DoJMA: How did you opt for pursuing an MS, in the face of the multitude of options available such as MBA, GATE or any other choice? At what stage of your undergraduate study did you decide on doing an MS?
NK: I was always interested in computer science and knew that if I study further, it would be to increase my knowledge and skills in this field. The quality of research and infrastructure as well as the flexibility of courses and job prospects made me want to pursue an MS. I began considering higher studies during my PS-1 after talking to students from other campuses as well as PhD students working at my PS1 station.
DoJMA: Which branch will you be graduating in from this University?
NK: I will be doing an MS in Computer Science from The University of Texas at Austin.
DoJMA: Which universities did you apply to and from which universities did you receive admits?
NK: I got admits from University of Southern California (Viterbi), University of California San Diego, Columbia University, and University of Texas Austin. I also got a fellowship from Columbia University which took care of tuition costs for one year.
DoJMA: What was the thought process while shortlisting universities for the purpose of sending your application?
NK: I took into account ranking of the University in the Computer Science Department, tuition cost and cost of living, the course structure, research labs and faculty when shortlisting universities.
DoJMA: Which factors did you consider while choosing this university from which you were accepted in?
NK: I chose University of Texas Austin as it is a top-10 university in computer science, has excellent faculty and research facilities, and has a small class size.
DoJMA: How did you build your profile to suit the requirements of the university? What were the strong points of your SOP, in your opinion, and what was your CGPA before applying?
NK: My PS-1 research internship, DAAD-WISE scholarship, and experience as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for multiple CS courses were strong points of my profile. It is important to start exploring your branch as early as possible in college. Doing projects and research internships will not only add to your profile but also help you with LORs, which are the most important part of the application.
In addition to detailing the projects you’ve done and expressing your keenness to join the University, the SOP is a chance to address parts of your profile that maybe otherwise raise eyebrows – for example, a bad grade or a withdrawal from a course. For your SOP, keeping enough time to re-read and revise it is essential. You cannot refine your SOP overnight or in a few days. I started working on my SOP in late October and the application deadlines were in December.
At the time of applying, my CGPA was 9.4. More than a high CGPA, having a good grade in core courses (or courses that are related to what you are applying to) is important.
DoJMA: How will you rank each of these, in increasing order of importance, for an admit to a coveted university: a) CGPA, b) GRE score, c) TOEFL score, d) LOR, e) SOP, f) projects and research work, g) extracurricular involvement such as a POR, h) good fortune
NK: In decreasing order of importance,
LOR > CGPA > SOP > GRE > Extracurricular activities > TOEFL
One cannot discount that a helping of Good fortune at every stage would do no harm.
DoJMA: How did you get the necessary recommendations from the professors involved in your LORs?
NK: I got recommendations from Professors whom I assisted by being a TA for their courses, and I got from some professors who had taken courses I did well in. I also got a recommendation from my internship professor.
DoJMA: How did you receive the required guidance for GRE and TOEFL? When did you write each of these exams? Which sources did you use for the preparation of these exams?
NK: I used the official GRE and TOEFL preparation books for the exams. I wrote them in the month of September in 4-1. I did not join any coaching for them. The books are exhaustive and provide a clear picture of what to expect in these tests. I got 333/340 in GRE and 118/120 in TOEFL. I spent about a month of preparation for GRE. TOEFL is an easier version of the Verbal section of GRE, so after giving GRE, a few days will suffice for preparing and doing well in TOEFL.