Blogs & Updates
The Craze for Branded Universities-
Most of the students aiming for a great master’s education want to get into one of those “Branded” universities everyone is talking about. I’m not just talking about the Harvards and Stanfords of US but even the next tier of Universities such as University of California, LA or SD or North Carolina, Chapel Hill or TAMU, college station etc.. Remember, even these universities have a huge number of applicants from all around the world, especially from the Subcontinent, China, Korea etc.. . Getting into such Universities of course takes a great profile with good GPAs, GREs etc.. An added hurdle is the sheer amount of competition the applicants face.
For example, even after guiding multiple students over the years, for us it’s still quite hard to tell if a student with a great profile can get into CS program of North Carolina, Chapel Hill or not. It really depends on how competitive the Pool of applicants is.
What I can safely claim is that there are Universities which are almost on an equal footing as the “Popular” ones in terms of quality of education, but have somehow missed the limelight. To be honest, a few reasons for them not being that popular could be High tuition fees, Location, limited intake etc.. However, one secret advantage these Universities enjoy is the “Relatively low volume of applicants”. This very situation can increase one’s chances of admit into a great graduate course. Note that some courses in such universities might be ranked higher than the popular ones.
Also, one’s chance of getting on campus jobs or Assistantship increases owing to less number of students in the program, which in turn decrease your expenses.
Branded V/S Not-Branded-
For many students, the “Craze for Brand” is not just the driving factor to aim for such universities, but the opportunities that are created in terms of Job. I cannot deny that. Graduating from a “Maryland, college park” or “Columbia” definitely turns heads. The competition is crushing though.
On the other hand, graduating from a good Master’s course offered by these Not-branded Universities can also positively impact one’s resume, because employers usually look not only at the “brands” but also the content in an applicant.
In my opinion, if you are looking for an enriching education experience, do not limit yourself by just applying for brands. You should also give a shot to the other set of Universities.
QS rankings for some Popular Universities-
University of California, Los Angeles – 35
University of Illinois, Urbana Champagne - 75
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill- 90
University of Southern California- 129
Texas A&M, College Station – 189
University of Illinois, Chicago- 231
UMass, Amherst- 305
Northeastern University- 344
Stony Brook University, SUNY – 359
University of Texas, Dallas – 501-510
University of Cincinnati – 561-570
QS Rankings of some “Not so popular” Universities
Northwestern University 31
Rice University 85
Boston University 98
Case Western Reserve 167
Dartmouth College- 207
Georgetown University- 226
University of Notre Dame- 241
Tufts University 253
LeHigh University 551-560
Drexel University 561-571
College of William and Mary – 600+
Of course some might not agree with the Universities in the “Not so Popular” list, but we have observed fewer students applying to them (from India).
I also tried to include popular universities from different “Tiers” keeping all sorts of profiles in mind.
As a Student counselor at Dr.Raju’s Edu, I’ve often noticed students attending our classes, without knowing enough about the whole process of pursuing Master’s abroad. So we encourage our students to do good amount of personal research before deciding on a course and country of study.
The most important of all is to decide on a course of study. We had a student who has done BTech. in Civil Engineering, but his interests lay in pursuing managerial courses. He was in a dilemma whether to go for the common Master’s in Civil Engineering or look out for courses that match his interests. In his case, MBA abroad was not an option because he is a fresher with no work experience and Business schools require minimum Work-ex. But, there are many Universities abroad which offer specialized courses for students with diverse interests- This student here can pursue Master’s in Construction Management, which is a good intersection of his B.Tech degree and his Field of interest, or completely shift to Management, by opting for Master’s in Engineering Management.
A lot of us don’t know about specializations offered by Universities in a given field and miss out on some exciting courses that fall in line with our interests. One need not stick to the same course as his/her undergraduate degree.
To get to know more about the Specializations you’re eligible for, make sure you Research online. There’s a ton of information on Quora, Graduate Studies dedicated forums, or you can also visit the Graduate School Websites of Top Universities, in the country of your liking.
One easy way is to go to the Graduate school websites of one of the Top Universities in the country you're planning to study in. Once you're on the website, look out for different graduate courses that particular University is offering. You'll probably notice a long list of courses but just pick the streams you will be eligible to apply to and read about them. The Top University websites have a lot of information regarding specializations and the subjects taught in the courses. This way you can check if the specialization aligns with your interests.
Finally, as an aspirant who is planning to spend good amount of time and resources on Graduate education, it’s important that you pursue those courses that suit your core interests.
