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Question #46 (submitted Mar. 1, 2004)
I have a Masters in Economics from India. I want to pursue a PhD in Economics in the US. I have a very low GRE score (650-quant and 700 verbal, 5.0 essay). Which range of universities should I try given this score? I would get good recommendation letters as well as have a years experience in research.

Natalia's Answer:
Who have told you that your GRE scores are very low? If you check average scores at universities, you'll see that this is not the case. In theory you can get into any university (your GRE scores are ok for that), everything depends on LORs, SOP, publications, research experience, etc.

Question #44 (submitted Feb. 22, 2004)
I'm an Indian applying for MS in EE. My GRE scores are 800-Q,760-V and 3.5 AWA .My GPA translates to 3.6. Would AWA play a crucial role? Please suggest a range of universities to apply.

Natalia's Answer:
Most universities don't pay a lot of attention to AWA scores, your other scores are fine, so don't worry. Range of universities would depend on many factors (research experience, undergrad university and GPA, LORs, SOP) and test scores are never enough to determine it.

Question #42 (submitted Feb. 21, 2004)
I completed my MBA in Finance in the Oklahoma City University in 2002. I have since returned to my country Sri Lanka but would like to do my PHD in Finance in the USA. How should I get about it, and do you think I would get financial aid to do this doctorate?

Natalia's Answer:
Most PhD programs have financial assistance, to find out how competitive getting it is, you need to check with particular universities you are interested in. To get into PhD program you would need to follow the usual root: tests, LORs, SOP. I am sure you work experience will be a big plus when applying.

Question #41 (submitted Jan. 16, 2004)
I am in a great dilemma of choosing universities. I am from India, completed my bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering with 62%, I also have GRE scores of 730V,380Q, TOEFL 237. Can you suggest me any universities which suit my academics.

Natalia's Answer:
The best bet probably would be schools in 20-40th range. Make sure that your TOEFL score in the acceptable range for the particular schools. You can check ratings here.

Question #40 (submitted Dec. 20, 2003)
I am an Indian doing my undergraduate with Electronics as a major. I have a GRE score of 1380 with quant 690 and verbal 690. My quant is low. Can you suggest some good universities, not in the top block though, which I can get admitted to? TOEFL is not a consideration and I have GPA between 3 and 3.5 out of 4.

Natalia's Answer:
Check universities rating. I would recommend universities in the 20-30th range.

Question #39 (submitted Dec. 18, 2003)
I got 227 on TOEFL and 4.0 on TWE and my GRE scores are 780(Q),300(V). Do you think I have any chance to be admitted to the University of Southern California or UCSD? My GPA is 3.2. Also, I study in a recognized university and I think that I have good recommendations and SOP.

Natalia's Answer:
If I were on the admission committee I would question your English proficiency, because of quite low TOEFL and Verbal. If you can retake one of these tests or show your English proficiency in some other way, I think that would increase your chances of getting admitted.

Question #38 (submitted Dec. 17, 2003)
I am applying for a masters in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, Michigan State (Ann Arbor), Illinois (Urbana) and McGill in Canada. I am Mexican and I was the best student of my class at college (BS Mechanical Eng.) with a general qualification of 98/100. I am currently working at GE in Mexico. But I just took the GRE and I got 350 in verbal and 770 in math. Do you think I should take the test again?. Can I be considered to get a financial aid in any of these institutes?. In the last TOEFL I took I got a score of 620 (paper based).

Natalia's Answer:
Your GRE is ok (not great, but in the acceptable range), TOEFL is fine. Yes, you will be considered for financial aid at all of these schools, I don't see anything in the info you provided that would contradict this.

Question #37 (submitted Dec. 14, 2003)
Hi Natalia, I am an international senior student at Management Information Systems field. I want to study in USA for MS in MIS degree. My GRE Scores 420 Verbal, 780 Quantitave, 5 Analytical. I have also 230 TOEFL. What range do you recommend me to apply? Thanx.

Natalia's Answer:
First, I would recommend retaking TOEFL, because according to your Verbal and AWA you can do better on TOEFL (getting 250 or better is quite important). If your TOEFL >250 your choice of university would depend on your research experience, etc. in terms of tests you'd be fine with any university.

