I had made up my mind to pursue MS in Mechanical Engineering in the US of A. I wanted to live the American dream like millions around the world. Eyes filled with hope and determination, I booked my GRE slot for 1st November 2013 (Mumbai) and TOEFL for 9th November 2013 (Bangalore). (Please book your slots well in advance to avoid this.)
August 1, 2013.
I sat down at my desk and planned my preparation schedule. A year later, I am an entrepreneur in Bangalore.
My profile in brief –
GRE: 330 (V-162, Q-168, AWA-4.5)
B.E. - 72% (VTU)
12th - 84.2% (CBSE)
10th - 88.2% (CBSE)
4 Internships. (BASF, Lamina Suspensions, Bharath Motors, BEML)
3 seminars/workshops. (Bosch, 2 X IIT Bombay)
1 Project (Final Year) @ MCF Ltd. (Professors and MCF advised us to patent it)
Good extracurricular and social work (NSS, YRC, regular blood donor)
LORs from HOD, Principal, senior most professor
No research papers.
I applied to the following universities –
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- University of California-Los Angeles
- University of Texas, Austin
- Texas A&M University-College Station
- University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign
- Purdue University
- Virginia Tech
- University of Pennsylvania
- NTU-TUM Asia, Singapore (Aerospace M.Sc.)
How Did I Prepare:
I did not take any coaching. I studied on my own. Determination and hard work was the key to my success in the GRE. I prepared for GRE from Word Power Made Easy (Recommended), Kaplan, Princeton Review Verbal (Recommended), ETS Official Guide (Recommended), Barron’s, TIME study material and for TOEFL from ETS Official Guide.
I was studying about 7-8 hours a day for GRE apart from all the college coursework and sleeping for only about 5-6 hours a day. Revising vocab in any free time I got (Read: on the toilet seat, in the bus, in the lunch break, etc.). My preparation was punctuated with regular practice tests (both online and book-based) I gave about 27 tests, highest score of 333 (PowerPrep-2) and lowest score of 313 (Kaplan, 1st Test). I plotted a graph of Verbal, Quant and total score vs. Date of Test to understand my progress better.
A very strong vocabulary is a must to ace the verbal section. I studied using WPME (buy the one with the quizzes at the end), TIME flash cards, Memorise app and Magoosh app. Apart from this I learnt the Kaplan 400, Princeton Review Hit List, Barron’s 333 and 800. They have a lot of words in common. Overall, I learnt about 3500 words, without which RCs would have been impossible. I used to carry the flash cards and learnt the words while traveling to and from college to save time. Towards the end I was learning about 80 new words a day. I made a register in which I used to write down the new words learnt every night and revise them whenever possible. I had made the Merriam Webster vocab quiz page set as my homepage and solved it whenever I opened my browser. Vocab will take a lot of effort but it will be worth it. My register is now like my own dictionary. J
Practice a lot of RCs, read their structure properly. It will help you when you attempt the AWA section because that is the kind of writing they expect from you.
Good vocabulary is enough for sentence equivalence and text completions.
This section is relatively easy for Indians/Asians owing to our schooling system and especially engineers. Practice is the key. Learn to make good use of the on-screen calculator.
I started preparation for AWA about 15 days before my exam. Write down essays in MS Word. Check for grammatical and syntactical mistakes. Read a lot of sample essays.
- Watch Magoosh and YouTube videos. They are also available on torrents. They explain each question type in each section in great depth. Do this before you start solving any other books.
- Give a lot of practice tests. Endurance is checked in the GRE. You have to sit for about 4.5 hours at the test center. It takes a lot of practice and does not happen overnight.
- Learn vocab. There is no way around this. Keep revising. It WILL pay off.
- Always schedule your TOEFL after your GRE.
- Attend webinars on Kaplan, Manhattan, Princeton Review etc.
- If you have enough time do free online certification courses on edx or coursera to improve your acads.
When you prepare well for GRE, half your TOEFL preparation is done as the reading and writing sections are common. If you can solve the RCs in GRE, the reading section on the TOEFL should be a cakewalk. Listening and speaking are not that difficult either. If you watch any American TV Series, English movies or listen to English songs once in a while, you should do fine. My suggestion is that you take care of GRE, TOEFL will take care of itself.
StupidSid is a great platform. The Grad School Finder and University Comparer and great tools. The facebook group was especially very helpful. I used to post doubts and other members would solve my doubts even during the wee hours of the day. Thank you everyone for all your support. This is something that a coaching institute cannot offer, 24-hour service.
So What Went Wrong:
I think that my academics were a bit on the lower side. A higher aggregate percentage, 1-2 published high impact research papers and better internships would have helped me. I also think that I applied to all ambitious universities. I had finished my applications by January 15th, 2014. I would suggest you all to do it much before that.
Even after all this hard work and this profile I got rejects from all 9 universities. The last one came (from TAMU) on 25th July, after a very long wait of 6 months.
I was baffled that I didn’t get a single admit. I might have been one in a thousand to get unlucky. But all this did not deter me. It did not kill all my hopes. I still believe that I will succeed in life. Rejections from all these universities did not crush my dreams. Instead they made me stronger and more determined. I worked harder and scored 81% in my final semester. I thought that if I cannot succeed with an M.S. degree in the US, I would work harder and succeed without it, right here, in India.
I watched Iron Man in 2009 and I loved the car. Someday I dream to buy an Audi R8. That is where I get my motivation.
The Entrepreneur: Chulbul
So, instead of going to USA, I came to Bangalore and co-founded a t-shirt company called Chulbul with 3 brilliant guys: Vivek, Anshuman and Ashish. Vivek and Anshuman are from IIT Roorkee. Anshuman has also done his MS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ashish (our designer) is from NIT Jamshedpur. We make quirky/mischievous t-shirts based on TV Shows/Movies/Bikes. We also launched Hyderabad centric t-shirts. We take bulk orders for custom print and have a contest every Sunday where you can win free t-shirts. The response is seriously overwhelming. Chulbul is doing great. Farhan Akhtar retweeted us on 31st July and ordered two ZNMD t-shirts. That is some happiness. Felt like an admit to me.
I am not yet successful but at least I am on my way.
Check out the company-
Why Am I Telling You All This?
You might think that even after having a good profile, I did not get any admits and start doubting yourself. DON’T. My mission here is not to scare you. This is a message to all the people who need some motivation; for those who don’t get admits like me. Do not get dejected. MS is not the end of your life or your education. Failure at something can give you a lot of perspective in life. Learn from your mistakes but never give up. Look forward to other things in life. You may have a bad spell. You may not have come out on top yet but some day you WILL. Maybe the universe has a different plan for you.
As Steve Jobs famously said at Stanford, “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
I don't regret missing MS in USA one bit. After all, the samosas are tastier in India (says the foodie in me). I am enjoying the lemonade from the lemons life gave me.
Wishing you all the success in life.
You can contact me at-