Many students ask us questions such as, "How important are my GRE/TOEFL/IELTS scores? Does Work Experience or Research work increase my chances of admit? Will I get into this University with a 6.3 GPA?" Etc..
To get a better idea on your profile, it's important to know how Universities evaluate a Student’s profile?
These are different aspects of your profile the Universities consider-
- Undergraduate Academic Scores and Research Experience
- Work Experience (If there)
- GRE and TOEFL/IELTS/PTE Scores
- Statement of Purpose, and Letters of Recommendation
The University admissions department, consisting of faculty members of your course, consider all the above factors of your profile, but the weightage given varies.
GPA & Research Experience-
This is the most important aspect of your profile! Your faculty gives maximum weightage to your GPA, because this directly reflects your expertise in the subject. Universities usually consider grades of your last 3 or 4 semesters, especially grades in the subjects relevant to the course you’re applying to. Any relevant research work, paper publications, Certifications, and final year projects all have a fair impact on the admissions panel.
Your most recent work experience is another major aspect, given that it’s relevant to the course you’re applying to. If you’re someone who has been working for 3+ years, your work experience is usually given more importance than your academics, given your work is in the same field as that of your course. Your internships also count as work experience but they're not as impactful as a full-time job experience.
Remember that work experience is not mandatory for a student to apply for majority Master's courses. It's good to have work experience as it will increase your chances of admit but not compulsory. There are a handful of Master's courses that require work experience, especially a few Management courses, so please check the course website before you apply.
Keep it mind that Universities give maximum weightage to your most recent "learning experience" at the time of application, be it work or study .
GRE scores in most of the cases, especially for top Universities in USA and Canada, are mandatory to submit. The Top Universities of other Countries where it's not mandatory, take GRE to be an added credential! A good GRE score translates into strong Analytical and logical skills, which are important tools to pursue your Graduate courses. In some cases, we have seen students with low academics, getting admits into decent Universities because of good GRE scores.
Stament of Purpose and Letters of Recommendation-
Stament of Purpose is a letter you write to the admission panel about yourself, your past expereinces, and why you want to pursue Master's degree? Some Universities will ask you to answer specific questions regarding yourself . SOP is a great opportunity to express your interest, expereinces, and ambitions in your field of study. All the members in the admission panel will go through your SOP, as this is the one way of getting to know you personally (Unless you are asked to give a personal interview, which some Universities do. Please check the University website).
Letters of Recommendation are written by your professors or senior-employees under whom you have studied or worked. You're asked to submit 2 to 3 LORs in your application. Through these letters, the panel will get to know more about your work and performance.
Both SOPs and LORs combined, can be pretty strong influencers on the admission decision. Sometimes, those students who don't have good academics or GRE scores can convince the panel through strong SOPs and LORs.
English based tests scores are mandatory for all International students who are from Countries where english is not a Native language. Every University has a minimum score requirement, using which they screen the applicants. They're not as important as the above factors for securing admission but the applicants have to cross the Minimum requirement. In some cases, students who do not cross that requirement might be given admission but have to finish Advance English courses in the University. Please check the University's website for alternatives! But, incase you're planning to apply for Research or Teaching assistantship after you get an admit, having high scores in these tests would increase your chances of getting an assistantship offer.
All these above aspects are considered by the panel while making an admit decision and no one aspect is "The important", given you cross the minimum requirements.
(M Sc. in Entrepreneurship, Brown University)
There seems to be a general confusion between students, as to what English based test to prefer among the popular three, IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE. One factor you should definitely consider is the country (ies) you’re planning to study in.
All the USA Universities accept both TOEFL and IELTS-Academic, whereas PTE is accepted by majority of the Universities,
Check PTE website for info.
If you’re going to Canada for only studies and are not looking to settle down, you can choose any of TOEFL or IELTS Academic, since Universities accept both. PTE is accepted by most of the Universities if not all.
But, if you want to settle down after your study and work permit period, the Canadian Immigration requires IELTS- General to apply for Permanent residence. Which means, you have to write English based tests twice- once for your University application and once for your Work permit. Here, we advise students to choose IELTS – Academic for University application because it is almost similar to IELTS- General, which you have to definitely write to apply for Permanent Residence.
Australia & New Zealand-
Australia & New Zealand Universities and Immigration, both accept TOEFL, IELTS Academic and PTE. But since the score validity is for two years, students might have to re-take the test while applying for Work-permit.
Finally, toughness wise the three tests don’t differ much. Remember that TOEFL and PTE are computer based tests, whereas IELTS is Paper based.