Question #36 (submitted Dec. 12, 2003)
I am doing undergraduate(4th yr), mechanical engineering in India. I got verbal score of 360 and 750 in quantitative. I have an aggregate of 75% in engineering. Kindly suggest me my chances in getting admitted to top 50 universities. My TOEFL score is 240. If possible which universities overlook the low verbal scores and stress more on research and undergraduate studies?

Natalia's Answer:
Many universities can "forgive" low verbal score. I also had 360 in verbal which did not prevent MIT, Princeton and Caltech from admitting me. I am somewhat concerned about your Quantitative and TOEFL. Some universities require minimum TOEFL of 250 and most of them are very strict about it.

Question #35 (submitted Dec. 3, 2003)
 I am French and I am applying for a mid career masters in public policy. My undergraduate average is 11,5/20 which is adequate for a masters program since the top of the class get maximum 13 or 14. The application reviewer told me that my application might be rejected since 11,5/20 is a C average. How can I make a case to have my average properly converted in GPA?

Natalia's Answer:
It would be nice if you can ask your school in France to give you a transcript using American system of grades (A is usually >90%, B >80%, etc.). Otherwise you need to ask your school in France to submit letter explaining the grading system along with the transcript. Convert you GPA according to percentage system used in US.

Question #34 (submitted Dec. 3, 2003)
Hello Natalia, I would ike to get the idea to what school can I apply for Ph.D. in Computer Engineerng. My GRE are Q 760, V 280 and A is to be determined. My GPA is 3.85 from SUNY at Stony Brook. I'm Polish by the way. What are my chances to get to top schools.

Natalia's Answer:
According to your test scores you have some chances (but not much) of getting to top schools, although I would definitely consider retaking GRE, since both your Q and V need to be improved.

Question #34 (submitted Dec. 2, 2003)
I just retook my GRE test two days ago. My GRE score is verbal(650) and quantitative(800). Would you kindly tell me if graduate schools average your GRE scores or take the highest instead?

Natalia's Answer:
Graduate schools usually consider only the last score. They might mention that you've previously taken GRE but this is of minor importance.

Question #33 (submitted Nov. 22, 2003)
I am a senior International student studying CS and Information Systems in the National University of Singapore. My GPA is 3.74/4 and I have one year research experience in the field of entrepreneurship during my study in Stanford. I just took my GRE test a few days ago, and my scores are Verbal(700, 96%), Quantitative (730, 80%), AWA (6). I understand that my quantitative score is pretty weak compared to the rest, do you think I stand a chance to get admitted into top 30 US schools in the field of Engineering management/Industrial Engineering/Management Science/CS? For example, if the admission statistics of one university states that average quantitative is 780 and verbal 580, do I ever get a chance of being considered for admission if my quantitative falls below average? Would you recommend me to retake my GRE if I can significantly raise my quantitative score?

Natalia's Answer:
You Quantitative is not that low for any university to disqualify you right away. There are many other aspects that members of admission committees are considering besides test scores. You Quantitative should be within acceptable range for most universities in top 20. If you feel that you can significantly improve your Quantitative score you can retake GRE, but I don't think it's the first priority in your case.

Question #32 (submitted Nov. 24, 2003)
Thanks for all you are doing Natalia. My question is that how often do recommendations get verified? Can there be problems?

Natalia's Answer:
I would say that recommendations rarely get verified but if recommendation is verified and it is found to be a falsification the applicant is going to be in a very big trouble, because not only this university would never admit this student, but it would also inform all other universities about such an incident. I have heard few such stories, one student had to change his name in order to apply next year.

Question #31 (submitted Nov. 22, 2003)
I have got a GRE score of 330 in verbal and 790 in quantitative(Essay - 3.5)have got a TOEFL score of 250/300(essay - 5). I want to do my master's in electrical engineering. My academic overall % is 87 and i get a GPA of 4/4. What are my chances and to what univ could i apply?

Natalia's Answer:
Your GPA and test scores are ok to get admitted to any university. TOEFL is fine, GRE verbal should be acceptable since you're applying to EE, although it would be nice if your recommenders also mention your English proficiency. To which universities you should apply depends on your research experience, your recommendations and SOP. As a general recommendation choose both top universities and some from 20-30th range to be safe.

