A huge majority of international students aspire for a Master’s degree (MS) in Canada and USA. However, funding still remains a major hurdle. Of course, there are numerous Banks, FinTechs, and NFBCs these days that grant loans. But, funding (RA, TA, tuition-fee scholarships, etc.) is always desirable. Lastly, nothing beats a full-ride (tuition fee scholarship along with a monthly stipend to cover living expenses). In this post, we will discuss a roadmap to secure fully-funded MS in Canada and USA.
Step#1: Keep an Eye on the Skill/Occupation Shortage & Job Market of the Target Destination
It’s wise if you opt for a subject that is in high demand in your destination country. Not all countries are supposed to have a favorable job market for each and every subject area.
If you are planning to study in Canada, keep an eye on the Demand Occupation List in Canada.
Some of the subject areas that are in high demand in Canada are as follows:
- Management – HR; Logistics & Supply Chain; Advertising & PR, Finance & Banking
- Computer & Information Systems, Software, Interactive Media, Web Development, Cybersecurity
- Mathematics, Statistics, and Actuarial Science
- Geology, Geosciences, Petroleum Engineering, Oil & Gas Engineering, Mining
- Biotechnology, Biological Sciences, Agricultural Sciences
Similarly, in the US, you can look at the list of subjects that are of national importance as per the Department of Homeland Security.
Here are some of the top courses to study in the US:
- Bio-energy / Renewable Energy
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Cloud Computing
- Climate Science / Earth Sciences
- Computer Science
- Data Science
- Data Analytics and Business Analytics
- I/O Psychology
- Social Sciences, Research Methodology, and Quantitative Methods
Step#2: Profile Evaluation
Once you have decided the destination country (or countries) and the subject area, you should assess your profile. If needed, opt for professional help.
Below is the list of components along with their approximate weightage:
- Bachelor GPA/Percentage (and Class Rank) ~25-30%
- GRE Score ~10-15%
- Publications, Research Projects & Internships ~ 10%
- SOP + LoR ~ 25-30%
- Work-Ex ~ 10%
- Extracurricular (Sports, Foreign Language Skills, Community Work, Personal Blog or Website) ~ 5%
- Brand Name of College and/or Employer ~ 5%
- Demonstrated Interest ~ 5%
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How to Get Around with Low GPA & GRE
It’s true that GPA is of utmost importance. However, if you have a low GPA (due to whatever reasons), that’s not the end of the world.
Yes, it might be very hard to get into Ivy League schools in the US, or UBC, Toronto, or McGill in Canada. But, there are many other universities to choose from; especially in the US.
If other parts of your application, such as SoP/essays, recommendation letters, and work experience, show that you may succeed at grad school, then you can keep your hopes high.
Here are a few steps to counter low GPA-
Keep in mind that not all graduate schools have the same or similar GPA requirements for MS and other graduate programs. Highly reputed schools may have GPA requirements of 3.5. However, others may view a GPA of less than 3.0 as low. A few new programs may even accept GPAs of 2.75 or 2.5.
Don’t Attempt the Early Admission Rounds:
Early admission rounds are highly competitive. So, you may not stand a chance with a low GPA. It would be wiser if you go for regular admissions. That will also help you to improve your test scores or take additional courses in undergrad subjects where you have scored low.
Contact Potential Supervisors:
This is a critical step that can really turn around the table for you. You should do this irrespective of your GPA if you are looking to improve your admission and funding chances. We will discuss this step in more detail in the next section.
Take More Challenging Courses:
Take an additional course at your undergrad college/university, or from a MOOC platform. It could be calculus, linear algebra, programming, bioinformatics, robotics, or deep learning if you are targeting an MS in Computer Science.
Publish a Paper:
You could also take up projects or other activities relevant to your chosen graduate major. Try to publish a paper on your project, particularly a peer-reviewed one.
Gain Real-World Experience:
Look for an internship, a job, or research assistantship in a related area right after completing your bachelor’s degree, to prove your interest in your chosen field.
Do Extraordinarily Well in Your SoP/Essay:
Tell honestly why you wish to achieve a higher degree in your subject. Write logically and in a way that would spell out your thinking process. Your essay and statement of purpose are crucial elements of your application process, whether your GPA is high or low.
Provide Strong and Personalized Letters of Recommendation:
The recommendation letters (aka LoRs) can also undo some of the problems caused by a low GPA.
For instance, if you impressed your professor in your bachelor’s program by your capacity for research, or you were able to work efficiently as a research assistant to a member of the faculty, you could have a recommendation letter that speaks louder than your GPA.
Similarly, if your internship supervisor can provide a recommendation around how you pushed yourself and solve critical pain points to generate revenue, that can more than counter your low GPA.
Impress with Extracurriculars:
Schools don’t go just by your GPA but by your personality as a whole; especially the US schools. Rather, they evaluate applications on a holistic basis.
If you have volunteered for social work with proven community impact or won any robotics or data science competition? Talk about those stories to stand out in the applicant pool.
Related Articles on Countering Low GPA:
Step#3: Contact Potential Supervisors
- Get familiar with the research theme, ongoing projects, and recent publications
- Send a short email (with CV attached)
- Inquire if they are taking MS thesis students
- Don’t ask for funding in the first email
- Follow Up
- You can ask for funding opportunities either during a virtual call or at least after 3-4 email exchanges
Summer (June – August) is the Best Time to Contact Potential Supervisors
Here are two responses that one of my Counselees (Fall 2023 Applicant) received recently:
While it’s Mandatory to Contact Potential Supervisors in Canada, it’s also Desirable to Contact Professors in the US. Se the email screenshot below:
This is why applying between Oct and Dec is critical to get admitted to top universities with funding. If you are late, it’s likely that all the Professors at that School are already being contacted.
Step#4: Do Well in the Scholarship Essays
What does the Committee look for in the Scholarship Essay?
- Strong Leadership Skills (not just organizing college fest)
- Commitment to Innovation and Creativity (e.g. founding a start-up during college, even if it’s a failure)
- Community Engagement (e.g. starting an NGO, or association with reputed NGOs like Teach For India, CARE India, Pratham, Cry, etc. for a year or two, not just a few months.)
- Universities usually look for Future Ambassadors – who can engage in University Tours & Promotional Campaigns… the Next Face on their Alumni Page or Website.
Here are two snapshots of Fall 2022 Admits:
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Step#5: Looking for Funding and On-Campus Jobs after Arriving in the USA
In the US, you can also secure funding after arriving on campus. Do join us on the 8th of July (Friday) for the FREE Webinar on securing RA, TA, or GA and on-campus jobs.
Featured Image Source: UniScholarz