COVID 19 has fundamentally changed the way our lives used to progress. The many lockdowns, an increasing number of infections, shut down of educational institutions, cancellation of internships, have resulted in uncertainty and anxiety about how the future is going to unravel. Students preparing for the GRE examination and planning their higher studies abroad are no exception. With international flight operations suspended in India for the time being and uncertainties about visa processes, admissions to different universities due to lockdowns, aspirants are confused about how to go forward with GRE prep and GRE classes.
Proactive Response to the Crisis
However, it is not all bad news. ETS, the conducting body for GRE Exam, has recently announced that test-takers can now appear for the exams online in a proctored format. The GRE pattern remains identical to the GRE General Test taken at a test center as also the Total marks, GRE Exam duration, content, and on-screen experience.
In addition to that, Canada has declared that international students will be exempt from the travel restrictions if they have a valid study permit or were approved for a study permit on or before 18th March 2020. The start of Autumn/Fall 2020 intake of international degree programs at major popular international student destinations like the US, Germany. And Europe will be conducted online, either partially or fully. Besides these, colleges are also trying to lessen the burden of students by allowing them to pay their tuition fees in installments.
Thus, while the world and education pattern as we know now will undergo a fundamental shift as a result of this pandemic, MS or MBA from a world-renowned university will continue to remain a huge career springboard.
Which brings us to the topic in hand. Now that we are in lockdown with no clarity by when the situation will improve, how should you proceed with your GRE Prep?
Multiple articles will inform you about preparing for the GRE examination. However, for getting admission to an eminent university abroad, it is not the GRE score that only matters. A high GRE score comprises only 50% or even less than what can be called a good GRE profile.
Let’s address the elephant in the room first. Statement of Purpose is fundamentally important because it is the first and the most important chance to showcase your passion, skills, unique attributes, and interest for the specialization you wish to pursue. An ideal SOP should contain a brief prelude about yourself, academic background and achievements, short term-long term career goals, and motivation behind choosing the particular program from that specific university. SOP cannot be done overnight. And that is why this extended quarantine and lockdown period is the ideal time to start working on it.
In SOP special attention needs to be given while detailing your reasons for choosing a particular course. For many students with comparable GRE scores, this section becomes the deal-breaker.
Points To Note:
- Find the potent reason behind your wish to study that particular course and write in the form of an engaging story. Do not make it overly dramatic. Keep it relatable, but it should not read like a newspaper
- When it comes to detailing why that particular university. Do a lot of research about the faculty and curriculum that makes it unique
- Connect with the University Alumni on Linkedin- They can give you insights into what factors the admission committee places more value on while selecting a candidate. This will give you a chance to portray those in your SOP as well as strengthen your profile accordingly
- Reach out to the Professors of the University- As with the alumni. University professors will help you strengthening your SOP and validating your reasons for wishing to join that university. Try to connect with a professor in your domain to find about current developments. You can incorporate those points in your SOP for improving the chances of admission
- Reach out to SOP experts or your Mentors who alongside helping in your usual GRE prep will guide you in this process
Certifications for the courses required for your MS degree adds credibility to your claim of having an interest in that field as well as prior knowledge of fundamentals. Multiple online sites offer courses from a wide range of universities. Use this lockdown to ramp up your GRE prep through such an online course, it will be a major booster to your profile.
- It will be a great value addition if you complete any related certification course from a university you plan to join. You can find these courses on the certification websites and usually. They are free or have a very negligible price for the certificate
- Some of the popular certifications for MS are Assembly language programming, VHDL, computer languages, software, etc.
Universities look for a well-rounded personality. So try to diversify your profile. While extra-curricular abilities are gained over time, use this quarantine period to learn new skills beyond your immediate area of interest. There are multiple online tutorials for picking up different skills. Starting from Guitar to classical dance. Acrylic paintings to photography, short stories to the stock market trading.
- Look for courses which provide certification
- Try to participate in online competitions for extra-curricular activities you have competence in, but do not have certificates to showcase
- Use the key take away from the courses and relate with your personality traits in the SOP for great integration
Letter of Recommendation
Like SOP, LOR is another tie-breaker for aspirants with similar GRE scores and academic records. Reach out to professors and colleagues who are acquainted with and can vouch for the qualities you want to highlight in your resume and SOP.
- In general, universities ask for three different types of LORs. One professional and two academic
- LOR has specific formats so maintain the same format for all three recommendation letters
With in-office work partially or fully suspended because of the pandemic, many aspirants are losing out on the opportunity to gain industry exposure after their graduation. Such experiences are beneficial as it gives the college authorities an idea that you have hands-on experience in the subject you wish to pursue further. However, there is a silver lining. To help students during this period many renowned companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Intel are offering internships across multiple domains.
- Create an account on LinkedIn or any other similar job-finding platform with your updated resume and detailing preference for the work you are looking for
- Regularly update your certifications. Grow your networks and reach out to people for relevant openings and opportunities
Learn a New Language
This refers to not only picking up the official/native language of the country you are planning to move to but also Programming Languages as they are the need of the hour.
Even after the lockdown and quarantine get over. Institutions and corporations will take time to start their operations normally. You can utilize this time in connecting with one of your undergraduate faculty for working on a research project. This project can be published in a national journal. The process takes time but acts as a major booster to your resume.
This pandemic is the worst crisis of the decade and it will affect all spheres of our life henceforth. The only way forward is to upskill and reskill yourself. So use this time to focus on your GRE prep comprehensively. Practice Maths, Verbal common questions every day, and at the same time focus on the steps after GRE.
Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. All the best!