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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.