First of all, I thank God for all my results, the admits and the rejects. Without His help, nothing could have been achieved. I know He gave me the admits which are part of His plan for me. I also thank my parents for helping me, even when they had no idea what to do, for putting up with my temper and moods during those nerve wrecking days. I am also grateful to my brothers, friends, batchmates from BITS who are now my seniors, and the BITS2MSPHD forum for all the help and support right through the application process, which I am gonna describe in these series of posts.
Once you have decided that you wish to pursue MS/PhD in the US, go to the nearest book shop and purchase Barrons. For more info on GRE preps, please refer to my posts ‘My journey in getting 1560 in GRE!! :D‘ and ‘GRE=words+stupid words+crap+wtf+dumb formulae= madness!!!‘. According to me, it is best if you can answer the GRE and TOEFL by August of the preceding year if you are applying for the Fall semester of a given year. So try and book the exams in advance so you get the date, time and place of your choice. Booking is done online and you will need a credit card. Also decide on at least four universities you are sure to apply to, as you are allowed to report your scores to four univs on your GRE exam day. Don’t waste it as it costs $17 to report your score. I wasted one slot by listing UCB as one of the universities and ended up not applying to it.
A passing remark about TOEFL. It is a very easy test if you are reasonably fluent in English. But I got a pathetic centre, in the sense my exam was delayed by 4 hrs, the computer hung once, and then it took ages for each question to load. It spoilt my rhythm and by the end of it I was tired, hungry and frustrated. As a result I screwed my speaking part. It might be a good idea to take some biscuits or fruits along, just in case you end up with a similar predicament. Or maybe you could keep some pizza delivery numbers in your contacts. The centre was ‘Attest’ on Mission Rd, Bangalore. The second time round I took Christ College as the centre. Everything went smoothly, although I didn’t do very well in speaking again, as I was really nervous the second time. The decision to answer TOEFL again is in itself a long story and I will not go in to the specifics here.
As for short listing of universities, there is no hard and fast rule. I based my decision on rank, cost, chance of funding, research and profs in your field and opinions of experts, my project guide at I.I.Sc in my case. I also mailed many seniors at the univs to get info about the universities. Finally, I chose two dream univs, two mid level and two safe univs for my profile. It is really difficult to quantify your profile and the universities level of acceptance. There is no easy math that will tell where exactly you will get. Maybe you can go to a palmist or read your horoscope to help make decisions. It is really a mind numbing job. Of course you can apply to numerous univs to be safe. But each univ application cost $120 on an average. Anyways in my case Stanford and UIUC were my dream univs (both rejects), Gatech (admit) and Purdue (not known yet) were mid level univs and UT-Austin (Reject) and UMinn (Admit with aid) were my safe univs.
Now that you have decided your universities, start applying! First start applying to the ones that have ‘rolling admissions’. I am still not quite sure if such a thing exists. Basically rolling admissions is a concept in which applications are reviewed as soon as they are submitted and results are given soon after. So you have a higher chance of admission/funding if you apply early. In my list, UIUC, Purdue, Gatech and UTA had rolling admissions. I didn’t know Purdue had rolling admissions and ended up applying to it on the last day. Information about rolling or ‘stagnant’ admissions can be found on the university site if you read it thoroughly or ask some seniors. Now that the ball has been set rolling..
To be continued..