the Department of Biotechnology, has successfully achieved a Master's degree admit to the University of Alberta, Canada staying true to his ambitions. Given below is his success story encompassed in an interview.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

I am from the Biotechnology department, and in my second year, I analyzed the opportunities: either I can work for a company or pursue higher education. Then after analyzing various options, I decided that I'll be pursuing higher education. My motivation behind this choice was that if you are doing higher education and research, you are doing it yourself. If I have to invest my energy and efforts in something, I'll do it on myself; that's why I choose to research and higher education.

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

I hadn’t sorted out any university; first, I searched for the professors to get funding for research operations. I was not interested in doing course-based MS. There are two types of MS in foreign: one is course-based, and another is thesis-based MS. In course-based, you'll be studying the course work, and in the case of thesis-based, you'll start the research work from the first year itself. I planned to get enrolled in thesis-based MS, and for that, you need to have a supervisor before applying for any university. I was working in Environmental science, so I started mailing professors working in my research area. One of the journals had editors and some associate editors; I started mailing them as those people will work in my research area. Then, one of the professors responded to me, followed by a personal interview by him, the project's supervisor, and a co-supervisor. 

Before applying to the Professor, I had to refine my research work and make my CV and cover letter. The CV should be personalized for the professor, like it should have a personal touch. You should add statements like I've gone through your papers and was fascinated by your work, so I wanted to explore it more. Additionally, you can say I admire your work and wish to work under you. The primary concern is when you mail professors, they will not respond. You have to send follow-up emails even then they don't reply. If some Professor replies, he'd reply, You have an excellent CV and promising research work, but we can't fund more than one international student, and we have already funded one. Rejections will be there, but they shouldn't demotivate you; you have to have patience and be persistent.       

After the acceptance, the officials told me to start the official admission procedure. From the official website of the University of Alberta, I chose my courses and the department accordingly to work under those professors and also suggested potential supervisors. I had to upload three recommendation letters(Two from academics and one from industrial/research) and a Statement of Purpose. Then the evaluation process happened, followed by the selection.    

I did reach out to Professors in September and got the confirmation in September end itself. After that, they suggested me to give the English proficiency examination, to which I applied. I gave TOEFL in mid of October, and then in November, I did the application procedure. In February first week, I got a confirmation from the University.  

MAIN CRITERIA FOR YOUR DESIRED UNIVERSITY

If you have already got an acceptance from the professors, your chances of selection are more than 90%.  For thesis-based MS, you must have a recommendation from a professor, potential supervisor working at the University of Alberta. Once the professor agrees and is willing to provide you with the funds, the University will have no problem.

PREPARATION STRATEGY 

I have only given TOEFL, and for that, I haven't opted for any professional course. I just talked to one of the official guides of ETS, who gave me an overall picture. For listening and speaking, I watched NETFLIX and English Web series that had good English conversations. Additionally, I also read newspapers, especially the editorial section, which was helpful in the writing section. Then there are some test series that come along with the ETS guide, which I appeared.    

The difficulties would be in two sections: The Speaking section and the Writing Section. As per me, the reading and listening section is comparatively easier than the writing section. The writing section is quite tough, which comprises two tasks with a time limit, for which you have to have a good grip on grammar and vocabulary. 

DEALING WITH ACADEMICS

Academics wasn't much difficult for me because I attended all the classes and prepared the notes. I don't have to give much time after the classes. After the class, I used to mail Professors or devote my time to research work. The online mode of the semester was a minor boon for me, as I don't have to give that much effort. 

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING A GOOD CV

Generally, if you want to apply for thesis-based MS, your CV should be more aligned with the research area. You can state your academics details in the first paragraph, followed by your research area, whatever you have worked or are willing to work on. You can also mention your work experience, internships in some industries or research work at laboratories. I’d like to mention I have worked under Dr Balasubramanian of our department from the second year. In these two-three years under his guidance, I published four research and review articles in international peer-reviewed journals. Having publications are a great addition to the CV when you are mailing the professors.

