Roadmap to Graduate Admission especially in USA

Many people think that preparing for graduate admission begins after
achieving the undergraduate degree. I do not belong to that group. For
me, it starts just after the commencement of undergraduate studies.
Obtaining a good CGPA in your undergraduate years is the first and
foremost criterion to get admission in top ranked universities.
Although, excellent CGPA is not the only selection criteria; along
with that an undergraduate student has to establish a strong
background in the area of his/her research interest. Building an
attractive background requires a few steps throughout the
undergraduate studies. This article summarizes all the steps (in
chronological order) that a student need to follow for getting
graduate admission at well known research schools.


Undergraduate Research Experience

Having some sort of research experience as an undergraduate student
always increases your chance of getting good admission. I have
discussed with many professors in North America regarding their view
about undergraduate research experience. All of them agreed that
research experience in undergrad years makes a student's resume more
attractive. When the faculties here find out that a student has
already published research papers, they at least get the impression of
the student's motivation towards research. This makes them believe
that the student already knows how to compile research results and
write research papers, which consequently assure probable success of
the student as a graduate researcher. During your undergraduate years,
try to achieve effective research experiences. Establish a good
research track by working with our distinguished CSE faculties and
publish research papers in well known conferences and journals.


GRE and TOEFL Preparation

Preparing for GRE is a time consuming process. Start your GRE
preparation while you are in your junior (third) year. This will give
you some time to plan when to sit for GRE. While preparing, start with
the word lists as this is the most tiresome part in GRE preparation.
If you already have a good practice of reading English literature,
articles and newspapers, that will help you a lot. If not, make a
habit of reading English books and newspapers. Getting all the GRE
words by heart will help you in finding acronyms and synonyms at the
GRE verbal part. But, to comprehend the passages, you will need more
than that. Develop your language comprehension skill by reading
English newspapers and books. Many BUET students think that they are
good at Math, so they do not require practicing GRE math questions. In
my opinion, it is always better to practice math questions to ensure
full marks in this part of GRE. While I took my GRE test, analytical
essay writing was not there. Ask your seniors, who recently took GRE
test, about the ways to build your logical writing skill for GRE
analytical essays.

I think the most important part in TOEFL is the listening section. To
improve your listening skill, the easiest and coolest way is to watch
English movies. Have fun while watching movies and try to understand
the conversations in the movies. Reshuffle your English grammar
knowledge by taking a quick look at well known grammar books (like
Wren and Martin etc.). Ragib Hasan has written a resourceful article
on TOEEL and its preparation (http://www.csebuet.org/advice.html) in
the CSE, BUET alumni website.


Appearing at GRE

Do not appear at GRE too early. If you are willing to apply for next
year's fall semester, take your test during July to September period.
July to December is the busiest time for GRE test scheduling. So, try
to get your date two to three months earlier. Appearing at GRE during
this time will give you some time to reappear, in case your score does
not come up good. Most of the well ranked school deadlines are during
December 1 st to January 1 st. Thus, you will get another chance to
appear at GRE in November.


Appearing at AGRE

All reputed schools prefer Computer Science AGRE test for graduate
admission. In Bangladesh, you can only appear at this test twice in a
year. Get your test date and prepare for it. If you do not intend to
get into top ranked schools, you may skip this test. But, obtaining
good scores in AGRE surely increases your admission chances.
Appearing at TOEFL

Most of the students do a common mistake while scheduling their TOEFL
test date. As this test is not as hard as GRE, they schedule it
earlier than GRE. Remember, TOEEL test scores are valid only for two
years. So, take it as late as possible. My advice is to schedule your
TOEFL test in November if you want to apply for the upcoming fall.
Writing Statement of Purpose

Statement of purpose summarizes your intention, background and view
towards your proposed field of research. It is the most important
thing in your application. Take a look at Shamsi Tamara Iqbal's
article in the CSE, BUET alumni website
(http://www.csebuet.org/advice.html) about the process of writing a
good statement of purpose.
Writing Your Resume

A resume is also an important part in your application package. A good
resume shows your biography, skills and achievements in an organized
way. There are numerous good resumes available online. Download a
standard template and organize your resume as instructed. You can also
see how the previous CSE, BUET students wrote their resumes.
Selecting Schools for Application

Many students try to apply at the universities where in the previous
years CSE, BUET graduates got admissions. Some of the time, it is the
right way to apply. But, I think you should first decide on which area
of computer science you are more interested. If you are applying to US
schools, get a US News ranking list and search the school websites to
find out which schools have good number of faculties (at least 3 to 4)
who are pursuing research in your area of interest. Some schools may
have only one professor who is working in your intended field of
research. Applying to that school is not a smart idea at all. Select
those schools where you will find a handful of faculties whose
research resembles your interest and also where previous admission
success rate of CSE, BUET students are high. Remember one important
thing while selecting schools; do not select all the high ranked
schools for applying. Apply to a few mediocre schools along with your
selected well ranked schools to increase your admission chance.
Getting Good Recommendation Letters

As it is already discussed in the CSEBUET group, try to get
personalized recommendation letters from your recommenders. Request
them to write a few lines about yourself that will emphasize on your
distinguishable skills and achievements, which make you different from
others. This will increase the credibility and uniqueness of your
recommendation letter.
Sending Application to Schools

This may sound a little bit silly. Still, sending the application in
time is very important, especially from Bangladesh where post office
can even digest your package!!! Send all the applications to the
universities using EMS (Express Mail Service) at least two weeks
earlier than the deadline. Even EMS from Bangladesh takes ten (10)
days to reach the universities in US, forget about regular mails.
Thanks to Bangladesh Postal Service!!!

Finally, best of luck in your admission process! I hope that you all
will get good admissions in top ranked universities.

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