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Q1. When did you realize that you wanted to go for further research in your field rather than do a job? What attracted you towards this field?
Answer: I came to NSIT with the plan of doing Masters later on, so job was never really my aim. I realized that B.Tech would allow me to explore many different fields, while Masters would actually hone these skills. According to me, Masters is essential if you really want to work on practical aspects of things.
Q2. What is the procedure of selection in
I. Carnegie Mellon University
II. Boston University
III. University of Maryland?
Answer: The procedure is same for almost all the universities in US. Every year, during Sept-Oct, online applications become available and are open till Dec-Jan. They generally ask for your GRE, TOEFL scores, undergrad transcripts (marksheets), Statement of Purpose, Letters of Recommendation and resume, everything online. They usually take 2-3 months after the deadline to evaluate candidate’s profile and give a decision.
Q3. How did you prepare for the exams? When did you start preparing?
Answer: For GRE, I started preparing 4 months before my exam date. I joined Princeton for initial preparation (2 months). Their Verbal manuals really helped me a lot. As far as quant is concerned, it’s quite easy and we might feel that being engineers, there’s no need to prepare. Still, it’s tricky to score perfect 170 because many questions are there which require no beforehand assumptions, so people tend to make mistakes. It’s important to think like an examiner, and for that, practice is required. After finishing my manuals and online material, I practiced from Manhattan and Vocabulary from Magoosh. It would be beneficial if you give mock tests from time to time and not just towards the end. It helps in assessing performance and rectifying weak areas. I gave GRE 1 year before I had to apply. It helps in a way because the year you have to apply is quite stressful. It’s usually filled with academics, arranging LORs, making your SOP, shortlisting universities and most importantly, converging on your area of interest. TOEFL doesn’t require much preparation. It takes usually around a week to 10 days to get accustomed to their format and give 3-4 mocks.
Q4. What were the major challenges faced by you and how did you tackle them?
Answer: Trying to zero in on a field and shortlisting universities. One has to be dead specific on his/her area of specialization. Only then it’s possible to shortlist the universities accordingly. Because, each university has several departments, their research is interdisciplinary, and each department has many groups. Each of them has a dedicated website. It’s quite easy to lose track. That took up most of my time. Also, I think there needs to be a balance between the number of safe and dream universities you choose, though its entirely upto the individual to judge his/her level and make the best decision.
Q5. Did you have any difficulty in getting letters of recommendation? How did you overcome them?
Answer: No, I didn’t have much difficulty because all the Profs who taught me or under whom I had worked gave me a LOR.
Q6. How have these 4 years in NSIT helped you?
Answer: They helped me a lot. I got an opportunity to conduct research under some of the best professors. Moreover, there is ample of time in NSIT to try out different things. It just needs to be used wisely.
Q7. Would you like to share some tips with your juniors?
Answer: Starting from the 1st semester, it’s important that you try to get good percentage at least upto 6th sem. 7th semester becomes super hectic as I mentioned earlier, so you need to have a cushion of good percentage upto that point in order to concentrate on other things. Besides, work in the area you are planning to specialize is a must, as most universities would look specifically for that in SOP. If possible, try publishing 1-2 research papers. It shows your ability to conduct research in an oriented manner. Finally, be patient as universities take up their own sweet time to give out decisions and be prepared. Luck plays a big role and it’s easy to lose heart on rejects. But if one has worked hard, ultimately, he/she would go through.
Cheers and good luck!
Q8. How does it feel to be enrolled in such a prestigious university?
Answer: CMU was in my ambitious category while applying, so it certainly feels special. It offers many courses, and the research work is elaborate too. In this sense, I feel quite lucky to have got this opportunity.
A huge congrats from the team of NSITonline and all the best for your future endeavors!
Varun Sridhar, a 4th year student of Electronics and Communications Engineering at NSIT, shares his experience about his internship at the esteemed Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
You are amongst the very few in college, who have managed to grab such an 'incredible' internship. What is your success mantra?
I don't think there is a success mantra as such. I was pretty sure by second year that I wanted to study further in my field. Once that decision has been made, all one has to do is pick out one's area/field of interest and begin working in it. Good research projects contribute greatly to the resume. And of course, that little bit of luck is necessary.
What was this internship/summer program all about? How did you get to know about it?
The program is one designed specifically for undergraduate students and was aptly called the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. It is supervised by the ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) Department at CMU. The Training and Placement here at NSIT sent out a mail in the beginning of January with a link to this program.
How and when did you apply there?
I applied just before the 31st January deadline. The application required filling up of general information about the applicant, area/field of research interest, college GPA up till the point of application (this I left blank and wrote my percentage in the comments section) and a brief Statement of Purpose.
Were there any qualifying rounds? How did you fare in these rounds?