Question #30 (submitted Nov. 19, 2003)
I have GPA 3.0/4.0 My GRE scores are 330(verbal) and 760(quant). My TOEFL scores is 270/300. I am doing EE and want to apply for Computer Engineering. Even though my GPA is comparatively bad, I am an excellent researcher. How do I convey this successfully with my Personal Statement?
What range of universities should I apply to?? I am planning to aply to Purdue, Austin- Texas, U of South California, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, UTexas - Dallas..
Which universities for my scores should be a backup, where I can get admission anyways?
What are my chances of getting an Assistantship?

Natalia's Answer:
Your recommenders should convey that you are an excellent researcher, SOP would help, but it's mostly a task for recommenders. For your test scores your choice of universities seems appropriate. Out of my personal preference I might also suggest SUNY-Stony Brook and Boston University.

Question #29 (submitted Nov. 17, 2003)
Hi Natalia! I am in my 3rd year Mechanical Engineering in India and am going to take my GRE shortly. As there are no GRE subject tests for Mechanical Engineering I wanted to ask you if taking the Math subject test would help my application in any way? Thanks for answering my question.

Natalia's Answer:
If you can get a high score on Math subject test that would be a plus to your application. I would say, it you can get >900 definitely take it. If you can get >800 it's questionable whether you should take (it won't hurt, but I'm not sure whether it will be a big bonus).

Question #28 (submitted Nov. 13, 2003)
Dear Natalia, I am a French student and plan to apply for a PhD in political science, top 10 universities (all of them). I have a master from a good European university, Toefl above 290 and GRE as follows: Q 770 and V 660. The verbal is quite low, so do you think it will still be enough for the very best programs (top 10 or even 5). Thanks in advance.

Natalia's Answer:
I think your verbal should be fine since you are an international student and your TOEFL is very high. Concentrate on SOP and helping your professors write good recommendation letters. Good luck!

Question #27 (submitted Nov. 11, 2003)
Hello Natalia! I'm applying to the following schools for the fall 2004 session : MIT, Stanford, UIUC, Noth Carolina State Univ, Rensellear, UC San Deiago, UC Santa Barbra, U Southern Cal, Texas Austin, Univ of Virginia.
I want to know more about what you said about the 4th recommendation. How do I time the sending of this 4th recommendation? When should I send it, if my deadline for application to Stanford is 15th of January?

Natalia's Answer:
4th recommendation is not required, so I would not send it with initial application package since admission committee might choose only three recommendations out of 4, and they might do it randomly. Send it, if you wish, about 1-1.5 month after your initial application package as some type of extra support.

Question #26 (submitted Nov. 9, 2003)
I am interested in a PhD in Economics in top 20 universities in the States. I'm an international student and took my GRE last month. I know that for Economics they are mostly concerned with the quantitative part and I just scored 770 on that. I have a very good undergraduate record, one year research experience and very strong LOR's. I am a bit afraid my application could go straight to the "reject" pile because of that result. Do you think I should consider retaking the test? Have you got any idea of what would be my chances of getting admitted to a top 10 school?

Natalia's Answer:
I am almost sure that your application won't go straight into reject because of 770 on quantitative, there are many more important criteria that admission committee are concerned with and 770 is not very low, it's actually pretty good. I cannot evaluate your chances since I have very little information.

Question #25 (submitted Nov. 7, 2003)
Dear Natalia, I have completed my Master's in Computer Science from India in June 2003 and am interested in pursuing a PhD in Business Administration (Finance &/or Marketing). I have 2 questions
1. How do I convert my marks to the GPA considering that 75/100 is usually the highest that a student is awarded, unlike the GPA where a 4.0 is actually awarded to students?
2.Would I be considered for a PhD in Finance given that I have not studied Finance earlier but am interested in it now? Would I need to do an MBA or MSc. with a specialization in Finance, before applying for the PhD program?

Natalia's Answer:
1. I would suggest you get a letter from one of your university officials explaining the grading system and include it together with your transcripts. Also, you might want to consult universities directly, because I am sure the programs you are applying to had similar applicants in the past.
2. It depends on whether you have any research experience in Finance. Also, you need to check whether programs you are interested in have course prerequisites and whether you can satisfy them. In general, if you had no experience with Finance at all in the past, it might be difficult to get into the program and would be wise to get some experience first.

Question #24 (submitted Nov. 3, 2003)
I have done my engineering in computer science in India and now I am preparing for GRE, to get scholarship or financial assistantship among top 30 graduate school how much my GRE score would matter and if yes how much?

