A person who will probably be known as ‘The Roshan Shankar’ of NSIT, he needs no introduction. A pass out of the COE batch, ’11, Roshan is idolized and adored by juniors and batch-mates like nobody amongst his peers. Presently pursuing his MS at Stanford, he talks about his NSIT experience in an interview with an ardent fan, junior and NSITonline reporter Vibhor Relhan.
Vibhor: Amongst the very few who actually succeed in making it to a university like Stanford, has there been a secret success mantra that the world doesn’t know about?
Roshan’s Note: My first caveat is that these answers will be rather staccato and blunt without flow. That's because of the rush in which I'm writing them. So if you're a grammar/sentence-construction Nazi, please avoid.
Roshan: I feel uncomfortable when anyone asks for a success mantra. I think I can speak for many getting this question that it makes us rather uneasy. It is just an admission to a University and nothing more. I don't think anyone asked us for a success mantra when you took/got through the CEE. Anyway since you ask- Being interested in what you do (for a sustained amount of time), enjoying the projects and papers which came in as part of the buildup and I guess not listening to the pressure of "Get a job"/"Take the CAT-what's the harm"(which saved me a lot of time) and finally, making use of the loads of free time you get!.
I guess the standard stereotypical answer is that admission is based on the following things primarily:
1. Interest in a specific program/area of research
2. GRE/TOEFL scores
3. Statement of Purpose
4. Letters of Recommendation
6. Research Papers
All of them have weights and are important in some way or the other. What precedes all of this is that you have a genuine interest in doing the Master’s degree or a PhD in the area that you are applying to. If you're not sure if you want to study ahead, it's best to take a step back, rather take up a job in the industry you're probably interested in or work on more projects. The big problem is when you dive into something that you don't love.
Even at my current university, I find many who're here just for the "brand" and hate their classes looking to get out as soon as possible. The brand doesn't matter. If you like what you do, you'll end up doing it well.
You're going to be paying quite a bit more than what you paid at NSIT.TA/RAships(Teach/Research Assistantships)/fellowships may reduce/eliminate the financial burden but assuming the worst case scenario-there's going to be a significant amount of money involved. So paying for your misery is as bad as it gets :)
As far as the order of importance goes I'd say that the SOP and projects/papers might matter the most. It shows why you want to apply and what your life story has been. Any admissions committee will try and look at your interests/ value addition to their department that you can make. I write papers as well because if your institute is not well known enough- papers in IEEE/ACM/journals/conferences are a pretty decent method for them to standardize the measurement of quality of work. It's a publicly available written proof of what you've done. So that always helps. But it’s in no way a necessity at all. If you've done good work --> that is good enough.
LORs are mostly an Old-Boys association thing. If your professor is someone from say, MIT or has his PhD from MIT and is well known in the scientific community, working with him and getting a recommendation from him works--> MIT takes you much more seriously than someone say from any third-rate engineering college around.
Vibhor: What embarked your interest towards MS?
The internships in different sectors that I worked for made it sure that I didn't want a job, well, at least for now. My interaction with MBAs from India and abroad eliminated that possibility again for some time. I might do both of them in the future but in my undergrad I was clear on both those points. I had talks with a professor at DSE, professors at IIT Delhi and IIIT Delhi, and started getting involved in project work all around. I was interested in Policy, Government, Economics and game theory. I did a lot of reading on my own, wrote independent papers and did some project/papers with the people I mentioned. There wasn't a ‘light bulb’ moment when I knew I wanted to but sustained reading and interest and the pursuit of people in the field probably played an important role.
Vibhor: How did you prepare for GRE? Did you join any coaching?
Roshan: I did pretty badly here. I didn't join anything and assumed that my reading should help me sail through. I overestimated my rather limited intelligence at test-taking :) In hindsight, I should've rather prepared much better in a sustained manner for over a semester like Abhishek and Isha did, with a lot of practice tests, which are a key aspect and some material from a coaching institute whose name I forget. 1400+ is what they say is an above par score. I got a 1410 but as anyone can say- It's always better to get as close to a perfect score as possible. Looking back, it was a bad decision which had a good outcome. Not recommended. Going back I'd probably give myself more time and many more practice tests. Also, a bout of luck on your side and not blacking out on test day will also help.
I'd really like it if people can make this active. There are a lot of seniors on that group--> just not enough questions/resources that people are putting in.
Vibhor: What according to you is the ideal time to start preparing yourself to achieve a good GRE score and a suitable profile to make it to the best universities?
Roshan: Everyone has a different learning curve-so decide accordingly. The right time is ‘As soon as you think you want to study’.
Vibhor: Your Placement Season?
Roshan: I didn't want a job. Nor do I think any company would really like to have me. So it worked out well. I didn't sit for placements.
Vibhor: How have your four years in NSIT affected you overall?
Roshan: Positive it would seem. The best part has been the friends we've made. The clubs coming up from what they were in 2007 is a huge improvement.
Vibhor: What is your vision of NSIT in the coming years? What is the one thing you would like to change in NSIT?
Roshan: Ha. Where do I even start with this. You need a huge change in the bureaucracy and the way it functions here. The filing system/the method of procuring equipment/conducting events should be much easier. We need someone to take the admin to task and make them do their work. Yes, there are anomalies who do great work while surrounded by muck but a lotus is rare. We have the resources. It's just that we don't/aren't allowed/ don't want to use them. Many more RTI’s. Prosecution of people who don't work-student, teacher or administration. Investigation into money-laundering. Cut down red-tape. Better course curriculum. Teachers who actually teach. Paradigm shifts in attitudes towards work- curriculum-wise or extra-curriculars- both of students and teachers. Sustained student initiatives. Students who want to work rather than attempting to do work or setup clubs for CV whoring. Better and cleaner hostels (which was one of the reasons I missed the rather colourful hostel life which I really regret). More technical work than just talks, events and trips. The technical output of our college is very low. Needs dynamic leadership like that of IIIT Delhi has. More transparency. More power/money into hands of students. A student government/gymkhana to monitor events. Though I haven't experienced it first hand--> there needs to be a much more transparent, democratic and placement procedure with rules being absolute and objective. Exchange programs with universities outside. Dean of Students Welfare who is quicker with his decisions. A director who actually cares about the administration and the college. Timetables and exam schedules that are absolute and which are announced well in advance. Homework assignments/projects in courses. I could go on but I guess you see it around you and don't need to be told again. A buddy/mentorship program where each student is mentored by at least one senior in his department formally. Mailing lists. A good website of the college. Official email ids. Yes, I agree with the whole be-the-change-you-want-to-see but it is equally on students, teachers, administration and the government. Do your part surely.