Following the US presidential elections, a major turnaround of events has taken place in favor of Indian students and immigrants with the new bill passed by the US Senate last Wednesday, December 2, 2020. The bill eliminates the 7% per country cap on the employment-based immigrant visa (EB-2 and EB -3 categories) green cards. The bill has proved to be a huge relief for Indian immigrants stuck in the green card backlog for years.
Every year, the US grants more than a million green cards for the following types:
Dilip Oak’s Academy recently conducted a webinar on how to select the right subjects (minor and major) for bachelors in the USA. The webinar was presided over by Maithili Khandekar, BS from the University of Arizona, now studying in Medical School. Here is an overview of the few key points she spoke on about the overall subject selection system in the US and its advantages:
Decided/Undecided major: Unlike India, there is no hard and fast rule in the USA to select subjects before joining the university. Students can either decide before joining the university or join undecided and explore their options upon starting the course. Usually, every university offers general courses in the first year for streams like Math, Science, English and Humanities. Math stream usually includes subjects like Calculus 1, and Calculus 2, Science stream includes Biology, Physics, and Chemistry, while Humanities includes contemporary architecture, literature, art etc. Students can decide the subjects they want to pursue depending upon what they have studied in the 11th and 12th grades, their goal, and the credits they have earned.
Last week, Dilip Oak’s Academy conducted a webinar on the current scenario in American universities, the impact of COVID-19 on admissions for Master’s degree, and funding opportunities in the USA. The webinar was presided over by Maggie Wolford, director of graduate admissions and recruitment, SUNY Binghamton. Here is an overview of her valuable insights into the scenario in America concerning several important pointers viz.:
Location: Universities in the major cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York have been more affected by the pandemic as compared to those in remote areas, like SUNY Binghamton, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, University of Oklahoma, Norman, etc.
Financial impact: High class, Tier 1 research universities (those offering STEM courses) can sustain the effects of the pandemic, but liberal arts and other smaller universities have incurred significant losses.
Factors for resuming in-person instruction: Universities will decide whether to start the in-person instruction soon or wait, depending upon the number of COVID cases in the area, cost of testing, and testing policies. (whether they have compulsory testing, voluntary testing, or symptomatic testing, and the budget for each)
Spring semester schedule: The majority of the universities are quite likely to push their spring semester start dates. Usually, the spring semester commences in January, but universities might extend it to February. In that case, students will have extra time for project completion, but their holidays will be reduced.
Impact on funding: Due to online instruction, positions for Teaching Assistantships are likely to reduce. Research Assistantships will also depend upon whether the university is funded by the government or by private agencies. Government funding has been reduced significantly for other fields, but a few like Supply Chain Management and Healthcare Management will still receive enough funding. Graduate Assistantships won’t be affected since university jobs like web page development, networking, etc. will continue.
Impact on CPT and internships: CPT is activated only after completing two on-campus semesters. If you join in the spring semester, you cannot work on the CPT in summer. In that case, you can utilize the time for summer courses and graduate early, or take campus paid internships which don’t require CPT. For example, lab assistant jobs, office jobs, admin jobs, etc. You can also take up certification courses free of cost, which will add to your résumé.
Impact on admissions: Presently, the examination system all over the world has been disturbed due to the pandemic. Many universities have waived the GRE requirement, and they are accepting unofficial transcripts as well. But the situation will remain uncertain for a few more months.
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Every year, thousands of international students apply for a master’s degree in the US. This is mainly because the US education system offers well-structured programs, research opportunities, exposure, and most importantly, funding opportunities. US universities are very generous and provide a lot of financial assistance in the form of full funding, scholarships, or RA/TA/GA.
However, in order to avail of these funding opportunities, students must keep in mind the following 7 criteria:
A high GPA: To avail of scholarships, a student should have a consistently high academic record throughout the bachelor’s program (75% and above/GPA of 9.0 and above).
Paper presentations: Students who have a strong research aptitude and have published papers in nationally and internationally recognized journals and conferences, have high chances of securing full-funding. Looking at their potential, universities do not hesitate to invest in such candidates. At Dilip Oak’s Academy, one of our students, who presented three papers in international forums including Italy and the USA, received full funding for PhD in Computer Architecture from Georgia Tech, Ohio State, and Yale University.
Location: This is a very important factor that students often miss out on, while applying to universities. The majority of students apply to universities in the states of California, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Texas, Illinois, etc. Due to a very large application pool, getting financial aid from universities in these states is difficult. But if they were to apply to universities in the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Idaho etc. their chances of getting aid would be higher because the number of applicants is relatively low. The quality of education in these universities equally good.
Professors: Students need to thoroughly research all the professors of the universities they plan to apply to. One can directly find them on university websites or (add name) study their work, their experience and interest, get in touch with them, and see if they are ready to offer any assistantship. Of course, applicants need to have a very strong academic background to receive a positive response from the professors.
