Guidance from Grad Students
This article is written by an alumnus of UIET, Panjab University. She completed B.E. Biotechnology from UIET in 2006 and is now pursuing PhD at Iowa State University.
Q. Mostly everybody is taking help of consultancies and counselors. But I am thinking of applying on my own. What do you suggest?
I would suggest you to apply on your own. Take a subscription of US News (www.usnews.com) online. It will help you in knowing the universities’ rankings and other useful info about the universities. There are many other websites (www.i20fever.com, edulix) which are a lot helpful in finding which universities you should apply for. You will get all the necessary information on these links. You could even join the yahoo group of i20feverHyderabad, where you can meet many more applicants like you.
If you can do all this basic research on your own, there won't be any need to go to the counselors. Most of the times, they don't really care much about the universities that match your profile. They give a fixed set of universities to all the students, from where you generally get admits easily. So, its better you apply to universities where you want to go and do your own ground-work.
Q. How does one get transcripts from one’s university?
I am a passout of Panjab University. So, I can tell you the procedure for PU.
Go to Examination Branch in the Admin Block, and ask them for the transcripts. They will charge you around 2500 bucks per transcript (i.e. 8 DMCs). They generally take three weeks to make them ready, and then send them on their own to the university where you are applying.
The simplest way however is - go to USEFI(United States Educational Foundation in India), Delhi and have the photocopies of your marksheets attested. They charge Rs. 20/- per copy and it takes a few minutes for getting your transcripts done. You can even take envelopes from them and get them stamped too. The USEFI attested marksheets are accepted by most of the US universities but some universities might want you to send original transcripts later on. I applied to 8 universities, out of which only 1 (Washington State Universityersity) did not accept them. Rest all accepted them.
Q. Do you think it makes more sense to apply for a M.S. or an integrated PhD?
Apply for MS, if you have no plans of doing PhD later and also if you have enough funds for your studies. Otherwise, go for PhD straightway after B.E. You don't need a Masters for doing a PhD in USA. Moreover, PhD students are always funded. You won’t have to worry about your finances then. Though it is a bit competitive when you apply for PhD, but I am sure if you write a strong SOP, have good academic record, GRE scores and recommendation letters, you should be able to get through.
Q. What do you think about the Professional Science Masters courses being offered by various universities?
PSM courses don't involve any research work. If you don't want to do any research, then they are good for you. Chances of funding are very low in PSM courses though.
Q. Which all universities did you apply to?
I applied to:
1. University of California, Davis
2, University of California, Santa Cruz
3. Iowa State University
4. Washington State University
5. SUNY, Buffalo
6. SUNY, Stony Brook
7. North Carolina State University
8. George Mason University
Q. How did you decide which universities to apply to?
I went to counselors and they decided the universities for me, except for the first two. That’s why I advised you not to go to counselors. I realized (very late) that I could have applied to even better universities with my kind of profile. So, learn from my mistake. Believe in yourself and apply to the universities where you want to go and not where your counselor wants you to go!
Q. Do you have any suggestions... regarding anything?
Suggestions - hmm. Go slow and patiently. The application process takes time. Do one thing at a time and give a lot of importance to your reference letters and SOP. Do not listen to anyone if they ask you to apply to average rated universities. Make a strong profile and apply to the best universities. For back-up, keep one or two average universities.