There were no qualification rounds. I was notified in the beginning of March that I had been selected.
How tough has this program been? Also, how did you manage to fund this internship? Did CMU provide any allowance in expenditure?
The program was a fantastic learning experience. I learnt an enormous amount in the field of computer vision. The work was tough and challenging as can be expected but it was rewarding at the same time. The program was funded by the ECE Dept. at CMU. The money provided was enough to take care of the stay as well as day-to-day expenses.
Did you do any other internship or project? Please throw some light on it.
I haven't interned anywhere else. I have worked on other projects though. In my 4th semester, I started a desk research project under Prof. Harish Parthasarathy on Stochastic Processes and Stochastic Calculus. I worked on this till the end of my 5th semester. At the start of my 6th semester, I started work under Prof. Sanjit Kaul at IIIT-D on network optimization in Wi-Fi/CSMA networks. This project I had temporarily suspended when I went to CMU but I am now continuing it as my B.Tech. Project.
After such a top-notch internship, what is your future goal - top-notch placement, MBA, MS or anything else? And, how are you preparing for it?
I am interested in pursuing an MS in ECE. I don't feel like working right now and so didn't sit for the placement session. I am through with the necessary qualifying exams required for an MS which are the GRE and TOEFL. I am now going to start with my applications to US Universities. Deadlines are usually December 1st onwards.
Briefly describe your experience socially at CMU.
Well, it was summer at CMU so there weren't too many people on campus. But in general, the people there were really nice and friendly. There are events like trips to baseball games and amusements parks that are organized for all the interns so one gets to interact with the others. Overall, it was great fun meeting and interacting with new people.
What advice would you give to your juniors who frantically search for these internships but are unable to grab them?
I would say to them that they shouldn't get disheartened. The rejection should only serve as an extra motivation to work harder and one should never lose sight of his/her goal. Like it has been said innumerable times before: "Good things come to those who wait" and I am sure there is something good out there for all those willing to work for it.
Presently pursuing MS at the eminent Ohio State University, Monadhika Sharma, COE Batch of 2012, craves for creativity and is a chronic bibliomaniac. She shares her journey with the NSITonline team.
Q.1 You are amongst the very few in college who made it to such an elite university. What is your success mantra ?
Answer: My success mantra may be the fact that I do not give in to peer pressure easily and adamantly follow what I believe in. At NSIT, placements are a big deal and we have a huge CAT culture. Too few people apply for Masters abroad and you have to go against the natural flow of things at NSIT to decide to go for higher studies.
I just knew I wanted to learn more and being in a Computer Science course in the USA was an obvious choice for me.
Q.2 What embarked your interest towards MS? When did you realize that MS was your goal ?
Answer: All through my first and second year at NSIT, I was sure all I wanted out of my BE degree was a well paying job in or around Delhi. But by the end of second year I realized that I will not be happy or content doing a routine 9 to 5 job even if it paid me well. I am the kind of person who gets not only bored easily but rather frustrated in situations where there is no creativity. So I thought that even if I manage to get into a reputed company as a software developer, I would not be out there doing 'new' things and creating cool stuff. That was when I began to think of MS as a viable option for me.
Q.3 According to you, what is the best time to start preparing for GRE ?
Answer: Get it over with in your third year itself. Prepare for it throughout your 3rd year and take the exam during your summer break. That's what I did and luckily it panned out very well for me. I took it in the middle of my Summer break (June 30th) and I took TOEFL right when college opened, i.e., in August.
Q.3 How did you achieve your goal after you decided that you wanted to pursue MS? Did you join any coaching ?
Answer: No I did all the planning and preparation on my own, no coaching or counseling whatsoever. I was of the opinion that if eventually I dream to study at a reputed US university and stay alone on my own and manage a thousand things singlehandedly, I better start preparing for that kind of life well in advance.
Q.4 How is the journey after GRE ? How many universities did you apply to ?
Answer: Unfortunately this is where I made my biggest mistake. I applied to only 3 universities out of which only two were the ones where I actually wanted to go to. OSU was one and luckily I got in. But I have no regrets as financial reasons were a huge deciding factor in limiting the options of good universities I wanted to go to.
After GRE is when the real work starts. You write your SOP, you shortlist universities based on the work going in them and based on your interests in that kind of work. Every university has different requirements like some may ask you to mail them the transcripts while some ask you to just upload them online first. So figuring all this out, and writing your SOP refining it again and again after getting it reviewed by relevant people takes much of your time. GRE is just the beginning.
Q.5 MS has always been cliched with good GRE score requirement tag, how much is the role of other things like semester score, project work, internship, etc. in selection to a prestigious university ?
