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One of the most daunting tasks in an MS application is writing the Statement of Purpose (SOP). Compiling your entire background, experiences, and overall thought process in a single document that summarizes your persona and yet makes it an interesting read, is a challenge in itself. You will have to introduce yourself, give your profile, brag about yourself but not brag too much that it appears unreal and at the same time, convince the faculty to give an admit. Some students have problems even beginning one. Some get a few samples from various sources and do a blotchy job of copy and paste, while many students use a senior’s SOP and just change his/her name. Very few take the time to actually prepare a good Statement of Purpose.
Whatever is your method of preparing a statement of purpose, you can use the following checklist to make sure your SOP looks good and convincing.
Many students base their university selection on the rankings provided by various agencies. While rankings offer a good benchmark to compare universities, they should not be the only parameter to base your university selection on. The rank of a university may be used as an indicator to assess the overall standing of the university but not as an absolute deciding factor. While one can make a general assessment that a university ranked 10 would definitely be better than the one ranked at 40, it need not be better then a university ranked 14; not necessarily better for every applicant. Reason being the inherent problem with all rankings: ‘They do not measure what is important to you - the applicant’
When an agency ranks universities, they use their own set of parameters to determine the rankings. Each parameter is assigned certain importance and based on the overall score of the university, the rankings are determined. Now all factors that the agency considers while assigning the ranks, may not be important to you. Also their order of importance of the parameters may differ from your order of importance. Say for instance, ‘funds available within the department’ and ‘starting salaries of graduate students’ might be the most important factors for you, while they might be of least importance to the ranking agency.
Rankings tend to hide unique strengths and specialties. For instance the computer science department of a particular university might be exceptionally good for its research and courses in computer security, or an MBA program might be well reputed for its courses in Entrepreneurship, but overall program rankings do not convey such specialties.
Finally data collected to compile the rankings may not always be accurate. Schools report data that is available with them and it need not be complete. Some ranking agencies collect information directly from alumni of the programs and from current students. Some also collect data from recruiters at the program. Thus there are chances that the information thus collected may have been reported inaccurately (some times intentionally) or incompletely, thereby causing the rankings to reflect a skewed picture.
Thus as a student applying to a program or finalizing a university to join, it is recommended that you research the program’s strengths and weaknesses, courses offered, opportunities that the program would offer you during and after graduation, review admitted student’s profiles, and then finally look at the rank and reputation of the program.
When it comes to building a career, nothing works like a good network. Whether you plan to take a job after graduation, start your own business, or plan to take on further studies, a good network always comes handy. But unfortunately networks are not built in a day; they take time to develop. Here are some tips for graduate students to build a good network
1. Be in good terms with your professors
There is a high possibility that your professors are well connected with the industry and could be a good source for referrals. So it is always a nice idea to take advice from your professors. Start off by discussing your career plans with them a little early in your semester, and seek advice on ways to accomplish it. It is very likely that they have ideas that you might not have thought about. Keep them updated about your progress (not a daily status update – but maybe once a month), and see if they can refer you to some of their industry contacts or ex-students working in the industry.
2. Start networking with peers and seniors
Most of your seniors who graduated, would have managed to find themselves a career in the corporate world. It is also possible that some of your peers from school and college have already made their mark in the industry you desire to venture into. Get in touch with your old schoolmates and collegemates. Get to know the friends of your friends. You don’t have to party with all of them, but do keep in touch, so that you could tap into these networks when the need arises.
3. Explore - avoid the conventional path
You may think you know what you want to do in life, but chances are you don’t. So use your time in grad school to explore various options. Just because most of your classmates desire to pursue a particular career, doesn’t mean that it is the best thing to do in life. Attend career fairs, presentations by industry personnel, talks by corporate speakers and use these opportunities to find out things that happen in various industries and positions. Explore. Do not be afraid to try out new things. If not anything, you will sure get to meet a lot of interesting people this way.
4. Be ready to work for free
It you fail to get a paid internship, it might be a good idea to take up a voluntary project/assignment with a company you are interested to work with. If you build a good connection with them, if you manage to impress them, you just might have an offer from them by graduation. It’s always better to get some experience rather than have no experience at all. You will at least get to meet people and build good relationships.
5. Be Professional
Orkut is fun, and so is Facebook. But besides the fun part, they are extremely powerful networking tools as well. Use these and other networking sites like Linkedin to create your ‘net’ presence. Be active, but be sensible; be yourself, but be appropriate. Avoid putting stuff on your page that would be sensitive or might be considered offensive. Avoid ruining your ‘net’ image because you never know who is watching you.
Finally, you need to understand that networking isn’t distress call. Your contacts aren’t obliged to help you. When you get in touch with someone and ask for a job referral, there is a high chance that the person doesn’t have anything to offer. That’s fine. Don’t pester them. At the same time don’t be annoyed because they couldn’t help you. The idea of tapping into your network is just to make them aware that you are on the lookout for an opportunity and that any assistance in that regards will be most welcome.
PS: Eventually when you get a job and start your career, be sure to help others with their careers as well. Pass on the good work.
Jothsna Rege -jothsna [at]academyone.net
Jay Rege - jayrege[at]academyone.net