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Every student has a dream to apply for high ranking universities. Does ranking really matters for you?(I will write a separate article on this topic).Lets now talk about how a below average student can compete in par with above average student especially if your GRE score is less. Here is a scenario where both these applications will compete.

A student with GRE 1020, when selecting his ambitious universities will opt for universities that have 60/40 chance of admission. In other words, ambitious universities are those where you have 60% chance of admission and 40% chance of rejection.

However, a student with GRE 1290 applying to same university will have 80/20 chance. In this case the specific university will be a safe university for him.

What happens when these 2 applications go to admission committee review? Can a student with GRE 1020 can he really complete? Yes absolutely!!!

How to strengthen your application and credentials?

Imagine you are one of the members in admission committee. Which candidate will you select?

  • A student with GRE 1290 and has average recommendation letter and no clear long-term goals in SOP(or)
  • A student with GRE 1020 who got all-round and strong recommendations from his professors with national level paper submission and well-defined goals and plans.

Strengthen other weapons in your arsenal:

  • Resume: Strengthen you resume first. Admission committee doesn’t have time to look into each line you write in your resume. So, before writing your resume for your ambitious universities do research on what professors interests are and match up with your background. Highlight in bold at the top of your resume so that it can be catchy. You should develop a well-rounded resume including extracurricular activities and awards.
  • SOP:A strong SOP can be a clincher as far as admission process is concerned. Be honest in what your short term and long term goals are. There should be well-knit correlation with your background and your future plans. Try to use high frequency verbal words in your SOP (don’t overwrite it. You should know the line where you feel it’s getting too much).Give examples as why you took certain courses. If you have taken rigorous courses highlight it. Admission officers are well aware of student getting low grades with tough courses and a student getting high grades with easy ones.
  • Recommendation letters: Rule of thumb for reco’s choose a professor whom you know very well personally and who can write about your leadership skills, communication skills, presentation skills and paper presentation research skills. Try to get a full page recommendation and words in the letter should really make an impact. If needed you can give a snap shot of what you are looking for to your recommender.:)
  • Communication with Chair: Before applying to university write an email to chair person and ask for his advice and introduce yourself. Don’t ever request for funding in your email at this point. You can very well ask him about your chances. Most of them will not reply, but some will. Develop personal relationship by writing 2-3 emails and follow up after applying to the university with him.
  • Include copies of presentations: If you have state or national level paper presented include that along with your application. If you have 5-10 papers make an abstract in 2 pages and submit along with your application.
  • Experience letters: If you are from India, nearly everyone has an experience from IT companies such as TCS, Infosys etc. When getting an experience letter differentiate your letter from others. Don’t just get an experience letter from you HR or manager. Try to add projects and credentials along with that letter. They usually will if you say this is for higher studies.

We know a student who got into MIT with 1260.Of course, he had couple of international paper presentations that matches with professors research interests.

By doing these do you see a difference in application. Now, as a professor which one will you approve? A student with GRE 1020 or a student with GRE 1290?

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4 Comments

  1. amrita says:

    My GRE score is 1290, TOEFL 108, good gpa, strong recos, but no paper presentation or publication. I will be applying for a phd, cn somebody help? Should I abandon my phd admission dreams? I’m an MTech but no work ex as of now. Will be joining a project shortly.

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