Answer: I think GRE matters only 10% or maximum of 20%. It is actually the whole package of things that decide your fate - your score, projects and relevant internship experiences. You should just make a strong case for your application as to how you are a genuine student and why are you interested in graduate study. I know people who scored a full 1600 in GRE and still got rejects from universities. So you can judge from that how unimportant the GRE score is beyond a threshold.
Q.6 The popular perception in NSIT is that an external GRE coaching is mandatory. What are your views on the same ?
Answer: Is it? At my time it was not. People I knew studied on their own. But it is totally a personal choice. Anyone who thinks that he/she cannot manage her time well or doesn't understand what to study and how to study and doesn't find google search helpful enough can go for coaching. I didn't and I am happy with my decision. But this may not be the case with everyone.
Q.7 It is well known that MS from a prestigious university is a costly affair. How did you manage to fund your MS? Did you get any scholarship ?
Answer: Yes, it is a costly affair and I was confused for a long long time whether or not to take the plunge. MS students are not funded everywhere and there is a huge initial investment that you have to make. But given that, I knew what was at stake and I took the risk. I firmly believe that higher studies in the US are worth the effort and the investment especially in the field of Computer Science is small before the huge benefits one can reap from this degree later. I am immensely interested in the field of Data Mining and it will be a long time before I find a place in India for myself, but here in the US it is burgeoning pretty fast.
So far I am not funded but because I am going for a Thesis option with my MS, I am likely to be funded in my second year.
Q.8 Did you do any internship or project ? Please throw some light on it.
Yes I did quite a few projects and also a few internships. Please find the details about it at http://www.linkedin.com/in/monadhika
Q.9 How tough has this journey been? Did you think at any point of time about leaving this path and going for a luring placement like most of your contemporaries had opted for ?
Answer: Yes of course. Going for a MS felt like a huge step and at many times I felt I should just relax and take the easy way out, i.e., take a job and stay in my hometown Delhi, in the familiarity and comfort of the people and places I have grown up among. But I did not want this temptation keep me from realizing my goals and dreams which were much bigger than a comfortable job in Delhi. So I took the risk and I hope it is going to be the right decision for me.
Q.10 Getting an interview/selection call from one of the most prestigious universities, would you like to reminisce the incredible moment with us ?
Answer: I still remember I was having a pretty bad day and I was feeling very low about something. Ohio State updates the status of your application online where you can see "Pending" "Accepted" or "Denied". Mine was "Pending" for a long time and it had been a while before I had checked it. It was evening and I randomly signed in to check my application status and it read "Accepted". My pupils dilated and time froze for that moment. And then there was sheer happiness.
And just as the way I am have always been, the ecstasy subsided in a day and two and I was overwhelmed with the tension of how to go about arranging for finances to pay for my education.
Q.11 How is life there different from NSIT ?
Answer: It is a different world altogether. I enjoyed my time at NSIT, and I am loving it here now. For a person passionate about Computer Science, USA feels like heaven.
Life is definitely not "easy" here. I have to cook my own food every day, I am totally on my own here. Managing finances along with studies and other goals makes you so much more independent. The people around here are brilliant and sometimes I find myself awed by even the undergraduate students here. The level of research that goes on in this country is amazing and it's impossible for you to be not glad while you are here. Mostly it feels like a dream come true to me.
Q.12 What advice would you give to an unguided/misguided junior who direly wishes to pursue MS but does know where to start from ?
Answer: Start from first exploring what you want out of your life and where your interests lie. Don't randomly choose to go for MS without completely exploring your own goals and interests. Because whatever path you choose, you will have to walk it till the end so make sure you enjoy walking the one you choose. First ask yourself if you would like to study further or not, whether you want to pursue research or a job is what makes you happy? Do a few internships as well as a few projects to find your calling.
Q.13 Finally, what is your vision of NSIT in the coming years? What is the one thing you would like to change in NSIT ?
Answer: I wish more people apply to the US. NSITians are very underrepresented here and people in the US need to know that NSITians are a brilliant lot. From BITS alone 150 people get an admit every year and from NSIT not more than 5 to 10 people even apply for higher studies.
On one hand it's good that NSIT's placements are the envy of every other college but we have got much more potential than that. So I really wish that our professors encourage more NSITians to apply abroad. I want to see more NSITians around me here at the US.
Sakshi Handa, COE batch 2012, is another one of our meritorious students who continues to embark on and magnify our story of success. Presently pursuing an MS from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Sakshi takes out time for an interview with Manshul Arora of NSITonline.
