Dr. Harchol-Balter on the Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose is an extremely important part of your application packet (click here for an explanation). A well-written SOP that brings out the most important facts about you as a candidate for higher studies, can open the doors of opportunity for you. On the other hand an SOP that tries to impress but focuses on facts that the admissions committees consider irrelevant can lose you the opportunity that you have dreamed of.

In the extract below Dr. Harchol-Balter, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie-Mellon University points out two common mistakes that many applicants make:

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Great FREE Application Tools on DOA Online: Part 1 – the University Info Feature

Is the Admission Process Becoming a Hassle?

If you have been struggling with the complexities of getting admission to an American university, then you need to know about the great FREE tools available on our online‘ site. They are great for two reasons. First, they will simplify the process of applying to American universities for you. Second, they are free.

There’s no payment and there are no obligations even for students who haven’t enrolled for admissions counseling at Dilip Oak’s Academy. To use them, all you have to do is sign up and start using them. So, tell all your friends about them so they can benefit from them too! This week we will begin with the University Info feature.

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What to Do When You Get Admission

Congrats! Now you have the admission message or letter you were waiting for. After all the celebrations though, it is the beginning of yet another round of many things to be done before you reach your ultimate aim: enrolling for the program you desire. So, what things come next? Well, you have to get the I-20 form and the visa. The approximate sequence of what you have to do to get these two crucial documents is as follows:

Admission in US for MS1. Read the letter or email carefully. If you have to send an acceptance of the offer do it promptly. Even if you have multiple offers it makes sense to accept more than one when there is no offer of funding.

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Applying for Spring (Jan) 2014 – A Step-By-Step Explanation

If you are applying for spring, here’s one last call to check the timeline for applications – though university deadlines for spring go up to December, the last phase of deadlines is drawing to a close (see deadlines for spring 2014 for more details). For those late universities there are still a number of things you need to get done right away! Note that the timeline below is geared to the earliest universities (which have their deadlines in June). However, the steps given below all need to be taken for all universities no matter what their deadlines are. So, hurry and get into action, there’s no time to lose.

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Recommendation Letters – Part 2: Ingredients of a Good Recommendation Letter

What Recommendation Letters should Cover

Recommendation letters should cover the following points (also see the links to great sample recos at the end of this post):

  • How long the recommender has known you and in what capacity (teacher, seminar or project guide, practical supervisor, project leader etc.)
  • His or her assessment of your academic performance (relative rank etc.), intellectual abilities, work habits and character
  • Your special achievements – especially in projects or in papers presented
  • Your communication skills – how well you were able to present your seminars
  • Your social skills – ability to work well with others, leadership qualities
  • Some background about the recommender – this is useful in the case of professors whose work in a field might be good but little known outside India; things to highlight include area of work, achievements in that area (papers published, awards etc.), prominent places worked in, length of experience and so on

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Types of Transcripts – and Why you Need Them

Some universities accept only university transcripts; others accept college transcripts or even an attested mark sheet. Some universities require you to submit 2 transcripts. It is very important that you read the American university requirements carefully before applying. Make sure you do not send them the wrong document type as it will delay the admission process.
These are issued by the university your college is affiliated to e.g. M.I.T. College in Pune is affiliated to Pune University. If you are a student of that college and the American university you are applying to requires university transcripts, you should get transcripts from Pune University.

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The University Transcript: What Exactly is It and Why is It Important?

The transcript is an official summary of your academic performance and progress to date. It is one of the key documents you have to submit when you are applying for admission to a doctoral or master’s program of studies in an American college or university (the others are the statement of purpose, recommendation letters, a resume and of course your GRE and TOEFL scores). In order for the transcript to be acceptable to American universities as an official document, it must conform to the following specifications – it should be:

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The University Transcript: A Comprehensive Description of the Details Included

Your transcript should contain the following:

  • a ‘bona fide certificate’ containing:
    • your name
    • the name of the college where you studied
    • the name of the course you studied
    • the duration for which you were at the university/college and date of completion of the course
    the examination scheme which, includes details such as:
    • whether all subjects are compulsory or whether there are elective subjects, a project etc.
    • the number of semesters in the course and the duration of each semester
    • the duration of each lecture
    • the minimum marks required to pass in a subject
    • the maximum number of grace marks that may be given so that a student may pass or obtain a higher class
    • the score scheme used: grade point average (GPA) or aggregate percentage/class system

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September Alert for Students Applying for Admission in Fall 2014

fall 2014September 2013

Here’s your checklist of tasks for this month – and note there’s a lot of heavy documentation work that you have to be doing, so be prepared to do a lot of running around to your college and your university

  1. Arrange for 10-13 sets of transcripts in sealed covers from your college or university – some universities insist on university transcripts
  2. Choose your recommenders (generally 3 recommendations are required, at least one of which should be from the educational institute last attended) and give them the necessary details – resume, copies of your mark sheets etc.
  3. Start working on your Statement of Purpose (target date for completion 31 October 2013) and resume

Note: for the full schedule see: timeline for fall 2014

Related Links:

Application for MS (or PhD) in the US: Key Steps, Crucial Decisions, Vital Information How to Crack the GRE All the Key Facts about TOEFL and IELTS

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Recommendation Letters – Part 1: Who the Best Letters Come From

Recommendation Letters – What They are and Who You Should Get Them From

In the context of higher education in America, recommendation letters are statements by teachers, supervisors or employers which highlight your qualities, background and achievements and show that you are a good candidate for a doctoral or master’s program of studies.

To make sure that you are an applicant of good caliber every university will ask you to submit at least 3 recommendation letters along with your application form. If you are a student, these recommendation letters should come from teachers who have taught you important subjects or supervised relevant project work, research papers or seminars. If you are a working professional and your work experience is relevant to the field you plan to do your degree in, one letter can come from your immediate superior in the organization (if you have been working for a very long time then you can take letters from two people in organizations you have worked with, but at least one recommendation should be academic).

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