GRE score: Along with other factors, the GRE score is also important. A GRE score above 320 (preferably above 330) maximizes your chances of securing funding.
SOPs and LORs: The Statement of Purpose plays a crucial role in securing financial assistance. Students need to ensure that their SOP brings out their intent, their story, their passion and why they deserve to receive funding. Similarly, strong recommendations from professors, project guide, or team lead (for working professionals) makes a strong impact on the application.
Relevant work experience: A relevant work experience of at least two years acts as a testament to one’s skills and commitment to the field and convinces the admissions committee that the applicant is a deserving candidate for a scholarship/funding.
Hence, if you are planning to apply for financial assistance, keep the above points in mind and plan it accordingly.
Along with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, a lot of international students are now keen on pursuing PhD at American universities because the programs are comprehensive and structured, and encourage a lot of independent research. Apart from world class facilities, well- equipped research labs and qualified professors, American universities also offer funding opportunities to deserving candidates which makes it easier for international students to pursue PhD in America. American universities have a global standing and they lead in innovation. This provides numerous job opportunities to PhD degree holders in academia, research institutes, government, and private research agencies all across the world.
Pursuing M.S. in the USA is often expensive, especially for international students because unlike American citizens who pay in-state tuition fees, international students have to pay full tuition fees. For example, if an annual in-state tuition fee is $8000, an out-of-state tuition fee can be as high as $20,000. These tuition fees are also dependent on the ranking of the university. US universities are given rankings by certain private agencies like the US News, Princeton Review, etc. and as a thumb rule, the higher the ranking, the costlier is the university. Generally, state-funded universities are cheaper than private universities. Of course, there are certain exceptions to this. However, just because the universities are cheaper, it does not mean they do not offer quality education.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most US universities could not offer in-person classes for fall 2020 semester and almost all of them offered online classes instead. However, a majority of students did not opt for online classes due to the following reasons:
Even for the online medium, students will have to pay full tuition fees for the entire semester. (Some universities have reduced fees by 20 to 25 per cent)
The online semester will mean no financial assistance, no campus jobs/RA/TA which then makes the course unnecessarily expensive to bear.
The online semester does not offer the exposure and opportunities that a student otherwise gets while on campus.
Considering this, most of the students have deferred their admissions and are now gearing up to join the spring 2021 semester. However, looking at the rising numbers of coronavirus patients in the US, there is confusion about whether universities will take in-person classes for spring and whether it will be feasible for international students to join the semester.
If you are applying for fall 2021 the clock has begun to tick. So, don’t delay. Here is a detailed Timeline to help you start and streamline your application process:
Register for the GRE and TOEFL examinations – these examinations should preferably be taken by 15th December 2020.
Make a preliminary list of universities which meet your requirements considering:
Broad specializations you are interested in
Expected GRE score
Recommendations by seniors studying in American universities
Start working on your Statement of Purpose (SOP). SOP is a crucial document that provides insights into your purpose of joining the course and university, your personality, experience in the field and long-term goals. It should be around 500 to 800 words long, precise, interesting, grammatically and technically sound.
Arrange for 4 sets of college and university transcripts.
Choose your recommenders (preferably college professors/project guides/employers) and keep recommendation letters ready.
Test and application process
Take the GRE and TOEFL exams latest by 20th December 2020
Shortlist your final 8 to 10 universities.
Complete online application process latest by 30th of December and send the required documents by courier. Of course, universities accept applications even till 31st March, so you can send them by January too in case of any delay.
Request the ETS to forward your GRE and TOEFL scores to the universities you are applying to. (scores take minimum 2 weeks to come)
After sending the applications
You will most likely receive admission decisions from Feb/March. Once you receive the decisions, email your acceptance. This is very important especially when you are offered funding.
While the standardized tests like SAT and ACT are very popular among Indian students aspiring to pursue bachelors in America, the Advanced Placement (AP) Test is often disregarded by most due to complexity of its courses. A lot of students consider them challenging and shy away from taking this exam. In today’s blog, we aim to address these misconceptions about the AP and throw light on how Indian students can actually benefit from this exam.
What is AP? (Advanced Placement)
AP Exams are standardized college-level exams designed to measure your mastery over a specific subject and help you earn credits. Under this, there are 38 courses from various disciplines to choose from like AP Calculus AB, AP Computer Science, AP Chemistry, AP Physics etc. You can choose the course for subjects related to your career of choice and your expertise. AP exams are scored on the scale of 1 to 5, where each score corresponds to a college course grade equivalent.
One of the most important steps in preparing for the GRE is planning your study schedule. Many a time, despite being fast learners, students fail to score high in the GRE only because of haphazard study methods. A structured prep plan helps you to systematically cover all the topics, manage time, and stay focused and motivated until your test day. At Dilip Oak’s Academy, along with GRE Coaching, we guide our enrolled students to study in a methodical manner through our exclusive GRE Study Plans.