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A Supplement to Profile Evaluation
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kevinjohson Offline
Edulix Super Senior

kevinjohson Offline
Edulix Super Senior

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Post: #1
A Supplement to Profile Evaluation
I found myself addressing the following issues way too many times, so I thought I should just make an "FAQ"-type post about them. Also, trying to put together a list of other important (acc to me) threads/links as well.

1. Could you tell me what universities to consider for wireless communications/DSP?
A. Typically it's your responsibility to come up with an initial set of universities based on your research interests and a vague guess of your chances there. More about this process, here.
Having said that, people often overlook good wireless places like Drexel, NYU-Poly, SUNY-Buffalo, CU-Boulder, UC-Riverside and UC-Davis which have good wireless/DSP research going on. Of course, almost all top-40 universities are also doing good wireless research, but these are the ones which are not usually in the ECE top-40 but should surely be in a list of wireless top-40. If you're profile is very humble, also look at Southern Methodist University. Not highly ranked, but great research in wireless.

2. How can I improve my profile?
A. There is nothing much you could do in 1-2 months that will improve your profile which you have built over the last 3+ years. The easiest (and the toughest) way to improve your profile is by writing a good SoP. Tips for that are here.
Apart from that,
i. The first thing you need to do is to give top priority to the research that you're currently working on, and try to complete it ASAP so that you can at least submit it to a good conference. (Ideally, you'd want to have it accepted). This step is very important irrespective of the number of papers you already have, but more important if it is your first paper. Much more important if you are applying for PhD. Life-or-death important if it is your first paper and you are applying for PhD.
ii. If you have 6+ months left, you've most probably not given your GRE yet. Please prepare well for your GRE. You don't have to get extremely good scores usually. Its enough if you can clear the standardized test cut-offs, which of course, if difficult to predict for universities. Refer this for more preparation strategies. It's safe to have a 90%+ percentile in Quant and as much as possible in verbal. 4+ in AWA is safe. You could look at previous year's trends (here, here and previous ones) to get a rough idea about the typical GRE scores. Some universities do this themselves and post it on their website somewhere. Search it.
iii. Choose your recommenders wisely. Get letters from people who know you well. You could refer this to know what is expected in an LoR.

3. How much will TOEFL/AWA/Quant/Verbal etc hurt me?
A. I don't know. I don't think anyone here can give you an exact answer. Most probably, the university themselves will not know. Scores of standardized tests shouldn't be low. That's where the clarity stops. How good is actually good? How much does X university require? These are all questions that no one can firmly answer. Having said that, you could look at previous year's trends (here, here and previous ones) and decided for yourself vaguely. Profile evaluators are also constantly monitoring this and they will take all this into account

4. How did you evaluate this university as AMBI/MOD/SAFE for me?
A. Just like universities, we also can't give you a quantified answer to this. We can't say your score has X% weightage to GRE, Y% to GPA, Z% to publications etc. But we do consider all of these and give you an evaluation based on our experiences of admit trends.

5. Why do you evaluate only DSP/Comms? Don't universities evaluate all ECE profiles in the same way?
A. Yes, most universities do so. But the reasons (among many others mentioned in other posts) why I evaluate only in a specific field are -
i. I can evaluate your profile better. When you say I built a new fancy software, as a Comms guy, I can't judge whether it's a great achievement or average or nothing special. On the other hand, if you say, I implemented a fancy error control coding for an OFDM system, I can get to know approximately how much work and difficulty is involved in it and how it will be seen by a university. Similarly, with your projects, work ex etc, I will be able to get a better picture.
ii. I can suggest universities. Based on your profile, I can suggest universities where I know good comms/DSP research is going on.
iii. I can warn you about universities: Some good universities do shabby wireless research but excellent VLSI or Embedded or CompArch work. You get to learn this only by experience and interaction. It's very easy for an inexperienced person to get carried away by the brand name and end up in a place where comms/DSP has lowest priority in the department and is forced to switch fields.

6. Should I drop the university which you said is AMBI/AMBI+/AMBI++?
A. Again, I don't know. It depends on various factors. How many other AMBI universities have you considered? How many universities are you totally applying to? What do the other evaluators say about that university?
Eventually it's your call. Rating is our job, deciding is yours. I used to suggest DROP in my evaluations but I have now stopped doing that because that should be your decision. Even if you have a lot of backlogs and want to go to Harvard, I don't usually say DROP. I might just say AMBI++++. If you are that kind of a person who doesn't care about the application fee, doesn't mind getting so many letters and just wants to try many universities, go ahead. But that is typically not a good habit.
Long story short, it is your call depending on various factors mentioned above.

7. Do thesis-based and course-based MS have different admission criteria?
A. Yes, and no. Some universities don't allow you (or make it very difficult for you) to switch from a course-based MS to thesis-based MS (This is commonly the case in most Canadian universities). In such cases, the admission criteria are very different. Thesis-based MS is viewed like a stepping stone to PhD and course-based MS, for a job. Tuition fees will also most probably vary (usually much higher for course-based MS). So make sure you apply to the right course. But at many US universities, the default admit is to a course-based MS and they allow you to do a thesis as long as a prof is willing to work with you; in which case, there is really not much different admission criteria.

8. Nobody is evaluating my profile. What do I do?
A. Please give the evaluators at least a week's time, especially if you have posted on a Monday. Most evaluators are either in grad school or working, and they get free time only on weekends. Sometimes some evaluators might go into Edulix hibernation when their prof/boss puts their tails on fire. In such cases, they can't help you. But apart from not being able to evaluate your profile due to lack of time, some evaluators don't evaluate your profile if you:
i. tag the wrong seniors
ii. have not filled in your info-bank
iii. have not followed all the procedures indicated here
iv. multi-post
v. have provided ambiguous/contradictory specializations (Eg: Controls and CompArch, or VLSI and Comms. If you are interested in cross-specializations (like circuit design for wireless systems), clearly indicate that and tag ONLY the right seniors)
Rarely, seniors might also forget to evaluate (they might not follow their to-do list well). If you suspect such a case, you could PM them and politely ask them to evaluate your profile. Please provide the link to your thread in that PM. Before you PM, make sure you -
i. have given them enough time (at least a week or more)
ii. don't fall into the 5 categories mentioned above.
iii. have checked their policies on pinging them (usually available in their signature).
ONLY then, proceed to sending them a PM.

I will keep adding more Q's as and when I encounter them.

I only evaluate US and Canadian universities for Comm/SigProc.

A supplement to Profile Evaluation

My evaluation "X/Y" indicates more "X" and less "Y". Eg., MOD/AMBI => more MOD, but tending towards AMBI
(This post was last modified: 11-17-2015 01:13 AM by kevinjohson.)
10-07-2015 06:47 AM
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