profile evulation study in usa

The Profile Evaluation Conundrum (To Study in United States)

Raghuram Sukumar Admission 6 Comments

I  have received probably over 25,000 emails and comments asking for Profile Evaluations ever since I started this journey to help students reach their goals (and dreams) to study, live and work in the United States.

Profile Evaluation, according to most students(from India), means just one thing:

Give me a list of universities where I can get admission, with low tuition fees and financial aid.

Don’t you all agree? How many times have you posted similar questions in the forums, on facebook, and on WhatsApp groups?

Most of the emails I get about Profile Evaluations can be categorized into the following  three formats:

  1. “This is my profile (GRE, TOEFL, Academics Scores) and can I apply to these Universities?”
  2. “Can you give me suggestions for Universities for an MS in Computer Science? My score is 315 in GRE, and 103 in TOEFL with 80% in Academics.”
  3. “My counselor suggested these seven universities. What do you think about them? Should I apply to these universities?”.

This approach is totally wrong. It’s not holistic.

Why?

The Indian education system.

Admission to a 3 or 4-year college depends on your High School Grades and Entrance Exam scores.

Students are forced to decide among Engineering, Medical College, or Arts in the 11th standard.

I studied for a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Engineering. My first year of Engineering syllabus included Physics, Chemistry, Electrical, Mechanical and Civil Engineering courses.

What if I liked Mechanical Engineering?

Could I have just approached an adviser and switched my major to Mechanical Engineering?

What if, after taking a few courses in my first year of Engineering, I wanted to switch to Medical School? If I had not taken Physics, Chemistry, and Biology in 11th grade, then I couldn’t have gone into Medical School.

The education system is forcing students to make the decision at an early stage of their career when students don’t have sufficient exposure to what they truly want to achieve in their life, or what they truly want to become in their life.

The holistic approach towards college admission is taken away. Students are evaluated by numbers rather than their interests.

When only numbers come into the picture, without interests and exposure, then begins a career-long journey towards chasing something you want to do and achieve.

I asked a parent who was getting ready to attend a counseling session for Engineering College Admission in Tamil Nadu, India, “Why do you want your son to select Electrical and Communications Engineering?

He replied, “I want him to get a job as Software Engineer, but having an ECE degree will be a backup option if he can’t find a job in the IT Industry.”

My face just went blank. That poor student did not have any say in this approach. Not to mention his face was blank, too.

More or less, the same approach continues when applying for admission to U.S. Universities. Even with access to so many data, Profile Evaluation means just one thing: “Just give me a list of universities that match my score and credentials.”

There are thousands of colleges, universities, courses, and majors to choose from.

The process of finding ten universities and courses to apply to is overwhelming. I agree. 

That requires Deep Work. There is a learning curve.

I’m helping this student with admission consulting. For last four weeks, he and his dad will be on web conference call to go over the list of universities. I have a template that student’s who work with me have to fill out for each university.

Guess what?

This student paid over INR 45,000 to Princeton Review.

They gave him a list.

He nodded.

They applied.

I asked a series of question about the universities he already applied.

  1. Do you know the list of majors offered in this college?
  2. What is the cost per semester for this program?
  3. What is the total number of credits required to complete the degree if you take this course?

Guess what?

He did not know the answer, but he already applied to 10 Universities.

He’s not filling out the template to get a better understanding of the universities before we meet for our next scheduled call.

Finding answers about studying abroad is hard. It’s hard to get answers to basic questions, such as:

  • What are the tradeoffs of a small college vs. a major research university?
  • What’s the difference between college vs. university for a Masters Degree?
  • Which American cities are the best to study in, considering job opportunities?
  • What exactly is “campus life”?

It’s a problem that you have to solve by breaking the questions down into small chunks. I refer to this as, “knowledge loading“.

Just like swimming, driving or horseback riding, it’s a skill you need to learn.

It’s a problem that you have to learn to solve by doing some “knowledge loading.”

When students and parents face such a problem, they take the easy route. They put their faith and trust in an Agent. Not to mention what happens when you say to an agent – Blackmailed, Intimidated, and struggle.

In this case, I would send a few universities a list that I think would make more sense and add better value than the list they have asked me for. Right after I presented them with a list of universities, the next three questions I would ask them are as follows:

  1. What is the scope of this degree?
  2. Can I get a job if I study in this college?
  3. What is the placement rate in this college for this degree?

Where do you think the above three questions are coming from?

Do you remember the conversation I had with the parent? Parents are not going to send their son or daughters to Engineering college if companies don’t come for campus placements.

When students come to Study in the U.S.A., they are taking a huge risk by spending a lot of money to study abroad.

Students from low-income countries like India and China tend to prefer studying in countries where there are more chances to reap greater rewards. It’s perfectly good to migrate and study abroad.  But please, don’t approach the college admission and study abroad with a narrow focus just based on numbers and ROI regarding salary from the first job.

