Planning MS in US – Part II
This is a continuation of Part I which dealt with choosing universities, planning GRE, TOEFL and applying. This part deals with processes after you have finished applying.
Step 6: Start applying for scholarships, assistantships and loans.
- Many universities provide financial aid in the form of teaching, graduate and research assistantships. Some of them require you to submit essays for these as part of the application, while others require you to submit them separately after the application. Some require you to apply for them only when you reach the university. Go to the financial aid page of the university (every university has one) and find out in advance. Do this before your application process so that you can choose affordable universities.
- Many universities have assistantships specifically for an ethnic group or women.
- Some universities may not provide any financial assistance at all. University financial aid depends on the availability of funds. Generally, public and state funded universities are able to provide more assistantships than private universities. Some of them may even be significantly cheaper than other universities. Example – University of Texas, Austin.
- There are many external scholarships. Good websites with a database of these scholarships are : http://www.scholarshipexperts.com/ , http://scholarship-positions.com/. If a scholarship search engine or application asks you for a credit card or other financial information before you can use it, stay away. Reputable scholarships never charge to apply, and there are plenty of excellent free search engines.
- Scholarships may have deadlines as early as November and many of them have it in February. So make sure you go through all of them and note the deadlines as early as possible.
- In India, many scholarships are also available for people pursuing higher studies in specific fields like biotechnology (a lot of scholarships for this one), etc. Then there some which provide interest free loan of up to 15-20 lacks (INR).
- Some notable scholarships programs for Indians are:
- Dorabjitata Trust (JN Tata Endowment) : http://www.dorabjitatatrust.org/Individual_Grants/individual_grants.aspx
- TOEFL Scholarships : www.ets.org/toefl/scholarships
- Inlaks : http://inlaksfoundation.org/inlaks-scholarship.aspx
- KC Mahindra : http://www.mahindra.com/How-We-Help/Education/Grants-and-Scholarships
- Narotam Sekhsaria Scholarship Program
- Fulbright (its under USIEF in India) : http://www.usief.org.in/Fellowships/Fellowships-for-Indian-Citizens.aspx
- Aga Khan Foundation : http://www.akdn.org/akf_scholarships.asp
- AAUW (for women) : http://www.aauw.org/learn/fellowships_grants/index.cfm
- A good overview of financial aid in India can be found at : http://www.manyagroup.com/financial-counseling
It contains an overview of the loan process as well which I will not repeat here.
Step 7: Decision Time
- Once you have secured admission in multiple universities, choosing one can be difficult and confusing. Make sure you study the course content in detail to see which one suits you best. Course content for the same program can vary across universities. For example, one may concentrate more on the software aspect of the field whereas another may concentrate more the hardware aspect.
- Mail existing students to clarify any doubts and get details of the program. Their email addresses are generally available on the university program’s current students page. Wait patiently for their reply as university students are generally busy. Some of them may not even reply. Choose another and keep mailing.
- Join the Facebook group for that university and program. Post your doubts there but think before posting. Else send them a message.
- Ask your seniors from college studying in that university. They can put you in touch with someone who will be able to help.
- There is a forum consisting of Indian graduate students in US who answer a student’s questions regarding every stage of the application process and its aftermath – www.edulix.com. You can expect a quick and informed answer here.
Step 8: Wait for I-20
- Once you have accepted the university offer, you will be asked to fill up the I-20 information form which is necessary for all international students in order to get the VISA. This is generally sent to you by the university’s Office of International Education (OIE). It can be online if you have already submitted the financial documents with the admission application in which case you will receive the I-20 within 3-4 days. Or you may be required to post the filled out forms along with bank documents in which case your I-20 can take upto 2-5 weeks to arrive.
- While you are waiting for I-20, find room mates through the facebook group of future students at your university and plan your accommodation (apartment) if the university does not offer graduate accommodation or if it is too expensive for you to afford. Most of the good cheap accommodation in many cities is gone by April, May. Use www.padmapper.com , www.craigslist.com to locate apartments and filter your search.
To be continued… as and when I receive my I-20, complete my VISA procedure, get vaccinations and book my tickets. Phew!