|Road to an
M S Raunak
If you are like me, you have always had the dream of
studying at a fine university abroad. And if you have got a little too much
resemblance with my mind-set, you probably had also decided to fulfill your
dream without spending anything from your own pocket.
Well, if you still havenít reached your goal (I assume
you havenít; otherwise why would you be reading the article!), this article is
I was able to go for my Graduate studies at a fine
university at Amherst, Massachusetts and off course, I didnít have to pay
anything other than the one way air fare to the United States (well, the air
fare was also reimbursed by the Bangladesh Government). This article is aimed at
sharing some of my experiences about going for higher studies to an American
university. You may find some tips and guidelines here that I hope will help you
in your endeavor.
A lot of our students have got a preconceived notion that
studying abroad is a very difficult proposition and only the most brilliants
should go for it. Well, I disagree. Anyone
who has gone through her high school or undergraduate studies with reasonable
results should be able to find her place at a university in America, England,
Japan or Australia. Merit is definitely required. The more important factor is,
however, to know the proper way of approaching and preparing for it. If you
donít agree with me, let me give you a small example. The population ratio
between India and Bangladesh is roughly 10:1. But when it comes to the ratio of
Indian students vs. Bangladeshi students at American universities, it is more
close to 100:1. Is an average Indian smarter than an average Bangladeshi. I
donít think so. The difference comes from the fact that Indians work a little
harder than us to go for the higher studies.
Now that I have convinced you about your ability to study
at a prime American university, let me tell you the steps that worked for me.
Choosing the Right School
One of the first things is to decide on which university
you want to apply to. The United States has got about 3500 universities
including all its community and undergraduate colleges. It is very easy to get
completely confused with all these university names and their positions. There
are quite a few factors involved in deciding on a university. You can, in fact,
utilize these factors to narrow down your options.
The subject you are going to
pursue your higher education in is one of the most important factors. Not all
universities are good at all areas. If you are looking to study liberal arts and
if you are shooting for only the best, Ivy league schools (Harvard,
etc.) are definitely amongst your top choices. You should also consider schools
like Amherst College and Brandies
University. For engineering, there are plenty of good schools out there: MIT,
Austin, UIUC. The list goes on and on.
Ranking of the
If you are bent upon
going to one of the top schools at your subject area, the search becomes a lot
easier. Just look up this year or last yearís USA Today ranking of
universities and apply to all the universities following the rank starting from
the top. However, it is usually recommended that you apply to one or two
universities that are moderately ranked in addition to all highly ranked
universities. The usual practice should be to apply for couple of top ranked
schools, quite a few moderately ranked schools and one or two sure shots. The
sure shots are the universities where you feel quite confident of getting an
Financial Aid and
To a lot of us,
this factor is the most crucial one while deciding on where to apply. For
graduate studies in top universities, the answer is simple. Almost all top
universities provide some sort of assistantships to their graduate students.
This is not universally true for all departments, however. So you definitely
want to find out the number of incoming students the university provides
assistantships to. There are some universities that are more reluctant about
providing assistantships to new international students. Try to find out whether
your department happens to be one of them.
If you are applying for undergraduate studies, the search
is a little more difficult. Not many universities provide scholarships or
financial assistance to foreign students. Your best bets are probably the top
ranking schools. Since these schools are usually very rich, once you ensure an
admission there, chances are high that you will manage some sort of
assistantship. You should also look out for special scholarships offered by some
universities only for international students Brandies University used to have a
scholarship like this.
While going for graduate studies, even if you donít get
an assistantship right from the get go, donít give up. Try to find out whether
students can manage assistantships once they are at the campus.
Physical Location of the
America is a
huge country. The northern part of it is very cold. States like Massachusetts,
New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Seattle are on the north. It snows heavily during
the winter. If you canít stand severe winter, you had better avoid schools in
these states. You still have got plenty of states left. The mid American and
western states are mild in Weather. California bay area is renowned for its
wonderful weather throughout the year. If you like warm weather like Bangladesh,
choose one of the schools in a southern states (Texas, Luisiana, Florida etc).
Universities with Many
If you want to
go to a university with a lot of Bangladeshis, you can check the list available
here. By the way, this is not a comprehensive list. There are a lot of other
universities with a lot more Bangladeshi students.
If you have a relative living in the US, you may want to
get admission to a school in the same city or state where your relative lives.
It may be helpful in some cases to have some known faces when you land in
America for the first time.
Now that you have decided on the universities you would
like to apply, you need to get into the real business of actually filling out
the application forms. At this stage, I feel one of the things that is
absolutely necessary to have is access to a computer with Internet. You will
need to browse a lot. In fact, the browsing starts with the process of choosing
the right university.
There are basically two main ways one can apply. In the
regular case, you can send an email to a university admission office to send you
application materials. You will get all these information by browsing through
that university website. Send a lot more requests for application materials than
you are actually going to apply. The papers you receive will also help you in
deciding the universities you are finally going to send your applications to.
Draft a simple email and use it with different email addresses of different
Now a days, a lot of universities will also allow you to
fill out your application online; or at least provide you with an online form to
request application materials.
Once you have got the application materials, you need to
sit down and complete the application process. This can be quite time consuming
and needs a lot of planning.
Completing an application usually involves five major
Getting the test scores
Gathering all educational credentials (certificate, marksheets etc.)
Collecting good recommendation letters from your professors.
Writing an essay, and
5) Filling out the application and sending it with fee within the deadlines.
On the next part of the article, I will share my
experiences about preparing for the tests, getting excellent recommendation
letters and writing the essay.