 

Try this approach instead:

  • If I study Degree XYZ, then my career track is ABC?
  • If my career is ABC, then will I enjoy my work?

We can have another debate on Salary vs. Happiness. In general, if you enjoy the work, money will follow.

If you take the other route:

  • If I study degree XYZ, then can I get a job?
  • If I study Degree XYZ, can I get a salary of $$$?

Guess what? If you choose something without a focus on a career, chances are you could going to be work like a “zombie”.

You can create something of value if you love what you do and your career aligns with your interest. If you get a kick out of your work, you are going to love your work. You are going to create something amazing.

If you select a college and course just based on money, I doubt you are going to get any kick out of the degree.

  • No Kick = No Joy
  • No Joy = Zombie Work

Seth Godin says it best:  If You’re An Average Person Doing Average Work, You Will Be Fired.

Here’s one such request for a Profile Evaluation

I aspire to do my Masters in Biotechnology in the U.S.,  and I have begun my application process for the fall 2016 intake. Could you please help me out with information, such as my chances of getting into a few universities. I am providing my profile below:

  • Education: B.Tech- Biotechnology
  • GPA-8.48 (2011-2015);
  • Did Final semester project at Harvard Medical School, Boston
  • GRE: 308 Q-158 V-150
  • TOEFL: 111
  • Universities Applying to:
    • Texas A&M, College Station- Professional Program In Biotechnology
    • The university Of Maryland, Baltimore County- Masters in Professional Studies-Biotechnology
    • University Of Central Florida- Professional Science Masters(PSM) Biotechnology
    • University Of South Florida- PSM Biotechnology
    • San Jose State University- PSM Biotechnology
    • California State University, Fresno- PSM Biotechnology.

Your insights would be of great help. Hoping to hear from you.

Let me ask few more questions:

  • How many of you considered doing an Internship abroad?
  • How many prospective students would be applying to U.S. Universities for a project or an internship from Harvard Medical School?

The same can’t be said for the majority of applicants.

Here’s another example:

I sent my application to 300 professors who teach Petroleum subjects across the globe  and got 5 replies (positive replies). Last summer I went to Oklahoma for a 30-day international exposure program on a J1 visa. (Hitisha)

I interviewed Hitisha – 6Takeaway from 21 days Trip to the USA.

There are students who are doing extraordinary things to find what they like.

Folks like Nitin are doing it the hard way, and they are getting better. Here’s what he had to say about his journey to the United States:

Many in India have this groupthink (it’s a genuine term, google “groupthink”), which makes many people who are on the fence succumb to the pressure, pay for a service, and buy peace of mind.

In fact, I feel enraged when I offer free advice to relatives and friends, and yet they choose to go pay outrageous amounts to a consultant, only to land in a not-so-great university!

If you ask for advice from those who used consultancy services, you’ll be instructed to go to so-and-so consultancy. They won’t advise you to do it on your own.

Here’s some valuable advice I got in my first month of University (from a grad student there): “It’s better to be in a bad position for a choice you made, than for a choice you let someone else make for you.”

Many of my peers in the U.S. university I studied in, who I think could have gotten into much better universities, landed there through a consultant (after paying for coaching, applications, and visa consultation).

The side effect of this observation: I have never used any consultant, service for any visa, passport issues, and I am hoping to keep it that way!

Better schools provide better opportunities. You have to go in search of such opportunities.

Don’t approach an agent with mere numbers and ask them for a list of universities. You are more than a few numbers.

I’m writing this with the hopes that a student planning to study abroad can find what they want to do with their life. Don’t follow the herd. Instead, lead the pack even if the pack has one person, that’s you.

Comments

  1. Hello,
    I’ve completed my Graduation in 2015 and joined Cognizant and in February 2016 and quit in September 2016.
    I then prepared for my Gre and ielts and got a score of 297 and 7 respectively. I applied for Spring 2018 for masters in MIS.
    The problem is i have almost 13 months gap after i quit. Would it be a major problem?

  2. Can you give me a list of universities that offer specialisation in embedded systems. I want all my subjects to be related to embedded systems not just one or two. I want it to be my major and concetration. One such university offering this is University of Colarado Boulder.

  3. RED FLAG! RED FLAG! RED FLAG!
    DO NOT JOIN ECE DEPT. AT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY CARBONDALE. DO NOT PUT YOUR CAREER AT STAKE.
    Racist chairman of Electrical and computer engineering Dept. at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is forcing graduate International students to go back to their home country.
    I spend 3.5 years for a master degree and finally got kicked out with a ME degree (instead of MS). I managed to get admission letter from a decent German university but I went though HELL.

  4. So what should my criteria for shortlisting universities. I want to do computer engineering(vlsi).

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