Isha Sharma has been a path-breaker in several aspects. After finishing B.Tech Biotechnology, Isha started her career at Amrop (Staffing & Recruitment company) as a Research Associate. Later, she joined Bain & Company (one of the best management consulting firms in the world) as an Analyst. Biotechnology graduates, more often than not, struggle to find employment in the non-scientific sector (read – common problems faced by Biotechnology students in India). But, Isha has been an exception.
With a strong start in the corporate world, a majority of candidates would have thought of going for an MBA degree. Although not too clear after B.Tech, but, Isha has always been pretty clear about pursuing MS (and later Ph.D.) at some point. Moreover, she has been very ambitious about getting into a top 10 US school, and she did achieve that.
Isha received admits from UC Berkeley (UCB), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Cornell University, Rice University, Duke University, and UC San Diego. However, she did receive rejections from Stanford, Boston, and Johns Hopkins. She had a good GPA (81.6%) and 321 in GRE. In this post, Isha will talk about her application and admission journey.
Before we move to the main part of this article, I would like to inform the readers that Isha didn’t take any admission consulting services from Stoodnt or any other consultant. So, it is absolutely possible to crack the top universities, provided the applicants do the proper research (about universities, programs, connecting with admission officers, alumni, etc.) and clear with their program requirements.
External perspectives do help. Even Isha had a 1:1 session with me. But, no need to opt for admission consulting services blindly. Below is her feedback on our session (back in 2018):
Thank you for guiding me. The conversation was really enriching and helped me understanding significantly about the US system. I would be happy to get back in case of doubts. Grateful for your time.
Now, we will move on to our main agenda of this post.
MS Biomedical Engineering Admits in USA for Indian Applicant with Management Consulting and Recruitment Background
By Isha Sharma
A little bit about myself
I did my under graduation in Biotechnology from Delhi Technological University. As part of the curriculum, I interned at a Cancer Hospital, Defence Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences, DRDO and Department of Zoology, DU.
In addition, I took up various projects covering both wet-lab and dry-lab research. My projects enabled me to publish research papers, one of which was an international publication.
Management Consulting Career after B.Tech. Biotechnology
I was uncertain about the space I wanted to work in and wanted to explore management consulting. Given that consulting allows you to work across the spectrum of industry sectors, it was the right fit. Working at both Amrop and Bain & Co helped me realize my inclination towards Life Science & Healthcare, as I was always keen to know more in this space. The corporate jobs helped me grow as a professional, and develop vital soft skills and critical thinking.
Advice for Biotechnology Graduates to make themselves more employable for jobs in other domains
It’s important to realize which area one wants to work in and tailor their profile accordingly. I had equally invested myself in research and corporate work that enabled me to make a switch from a non-technical profile to a technical course.
If research is your forte, I would recommend building strong computational skills (Biotechnology has evolved) and the ability to perform lab work. Besides, working on individual projects and publishing your findings adds credibility to the work.
If consulting is where your heart lies, build a strong profile that showcases leadership qualities, a balanced academic and extracurricular output and volunteer work.
Why did I leave Bain & Company for MS in Biomedical Engineering?
Working for the last 2 years, I realized my interest has always been in healthcare. I remained in touch with Biosciences, keeping myself updated with the latest findings.
As for Bain, it undoubtedly is a great place. The learning opportunities here are immense and the firm truly cares for its employees. Yet, I couldn’t visualize myself working on M&A in the future and decided to leave it to pursue my interest. My decision to move out was driven by my lack of interest in the sector I was working in.
Getting Started with My Application Journey (University Shortlisting)
I was clear that I wanted to pursue masters in 2019 and had given both GRE & TOEFL by mid-June (2018). I was also clear that I wanted to go to top-10 universities for my course (always choose course over college) and had applied accordingly.
I looked at the courses being offered, the research projects and their industry connect. Also, I connected with a lot of current students and alumni (across the universities I applied to) over LinkedIn to get their perspective on the course. In fact, I got mixed reviews for many courses, in which case I read more about the course on external platforms (Quora, Stoodnt, etc). That helped me pick the right courses.
Blogs by Tanmoy and the Telephonic Session Did Help
I read various articles on Tanmoy’s website, Stoodnt.com, and other sites, including the one for the top US courses in biomedical engineering. The telephonic conversation with him was another bonus he helped me understand my profile and how I could leverage it for the application process.
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The Rationale behind My University List
It was very clear that I wanted to go for the top 10 universities in Biomedical Engineering which helped me shortlist the courses I applied for. Though I later added safe schools (3 schools) I was clear that I shall not go, unless its top-10. For me, moving to the US was a big decision and I wanted to invest where I could learn from the best.
Working on the SoP/Essays and Recommendation Letters
For SOP, I did multiple revisions to build the right structure. My SOP was a story, telling what made me what I am today and what factors shaped my interests in Biomedical engineering.
I feel an important area to focus on is ‘why you did what you did’, ‘what did it lead to’ and ‘how your actions shaped your need for this education’. Honestly, there is no standard template but it is important that you connect the dots. Most importantly, each of my SOP was tailored according to the course I wanted to go for, the professor I wanted to work with and the University I wanted to study.
As for recommendations, I remained in touch with my professors even after completing my studies. It was therefore easy for me to convey the requirements and my professors were happy to write them even after 2 years.
My Tips on Extracurriculars
US universities take a holistic view of your profile. Hence, it makes sense to have a balanced involvement in both academics and extracurricular activities. Neither of the two can withstand on their own.
Overall Experience with the Application Process
US application process is fairly smooth, except for some minor glitches in portals of few universities. In that case, I emailed the admission team who helped me resolve the issues. It’s always a good idea to email the admission team in case of any doubt. They are most happy to help.
My Advice with the Application Timeline
I gave my GRE and TOEFL in June, within a week of each other. The applications opened in September when I started writing my SOP. Yet, I would advise would be to start writing the SOP a lot earlier. It goes through multiple iterations before you finally think it’s worth submitting.
In my case, I realized that the SOP I wrote in January was much better than the one I wrote in September. My submissions were 2-3 weeks prior to any application deadline so that in case there was an issue, the Admission committee could get back regarding updates on application.
My Thoughts on the Acceptances and Rejections
I got rejected from PhD program likely because my profile is not aligned to spend 5 years on a research project. Given the corporate, non-technical background I led after my UG, the MS programs were more accepting.
In addition, selection/rejection is a purely arbitrary process. You are never too sure where your profile aligns with the university’s requirements. I got rejected from the ‘safe’ schools and accepted to ‘ambitious’ ones.
My advice to the applicants who prefer to work on the applications themselves
Admission consultants (professional counselors) can only guide you about the process but not take your decisions. They will neither write the SOP.
The SOP should be an original work that can be reviewed by your counselor or friends or family for inputs but the final output is yours. If required, you can take support from professionals for SoP review/editing if you feel you are unable to express yourself, but even in such a case, the story should come from you.
Your editor should only eliminate the redundancies and not write your story in their words. Having said that, an admission counselor can do a lot more than simply shortlisting the universities, provided you choose the right counselor who can guide you about your strengths and weaknesses.
A good counselor would never deter you from applying to top universities, even if it is out of your league (because a lot of results are also based on luck). They would advise that based on your profile, it might be difficult to secure an admit from the dream university, but you should apply nonetheless if application fees are not a concern.
For people who can’t afford such services, you shall do fine. The admission consulting services can only tell you which school to apply to based on your profile. But if you are very sure of the schools, save your money for applications.
My Two Cents for Biotechnology students/graduates
For Biotechnology students, I would recommend becoming adept in at least one programming language. It’s needed everywhere, including our core area.