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USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder
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USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder
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USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder - apsgjsedulix - 11-14-2009 09:42 PM

I have tried to capture some points here so that beginners can have a foresight for the next one year to get into US studies.
Your inputs are welcome to upgrade this.
Please highlight if some caution or important point is missing in the list.

US - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder

01. Start arranging finances one year before admit term. You cannot transfer lump sum from your relatives/others at the last moment. Deposit cash in odd amounts and create a bank balance. Make sure your last 6 months statement (6 months before the date u will be going for Visa) is clear and without any suspicious transactions).

02. If u are planning to go to US based only on Fully Funded admission (full university sponsorship), make sure u have Rs.50,000-70,000 cash at the time of application and u will be able to show 4-5 lacs for Visa finances.

03. Prepare GRE for at least 3 months and TOEFL at least 10 days. Book your GRE Date (use your passport name and provide a mail id even it was optional and remember that mail id what u are providing Edit: 17Nov2009 GRE has become online login, So no worries, that will be used while u are sending your scores to universities, Make sure u have the list of GRE codes and TOEFL codes pdf files from ETS site) well before 2 months, otherwise the thrust in preparation will be less and will lead to delays in the overall preparation time and booking date. TOEFL could be written 10 days after GRE.

04. Take a list of universities and feel free to browse the university websites. If you browse 50+ university sites you will have a fair idea well before writing GRE. Take U-S N-e-w-s as reference for universities list.

05. Make sure you provide 4 universities name for TOEFL (U can provide names of universities only up to one day before the exam and TOEFL will not ask you the names on the examination day)

06. GRE will ask you the 4 free universities name on the day of the exam. (In start of the exam, it may ask to select a university to send scores, but that is just a mock drill. Only at the end of the exam it will ask you the final universities, you are going to send your scores)

07. It will take 30-45 days for your GRE score report (hard) to be received by you and it will take about 30-45 days for TOEFL. Your hard copy score reports are very important for Visa Interview; hence keep them safe until the end. You may get many score reports for GRE additional score reporting but only one score report of TOEFL. TOEFL will not send hard copy scores to your home for additional score reporting, but GRE does. Note: University deadlines are dates in which your scores should have reached the university already. It is not the last date in which u can order a score report online or thro phone.

08. Your AWA scores will be ready in 10-15 days time and you could call ETS to know your scores for $8, if there is a need for u to know.

09. You will be penalized if you leave questions at the end of GRE sections, so try to answer all questions even at the last minute.

10. You will able to score 800 even if you answer one question wrong.

11. Some universities are finicky about AWA score of 3.5 and above so, do well in AWA also.

12. Try scoring 800 in Quans and 600+ in Verbal. Least make sure u score 740+ and 500+.

13. Make sure your infobank profile in Edulix is having complete information about your projects, papers, conferences, events and your other credentials, Mention your current status and year of passing also.

14. Check infobank reports thoroughly for universities in which you could apply and come up with a bigger list of universities, say 10-20 universities.

15. Remove some based on your own decision and based on seniors comments on your profile evaluation.

16. Finalize the universities you are going to apply say 10.

17. Check those university websites thoroughly and find out what they want in Application packet. It could be some of these:
Statement of purpose,
3-4 Letters of Recommendation (2 Acad min preferred),
Transcripts,
Resume,
Application Payment page printout,
Scholarship Essay,
Proof of upper 10% of class,
Cover letter/Letter to dean,
Certification of Finances,
Bank letter/Solvency certificate,
Affidavits of sponsors,
Separate Scholarship Application form,
Hardcopies of your GRE-TOEFL scores,
Official Test scores,
Area of specialization Form, etc.,
Prepare a tracking sheet in excel and keep everything updated.

18. Send official GRE scores to universities other than the first four free universities. U may face problem here. Use your email id what u used while registering GRE along with registration number and other details as per your score report hardcopy. Edit: GRE has become online login. So you may not face this problem If u face problem still, mail ETS immediately and they will tell you how to login within 1-2 days. Note: ETS may charge you $20 for every declined credit card booking. If something happens wrong while credit card booking and your transaction gets declined, ETS will recover full amount of purchase with fine of $20. So be careful during the transaction.

19. Send additional official scores of TOEFL. You may not face any serious problem since you have proper login for TOEFL.

20. File online applications and you will be getting an application number/University Identification Number/PIN number or any such type of Unique Id.

21. Statement of Purpose/Personal statement could be of 750 words. Some universities insist on 500 words. Make sure you adhere to the length restrictions.

22. LOR (Paper, E-mail, Online). Online LOR is generally preferred. You cannot send paper recos to universities which accept only online LORs.

23. Many universities have standard format of LORs. Use of that is Mandatory.

24. Prefer 2 recos from Academics (even with 5yrs exp) and prefer 1 acad reco if you are having experience more than 5yrs.

25. Use official mail ids of recommender (if they have) and you could use private email ids like yahoo, gmail if they don’t have official ids. This will not hamper your chances.

26. Keep the LOR to only one page (running text) if you are not filling a standard format.

27. Paper reco - Letter Head is preferred, But if you dont have a letter head get the reco on a white paper with recommender's letter head title on the top and affix a business card of him.

