Saturday, July 28, 2012

10 mistakes while applying for MS in US Universities

Waiting for GMAT/GRE + TOEFL Test Score and then applying

Don’t wait for your GMAT score, GRE score, TOEFL score to arrive. It’s pointless. You may miss the deadline to apply to US Universities (also especially if your first score is not up to the mark). It's wise to take the test early but your selection of US Universities should be done in a way where you do have a combination of a. dream Universities (ambitious), b. very good Universities and c. back-up Universities (in case you do not get through to the first two categories). US Schools allow you to apply in advance and you can provide them with a test date.

Three quick recommendations (the fourth one is free)
1. Apply to 8 Schools (3 dream, 3 very good, 2 back-up) (max. 10 US Schools)
2. Apply in October/November in the year before your course start eg. If you plan for Fall 2015, apply in October/November 2014. Many Universities for specific programs only accept admission applications (with all application documents) until mid-December. Don’t fret if you only reviewed this blog post in December or January since (nearly) a large number of US Universities accept applications until mid-January. Many Universities will have rolling admissions too
3. Prepare yourself for GMAT/GRE test for two weeks and assess your abilities to score (may be with your tutor if you have one). Then, book a test date and work towards that date instead of endlessly preparing for the test
4. Check the entry requirements of the shortlisted US universities well in advance so that you could keep the documentation ready like essays, personal statement (SOP), etc. 

One problem is certainly solved with this approach of ‘not waiting’ – a good GMAT/GRE score means your chances to (possibly) secure admits from dream and very good universities rise and if not, you already have applied to your back-up universities.

Waiting for the hard copy of the test scores (like GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS): 

No. You don’t need waiting for the hard copies of these test scores. US Universities will not accept these from you. These are reported by the testing agencies (eg. ETS) directly to your selected Universities. a. when you register / appear for the tests (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL), you select up to 5 Universities where your scores are reported for free (included in the registration fee) and b. you can use your online account to send out your score reports. The best is to report your score 30 days in advance to the application deadline of the university (or earlier)

Overestimating your test scores: 

Practice tests are different from real tests (specially on the day of the test). Besides, nervousness sinks in for most students on the test day. Your target score must generally be 10% higher than your required score. And you can easily reduce your actual score by 10% to 15% as against what you find during practice tests. Never overestimate your scores; otherwise you will only have applied to back-up universities. We laugh sometimes suggesting typically that every GMAT applicant believes to be good at English and every GRE student believes to be the best at Math.

Realistically estimating your test score will also allow a. selection of right universities and b. reporting your scores to the right universities (saves money)

Randomly applying to as many Universities

You’ve finalized your university list (that you are going to apply to finally). Then you hear about your friend applying to another set of universities. While applying to one university may seem a costly affair (you spend about Rs 5000 to apply to one—reporting TOEFL, GMAT, GRE scores, application fee, courier charge, others), more importantly, it suggests that you are unsure of your future plan of studies or have not previously researched well enough to be spending vast amounts of money. Thus, unless you come across one super program option (which seems like coming out of serendipity only), you may wish sticking to your university options

How to fill the University application form? 

Spelling mistakes – bad. Entering incorrect academic details, scores, and reluctance in entering all details (if you have a long list of activities) – seriously, you must be crazy. It is wasting your time and money, the university’s time and you only have applied to one university less (for each university that you repeat that mistake).
Oh! And yes. An address, a statement, other descriptions -- (all) start with a capital letter eg. "I have worked with....", "ILW, 21 Pitruchhaya Building...Vile Parle (W)" -- it cannot be "i have worked with...."

Common Personal Statement

This is typical. Often times you do not even require a personal statement. Commonly popular as a statement of purpose (SOP), students tend to make one common essay. You are better off collecting the requirements of all universities you are planning to apply to. Make a list of essays (different from SOP) and start working on the toughest essays first. Quite interestingly, you may find that essay answering many of your other essay questions. Each University may have a set of questions asked through their application form (or may be listed on their website in the admissions or entry requirements sections) and these questions are important to why you as an applicant fill in to their class. Each essay requires individual attention. For some uncommon errors that students make while writing essays, check this post

Heavy concentration on subject / technical knowledge

Especially distinct to MS applicants, each piece of information they wish discussing with a university is technical (mildly perhaps for business/management applicants). While academic achievements are important, it’s a waste if you do not highlight other personal traits and achievements like displaying experiences that has brought out in the (recent) past, your leadership qualities, social activities, sports participating, and such others. Sometimes even critical assessments about yourself are important. It’s wise to point out your shortcomings so that you realize you are spending money on entering a class where you can contribute too. Your higher studies must teach a whole lot of other characteristics which will be required in the real world. Here’s an interesting post suggesting 11 skills that every graduate must concentrate on developing

