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On your marks...
Aug 07, 2004 03:54 AM 5228 Views
(Updated Aug 07, 2004 05:57 AM)

Thought it would be useful if I could record my experiences and suggestions on this platform for the benefit of others.

Of late I have been recieving a lot of e-mails and a lot of other communiques that asked me for clarificataions with regard to the different colleges one could apply to. Incidently I had been the ''Application Secretary'' (called Appsec in IIT jargon) for my branch at IIT Madras and was therefore responsible for choosing as to how many colleges each one in the branch should apply to and as to how one should apply.

There were in all 22 students in our branch. 20 applied that year for a graduate position in the US and 19 got both fin.aid as well as a good position. The one who didn't get any fin. aid that year, got the same one year later. Ours was one of the very few branch where we had 100% sucessful app(i.e. application), and it is not very difficult incase you plan in advance. For the two following years after our bbatch the result was appaling just a meager 8 of 20 and the next year 5 of 20.

While in IIT I was not supposed to leak this to other colleges; though I guess that now it does not matter since I have been relieved of this responsibility for 2 years.

Applying to the US

In principle, one should start planning regarding the app one year in advance. GRE and TOEFL should be planned somewhere in Aug (2-4 months before you apply) so that you have enough time to rewrite the same in case you goof up. There are some basics when it comes to GRE.

  1. Univs in Cali normally require a very high GRE score. Incase you do not have a 2200+ plus, your chances of getting there are difficult.

  2. Other colleges do not rely on GRE so much(I know guys who got schol from MIT with GRE scores of 1700), but this is the case only when your univ is well known, or if you have done some incredible work or if you have worked with some bigshot who could recommend you.

I met one of the faculty members from UIUC (Univ. of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) some time back when he was visiting our research group and he told me that its very dificult to decide the veracity of the application if you are not from a well known institute. So if you are not in any of the IITs or IISc, you should atleast try to get recos from some well known profs. A well known college is good as it is but a well known Porf recommending you will take your application right up there. Incase none of the faculty members in your dept. is well known then you should take up a summer training project under some well known faculty member in any college/research institution. A TOEFL score in excess of 260 (CBT) is desirable.

A word of caution to those who apply to the US univs. Of late its been very dificult to get into collegfes along with a schol. In the aftermath of 9/11 univs have curtailed their research funding which means lesser schols. On top of this one has to face competition from some of the best applications in the country. People from IITs normally always apply abroad. So incase you are aplying abroad be realistic and follow the underwritten plan:

  1. Over the years we in our college (IIT Madras) collected all the data regarding the application process. This means that which bp (branch position) holder applied where and what all univs he got and finally where he went for higher studies. These are known as app-files. Incase you have not already, then there should be a custom in every college to develop these. The statistical estimate of where one stands is normally very accurate. In my experience when we applied from our branch the estimate was so incredible that 2 of top five landed in Stanford, 3 in MIT, 5 in Penn State, 3 in Arizona State Univ, 2 in UIUC, etc.

  2. If you are kind of desperate for getting a good univ then tighten your seat belts and get ready for the rough ride. Its not going to be easy given that most colleges in India are not very well known except IITs, IIMs and IISc (not even St. Stephen?s from N.Delhi). You have to strive every moment in order to get a better grade in your class, better rank in your branch and better recognition in your college. Participation and recognition through professional institutions like CRY, IEEE, etc are very helpful. If you have some pubblications in your name the this would add colours to your application and bring this into light compared to many others even from IITs. However publications should be in recognized journals and not some tom-dick-harry type ones.

  3. Your SOP (Statement of Purpose) is very important. Besides proving as to why the univ should take you at all as a grad student you also have to prove as to why you are interested in the univ. More on this at

  4. Incase you have seniors who are abroad then take their help. They know the best regarding the possibility of your applying and securing a grad schol., and in whichever colleges.

Applying to Europe

I would restrict myself to Germany, UK and Swiss. Germany and UK have by-far the maximum schols but not at the masters level. In some branches like chem. Engg. They do have schols at the masters level too but not many. Incase you apply for a position here then be ready to support yourself. Its not very expensive as you only need around 7000 ? 8000 $ (4 Lakh) for two years. The semester fee is something like 100 $ contrasted to 15,000 $ in some US colleges. Finally a knowledge of german could be useful. In case you are applying to Germany then you could get further info from any of the Max Mueller Bhawans or from DAAD.

In Swiss, ETH is a nice institue besides which I have not heard of any other. About UK I can?t say much but do know that there are some schols. You might have to do a lot of searching yourself on the internet. This could be very helpful.

All said and done, its not a very easy process to apply and secure a schol for studying abroad. If you plan for it and are determined for the same then better start right away. A good college is difficult but not impossible.

Good Luck !

PS: I would highly recommend reviews written by poons15, sweety123, yapper & kahfess on this same topic.

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