28. Use only jump clips to clip the papers together and use of stapler is not tolerated by many universities.

29. Make sure your transcripts are sealed and signed on the flaps, for better authenticity.

30. Financial documents can be sent later (after admit decision announced) but it is preferred to send along with application packet, to speed up your I-20 processing. Bank balance statements, FDs and other liquid funds can be shown. You may not get a bank loan letter at this point. If u don’t have sufficient you could request graduate office saying that this is what the funds you have currently and you are planning for a loan once you get an admit. Most universities will accept this and will ask you for proof to be sent for remaining funds once admit decision is given.

31. Make the application packet ready and write the unique Id on the top and send the applications.

32. Make use of Edulix+TNT courier service as it costs only Rs.675.

33. Check the Application Status Portal and ensure that your application becomes complete. Many universities will not inform you about separate documents but once all documents are received you will either a mail or your "Application Status" will change to "Application Complete." Few universities don't inform you anything if one/some of your application packet content has not reached/missing and it is your sole responsibility to continuously monitor and make sure your application is complete. Don't start biting your nails once u start waiting for results, you may loose your entire hand by the time the results reach you.

34. Prof_letting or writing mails to professors is one of the best jobs to do in the mean time. Establishing communication with a professor is important to get Research Assistant positions. Also this is mandatory in some schools (very few) to secure an advisor before u get final admission. Target 2 professors from each university u apply and widen it when u don’t get replies. Allow at least one week for replies to come. Say u have sent 50-100 mails in the overall hunt (even repeated mails), u may receive 10-15 replies (which is actually good)

35. Many universities have rolling admissions and hence applying early will help you for minimal competition. Check for Immunization Requirements of the university because some vaccines you have to take one month once and may be 2-3 months continuously. Its a bit costly in US to take vaccines.

36. Fall is good for receipt of financial aids and Spring is good with respect to minimal competition.

37. U can accept admits/ funded admits and even can change your decision before April 15 for Fall term. Once u accept a funded admit and u have crossed April 15, you need to get a No Objection letter from your sponsoring university in order to apply Visa for some other university funded/non-funded. So don’t be haste in giving your decisions and wait until the last week to report your acceptance (mentioned in the admission offer). Note: If you are not going to accept a school's admit, let them know it as soon as you know it. It will help other applicants who might get admitted from the wait list. If you have got two three funded admits/scholarships and you chose your destination, inform other funded admits immediately so that they can allocate the funds to some other person.

38. If u have not sent Financial Docs for I-20, prepare them and send now. U need to show first year full expenses. Saving Banks A/c statement, Bank loan letters and other FDs can be shown for this.

39. Send the graduate office, scanned copy of your passport front and last page, if u have some confusion regarding your name. Getting the I-20 in passport name is mandatory. If u have received an I-20 with wrong name, request graduate office to send an I-20 again with correct name. Also ask them whether they can send through Express Mail (u can pay the fees using credit card debit form) in case you are in urgency.

40. Once you receive all papers, establish contact with India Association/Graduate Office/Seniors from the college.

41. U should be ready with funds shown in I-20 also. Like if u had shown Personal funds of 15 lacs in I-20 and you are showing only 5 lacs Personal Funds for Visa and rest as external sponsors, you may face a question from VO. U need to show liquid funds for first year and loans and other funds for second year up to end of course. Be ready with a strong answer if you have external sponsors.

43. For fully funded admits show a minimum of 3-5 lacs Personal Liquid Funds.

44. Pay the Visa Processing and Administration fee from approved HDFC bank centers and keep the bar code ready. (Needs 2 days for barcode activation)

45. Pay the SEVIS fee and keep the proof ready.

46. File a Visa application online well before, say 1 month minimum. Schedule a Visa Interview. Be ready with all the papers and be there at Consulate as early as possible on the VI day. Your 3-5 mins Interview may decide your fate for that admission term. You may get Visa Approved, Visa Rejected, or a 221-g (waiting list). If Visa is approved you could get the Visa + Passport at specified counters on same day evening or you could receive it through regular post in 2-3 days.

47. Book cheaper flight. (Roundabout booking may cost you lesser say 43K)

48. Pack things!! And fly. Dancing1 Dancing1

49. Contact your established contact once u reach US airport. Have few cents and $1 bills ready.

50. Then what!! Warm Induction and Classes begin!! Keep helping edulix juniors!! Very Very Important!! Very Happy

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction."
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06-18-2010 11:11 PM
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RE: USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder
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~~~~~~~Bounce~~~~~~~

10-31-2010 07:51 AM
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RE: USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder
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Very helpful, thanks.

12-06-2010 05:45 AM
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RE: USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder
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Great article, but I've always held one opinion contrary to this. I'll expand... but this is my view. Please don't yell at me saying it doesn't make sense... just another perspective.

I'd cut the GRE prep time to 3 weeks and TOEFL to 1 day. Maybe push GRE to 6 weeks if you think your basic vocab isn't great (basic meaning everyday usage and writing, not how many words in Barrons you know), or find the quant exceptionally hard. If you genuinely feel your english is poor, up TOEFL to 3 days. If you think you need more than that to clear cut-offs, I'd suggest concentrated work on your english before you start applying.

