Home » Coffee With Experts

Coffee With Abhishek Verma – UIUC Phd Admit

17 March 2008 7 Comments

This post is originally posted at: coffeewithsundar.com

When I was in my pre final year, I was really trying hard to find out the whole picture of preparing for GRE to getting an admit in US university. However, I was only partially successful. It is this which motivated me to interview a student who has gone through this phase and emerged sucessfully by getting a Phd admit from UIUC. Its my pleasure to have my own junior from NIT Trichy, Abhishek Verma on Coffee With Sundar!. Abhishek is the CS branch topper of 2008 batch. He is here to share his experiences on preparing for GRE and apping process. I hope this is helpful for you (if it is relevant.)


Coffee With Abhishek Verma
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
AV: Abhishek Verma


Me: Hi Abhishek, Welcome to Coffee With Sundar! Congrats on your phD admit at UIUC :-). How did you feel when you checked your result?

AV: I was elated when I checked my first result which was from Purdue university. This implied that I was definitely going to do a PhD. Then, I got a couple of rejects and finally I am on Cloud nine after the UIUC admit.

Me: What is your background? Whats your CGPA? Have you done internships before? What were your credentials? Can you share it with CWS Readers!
AV: My father is an Electrical Engineer in Maharashtra State Electricity Board and my mother is a housewife. I did my schooling in Sacred Heart Convent School in Ahmednagar. Maharashtra. I liked both Maths and Biology and couldn’t decide till I had the results of all the competitive exams after twelfth. I got the choice of Armed Forces Medical College or NIT Trichy. I finally decided to pursue Computer Science and Engineering. I fared well in acads in NITT. My CGPA currently is 9.57 (with the final semester still to go) and I am the department topper. I also topped all the departments in first year. I got Summer Undergraduate Research Grant for Excellence (SURGE) from IIT Kanpur after my Fourth Semester. Then I got an internship in Google Bangalore at the end of my sixth semester and worked as a part of the Orkut Team. Strong academics and good research projects certainly strengthened the application.

Me: Where all did you app? Have got admits else where? Are you waiting for any other better universities?
AV: I had applied to seven universities. Out of them, I got rejects from Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University. I have received admits from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Purdue University and University of Southern California (all with aid). I am still waiting to hear from California Institute of Technology and Georgia Institute of Technology. But UIUC is the best!

Me: Lets look at how the journey began. When did you start studying for GRE? What was your score? Did you join tution centre? How did you mug the words? Any suggestions to ppl who want to start? What advice would you give and what mistakes can be avoided?
AV: I had booked my GRE dates in the vacation after the sixth semester, but because of my Google internship, I had to postpone it to September. While booking dates, make sure that you have atleast an entire month free before that date. Cycle tests and developing random crushes are not a good thing for GRE prep, as I learned from personal experience. I had started looking at Barron’s word lists in my sixth semester. I devoted a complete month before the GRE exam for mugging up the word lists. I used flash cards, asked my friends to ask random words and diligently practiced all the tests in the Barron’s CD. I also practiced from Kaplan and the Big book. I did not join any tuition centre. I scored 600/800 in Verbal, 800/800 in Quants and 4/6 in Analytical Writing.
Quants: It is very easy to mess it up. It involves only basic high school maths. Make sure you know what Mean, median and mode are. Practice 2-3 tests and when you are confident of scoring 780-800, concentrate on verbal.
Verbal: Signup for feeds like Word for the day, etc. If a passage comes in the first 10 questions, DONT rush through it. Try to answer the first 10 questions correctly, as they matter most.
Analytical Writing: Read through a few sample essays and arguments.

AGRE: For people, who are interested in apping for PhD, Subjective GRE is highly recommended. I scored 820 (84 percentile). Be careful while marking choices, even after you have eliminated 2 or 3 options (out of 5). I attempted 70/70 questions and got only 52 of them correct (thus getting 48/70). I learnt it the hard way that, all choices you think are not equally likey. A 95+ percentile at (54/70) in AGRE would certainly have made rejecting my application (by Stan and CMU) more difficult.

TOEFL: Practice speaking and listening sections carefully. The rest should be a cake walk. But I still managed to mess it up, by getting the test date wrong. I had to register a second time, and my scores were Speaking – 27, Listening – 29, Reading – 30, Writing – 30 (All out of 30). Many universities exempt students having Speaking section score > 24/30 for English eligibility tests for TAship.

Me: This was indeed very helpful. I am sure starters will take note of it! Thanks a lot.
Me: Then comes university selections right? How did you select the list of universities? Did you take help from any counsellors or seniors? Can you share their contacts for readers, in case they are doing this? Any forums or resources which were useful?