Work experience

While for most MS programs, work experience is not essential, having one always helps and boosts your admission chances. However, to build up work experience like part-time experience during your course—that’s just not required. And if you imagine being able to prove that you’ve worked as a manager in only 1 year post your Bachelors (in India), you must be kidding. Surely, highlighting your internships, real-time work experience is a must even if it brings out minimal learning that you could highlight (on your resume)

Resume Building

Include all information. Keep it short and simple. You can get creative and there are many websites that help you facilitate that. You don’t need a 4 page CV and bore the busy admissions committee

Expecting all universities to reply in the affirmative

Indeed. Sounds weird. However, most students would anticipate that all universities will provide only a positive reply and you may have 8 I20s to finally decide from. The fact that you are applying to 8 universities is because you have some dream university options. Don’t hesitate to receive reject letters

Lastly, some useless errors' list:
a. Your email id should be correct, must be checked regularly and is largely the only method most universities will contact you
b. Believing 'rolling admission' means you can apply anytime. You must apply timely
c. Not submitting financial documents' proof (that you can fund your studies), when you have applied for scholarships. You must submit financial proof
d. Not applying for transcript timely. All US Universities require transcript (different from marksheets). These need to be made available to all US Universities you are applying to
e. Not checking if your university requires transcript evaluation. Many US Universities require your transcript and degree to be evaluated by a testing agency like World Education Services and others

Good luck applying!

You may also wish to read: US University Essays and Mistakes

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Indian students will face UK visa interview from 31st July 2012

UK Border Agency may invite Tier 4 UK (Student) Visa applicants for an interview to determine whether to award an entry clearance (or grant you a visa to study in the UK). UK Visa interviews will begin on or after 31st July 2012. If students do not attend the visa interview, they may face a visa refusal.

Full ministerial statement about student visa interviews and genuine student rule is available here.

Students joining UK Universities in September / October 2012 intake will possibly be the first ones to face these interviews.

The 9th July 2012 update on the UKBA website suggests that a student could be asked numerous questions about a student's immigration and education history, study and post-study plans, and financial circumstances. Student may face a visa refusal if the visa officer is not satisfied with the genuineness of the student. The update also mentioned that up to 14000 students are expected to be interviewed over a one year period.

We believe that the visa interview will primarily have the following key objectives:
a. whether the student is able to communicate well in English
b. whether the selected course of study at the selected UK Institution is justifiable
c. whether the student's objective is to genuinely study (and not work)
d. whether the student's documentation is appropriate (genuine)

The UK visa interview will NOT be for all (Indian) students.

Thus, students having good academic scoresgood IELTS score (typically -- 6.0 overall and above for Masters, MBA, other PG courses; 5.0 overall and above for Bachelors and other UG courses), and meeting the financial requirements (of being able to prove having adequate finance covering the full tuition fee and maintenance funds) may not even face an interview. (Note: these are perceptional thoughts; there may certainly be more factors that the British High Commission may wish to assess in an applicant).  

Students with long gap years between studies (barring MBA programmes that require adequate work experience) or students having low academic and/or IELTS score or who have selected a different course progression (eg. BCom students applying for MSc Hospitality Management) may have a higher chance of being called for a UK visa interview.   

Again, the fact remains, if a student has wisely selected the study option, ideally the student need not worry about the interview. Really, what they wish to assess is your true motivation (to study) and that you have not lied on the UK visa application form.

Here is what we expect the UK Tier 4 visa interview questions to be (random questions order):

  1. Why did you select the UK for higher studies?
  2. Isn’t this course offered by any university or college in your country?
  3. Why did you choose this UK university and how did you find about it?
  4. Why have you selected this course? Is it relevant to your previous studies?
  5. What is the location of the university/college?
  6. What is your IELTS score?
  7. Your score is low. Will you be able to understand the studies?
  8. Your academic score seems to be very low. Why do you think your University has offered you an admission?
  9. What is the scope of your course?
  10. Why are you taking this course?
  11. What is the course structure? (Course content)
  12. Do you intend to work in the UK after completion of your studies?
  13. What do you intend to do after completion of your studies?
  14. What are your future plans?
  15. What benefit will this course bring to you?
  16. How much money can you earn after your completion of studies?
  17. Are you aware about the part-time work rules in the UK for students? Will you be willing to work part-time if you get an opportunity?
  18. How many hours of study per week is suggested by your University?
  19. Where will you stay in the UK? Are you going to live in private accommodation? Have you booked any UK accommodation?
  20. Who is your sponsor? How much do they earn in a year?
  21. What is the source of income of your sponsor?
  22. Do you have any relative or friend in the UK?
  23. What is the course commencement date?
  24. What will be the total cost of studies per year?
  25. What will you do during the off period/semester?
  26. How much money is available for your stay in the UK?
  27. Have you researched your career prospects?
  28. Tell me about some Companies that can hire you after finishing your course in the UK
  29. Tell me about the place where you university is?
  30. If you get an employment opportunity in the UK after your studies, will you be willing to take that up?
Good luck to students!