After that, state the different types of projects you have undertaken in your undergraduate career: state the title, objectives, duration of the project, and the outcomes; that's it. Also, state the publication if you have it in your name, and even though you don't have them, you can also state some journals written and submitted. To end with you can mention some voluntary work, extracurricular activities or some achievements. 

INTO YOUR NEW VARSITY AND FUTURE GOALS

My field of study will be environmental science, mostly on remediating contaminated land and water contamination. Industrial wastewater and industrial application, and industrial areas have been infected with many types of contaminants, so we'll try to focus on remediating, removing, and reinhabiting that environment, may it be land or water. 

I'm planning for PhD to stay in the research arena after MS if everything goes well. 

MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS

If you are in the research field, you have to be a little patient; you've to give your continuous efforts. In the beginning, there will be a lot of setbacks, and you'll not get the results so quickly, but you have to try. If you focus on the learning, you're focusing on the process, not the outcomes. Once you focus on the learning part, everything falls in the right place, and you will get the results: whether it's failure or success doesn't matter. Even if you weren't able to do something significant, you'll learn a lot of experience that will be pretty essential for the next phase of life. 

DAMAN YADAV (UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, USA)

After grabbing a graduate degree from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Daman Yadav is set on his next expedition for a PhD from the University of Minnesota, USA. Below is an excerpt from the interview.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

To be honest, I've always had a huge interest in this field, and I've been very certain about my desire to pursue higher education since then. The urge to consistently grow on your conceptual understanding is the correct time to know that you're a perfect fit for extended studies. Although, it is fairly acceptable and okay to be confused at the start. Even I was, but it eventually goes away as you start to explore the dos and don'ts. 

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

The University of Minnesota, University of California Berkeley, and SUNY Buffalo NYC were among the universities on my shortlist for direct PhD applications in the United States. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to both my first and third choice of universities, in that order. My own recommendation is to select universities based on the research rankings of your department rather than the overall university rankings. The application process for US universities is a little time consuming and requires you to fill out a lot of information about your research and academic background. It's best to start early and have your IELTS/TOEFL and GRE (if necessary) results ready by the end of October. This gives you just enough time to finish your application and submit it, along with any other hard copy submissions, before the deadline, normally in December. After that, you'll be contacted for a series of virtual interviews before receiving an offer letter and invitation to join the university.

MAIN CRITERIA FOR YOUR DESIRED UNIVERSITY

The MS selection criteria are simple and straightforward, relying mainly on your previous academic performance. However, considering the complete financial benefits and other perks you get, the criteria for selecting PhD candidates is a little competitive, but it's not impossible to get in. During virtual interviews, the university, in my experience, focuses a little bit on your research history, previous publications, academic score consistency, and personality. But, above all, the interview phase, which numerous faculty members in the department frequently perform, determines your acceptance into the university.

PREPARATION STRATEGY 

My preparation method relied heavily on keeping things organised and neat in order to avoid missing any deadlines. It's a good idea to make a basic excel file with a list of all the universities you've shortlisted, as well as their application deadlines, scholarship availability status, and other prerequisites. To prepare for the GRE, follow a single book such as Baron's 5 L.B. or Manhattan, followed by a thorough practising of as many free online mock tests as possible. In terms of IELTS/TOEFL preparation, I didn't do much more than practice 4-5 mock exam papers. The amount of time to put into this depends on your English communication skills.  Allow yourself adequate time to practice any portions of the test that you feel you need to improve on. It's usually a good idea to get a decent score on your first attempt!

DEALING WITH ACADEMICS

The NITR curriculum gave me the required head start in my academic and research profile. My lab research projects were important in helping me crack the interview and portray my research successes to the selection panel, providing me with an edge off. Aside from that, I had a lot of aid from my seniors, department faculty, and other colleagues. As a reason, I recommend forming a strong network with everyone you work with or connect with throughout this time. Due to the fact that I was in the final semester, my class schedule was relatively flexible, and my professors were really encouraging, which allowed me to concentrate on my application process. If you have a more hectic schedule, I recommend creating a flexible schedule that includes an average of three to four hours of preparation time each day while still handling your other duties.