Natalia's Answer:
Most universities provide financial assistantship to all students they admit to CS program. To get admitted to (and get financial aid at) top 30 universities you would need quantitative >700 and verbal >350 (on average). You can often find such statistics on department's websited or by asking the program coordinator.

Question #23 (submitted Nov. 3, 2003)
Hi Natalia, thx for the great site. Just gave my GRE today. Scored 610 in verbal and 730 in quantitative. Am expecting at lest a 4 in the analytical portion. I am from India, and am interested in PhD in information security. I have done my masters from Singapore with excellent academic records, and have now worked for 3 and half years in the field of information security for Ernst & Young. I was wondering as to what do you think about my prospects for getting into a PhD program with one of the top universities, that is if I have any prospect at all. Also any strategies you want to recommend to me in particular considering that I might not be able to get good recommendations from my profs at school as the prof under whom I did research has quit and left Singapore. I can get good recommendations from my bosses in office though.

Natalia's Answer:
In general, it sounds that you have a good prospective of getting admitted (your quantitative is somewhat low for your major, but should be acceptable). Try to get one recommendation from your university profs and, yes, it's fine if you will have two strong recommendations from your bosses. Erns&Young is a very well know company and it will be much to your advantage that you have worked there and have good recommendations.

Question #22 (submitted Nov. 2, 2003)
Hi. I am an Indian undergrad student, doing my final year Mechanical Engineering in one of the top 5 colleges in the country.GRE-1340 (q-800,v-540,awa-4) and TOEFL-270. CGPA-7.2 out of 10. I am planning to apply to Iowa St. University, Auburn, SUNY-Buffalo and Wayne St. University. It would be of great help if you can indicate my chances in these 4 universities.

Natalia's Answer:
You have excellent chances getting admitted to these universities, in my opinion. If I were you (I assume you'll have good SOP and LORs) I would consider some better universities (and most likely none of the ones you've mentioned, but it's just my personal preference). Anyways, do choose some universities of the level you indicated but also choose some better universities - it's worth a try :-)

Question #21 (submitted Oct. 18, 2003)
I have my GRE score (400 verbal and 750 quant AWA 4)and TOEFL score of 253 (essay 5). I am interested in pursuing a masters degree in computer science from US , presently I am doing engineering from India (4th year). Do you think I stand a chance applying to universities ranked 40-70?

Natalia's Answer:
Yes, you do. But as I like to write, I don't think it is worth studying at 40-70th universities. Your test scores are fine. You need good research experience, good SOP, good LORs (hopefully you also have good GPA) and then go ahead and apply to top 10-30. If you lack good research experience I would advise getting it, even if that would mean postponing your application for a year. Believe me, in the long run, it's worth it.

Question #20 (submitted Oct. 14, 2003)
Hi Natalia! I would like to ask you about MIT specifically. Can you tell me what exactly are they looking for? I'm not the top in my class overall (though I've topped a couple of semesters) and my GRE score is not very high (790/630/4.5)but I have research experience of nearly 1 year at the undergrad (I'm in my 7th sem) our work will be published soon. I also feel I have very strong recommendations. Do you think I should apply??

Natalia's Answer:
You definitely should. Application process is a lottery (the more I learn about it, the more I think so :-) What you mentioned of your credential sounds fine. 1 year of research is not very long but if it was serious than that's good, publication in a respected journal is definitely a plus. Make sure your recommendations and statement are very (!) strong and show you as an outstanding person with a high potential to be successful in your chosen field (that's what all schools are looking for, they're all the same in this respect, they choose the best from what they get).

Question #19 (submitted Sept. 28, 2003)
I got 257 in TOEFL, 4.5 in TWE and I got 780 in gre quantitative, 580 in verbal (87 percentile in quantitative , 80 percentile in verbal), but I got 3.5 in GRE analytical writing. I am a chemical engineer applying for PhD in bioengineering. How much important is the analytical writing score for an engineering student I want to know. And what is my chance to get in one of the top 20 universities?

Natalia's Answer:
Your test scores are fine for the top 20 schools (AW should be ok, since you're an international student and engineering is a scientific field). Make sure that your recommenders address your high English proficiency and that your statement of purpose is impeccably written (no grammar or spelling mistakes). If your recommendations and statement are strong you have excellent chances of getting to top 20 universities. Consider test scores as pass/fail criteria. You passed for most schools, now they are interested in knowing your personality and your scientific potential.

