Planning for Masters (MS) at top universities abroad with scholarships next fall, but struggling to get started with the process, or feeling overwhelmed with the overall process? No need to panic! I have been there and done that. So, I know a thing or two about the MS application and admission process. In this article, I will talk about the tips on how to get admitted for Masters abroad with scholarships. I will explain the critical components of the MS admission journey – how to shortlist the right universities, how to improve your admission & scholarship chances for MS abroad, what to write in the SoP, and strategies for recommendation letters.
MS Abroad with Scholarship for Indian Students
Embarking on the MS abroad process is not a cakewalk at all. There are multiple things to take care of – finding the right programs (and universities), the application process, arranging funds, visas, accommodation, insurance, and even the weather in a foreign country. Well, I can’t do too much about the weather abroad, but I can suggest you few useful hacks to counter extreme weather in the US, Canada or Europe. However, in this article, I will talk about the most important part – the application process and scholarships for MS abroad.
Tip#1 – Keep an Eye on the Timeline
One of the main pain points for the Indian students is keeping a track of the application timeline. There are many advantages if you keep an eye on the calendar. Firstly, submitting the applications well before the deadlines (say at least 3 – 4 weeks prior to the deadline) drastically improves your acceptance. Secondly, it also makes you eligible for University/Departmental Scholarships.
Even if you fail to get a scholarship from the University, you can apply for various external scholarships. Until and unless you get an offer, you can’t apply for the external scholarships. Hence, it is very crucial to apply and receive an offer so that you have ample time to explore and apply to the external scholarship schemes.
Finally, if you end up with a partial scholarship, you can then approach various banks and non-banking financial institutions for education loans.
Ideal Timeline for Masters (MS) Abroad – Fall 2020
By now (August), you should have booked the dates for the standardized tests – GRE/GMAT and IELTS/TOEFL.
By all means, you must clear all the exams by the end of September or early October. It will make the whole process smooth. Another advantage of doing so is that if you fail to score the desired score, you can attempt a re-take in November.
November is anyway quite late – but applying to top universities with a strong score (say 324 in GRE & 95 in TOEFL) one week before the deadline is way better than applying with an average score (say 315 in GRE and 82 in TOEFL) three weeks prior to the application deadline.
While preparing for the tests, you should also spend good enough time researching the programs and universities. Reach out to admission officers and faculty members to shortlist the right programs/universities. August – September is the best time to contact the universities.
If you are eyeing integrated MS-PhD in the US, MS (with thesis) in Canada, or MRes in Europe, you must reach out to the Professors before submitting an application.
However, please be advised that the majority of applicants reach out to the admission officers and faculty members during this time (August – October). So, don’t bombard them with multiple emails if you don’t receive a response within 2 – 3 days.
September – October
Get aware of the application process and admission requirements. If they need hard copies by courier or if it’s entirely online. Get to know the process of submitting recommendation letters (LoR). Do you need to write specific essays or just a Statement of Purpose (SoP)?
Few universities ask for Bachelor Transcript in sealed envelopes directly sent to them by the Indian University. Whereas few universities just need a soft copy of the Transcript and/or Semester-wise mark-statements.
Start working on your CV and SoP (the generic one). Writing an effective SoP or Personal Statement takes time. It demands multiple rounds of brainstorming, reiteration, proofreading, and editing. On an average (as per my experience in the last 3 – 4 years), the final draft for the Generic SoP takes 3 – 5 weeks.
Get in touch with your potential referees (recommenders). Let them know that you will need either soft copies of LoR or they might need to email the universities directly in November, December or January. It’s not at all a good practice to ask your College Professors or Manager (or Supervisor / Team Leader) for LoR just one or two weeks before the deadline.
October – November
Once you are done with the tests (GRE/GMAT & TOEFL/IELTS) and have the scores, it’s time to prepare the final list of colleges/universities. Once you have the final list, prepare the application kit for individual universities. Although you have the generic SoP ready, making it customized for the specific program/university can also take days or weeks. Top universities (e.g. Ivy League Schools in the US or TU9 Universities in Germany) ask for specific essays. So, you need to be aware of all these things.
