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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.