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Admission into Top Schools will pave way for Great Jobs in the US!! What should you do?

Education is not for the sake of a degree. It is for a career and life. Education today has the power to lift up the social ladder, not just the individual but also the whole family. Education thus should be an investment and not an expense. That is one of the reasons, why I keep telling my students to be careful with the choice of the country, the college (or school as it is generally called), and the course.
This is the time when many students are planning to go abroad. For most of us, the USA continues to be the land of opportunities. However, many students tend to compromise on the school they apply to.

The fact of the matter is, like in India, even in the US (and other countries for that matter), there are great schools, average schools, and bad schools. Your attempt should be to go to as better a school as possible, as, it is this that can get you the right job.

Do remember, going abroad is easy, making a career and life is not. Getting a better job (both in terms of payment and in terms of challenges), would improve your chances of getting the H1B visa (which is the work visa in the US), and then pave the way to getting the Green Card. So - DO NOT Compromise!

Unfortunately, I have noticed, many students, on account of their average marks in graduation, or average/low score in GRE or IELTS, or having a few backlogs in graduation, believe their profile is poor and so they do not stand a chance of getting into good schools. So even when they apply, they compromise.

The best thing about US schools (and true for other developed countries too), they do not give huge weightage to one or two parameters - they look at you holistically. This means, even if your academic profile is poor, but in your application, exhibit some other positive element, you may still win the admission.

In this article, I am going to talk about the common mistakes students do, and what they can do to improve their profile.

For those who are new to this, do note, that as a part of the application, you are not just required to send you academic credentials (your performance in graduation), but also submit two very important documents - SOP, or Statement of Purpose - which is an essay you write making a case for you to be admitted; and LOR (Letter of Recommendation), which is what you need to get from your faculty members, in which they make a case for you to be admitted.

And these are precisely the documents that you should learn to strengthen! Before we go forward let's understand, why you should aim for good schools?

Advantages of Good Schools
  • Good learning experience
  • Good industrial linkage
  • Good starting job and salary
  • Help the student earn an H1B Visa
  • Provide an international brand pull

The quality of education and research that happens in schools is driven by the funds they get from corporate. And so, unlike India, where even the top schools depend upon the government to support, US colleges are able to do good research (which needs money) and also give good scholarships & assistantship to good students. Not just that, as the funds for the research comes from corporates, the quality of research is richer, where corporates would never fund old research - but for the research which is future-oriented. And because the students of these schools also help the faculty in this research, the type of experience the students get is advanced.

Also, most of the faculty members, under whom you would study, would be working on multiple corporate research works, and also - be consultants to these leading corporates, and maybe even sitting as members of the Company Board. This allows them to network with these corporates strongly. And no wonder then, students use this channel to look for good jobs!

And yes, good companies do improve your probability of getting H1B visa, for they provide niche jobs.

Having made a case for a good school, let's now look at the mistakes students do, and what you should do right?
Do not under-estimate your academic worth:
A lot of students do not apply to good schools and play conservative, as their academic score is less. The fact is, schools in the US look more at scores of the students in the final and pre-final year of graduation - and for most Indian students, these are much higher than the four-year average!

Also, there are ways of improving declared scores. WES (World Education System) evaluation is one such. By using this facility, and having your Indian GPA get converted to US GPA, you could see a substantial improvement in your declared scores.

Do not under-estimate your GRE performance: GRE is out of 340, but most of the schools give more weight to your quantitative score than to the verbal score. And, we being Indians are naturally stronger in this area. So, if your GRE score is less, however, you have done well in the quantitative sections - be ambitious and try better-ranked schools.

Make SOP your strength and not a weakness: Quite often students weaken their profile by submission of the wrong SOP. The most common mistakes they do are
  • Exhibition of English
    An SOP is not about exhibiting skills in English. This is something that has already been tested in IELTS and/or GRE. The SOP should be crisp and right to the point and use simple language. It should not be lengthy and should take the form of storytelling (and so not like a resume).
  • Plagiarism
    Many students take SOPs of their seniors and make cosmetic changes. Or a few more intellectual ones take a couple of SOPs and then mix it to make it "original"! Do not plagiarize. Remember there are technologies today to identify how much percentage of the document has been copied verbatim from a set of other documents. Seek professional help if needed and build an original SOP that reflects YOU.
  • Wrong Focus
    In MS, research is what matters and makes sure the academics are linked to the research. Unlike MBA SOPs which require demonstration of different skills and contributions, MS SOPs should be more focused on research and academic work.
    Make LOR your strength, and not a weakness: This is another document you need to give respect to. Most of the time students get the stock (Letter of Recommendations) LOR the faculty members have, and then change the name. The LORs are long, and praise the students to heaven. These are sure shot ways of losing the interest of the top schools. So, what are the common mistakes students do?
  • Wrong choice of faculty
    The professor who is preparing the LOR for the student should know the student. The professor should know the student's ability to do study, do work, etc. So choose only those who have taught you, or you have closely worked with. Yes, it helps if your faculty is a Ph.D., or is a good researcher.
  • Stock LOR of faculty
    As many students approach the faculty members for the LORs, they have stock LORs which they give to the students after adding the name of the student. This would not be of any help. When I am designing any LOR for a candidate, I try to not just personalize the document to the expert's experience and work, but I also take points from SOP and try including in LOR to personalize the LOR.
  • Rating Matters
    Students sometimes think LOR is only the letter they collect from the faculty. Certain top schools ask, in addition to the letter, for ratings on certain parameters on hard work, the ability to do innovative things, presentation skills, etc. Guiding your faculty in providing such ratings in the form of a scale will help build a better LOR.

The bottom line - college matters!
It is much better if you start fighting now to get into good schools, rather than go to below-average schools and then fight there for a job!

Author Name: Mohamed Abdullah, CEO of Conduira.
Published date : 30 Nov 2019 12:31PM

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