Q. You are amongst the very few in college who made it to such an elite university. What is your success mantra?
This is a very broad question. Getting admission to a prestigious foreign university cannot really be considered as success. I just wanted something particular and prepared as best as I could. Admission committees in graduate schools look for an all-rounder personality, not just an A-level performance in an interview or entrance test. The factors which influence their decision in order of priority are:-
a. Academic performance:- I can't stress this point enough! In the placement session one can get away by scoring above a minimum threshold, but for a graduate school application, university scores play a crucial score. If a first/second year MS aspirant is reading this, my advice would be to never underestimate undergraduate scores. Try your best and score as well as you can.
b. Research: Some good projects and if they are in a particular field then that's the best case scenario. It doesn't really have to be a publication in a first-tier conference (if you have published one, great!), because admission committees don't expect that quality of research from an undergraduate student.
c. Good GRE/TOEFL scores: - I believe with the revised GRE pattern, 320 on 340 qualifies as a threshold.
d. LORs (Letter of Recommendation) from professors that know you well and a well written SOP (Statement of Purpose).
Q. What embarked your interest towards MS? When did you realize that MS was your goal?
In my second year at NSIT, I had watched a few computer science lectures online by professors from MIT and UNSW. Some 'cool' lectures on applications of Artificial Intelligence got me interested in the field of computer vision and Machine Learning. I started working on an object tracking project with my friend and liked it enough to continue working on projects in the field. Oh and I really wanted to attend lectures by some of the best faculty in the world.
Q. According to you, what is the best time to start preparing for GRE?
Typically three to four months in advance. Ideally, one should give GRE during her/his sixth semester.
Q How did you achieve your goal after you decided that you wanted to pursue MS? Did you join any coaching?
No, I didn’t shed my money on any sort of coaching. In my opinion, GRE preparation doesn't really require any coaching. Get typical GRE preparation books, practice and test yourself regularly!.As for other stuff concerned viz. SOPs, university shortlisting; seniors and www.edulix.com are of great help. Moreover, I had some wonderful seniors at NSIT who gave good advice and I hope our batch continues this tradition.
Q. It is well known that MS from a prestigious university is a costly affair. How did you manage to fund your MS? Did you get any scholarship?
I had applied to selected public universities where tuition costs are lower than private universities. I am working as a Research Assistant at UIUC, so yes I am funded currently.
Q. Did you do any internship or project? Please throw some light on it.
As I mentioned above, I had done some work in Computer Vision and Machine Learning at NSIT. I did my third year internship at University of Pennsylvania in the field of Computational Neuroscience. Applying knowledge of computer science in a different field altogether was a challenging experience and a lot of fun. It gave me an idea about working under an eminent faculty on a large scale research project.
Q. How is life there different from NSIT?
Graduate student life here at UIUC is very different from NSIT. We get regular assignments, tests and its very difficult to even imagine missing a class. Anyway, life is what you make of it. NSIT is a good undergraduate school; one should just know how to extract the best out of it.
Q. What advice would you give to an unguided/misguided junior who direly wishes to pursue MS but does know where to start from?
Get good grades in exams and read research papers in your field of interest. If you don't know your area of interest yet, just start with something easy and you like. Take up a small scale project in that field with a friend. Try to consult faculty as they can help you identify a goal to start and will later recommend you for graduate schools.
Q. Finally, what is your vision of NSIT in the coming years? What is the one thing you would like to change in NSIT?
I would rather just answer this question with respect to academia. NSIT has an excellent placement record and a good number of students make it to big MBA schools. Research however is not a priority. I know from experience that a lot of students are in fact interested in doing research projects but they don't really know which faculty to consult or where to start. It would be really helpful for them if NSITonline could actually post research profiles of professors on the website! Students interested in specific fields can form research groups to discuss their projects, cited publications under the guidance of a professor. That will definitely encourage more students to do some good research, apply what they learn in class and pursue Masters in Science or PhD later.
I guess what really gave me an edge was the fact that I was clear of what my priorities were and had a technically current perspective of the research going on in the field. I had contacted some professors and discussed a few issues regarding their research and the papers they had published. It was not a mantra, rather more of trying everything in the book :)
It took me 2 months to prepare for the test. But one must judge his capability and prepare in his own way. Coaching may be of help in certain cases while others can opt to develop their own techniques. Just try and identify what you are comfortable in.
Vibhor: What according to you is the ideal time to start preparing yourself to achieve a good GRE score and a suitable profile to make it to the best universities?
A suitable profile for the best universities would include good grades (>70%), a paper (even a review is good), a good SOP and good recommendations (maybe in that order). Opinions about GRE tend to vary, but I guess it’s more of a cut-off thing. If you were above 1350, you were clear on the GRE front (with the new pattern coming in, scores would vary now).
Having said that, I would like to mention that I did not have many of the things that I mentioned above in my CV . My aggregate was well short of the ideal mark and my 2 attempts at research papers were unsuccessful. But I could still make it here. So, do try even if you're curious enough and don't have a 'suitable profile'.
But getting to know some awesome people here was definitely the best part of my NSIT experience. That definitely affected me for the better.