AV: This was the toughest part. For deciding which universities to apply, find out seniors who have a similar profile as yours and see where all they had applied. Unfortunately, very few seniors from CS dept in NITT have applied for MS or PhD programs. My mentor in Google, Kiran Panesar helped me a lot in this regard. I wasn’t sure if I should apply directly after BTech or work in Google for a year and then apply. Kiran told that it was always better to have a continuity in formal education (He himself is a PhD from Gatech). He gave me a good recommendation letter. I looked at the US News & World Report raknigs and chose a mix of 2 safe bets – USC and Purdue; 3 moderate ones – Caltech, Gatech and UIUC and 2 ambitious ones – Stan and CMU. (I can justify them being safe, moderate or ambitious now, only after getting their decisions πŸ™‚ ). Forums like Edulix and Testmagic were very useful. Also this talk by a CMU prof was very useful.

I think recommendations are important in the application. I got strong recos from Hemalatha Thiagarajan (HT) maam, Google mentor Kiran Panesar and CS Dept HOD, Prof N Ramasubramnian. I was not in touch with the IITK prof under whom I did my SURGE project, and he refused to give a reco when I asked him. So always be in touch with your profs. Try to get recos from profs under whom you have worked (IIT or IISc brand name matters).

Me: What about specialization? When and how did you decide your subject of interest?
AV: I worked on Parallel Genetic Algorithms in SURGE, and then created a Beowulf cluster in NITT. I attended an international conference on high performance computing. Also I got an opportunity to use technologies like MapReduce during my Google internship. Distributed Computing gradually emerged as my area of interest.

Me: What about SOP? How important is it? How did you write it? Did you take help from any online resource? Can you share your SOP and/or any other reference sops? (Please attach. It will be very helpful. I am sure you would have used some reference.)
SOP is a very important part of the application. It is the substitute of an interview for the Admissions committee. I took help from a senior Sagar Thakar, (currently in IIMB). Also, I made a lot of my friends read it, and give suggestions. Here is my SOP. I went through some SOPs like this and this.

Me: Now that you have got an admit, what are you doing towards your PhD course? Are you doing any other study or project?
AV: I have chosen two electives : Distributed Computing and Data Mining which are closely related to my area of interest. My final year project is based on an exciting topic I have come across: Market forecasting using Genetic Neuro-Fuzzy algorithms.

Me: Thank you Abhishek. I wish you all the very best.
AV: Thanks for the honour.
Me: My pleasure.


Readers, Hope you enjoyed this edition of Coffee With Experts. When I was studying, this is all that I wanted to get started. Now through my blog, I have made it available for others as well. Hope you find it useful.For previous episodes of Coffee With Experts, Click here and scroll down.

Comments

comments

7 Comments »

  • » Coffee With Abhishek Verma - UIUC Phd Admit said:

    […] [Technorati] Tag results for coffee wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt When I was in my pre final year, I was really trying hard to find out the whole picture of preparing for GRE to getting an admit in US university. However, I was only partially successful. It is this which motivated me to interview a student who has gone through this phase and emerged sucessfully by getting a Phd admit from UIUC. Its my pleasure to have my own junior from NIT Trichy, Abhishek Verma on Coffee With Sundar!. Abhishek is the CS branch topper of 2008 batch. He is here to share his e […]

  • Coffee With Abhishek Verma - UIUC Phd Admit : NITTians.com said:

    […] This post is originally posted at: coffeewithsundar.com […]

  • Final Semester : NITTians.com said:

    […] had a nice time having Coffee with Sundar. Please do share your comments on it. Finally, I have accepted UIUC’s offer for PhD. […]

  • GRE CS Subject Exam with regards to my profile - The TestMagic Forums said:

    […] in AGRE would certainly have made rejecting my application (by Stan and CMU) more difficult. Coffee With Abhishek Verma – UIUC Phd Admit ? Coffee With Sundar (The cool thing about the MS program at UIUC is they seem to usually offer aid. I have no idea […]

  • Abdul Wahid Khan said:

    This was really useful interview… Thanks sundar!!

  • Anonymous said:

    uk poker…

    These are some shipways you can musicians from iPoker mesh of land sites occupy up the room….

  • seo agency new york said:

    Just desire to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity to your
    post is simply cool and that i could suppose you are knowledgeable on
    this subject. Well along with your permission allow me to clutch your RSS feed to stay updated with coming near near post.
    Thank you 1,000,000 and please continue the rewarding work.

    Here is my webpage – seo agency new york