Do you need 16 years of education in India before
you go for a Masters degree in the US?
As mentioned earlier, literally anybody can do higher
education (by higher education I mean Masters and the Ph.D) or what is
known as "the graduate studies" in the US. Most universities
say that they need 16 years of education to become eligible for graduate
studies. So, anyone with 10+2+ a four year degree or a three year
degree + diploma or a post graduation are eligible to go to the US.
However, as I mentioned, The US universities are known for their flexibility.
So, if you can convince the academic panel that you have it in you what
it takes for someone to do the Masters or a Ph.D, they will be only glad
to accept you. I personally know over 25 students who went to US
after 15 years of education. While 16 years is straight forward,
you need to put in a bit more work to go after 15 years (i.e. 10+2+ a
three year degree).
Let us now look at the entire process from a height to identify the most
important components involved.
You have to convince the universities that you
are interested in studying with them.
What should you do for this? first thing is
that you cannot convince every university that you will study with them.
It will become a lot more easier if and only if you try to convince the
universities that match perfectly with your background. So, one
of the crucial steps in going to the US is identifying universities that
match your background perfectly.
Choose the Right University
So, your first step towards higher education
is in choosing the right university.
Once you know who you have to convince...
...you just need to tell them truthfully and honestly, how interested
you are about studying with them.
You can do this very elegantly with building
an application package that speaks for you.
Now, another crucial step is involved in getting
an admission with aid. That is convincing them that you are capable
of studying in their university.
You do this with getting good scores in the entrance exams, providing
good recommendations and with the percentage and marks that you obtained
in your previous courses.
If you do these three things correctly, you are on your way to getting
a very good admission and assistantship in the US. As they are so
important, let us summarize them again:
the universities that match perfectly with your background
an application package that convinces that you will study with them
scores, recommendations that convince them that you are capable of
being a very good student in the university
Now that you
got an over all picture, let us analyze each one of the aspects in a how-to
Before that, I want to tell you everything about another interesting aspect
of higher education in US...
The types of assistantships
you can get from a US University
If you want to pursue higher education in a US university (M.S., Ph.D),
you should aim at getting some financial assistantship. When you get
financial assistantship, the University pays for your education either partly
It is not as difficult as it sounds to get some kind of assistantship. In
this article, I will discuss a few aspects of assistantships. There are
5 different kinds of assistantships that you can aspire to while applying
for higher education:
Scholarships are generally
offered by third parties to bright students. They can cover either your
education or some expense related to education. Placementor.com itself has a scholarship
scheme to encourage students. There are many resources available where
a serious student can recoupe most of the money spent for the application
Fellowships are generally given to students whom the Universities feel
will be assets to their departments. These are paid the money (tuition
fee + stipend), without any strings attached. This is of course the best
possible form of assistantship you can get.
However, the competition is going to be stiff.
In a Research Assistantship (RA), you assist a specific
professor in doing research, writing papers etc. Here, you are expected
to put in 10 - 20 hrs every week, other than your own studies, to get
paid. The RA may partially or totally cover your tuition fee and
then give you a stipend.
A Teaching Assistantship (TA) demands that you help a professor with his/her
teaching responsibilities (conducting tutorials, correcting homework etc.).
Again you have to spend 10 - 20 hrs per week towards this.
Generally, professors look for English speaking proficiency for this assistantship
and a good score in TSE (Test of Spoken English) can be a strong point
in your favor.
Finally, sometimes you may get a full or partial tuition fee waiver if
you are a bright student, but the department does not have much funding
to support you. In such a case, you are expected to find a job on campus
to support yourself. As there is a lot of dignity of labor, you need not
hesitate to work in the canteen, library, computer lab or any other place
in any job. But even here you are required to put in a given number of
hours in addition to your studies.
Now that you learned all about assistantships, let us see how you use
the three pillar approach (choosing the right university, providing good
academic record and building a convincing application packet) to get the
assistantship that you deserve most.
you identify the universities that match perfectly with your background?
Various agencies in the US (US News being the most prominent) ranks universities
based on various criteria. The most reputed universities are ranked
high. This provides a very valuable method to see which are the
best and which are the lower ranked universities in your discipline.
Obviously, the competition for admission and aid is very high in the highly
So, most students tend to apply to the lower ranked universities to be
on the safe side. However, my personal example provides a very valuable
lesson in this case.
I had applied to three top universities using the methods that I am going
to discuss later. However, I just wanted to play it safe and applied
to four bottom ranked universities. Guess what?
I had straight fellowships from the top three (for a direct
Flat rejects from the bottom four (I mean even for the Masters)
Funny, it may look but it makes a lot of sense and the logic is very simple.
Just like how you are very anxious about getting admission, the university
is also equally anxious about getting the student to accept their admission.
So, if they feel that a student has a bright chance of getting admission
in a university better ranked than them, they will not take the risk of
offering the admission to that student as most probably he/she will reject
But in most student's case this ends up being a disaster as we do not
apply to good universities even though we have a bright chance. The bottom
universities do not give us an admission thinking that we must have applied
to good universities and will get admission there.
So it is very important to apply to a university that fits your background
It is not as straight forward as it looks as unlike most Indian universities,
US universities consider many factors for admissions. Let me list
them all here:
TOEFL, AGRE, TSE, TWE scores
of the college where you studied before
of projects you did
of the projects
of the people giving recommendations
any professor is interested in you in that department
it is a difficult and tricky process and students need to do a lot of
thinking in this area as this can really make or break your prospects.
Objectively analyze your entire background. If your class performance
is real good, it does not matter even if the test scores are just average.
If you have done an outstanding project, the professor you are applying
to may not really care about anything else. Evaluate your background
Is your overall background exemplary? then choose many top ranked universities
and a few above average universities. Is it bad? then choose most
from the bottom universities and a few from the average group. The
idea is to spread your risk as much as possible.
Do not depend heavily on the ranking of universities. It is a temporary
thing. Overall reputation is equally or more important. So,
a university may be ranked lower than the other university but have a
much more stringent admission policy than the later. In such a case,
you are much better applying to the higher ranked university.
One great way of learning more about various universities is to study
their web sites carefully. You have to study the overall site, the
student community and the department's pages.
E-mail them about any specific conditions they have for giving admissions
I developed a very interesting procedure for attacking this problem.
Actually, I could not test it on myself but used it successfully for many
of the students who came to me for advise.
I had analyzed the strengths of various universities in my field (I used
the rank list, the number of Indian students etc.). Using these,
I classified the universities in to 4 categories: Excellent, Good, Average
Now, I had used some weightage for each of the above criteria. Using
these, I cam up with a cumulative score for their background.
Based on the score, I gave them a spread. i.e. if their cumulative
score is 53%, the spread says that they should pick x% from excellent
universities, y% from good universities, z% from average universities
and the rest from the poor universities.
This procedure minimizes the risk of applying to either the top universities
or the bottom universities. It also has the advantage that the student
is able to exercise his/her choice as each category had enough number
of universities that he/she could choose from.
It became so successful that I finally developed a software (RightUniv)
and added it as a service to all Placementor.com-GRE customers.
You can also develop this method yourself and use it successfully.
You just need to be very careful in assigning the weights and classifying
Whatever procedure you may adapt, this is one place where you need to
put in a lot of thought. Far too many students either do not get
an admission or do not end up going to the universities they deserve because
they do not apply to the right universities.