Getting into Ivy League and other world-class institutions is not as formidable as you think, says Pooja Biraiaeducation Updated: May 11, 2011 09:23 IST
Not as competitive
The level of competition for a place in the best institutes in India, including IITs, St.Stephen’s college and St. Xavier’s college is lower compared to top 10 universities abroad. “The fact that 0.002% students get into IIT and 8% into Oxford, is not a comparison, as the admission criteria involved in both is very different,” says Madhavi Desai, CEO, Madhavi Desai Consulting Pvt Ltd.
Beyond test scores
Unlike Indian colleges where your admission is based on the marks you score in the entrance tests, Ivy League universities admit you on the basis of your overall application. A student with just an above-average test score, but with a very strong application (with respect to his academics, statement of purpose and recommendation letters) can have an edge over his competitors. Pratibha Jain, overseas education counsellor says, “The university admissions office wants to see your overall profile, not just your academic results but your interests as well.”
SAT easier than JEE
While you fret over the preparation for international exams such as the SAT and GRE, understand that these exams are much easier in comparison to those conducted here, like the CAT, IIT-JEE and AIEEE.
Vinayak Kudva, product head, IMS, says, “As international tests are standardised and the skill set required for the test is clearly specified, a candidate actually gets to score better. The entrance tests conducted in India are unpredictable with regard to the level of difficulty. In the GRE if a student answers some questions incorrectly, he starts getting easier questions, so that the tough questions are not wasted on him. Unlike the Indian tests, the international tests are not elimination tests, but benchmarking tests.”
Top universities abroad, admit students on the basis of intangible talents. University officials don’t just want to know what you do in your pastime, but also how well you do it. For instance, if you say you like playing the guitar, you need to show it by mentioning any concerts you’ve performed in, the various exams you’ve appeared for. Just mentioning your interests is not enough.
Money can talk
These colleges provide limited financial aid and scholarships. To be eligible for aid, a student needs to show consistent academic performance and an overall impressive application. “Hardly three to five students get full aid,” says Kudva. A privileged few are part of the blue-tie network that can secure admission but they must be in a position to employ 20% of the graduates of the university for the next thirty years.”
On my own
Dipti Mehta (name changed), 22, who went to City University, London for Masters in International Journalism
“I prepared my statement of purpose all by myself as it is about my education, achievements and personality. I started preparing my SOP in October and took almost two months to make the final draft.
Starting paragraph: I started by talking about my subject — journalism — its importance in society and the significant role played by a journalist. And in the second paragraph , I talked about what attracted me to the field.
Points included: I spoke largely about my passion for journalism, the kind of work I had written in the past including my internships, the reason I fit perfectly well for the course and how the course can help me further my career prospects
Details mentioned: I named the subjects included in the programme of my choice, and explained how they specifically related to my interest. I was also specific in explaining how the location of the university in London would help me develop contacts.
Highlight: I tried to highlight my passion for the subject in every paragraph. I tried not to go off-topic, I did not use any over-the-top language, and I did not make false claims. Because I was going for a writing programme, I tried to display my writing skills.
Applied to: I applied to four universities. Even though I was applying for the same course, I used paragraphs that were very specific to the particular university and its course.
Tip: Don’t copy paste your CV in your statement of purpose - use it to show your relationship with the subject, not qualifications.”