Question #18 (submitted Sept. 18, 2003)
What is the minimum GRE score (percentile basis) that one may need to get an admission in PhD in management in universities like HBS and MIT? How much importance is given to Analytical Writing (the new section that was introduced in GRE last year)?
Natalia's Answer:
On average to get accepted for PhD in management at the top 10 universities you need verbal: 90th percentile or greater (> 60-70th for international students) and quantitative: 95th to the 99th percentile on your tests (btw, you can take either GRE or GMAT, there are usually considered equivalent and GMAT's verbal is so much easier). I am not sure how important is Analytical Writing for admission in management, you can ask programs directly for statistics from previous year.

Question #17 (submitted Jul. 8, 2003)
I am from Poland and some concepts concerned with 'american education system' are less or more problematic for me. I have one small problem with 'semestral hours', 'quarter hours'. I am not quite sure what they really mean and especially how to convert them to normal (clock) hours because I don't have others in my credit book. Please help me.
Natalia's Answer:
I could not find direct guidelines for converting clock hours to semester/quarter hours, but according to some guidelines I found and to my experience with clock and semester/quarter hours the following simple rule should be quite accurate. Assume that 1 lecture/semester/lab hour a week equals 1 credit, if your school is on semester system that would be semester hours (sometimes also called credits), if your school is on quarter system that would be quarter hours. When submitting your transcript to US universities I recommend using semester hours since most likely university officials won't know hour to convert our clock hours into their system (that's what I've always done anyways).

Question #16 (submitted Apr. 4, 2003)
I am from Romania and I'm in California (Los Angeles).I want to get a scholarship to a university here. Can you give me some useful information?

Natalia's Answer:
Do you want to study in undergrad or in grad school? If you want to study in undergrad, getting scholarship will be hard and you must be VERY smart, since most scholarships here are intended for US citizens. If you are interested in graduate school and your specialty is some type of science of economics, funding should not be a problem. Most universities cover 100% of tuition and pay stipend to all grad students in scientific fields, check with the particular university and department for more details. For social sciences, history, languages, and such majors getting funding is much harder and depends a lot on the university. Still most departments do provide funding but only to 20-50% of students.

Question #15 (submitted Apr. 1, 2003)
I applied to graduate schools and was accepted to one of my top choices with the offer of a teaching assistantship. However my life/work situation has changed, and I'm no longer prepared to drop everything and go to graduate school. I think it will be another 3 years until I'm ready. My question is this: on most applications there is a box that says "have you applied to this institution before, yes/no? If yes, were you accepted, yes/no?" Would being accepted and turning down their offer now hurt my chances of getting accepted again in three years?

Natalia's Answer:
Most schools allow to postpone your enrollment for one year (I know people who have done this), I am not sure about three years. I think you should contact the head of the admission committee at your department and discuss situation with this person. Depending on the school they might let you postpone the enrollment and even if they don't they will know the reasons (they must be strong) for your decision so that this decision won't harm you in the future. Building good relationship is the key, you can be 90% sure that this person still will be on the admission committee in three years.

Question #14 (submitted Mar. 1, 2003)
I have applied to a half dozen schools for a Phd in Bioengineering/Biophysics. I had contacted Profs in my field earlier and only applied to those schools where I got encouraging replies. My question is - in most of the bio programs, the first year, as you  know, is for lab rotations. Most of the profs who replied to my letters had invited me to their labs for rotations. I am an engineering major where there is no concept of rotations. So does a rotation invariably lead on to a dissertation under the prof? What is the typical output of a semester of rotation in a lab?

Natalia's Answer:
The major purpose of rotations is for the student to learn more about the field and particular labs before he makes a decision in which lab to pursue his PhD, also during rotations one can learn skills and techniques which will be useful during his work on PhD thesis (even if it is done in the different lab).
The output of your semester rotation in the lab highly depends on you and the department requirements. In many universities there is very little pressure, so it is largely up to you how much you will do and learn. If you work hard it is possible to publish a paper as a result of rotation (I did it after one of my rotations at Caltech). After you finish your rotation it's perfectly fine to move to the next one saying that you really liked what you did but you would like to get a broader understanding of the field before making a decision of where to work on your PhD.