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING A GOOD CV

Because of my previous experience applying for overseas internship programmes, I already had a well-crafted CV. But, if you're starting from scratch, I'd advise you to start working on this, as well as your motivation letter, well ahead of time. These elements reflect your total application and, in certain situations, may even be the determining factor in your selection before you get to the Interview rounds. It is usually a good idea to start by writing about your own experiences and then asking for criticism from others, such as professors or seniors. To be honest, I didn't use any high-end software like latex to create my CV. Instead, I focused on keeping it clean and uncluttered, and I formatted it in MS Word to make it easy to read. Your CV is supposed to reflect your achievements and your drive and desire to work in the field.

INTO YOUR NEW VARSITY AND FUTURE GOALS

I'll be studying Biomedical Sciences at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus, with a focus on biomaterials and stem-cell-guided tissue regeneration. Although I haven't made up my mind and am still considering my alternatives, after finishing this degree, I may pursue a post-doctoral position or take a break from academia to work in an R&D-based industrial company.

MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS

Speaking solely from personal experience, I believe you should avoid setting numerous goals at once and instead focus on finishing each activity one at a time, easing into things and learning while enjoying the simple things. During the preparation or application process, things may get difficult and challenging, and you may even have to spend many days and nights waiting for responses to your emails or while working on your resume/motivation letter. But, in the end, all of the effort is well worth it!

RICHI ROUTRAY(University at Buffalo, USA)

Richi Routray, a graduate from the Department of Chemistry, marked her way into the University at Buffalo, the USA, for a 5-year PhD program. Given below is an excerpt from the interview.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

I had always wanted to go for higher studies. Being in NITR, when people with engineering backgrounds surround you, there is pressure on you to get into a job right after college. In my second or third year, I was unsure that I would pursue higher studies, but I still tried to explore various domains via internships. It fuelled my inspiration to pursue the research environment by having first-hand knowledge of the work that they were doing. So I guess the more information you have about the field, the more you are drawn into it. 

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

I had shortlisted University at Buffalo, the one that I got into. The list included the University of Delaware, the University of Florida and the University of Utah, and the University of Alberta in Canada. These are the five universities that I had applied to. Mostly, I saw the professors, their work, the flexibility in their curriculum, the research-intensive, and the funding they had. Other than that, I checked the university’s perspective, the facilities you can get, the cost of living, and the general area. So the major criteria were ranking, of course, though it's not exactly the most active way of deciding the university. It's more about the standard of work you want to do, how aligned it is with your interests, the cost, and the living environment. 

US universities have a very common application process. It starts with registering on their university website by creating a profile and filling in your basic information like name, college, CGPA, and academic details. The most time-consuming part of the process is the Statement of Purpose(SOP). Along with it, they have a personal statement and CV. Preparing a CV has to be one of the most important parts of this process. You have to do a lot of cross-checking and verifying. You have to do a lot of research on what kind of work you want to do, what kind of SOP you want to write or cross-check from your seniors or your batch mates for the process, and after that, finally, when you have all these materials ready, you have to cross verify and proofread many times. Some applications are free since some universities have priority deadlines which means if you apply to a specific date, you don't have to pay the application fee. For example, SUNY Buffalo had its priority deadline of 15th January. It meant that if you submit within backdate, it will be considered in more priority for TA (Teaching Assistantship) or funding over people who submitted after that date—so preparing the documents well before the deadline is crucial because you can save yourself a lot of money that way. 

MAIN CRITERIA FOR YOUR DESIRED UNIVERSITY

I wasn't that sure if I wanted to go that far away, even though I had applied amidst the pandemic. But I knew many people from my state who had been there, and they had a very strong Indian student association and a graduate student association. The professors were very helpful, and the lab timings were flexible. 

