All About Universities

Ambitious / Moderate or Safe - A Reality or a Myth?

Sumeet Jain

The time has come for students to test their competence as the Universities have started to reply to the various applications of a myriad of prospective students from all over the country for the coveted Master’s degrees or the Bachelors Degree courses in the USA. Some have received good admits from excellent education establishments, while some are disappointed with their rejects, some are waiting with utmost patience for their chance staring into their mailboxes and application status tabs on university websites.

Among all this I come across various posts on various websites as well as some social media forums wherein the students have mentioned about their results. Some are simply happy that they have received at least 1 admit while some are distressed as they have received rejects from Universities which they considered to be “Safe” for them. In some cases I have even seen them using abusive language in respect to the universities for rejecting their application and this hurts me. Being a counselor for around 4 years and holding a Master’s Degree from a reputed US University, I find these acts slightly immature for a student of this caliber.

I completely understand the disappointment that they may face and their frustration but I believe this not to be the right platform to display it. During my application as well, I did face a few rejections and that did break my morale up to a certain level, but I realized the importance of patience rather than playing the blame game with these established institutes. It is important for us to remember that, “They may or may not need us, but we surely need them…” Why do we suggest students to not apply only to a single University and await a decision, but on an average we see students applying for 8-10 Universities classifying from an Ambitious to Moderate to a Safe range. 

My simple question here is, who defines the University to be Ambitious, Moderate or Safe? What would be the standards that create that bifurcation for it? Honestly, we only use previous data, knowledge of seniors or counselors or in many cases rankings published by various sources. But again, can we see or conclude any foolproof theory from these sources?

The correct answer will be no. These sources available to us are to guide us to make informed choices but in the end the University Application and University Selection should be in the hands of the students. Unfortunately in India almost every College or University selects a student using the ‘Objective’ Grading System while in the US, they follow the ‘Subjective’ Grading System. In India, if you score 99% marks in the Entrance Test for any institute, you are almost through while in the US, they consider various factors before making the decision. 

I have read on various posts where the student asks the question, “I scored 318 in the GRE, yet University rejected me while my friend got 310 in the GRE, yet the same University accepted him.” Or “I scored 1360 on the SAT which was required by the University, yet they did not give me admission in CS but a different major.” These comparisons bring out the negative vibes for the Universities and students start to curse them. But does anyone go and check the overall profile of the student, does anyone check the academic score of the student, the papers presented, the projects worked on – how innovative or how efficient were they, what was the impact of the Statement of Purpose of the student and the Recommendation Letters of? The answer here again is “NO”. Many times, students get the feeling of disappointment due to their feeling of rejection by one a single factor while honestly, that’s not the case.

I was in the US for 2 good years wherein I completed my Master’s, I have my friends who have completed their studies there, I have students who have either completed their studies or are still studying and we all interact with the professors there and a general consensus given by the professors there is that they need students who can add value to the program at the University. There is a science behind the selection of the students. They check the previous data, look at the students coming from different Colleges/Universities across the globe, their GPAs, their GRE/TOEFL Scores, their projects and they check the value addition done by these students at that particular University. They look at the Undergraduate/High School GPA of the student and how that GPA corresponds with the GPA of the University and how well the student can fit into the system of the university.

They check the GRE (for masters) or SAT (for undergrad) scores to check the analytical abilities of the students and how well the students can cope up with the projects and the courses available on campus. They check the projects carried on by the students in the past and how well they can start working on projects in the University. Once a professor candidly told me that he doesn’t value the GRE score but he would like to meet the student, check his/her confidence and then offer them a project available with him. I found this justifying and working on a project with him was a different experience.

While applying to any University, many students work with the mindset that A + B + C + D + E = Success at that particular University where A = Academics, B = GRE/SAT & TOEFL/IELTS Scores, C = Projects Undertaken/High School Activities & Technical Papers Published, D = Work Experience/Community Service and E = Extra-Curricular Activities. Universities however work on another level altogether. They grade a student profile subjectively and a deficiency in any of the above mentioned factors can be covered by some other factor. Unfortunately, students here think that if they meet the minimum cutoff in any of the sections, they are sure to get accepted by the University.

I have also seen some students advising some other students about the selection of the Universities and telling them that a particular University is way below their profile and they should avoid it and go ahead with some other better ranked university. If a student is happy with the courses and the research projects offered by a particular university, why should he/she be worried about the ranking of the university? The student is getting a chance to work on the project that he/she aspires to work on and in this case no one else should stop them from doing so. Sharing of information or guiding someone is never an issue but sharing wrong information and misguiding is a big issue and I have seen many careers heading in a wrong direction owing to this.

This article is my personal opinion churned out with experience as well as discussions with friends and students who are already in the US. This article reflects their views too and its motto is to purely guide the students and open their eyes to the ‘Subjective’ pattern of grading and selection as opposed to the ‘Objective’ pattern followed in India. This article is also to open the eyes of the students against various Myths and help them make informed choices based on the information available to them and not let anyone misguide them. I hope everyone find their dream universities and I hope the concept of Ambitious, Moderate and Dream Universities takes a back-foot and selection of Universities based on Courses available and Research options available take a giant stride forward.

-Written by Mr.Hiren Rathod

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