I'd suggest applicants use the extra 2 months to do read up as much as possible about research going on in the field you are interested in, you'll be able to find which sub-topics interest you most. You might even find specific projects that excite you a lot.

random e.g. (field of interest - Graphics, sub-topics - Physically Based Animation, projects - human motion modelling)

Even if you're not at all interested in research, at least find out about sub-topics. If you have the opportunity, use the 2 months that most people spend on GRE doing a project of some kind. Maybe you can ask someone to help you pick out a reasonably simple paper to implement. If you have the contacts to collaborate with someone at a great Uni, then even better.

Just my view, but I think many applicants spend too much time on GRE and TOEFL, and too little time finding out more about their field. The more focussed your interests are, the better your SOP will be.

(This post was last modified: 12-06-2010 11:29 AM by wayfaerer.)
12-06-2010 11:25 AM
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RE: USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder
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^ I totally agree with your views, wayfaerer, so you won't be alone there. Smile

1) Please mention as many details as possible about your academics, research and work-ex, in terms of projects worked on, technologies used, roles/responsibilities handled, papers published/presented, awards/honors obtained, etc. All those have to be put in the misc details section of your UniSearch profile if you expect any help on Edulix.

2) Please take some time out to read this and this thread in their entirety. PLEASE do that before asking questions about universities from a comparison perspective, or jobs, or coursework, or H-1B visas, or "placements", irrespective of which univ/department/program/major you're applying to.

"Don't be daft." - Ancalagon The Black

"With the exchange rate where it is now, it should be a strong deterrent against picking a slightly better program for a lot more tuition fees." - coolguru
12-08-2010 02:29 PM
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RE: USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder
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A great information ! SmileSmileSmile
12-09-2010 06:40 PM
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RE: USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder
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Good article. Really helpful. But I have got a query. wen u say-
""05. Make sure you provide 4 universities name for TOEFL (U can provide names of universities only up to one day before the exam and TOEFL will not ask you the names on the examination day)""

it means for toefl registration, i can pay and book my slot without mentioning univ now. later upto 1 day before exam i can stil edit the univ and the code where i want to send scores. all this has to be done online. RIGHT?????
01-15-2011 08:29 AM
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RE: USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder
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another query- are hard copies absolute necessary?
I have lost my TOEFL result hard copy Sad
A very nice article! Thanks Prudviraj!!!

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03-25-2011 12:32 AM
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^ Yes, you may have to present it during your VI. Recommend you get a duplicate copy from ETS.

1) Please mention as many details as possible about your academics, research and work-ex, in terms of projects worked on, technologies used, roles/responsibilities handled, papers published/presented, awards/honors obtained, etc. All those have to be put in the misc details section of your UniSearch profile if you expect any help on Edulix.

2) Please take some time out to read this and this thread in their entirety. PLEASE do that before asking questions about universities from a comparison perspective, or jobs, or coursework, or H-1B visas, or "placements", irrespective of which univ/department/program/major you're applying to.

"Don't be daft." - Ancalagon The Black

"With the exchange rate where it is now, it should be a strong deterrent against picking a slightly better program for a lot more tuition fees." - coolguru
03-25-2011 10:58 AM
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RE: USA - From Scratch to Beginning of Classes - Points to ponder
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(12-06-2010 11:25 AM)wayfaerer Wrote:  Great article, but I've always held one opinion contrary to this. I'll expand... but this is my view. Please don't yell at me saying it doesn't make sense... just another perspective.

I'd cut the GRE prep time to 3 weeks and TOEFL to 1 day. Maybe push GRE to 6 weeks if you think your basic vocab isn't great (basic meaning everyday usage and writing, not how many words in Barrons you know), or find the quant exceptionally hard. If you genuinely feel your english is poor, up TOEFL to 3 days. If you think you need more than that to clear cut-offs, I'd suggest concentrated work on your english before you start applying.

I'd suggest applicants use the extra 2 months to do read up as much as possible about research going on in the field you are interested in, you'll be able to find which sub-topics interest you most. You might even find specific projects that excite you a lot.

random e.g. (field of interest - Graphics, sub-topics - Physically Based Animation, projects - human motion modelling)

Even if you're not at all interested in research, at least find out about sub-topics. If you have the opportunity, use the 2 months that most people spend on GRE doing a project of some kind. Maybe you can ask someone to help you pick out a reasonably simple paper to implement. If you have the contacts to collaborate with someone at a great Uni, then even better.

Just my view, but I think many applicants spend too much time on GRE and TOEFL, and too little time finding out more about their field. The more focussed your interests are, the better your SOP will be.

+ {insert_large_number_here}

I totally agree with these views as well.

GRE is overblown. I spend a lot of time telling my friends that a 1500 won't get anyone anywhere on its own.

SOP eval guidelines have changed. Please read this. Do NOT send me PMs requesting personal SOP reviews, they will be ignored.

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(This post was last modified: 03-25-2011 12:45 PM by LM10.)
03-25-2011 12:44 PM
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