Initially, I had worked in organic in all my internships, and I didn't want to go for a purely organic-based thesis, but I wanted to do more interdisciplinary work. So most of the professors didn't go for the pure field, but more to the application-based field. Even if it's organic or inorganic synthesis, it is used somewhere or the other. So the research of the professors was one of the major criteria. During my MSc, it was more basic organic chemistry, so the work is important, but I wanted to go for a more application-based one to later go for the industry if I wanted to. So I would have more experience. For example, we have organic synthesis, but now you can use it to make transistors, organic electronics, etc. 

PREPARATION STRATEGY 

Graduating in 2020 says a lot about the hardships we faced. During my college days, I had given my GRE and TOEFL. I had applied for three universities for which the applications were free. But soon I realized that I hadn't prepared well.

This was the time when I got into BYJUs and worked for just one month. I didn't have any other backup. It was okay, and within that one month, I realized this is something where my interests don't lay. So that's when I started preparing a lot. It's not a one-track thing when you shoplift the universities and do the application process. There is a lot of information and resources on the internet that we don't really fully use. 

For example, I realized this in the process, and more people should know about this. We can find PhD positions on Twitter as well. And it's an amazing place to find such positions. People usually know about these opportunities on common pages like Euraxess. But when finding a university, you see the professors and try to connect with them on LinkedIn. Because they often like a certain post about PhD vacancies, and you can get their information through it. So networking is really important,  not just in face-to-face or via phone but on LinkedIn and connecting with the right people who would give you resources, so that is very important. 

The preparation period was quite frustrating as I had to quit my job and started preparing to apply for higher studies. Moreover, everyone in my friend circle around me had a job. Writing the SOP was the biggest challenge. You have to sound modest and humble and tell people that you can do all these, and this field interests you the most. I was still unsure if I would get an admit, so I prepared, side by side and applied to the project assistant position. 

DEALING WITH ACADEMICS

It was March 2020, and the pandemic had just struck the country, so coping up with the online class was a bit difficult. It's more difficult staying at home than being in college and coping with this. Because college provides you with that atmosphere and that everyone else is doing the same thing. Somehow collective suffering is a good motivation to work harder.

WORK EXPERIENCE

My work experience had a good effect on my PhD preparation. Byjus is a good company, but there was not much scope of learning for me there. So that motivated me to find more PhD positions. My work would usually start at 10:30, and it wasn't continuous work. So there were 2-3 hours of break. I had this thing; if you give me work, I would complete it in half an hour and then sit and do my own work, so I used that time to look for PhD positions. Then after work, I would stay awake till 5 in the morning, read emails, read newspapers, search for professors, universities, and connect to people on Linkedin and Twitter.

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING A GOOD CV

I followed the same template that is generally used for Internship and Placement purposes at NITR. But it's also important to write what is needed for the profile that you're aiming for. For example, someone going for a job would have different content from someone who will be going for a PhD degree. The profiles need to be highlighted.  For them, it might contain factors like previous job experiences or skills like programming, etc., but for a PhD, it would be about research work or experience that makes you a good researcher. So it is important to prioritize what goes after what. My experience in BYJU was less important than the research internships that I had done during college. So it is important to prioritize what goes into a CV. 

INTO YOUR NEW VARSITY AND FUTURE GOALS

In the US, the officials have a lab rotation system. Basically, you go there and try out the different labs, so for SUNY Buffalo, the good part is the lab rotation is very operational. People can go to all the labs that they want and work as long as they want. One can work in each lab for two weeks or one month and attend their lab meetings and do everything that basically a lab member does. A person can talk with the professors and can do that with N number of labs that the person wants. So I plan to go there and learn things related to energy, heat, organic electronics or batteries, lithium-ion batteries.

MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS

Please don't get demotivated by thinking that a Ph.D. is too long, like five years is too long to get a degree and that getting a job would be easier. Because if you really have a zeal for research, you should totally follow it instead of just getting worked down on what the societal norms are, that by 25, you have to have this great job and do this. You can do that on your own time. If research is your passion, follow it. And don't get worked on by things people say or judge you on the basis of what you're pursuing or how long you're pursuing, or what department you're from. Because that is something applied science people face a lot.
 

MAHAK BHARGAVA( GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY, ATLANTA)

From being a student of the Department of Biotechnology at NIT Rourkela to getting admitted as a Predoctoral Fellow in the elite Georgia State University, Mahak Bhargava has carved her success trail through sheer patience and tenacity. Given below is the story of the achiever.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

I am not going for higher studies as of now. The position that I will be working on is called a Predoctoral Research scholar, and it's offered to those students who are willing to pursue a PhD in the future. Basically, I didn't feel like doing the masters because it would be very expensive. Hence I thought it is better to work as a research assistant in a few labs, gain some experience, and then directly pursue my PhD. So, that is my plan for the future. Initially, I thought of doing a master's and then a PhD like everyone but later changed my mind. I was in contact with many professors in the United States, and I was also awarded the Khorana fellowship, so I was in touch with many people around the US. I used to interact with various people out there. So I asked them if doing a master's is that important. Because you know if you do master's, it will be 50 to 60 lakhs per year, and I didn't want to be a burden for my family like even taking a loan itself is a big thing. Some professors suggested that if I want to do a PhD, I can work for a few years in the United States and pursue a PhD. So ya, that changed my mind last year. It was actually late 2020 when I decided that, okay, I don't want to do my masters, I want to be a research assistant for a few years, and then I want to do a PhD. 

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

For this Predoctoral position, there is no application process. I had to mail professors who had openings in their labs for such positions. So, I had acceptance by two universities, one was Georgia State University, and another one was Dana-Farber Cancer Institute which is affiliated with Harvard, but the professor at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute joined Harvard in 2019, so I thought that at the moment I needed a professor who had a well-established lab and who had contacts around in the united states so, I decided to go ahead with Georgia state university. Because the professor I would be working under is there since 2000 and she is very renowned, and she has a lot of contacts around there, so that's why I decided to go with Georgia State University. As of now, I would need someone who could guide me really well, and someone who has a lot of experience and also the professor seems really nice since my first interview with her, and I thought that she is someone I want to work with, so I thought, that okay I should go ahead with Georgia state university. 

MAIN CRITERIA FOR YOUR DESIRED UNIVERSITY

For me, the first and the foremost thing was the project I would be working on, and the second was the professor. I didn't think about anything else because you might already know that you don't actually get many replies when you mail professors. For masters, these criteria are essential: which university you want to go to and what are the criteria, but for me, it's like the professors I mailed; I really liked their work, and that was most important for me. You know how these professors are in the United States; they don't really reply, so I got a really few replies, and from them, I chose whose project was better. 

PREPARATION STRATEGY 

If someone wants to pursue research, they should start thinking about it from the beginning, like joining the department. So, when I was in my second year, I started working in one of the labs in the biotechnology department. So yeah, I got exposure to a few of the research topics because of that. I got to know which field I might be interested in working in. So I did a few projects in the department under 2 professors, and then I learned about the Khorana program. So I think that the Khorana program was the one thing that helped me in getting a Predoctoral Research scholar position because many of the professors know about this program and because it was mentioned in my CV that I had been selected for this program, so in most of the replies I have received they thought that I am a good student because I have been shortlisted for Khorana program.

My mailing process was very smooth because of the Khorana program. The obstacle is you have to be very patient in the entire process. Often you will mail 10 professors, sometimes no one will reply, and sometimes all of them will reply at the same time. So, one of the major obstacles for me was patience because every day, I used to mail one professor, and that person would not reply, and this would go on for like 10 days. So, at that time, I had people around me who helped me to get through the process, and finally, I got this Predoctoral research scholar position at Georgia State University.