As mentioned previously, always try to submit the applications at least 3 – 4 weeks before the deadlines. Anything can happen at the last moment – may be the application portal is down, the Courier Agency might have logistic issues to send the documents in 3 – 5 days, your referee could be out of the station, or you might come across an unavoidable circumstance. So, be an early bird.
Related Post: Fall 2020 Application Deadlines for MS in USA
January – February
University Scholarships without Separate Applications
For a large majority of universities in the US, Canada & Europe, you will be automatically be considered for the scholarships (internal ones) when you apply before specific deadlines (usually in November & December).
University Scholarships with Separate Applications and External Scholarships
But, in a few cases, you need to receive an offer first before submitting a separate application for the scholarship. These kinds of scholarships come with deadlines in January or February. So, until and unless you apply in November (or December), you won’t get a chance to apply for the scholarships with the offer letter. Besides, once you have one or two offers by January, you can look for external scholarships.
Tip#2 – Find the Right Programs/Universities
The second most common problem faced by Indian applicants is finding the right programs (or universities). More often than not, the MS aspirants make a list of universities merely based on the rankings (QS, US News, THE, etc.). Ranking tables are a good starting point. But, you need to dig deeper.
Now, let us look at a few common scenarios on shortlisting universities.
Scenario#1 – MS Computer Science in the US – Creating a Balanced College List
If you are looking for MS Computer Science in the US, with 3.0 GPA and 310 – 320 in GRE, the following list is a reasonable one:
- One University among Stanford, UC Berkeley, CMU, and MIT (these are for the top-performing applicants)
- One University between UCLA and UT Austin (competitive ones)
- Two reputed universities where you can have solid chances: Georgia Tech and Ohio State or Wisconsin.
- Two safe universities, say Boston and UMass Amherst
Scenario#2 – MS Computer Science in the US – Choosing the Specializations
- General: MIT, CMU, UT Austin, Cornell, Minnesota, Rochester
- Software: MIT, UC Berkeley, CMU, UT Austin
- AI: CMU, Stanford. MIT, UC Berkeley, Yale, Harvard
- Theoretical Computer Science: MIT & Cornell are better than Caltech or Yale
- MIS: MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, University of Arizona
- HCI: CMU & Georgia Tech
- Cloud Computing: Harvard, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, NYU, University of Chicago
Scenario#3 – MS Data Science in the US – How to Choose the Right Universities
The Columbia program provides a good foundation for machine learning and programming along with practical experience. The program revolves more around the technical aspects and does not cover business modules to a larger extent.
NYU was the first university in the world to offer an MS in Data Science. The degree focuses on the development of new methods for data science. The students have access to courses from a wide range of departments including statistics, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), biostatistics, business, economics, psychology, etc.
The Cornell program tends to place a larger emphasis on statistics and mathematical modeling. Here is a student blog that you might find useful: MPS Data Science after Double Major (UG) in Statistics and Economics at Cornell: Student Blog on Data Science Career Path and Program Experience.
Lastly, although very closely related, there is a genuine difference between Data Science and Data Analytics. Read MS Machine Learning & AI vs MS Data Science and MS Analytics.
Scenario#3 – MS in Big Data or Data Analytics in Canada:
Consider Simon Fraser University or Saint Mary’s University if you do not want a thesis-based Masters, and skip GRE/GMAT.
If you are not too familiar with Python and Big Data tools but possess knowledge and expertise in Business Intelligence, consider York and UBC.
If you are looking for a one-year Masters in Data Science and Analytics, explore Ryerson University.
Scenario#4 – MS in Renewable Energy Abroad?
If you are from the electrical engineering background, go for the universities in Sweden, the UK, and the Netherlands.
If you are from earth sciences, geology, energy background, you might consider Norway, Denmark or Canada.
If you wish to specialize in Building Engineering, Green Architecture or Landscape Architecture, consider the universities in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy.
Scenario#5 – Choosing the Right Universities for Biosciences
Programs on biotechnology, biomedical engineering, bioinformatics, etc. are very inter-related. But, they are not the same. There way too many factors to consider while choosing the right Masters’s program – course content (Research-Based or Professional Master’s), Location, Industry Links, Funding (if Ph.D. is on your mind) and so on.