Question #13 (submitted Feb. 25, 2003)
I am an Indian graduate student aspirant for GRE. What score should I get in verbal and quantitative to really get admitted into top 50 schools? My cGPA is 8.0 and I have two projects in my field of interest. I am a mechanical engineering student.

Natalia's Answer:
GRE score is only a small part of an application packet, you should strive to get as high score as possible, but don't be very disappointed if you don't get top score. Personal statement and recommendations can overweigh the GRE score. General advice: try to get at least 350 on verbal (the more the better :-) and at least 650 on quantitative (if you are a science major less than 700 is considered bad).

Question #12 (submitted Feb. 5, 2003)
My major is Applied Mathematics, GPA 4.92 out of 5. TOEFL - 207, GRE General: 300 - Verbal, 3.0 - Essays, 800 - Quantitative. What are my chances of getting admitted to American graduate schools?

Natalia's Answer:
In terms of your GPA, and GRE you are fine and you probably can get high score in GRE Subject in Mathematics (right?). You should be concerned about your TOEFL (verbal score is also low and without good TOEFL that would also count). I highly recommend you to spend extra time preparing for TOEFL and taking it again. You might get admitted to some universities with this TOEFL score but your chances are quite low and if I were you I would definitely retake the exam before applying.

Question #11 (submitted Jan. 26, 2003)
I am a Thai undergrad student. I have spotted that many universities provide their own recommendation form. They have some checkbox, etc. Should I use those forms instead of the general recommendation letters (not the form with all the required questions answered) similar to what I have seen on your website? Is it going to lessen the admission opportunities if I don't use their forms? To me, it is quite hard to ask my faculties to complete those 15 forms for 15 universities.

Natalia's Answer:
I have once asked my recommender to fill out 12 forms while I was sitting nearby and translating questions for him, he got really tired of all this at the end :( so I decided not to ask others to fill that many since it's quite a pain for them. These forms, I think, are somewhat important if all the marks are in top 2-10% (otherwise it's definitely better not to include them). If you know that your recommender has a high opinion of you, you might want to ask him to fill out 2-3 such forms for your top choice universities. Many international students do not include these forms so you should not worry too much.

Question #10 (submitted Jan. 25, 2003)
Наташа, проясни мне пожалуйста некоторые вопросы, связанные с перепиской с универами. Прочел у тебя на сайте, что можно написать Head of the admission committee. Это то же самое что и Graduate Dean или нет? А то я немного боюсь не тех людей дергать :)
И еще. У меня есть очень близкий друг в одном из универов, куда я аппликаюсь. Как ты думаешь, попросить его лично узнать пришел ли мой пакет и все ли там есть бумаги или не надо, а лучше самому написать и узнать по мылу?
Кроме того я немного теряюсь кому же все таки писать: в Graduate School
или в Department ?

Natalia's Answer:
Head of admission committee i Graduate Dean - это часто разные люди, узнать кто является head of admission committee может быть нетривиально, можно написать нынешним русским студентам в этом университете и спросить. Если тебя интересует research кого-то из этих людей (Head of adm. com ili gr. dean или ещо кто-н с должностью, обязателно напиши им, лишний раз напомнить о себе - это хорошо).
Я думаю, можешь попросить своего друга спросить, т.к. тогда точно все проверят, ну и потом личный контакт лучше чем email.
Писать надо в department и толко в department, Graduate school - это большая контора, кот. занимается всеми грэдами и до отделных студентов им довольно мало дела, да и потом ты же у department хочешь узнать начали они рассматриват твои бумаги или нет.

Question #9 (submitted Jan. 22, 2003)
I am a native speaker of English who took the General GRE and got a 420 on the Verbal GRE and a 760 on the Quantitative GRE. Should I be concerned about the low verbal for Statistics or Geography Schools?

Natalia's Answer:
It depends on which universities you are applying to. If you are looking at the top 30 universities, yes I think you should be concerned. Although, if you feel that you can significantly improve your score (at least 100 points) it might be a good idea to retake the test. On the other hand, you know that GRE is only part of your application packet and if your other credentials are good admission committee would "forgive" low Verbal. (Non-native speakers don't worry, this doesn't relate to you, read Quest. #6)

Question #8 (submitted Jan. 5, 2003)
I am currently studying in Moscow and I have a question about the application fee. How much will asking for a waiver diminish my chances of getting admitted?