Insights into Khorana scholarship

Khorana scholarship is awarded to people who are into Biotech, Chemistry, or Biology fields. First of all, we have to submit a research proposal and our academic backgrounds. We have to write a short Statement of Purpose in which our research proposal is there. So, when we submitted, around 3000-4000 people applied for it, and only 50 students were shortlisted. Then we have to approach professors in the United States. Suppose we get an acceptance from a professor. In that case, the Department of Bio-Technology that the Indian Government affiliates provide us a stipend of 2500 dollars and flight tickets like Airfare and health insurance.

DEALING WITH ACADEMICS

In a way, my application process went pretty smoothly because we did not have to put in a lot of effort because of the online semester. If it had been offline, I would have had to put in a lot of effort. But also, at the same time, we could not gain a lot of technical knowledge. We missed a few essential courses that would have benefited us.

I cannot exactly say it was a boon or a bane. After all, I benefited from it in some way because everything was lenient in online mode, but if it comes from a technical point of view, we obviously missed a lot. We could not do our final year project properly because we did not have lab equipment in our home.

The Professors in the Biotechnology department are very nice and supportive. Even when we were at NIT, we never faced any difficulty because I don't think the Bio-Technology department needs a lot of effort. Everything goes pretty smoothly, so it was never a problem.

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING A GOOD CV

If you want to pursue research in the future, then the most important thing is the project you are working on, and if you have any publications, then that is like a cherry on the top. People say you need to be a part of a few cultural clubs, which is essential as I was part of Ritvic. But I was mailing professors, so I don't know how my CV helped me because my professor was only interested in the project I was doing as a final year student. For me, the only important thing was the project I did and the skills I have developed in the past few years.

INTO YOUR NEW VARSITY AND FUTURE GOALS

I am interested in the field of cancer biology, and I think that I will be going ahead with it. I am planning to do a PhD, so I haven't made a concrete plan as of now. I will go to the US, and when I reach there, I will get to know more about the research opportunities and my area of interest. So, for now, I have thought that I will not decide anything as of now. I will go there, explore more, and after that, I shall decide what to do next.

MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS

I would say that you always know what's right and what's not right for you. If you know that you want to do something, just go for it and be patient, and someday you will get it. Patience is the key. It would be best if you do whatever you feel is suitable for yourself.

AMULYA NITTALA(NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY, BOSTON)

Amulya Nittala, a graduate of the Department of Computer Science Engineering, has successfully achieved a Master's degree admit to Northeastern University, Boston staying true to her ambitions. Given below is his success story encompassed in an interview.

DECIDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

I had decided that I will be pursuing my Master's ie. probably in my 2nd year. I was sure that I wanted to go for higher studies. My plan was confirmed when I did my internship with KPMG, where I worked on the front end. I really enjoyed the user experience and wanted to do my Master's because, in an undergraduate degree, you don't get those many courses and resources in any way. That's why I chose to go for a master's. My parents always wanted me to go to the US for an undergraduate degree, but I wanted to first study in India. Slowly my interest in that increased, and I decided to go for a master's.

FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE DREAM

I applied to Northeastern University, University at Buffalo SUNY, Stevens University, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, University at Washington, Seattle, and San Diego State University. I got admits to the first 4 universities.

In the United States, the university does matter, but more than the university, the course matters. That is whether you are interested in the courses or subjects they are offering. So mainly, that is what I looked at and decided to go for Northeastern University. I was interested in the domain of Information Systems and User Experience; based on that, I looked for colleges and shortlisted them.

Before you apply to a particular university, there are certain documents that you need to keep ready before. There are specific exams also you need to write, one of them is GRE, and the other is TOEFL.GRE is Graduate Record Examination mainly used for Masters admission only, whereas TOEFL is an English proficiency exam. One of the vital documents is the 'Statement of Purpose'. The admissions team will get to know you through SOP only. You need to make sure you write it almost perfectly. Another essential document is 'Letter of Recommendation', which you can get from your professors or manager in your internship. You need to get certain other documents from the college, but these are the primary documents. After you get these documents ready, you have to go to the college website and apply.