Scenario#6 – If the Budget is a Serious Issue
To be honest, it’s hard to get the full scholarship in the US and Canada at the Masters level; not impossible though. The overall expenses will be at least 20 – 30 Lacs (fees and living expenses) even after getting financial aid & scholarships. So, what to do if your budget is INR 15 – 20 Lacs?
If you have got an average academic record (say 65 – 70%) but possess decent work experience, and have plans for Ph.D. after MS, target the universities in Sweden.
If you do not have work experience, but exceptional academic track record along with solid internship/project experience, Germany and Norway should be on your list.
You got a balanced (above average grades and all-around) profile, target the universities in Finland, Ireland, Netherlands.
Are you having more than 5 years of work experience or a very niche profile? Then look at UK universities, especially the ones with industrial training and internships.
Tip#3 – Focus on your SoP and LoR
Arguably, this is the biggest pain point for the majority of the Indian applicants looking at to do MS abroad. More importantly, SoP and LoR carry the potential of leveraging low GPA and/or average test scores (GRE or GMAT). While the GPA and test scores are essentially objective in nature, the SoP/LoR is the subjective aspect of your application. These two components can really make or break your application.
What to include in a Statement of Purpose (SoP)
- What do you want to do (study or research?)
- Why this program?
- Why this university?
- Why did you choose to study in this particular country? What do you like about it?
- How much and what kind of experience you have in your field?
- Specific classes, special courses or projects you have taken, that are related to your field of interest.
- Any community service or leadership experience while in college.
- Why should you get admitted to this program?
- What values will you bring to the institute and to your peers?
- What do you understand about the student community and college culture? Why do you think you will fit in?
- What are your career goals?
- How will this program help you to achieve your career goals?
- Your extracurricular activities, hobbies, and interests
- What is that one unique aspect/characteristic about you that the admission officers should know? Why does it matter to the admission officers and/or to the fellow students of your class?
Strategies on Letter of Recommendation (LoR)
Approach your line manager or senior manager for Recommendation. The person should know you well and must be glad to be your biggest supporter as you move to the next phase of your journey to pursue Masters abroad.
Don’t go for the title; say CEO or VP, unless you report to them. Your ideal referee is someone who you work with very closely. Go for someone who will spend time providing an insightful LOR to the admissions team and can show they know you well over the last few years to make that recommendation.
Video on Guidance & Tips on SoP, LoR & Scholarship Essay for MS Abroad
Tip#4 – Work with Professional Admission Consultants
The admissions committee (ad-com) looks at a lot of things before making a decision, like your motivation, potential, publications, relevant job experience, etc.
They want to judge if you are really interested in that program and whether you can successfully finish the course. The ad-com will also look for research interests and if you have put any extra effort (say taking relevant online courses).
Of course, you can work on your applications, and I strongly recommend doing that – research on the internet, read our blog posts for insights & tips and check out other (but credible) education and study abroad portals. But, working with a consultant can certainly improve your chances.
For anyone looking for a consultant should understand that there is no magic in the process. Consultants cannot get an average candidate into an Ivy League or Elite school. But, they can suggest things, which transform the applications from average to above-average and good to great. It’s as simple as that.
Admission Consulting Services by Stoodnt
Need professional guidance on MS Applications and Scholarships? You can look at our standard MS admission consulting packages. You can either opt for end-to-end guidance or custom packages. Below is a snapshot of the top colleges where Team Stoodnt helped candidates to get admitted. You can also have a look at the feedback from the candidates with whom I have worked in the past.
If you wish to have bite-size packages or extra-customization, do let us know. For example, if you do not need a full-fledged shortlisting service, but only a review of the list of your shortlisted universities (e.g. which 4 to apply out of 7 universities), it is possible.
You have written the SoP yourself, and want us to review it once (with no editing), we got you covered.
Want to discuss multiple elements and want to have a consultation, opt for our 1:1 counseling session. Feel free to have a look at the feedback from the candidates who opted for the 1:1 consulting session with me.
You can book a 1-hour counseling slot (Skype or Telephone). Have you got a hectic schedule? Don’t worry. You can have a 1:1 session with a US-based Counselor as late as 11:00 PM (IST) or as early as 7:00 AM (IST).