Natalia's Answer:
Well, as long as you send your application materials to the department (and not to the Graduate School as it's often being asked) asking for a fee waiver should not make much difference if you follow up and ask whether your application materials has been received and are being considered. If they say that application fee is missing, you can explain them your financial hardship one more time (see Other Documents and Issues for more info). If the department is under no circumstances is willing to waive the fee, you would still have an option to pay it. So the only drawback of asking for a waiver is a possible delay in considering your application materials, which can be minimized by promptly contacting the department. But if you send your documents to Graduate School without the application fee, the chances are very high that it will get stuck there until you pay the fee.

Question #7 (submitted Dec. 18, 2002)
I am an Indian undergard student. I have finished my undergrad(4 year degree) in 2002 with 80% marks in Computer Science.
I have 270/300 in TOEFL but did not do well in GRE, I got 330/800 in Verbal and 770/800 in Quant. Can you tell me what are my chances of getting admission in an American university that is among top 50.

Natalia's Answer:
You are ok on GRE as long as your Subject test score will be good. Pay close attention to writing good SOP and letters of recommendation (this is VERY important).
I had 360 on verbal and got admitted to top schools, so don't worry about this. You definitely have a chance to be admitted to top 50 even 20 universities if your other materials will be strong.

Question #6 (submitted Dec. 11, 2002)
Я живу в Омске, тут про обучение за рубежом знают считанные единицы, узнать про оформление документов для поступления практически не у кого. Поэтому у меня скопился ряд вопросов, в которых я не могу толком разобраться.
1. Какие подписи и печати должны быть на копии диплома, на переводе копии диплома, на транскрипте и на переводе транскипта?
2. Кто пишет рекомендательные письма и на каком языке? Я боюсь, что преподаватели нашего университета просто не смогут написать рекомендацию на английском. Как быть в этом случае? Переводить их письмо на английский и просить их подписать перевод?

Natalia's Answer:
1. Диплом можно перевести либо самому и заверить в деканате (печать, подпись) или в наториальной конторе. Второй вариант, я думаю, лучше.
2. Рекомендательные письма должны быть написаны на английском языке. Если преподаватели плохо владеют английским (что имеет место в большинстве случаев), сделайте перевод и попросите преподавателей его подписать. Более детальную информацию по поводу формата и требований к рекомендациям вы можете найти в разделе Recommendations.

Question #5 (submitted Nov. 12, 2002)
I am applying to ten universities this year. Most of them have deadlines in Jan - Feb. The deadline at Princeton University is December, 2. Should I try really hard to send all my application materials to Princeton before deadline?

Natalia's Answer:
Some universities are very strict with respect to the deadlines. I had a problem with UCSF when they refused to consider my application because it was couple days past the deadline. Luckily, most universities are not that strict and they will consider your application even if has been received after the deadline. The drawback of sending your application late is that the admission committee already started looking over the applications and they might not look at your application until they are finished with the ones received on time. On the other hand, at some universities it won't be a problem at all and they will consider your application together with all the rest received on time. So it depends... and it's very hard to predict what each particular university does. So in order to make a decision consider and compare two things: how much you can improve your application if you send it later and whether you are willing to take a risk with this university.

Question #4 (submitted Nov. 11, 2002)
My brother is applying for a masters in Mechanical Engineering at MIT, Berkeley, Stanford and Notre Dame, he is Peruvian, he was the best student of his class at college (BS Mechanical Eng.),he is currently working for an American Company in Peru. But he just took the Gre and he got 360 in verbal and 800 in math. Do you think he should take the test again?

Natalia's Answer:
I think your brother should not worry much about his low verbal score as long as his TOEFL score is high (>270), most professors would consider this with understanding. I also had 360 on verbal and most schools did not pay any attention to that. Only at Caltech during the interview I remember that one professor mentioned "How come you speak English so well and have such a low verbal score?" I think it takes very long to improve verbal score and it requires a lot of effort. It would most likely pay off better if your brother spends this time preparing for GRE Subject (high test score on Subject test is important) and especially writing his statement.

Question #3 (submitted Nov. 2, 2002)
My question is about choosing to which Bio Department it's better to send an application. Many universities have more than one Life Sciences departments (such as Biology, Bioengineering, Biophysics). To which departments have you applied and what was your reasoning for choosing these departments? What do you know about the difference between Life Sciences departments now?