MAIN CRITERIA FOR YOUR DESIRED UNIVERSITY

For me, the main criteria were specializations. Usually, in Masters, in the program itself, there will be specialisations like my program is called Master of Science in Information Systems. In many other universities, I noticed that User Experience wasn't a specialization, but in Northeastern University, they offered it. That is what I wanted, and that is what I went for. Other factors were also there apart from this, like the city where it is, a general overview of the university, its rankings, individual program rankings, etc.

PREPARATION STRATEGY 

There is no preparation strategy as such. But the first thing I did was research thoroughly about the options there for a Master's. This helped in almost every step afterwards. Then I made sure first to finish my GRE and TOEFL exams early to understand the chances of me getting an admit to the universities I was interested in. I also made sure to start my application process well ahead of time to avoid being rushed. There are many documents to write and collect, so I started my process almost 1.5 years ahead.

The primary issue I faced was the GRE exam, as I had to prepare for this during the regular classes. GRE, in general, is also a pretty difficult exam. So for me, that was most difficult. In GRE, there are two parts to the exam. One is the Mathematical part which is easy, and the other is the verbal or English part which is difficult. So, there is no other way out of that for this, just "practice, practice and practice".Like you have to practice a lot because the level of English that they ask is entirely different. That was probably the most challenging part, and the next was shortlisting universities because there are so many good universities in the US, so shortlisting them was pretty difficult, but in the end, it just came down to the course and the specializations.

DEALING WITH ACADEMICS

Fortunately, it was not that difficult for me to manage admissions and academics because of the online mode. Apart from project work, the final year was not too hectic, so that I could handle it without too much problem. There was some project work here and there. Apart from that, it wasn't that hard to manage foreign and college work because generally for foreign admit, the main work comes during the exams that are GRE exams and the TOEFL exams.

Online semester provided some benefits because I was in my home with my parents, so discussing anything or getting any document was easy for me, but one thing that was difficult is getting certain documents which I needed from college like some letters, transcripts, etc. 

PUTTING UP SKILLS AND ACHIEVEMENTS: DEVELOPING A GOOD CV

CV is also very important. It's called profile building. You need to have some good projects. I did 1-2 projects in my 2nd year and 3rd year. I did an excellent internship also. I earned a few certifications from Coursera. I had extracurricular activities also. All this shows that you are academically focused and have applied what you have learned in college. You must have applied your learnings somewhere like projects, internships, etc., which is very important.

Extracurriculars are very important; usually, people overlook something like that, but extracurriculars are essential. It would be best if you wrote all these in your CV very precisely and attractively as they hardly get 2 minutes to read your CV, so profile building is essential to make your CV look good.

Extracurricular can be anything. It doesn't have to be like arts or anything. It can be some robotics club you started, and you are head of that or a part of some coding club. It can be anything; it's just to show them that you are a diverse student or a diverse candidate or just to show them that you can do many things in many fields. In the US, it is essential to be very diverse.

INTO YOUR NEW VARSITY AND FUTURE GOALS

My field of study is Information Systems. In that, I would like to specialize in User Experience. I want to join some company after my Master's to work as a web developer or an analyst. That would be my main aim. In the US, you get 3 years to work on a student VISA only. Hopefully, I will get a job there.

MESSAGE FOR ASPIRANTS

Don't just stop with an Undergraduate Degree; there's just a lot more to learn. If you found something you are interested in during your undergrad, you should take up a Master's and specialize in it so that you can work in the position or the company you want and ultimately get the salary you want. Moreover, in a country like the US, the exposure that one can get is unmatched. This will help not only to learn and grow academically but also as an individual.

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

Stay tuned to Part-2 of this article, as we bring another set of admits in our next issue!

Designs by – Piyush Sahoo

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