Natalia's Answer: (will be translated soon)
Da v bolshinstve universitetov est po neskolku fakultetov, moy opyt pokazyvaet, chto nado postupat tolko na dostatochno bolshie programmy. Naprimer, odnoy iz prichin, chto menya ne vzyali v Berkeley bylo to chto ya postupala na Biophysics program, togda kak nado bylo postupat na Department of Molecular Biology. Ya dumala tipa kakoy ya molekulyarnyi biolog, u menya obrazovanie po fizike, no vse eto nepravda, biologi lubyat fizicheskoe obrazovanie, a Department of Mol. Biol. namnogo bolshe programmy po Biophysics, poetomu shansov tuda postupit namnogo bolshe. Tak, eto po povodu Berkeley. V Princeton i Caltech bylo bez variantov: Department of Biology. V Stanforde tozhe tolko odna programma, no mnogo napravlenii i nado ukazyvat na kakoe postupaesh (potom, kak i vezde mozhno peredumat :-)
V Harvarde Department of Biophysics, no vozmozhno stoilo postupat na
Department of Biology. V UC San Fransicso ne pomnu kuda postupala. V MIT Department of Bioengineering and Environmental Health - vzyli ochen bystro :-)
Resultaty byli sleduyuschimi: vsyali v MIT, Princeton i Caltech i ne vzyli vo vse ostalnye. Vyvody: 1. Chem bolshe praktikueshsya prohodit
interview, tem legche, pervoe bylo v Berkeley, a potom v Stanford i bez osnovnogo potoka studentov - tak delat ne nado!
2. Malenkie programmy
luchshe ne vybirat, u nih chasto byvayut problemy s finansirovaniem i oni ochen ogranichenny v kollichestve inostrannyh studentov, kotoryh oni mogut vzyat.

Question #2 (submitted Oct. 9, 2002)
Прекрасная пора обучения в университете США рано или поздно заканчивается. Приходит время возвращаться обратно. Конечно специалистов по фундаментальным исследованиям здесь никто не ждет. Но ведь срок визы ограничен. Как решается эта проблема? Как можно остаться в США на легальных основаниях и после окончания обучения. Как ситуация разрешилась в Вашем случае?

Natalia's Answer:
Знаешь, опыт показывает, что практически никто обратно не возвращается. Когда я после года учебы в Миннесоте сказала, что уезжаю обртно, мои друзья и знакомые были ооочень удивлены. (Я вернулась, чему была ужасно рада и говорила, что больше в Америку не поеду, а потом.... потом поступила на биологию в Калтех). Так вот к вопросу об окончании учебы. Обычно у людей два пути, либо идти в постдоки (те заниматься наукой), тогда они получают J визу, и подают на green card по статье выдающиеся люди (все люди с PhD подходят под эту категорию). Второй путь, пойти работать, тогда работодатель делает рабочию визу и опять таки можно подать на green card. Я неслышала, чтобы у тех кто хотел остаться возникали проблемы, так что по этому поводу можно небеспокоиться.

Question #1 (submitted Sept. 24, 2002)
Я сейчас учусь на 3-м курсе в МФТИ. Когда вы посоветуете мне поступать в американскую аспирантуру: в этом году, после получения Бакалавра или после окончания института?

Natalia's Answer:
Если задать этот вопрос уже уехавшим, то одназначного ответа не будет. Некоторые считают, что уезжать надо как можно раньше, т.к. в МФТИ они учились жизни, а для изучения науки условия были не очень подходящие (переполненные общежития, неудобная читалка, халявные сдачи экзаменов и пр.). Большинство, я думаю, согласятся с мнением, что надо получить Бакалавра, т.к. первые четыре года идет серьезная теоретическая подготовка и если не халявить, то можно многому научиться. По поводу жизни в общежитии: неудобства неудобствами, но такой сплоченной дружеской атмосферы вы уехав определенно не найдете. Главным аргументом целесообразности уезжать после окончания института является наличие хорошей базы и толкового шефа. Важное замечание (!) чем позже вы уезжаете, тем больше у вас шансов поступить в топ 5 университет. Без наличия Бакалавра шанс поступить в лучшие университеты существенно уменьшается.


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