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admission to MS | Reply
hi,
I am doing my B.Tech (B.S equivalent) in India from not very renowned college.
I am planning to give GRE and apply for good U.S universities by next year.

I want to know how much will a TopCoder rating help in getiing into a good college and moreover a scholarship?

please help out...

Regards,
Vineet
Re: admission to MS (response to post by vineet7kumar) | Reply
Vineet

AFAIK Your application packet (as a whole) matters to the universities.

This may include
1. Academics
2. GRE / TOEFL scores
3. Technical Papers Presented
4. Letters of Recommendation
5. Statement Of Purpose
6. Technical contests that you may have participated in
7. Scholarships you may have received
8. Work experience if any (not applicable to you)

TopCoder rating would help you, but you should have a good rating to impresses the unviversities.
Re: admission to MS (response to post by vineet7kumar) | Reply
winning TCO 05 [design] definitely helped me to get a scholarship from NYU Stern
but I dont know how much it weighed against other items in my application
Re: admission to MS (response to post by sb99) | Reply
Thanks sb99...
yup I undesrstand that I need to have a good rating to impress the Universities...
Actually I am just a beginner at topcoder...

And point number 8 does apply to me ... I am also working with Sun Microsystems, currently as campus ambassador and most probably as a student tech lead from next month. :)

regards,
Vineet
Re: admission to MS (response to post by vineet7kumar) | Reply
Vineet,

A good top coder rating should indeed help, but more importantly try to represent your university in ACM ICPC and do well at least in the regionals. Universities admission officers know much more about ICPC than TopCoder. And ICPC is also more selective.

If you are applying for graduate studies, try to do some good research indeed - if you are planning to goto Top 10, it will really boost your chances. Nothing helps more than some good published research (though local paper presentations would not count).

Also dont worry much about GRE. It really doesnt matter much, especially for Top 10. Anything around 1400+ is sufficient, which is not a tough score.

I am myself in the process of applying, but I have interacted personally with Top 10 guys at conferences, and so was able to get this information.

Good Luck,
surana.h
Re: admission to MS (response to post by surana.h) | Reply
Anything around 1400+ is sufficient, which is not a tough score.

Honestly, I don't even think that's necessary, especially if you're talking about the top 10. GRE scores count for some negligible epsilon if even at all (maybe a CS department will look twice if your quantitative score is really low...but I'm not even sure of that :) ). I'm not even sure why some schools ask for them, pretending that they'll actually look (just a warning: my sample points are from phd and not master's). At least two phd students from different top universities have told me that they didn't even bother submitting GRE scores (even the general ones, which were required by their schools) and it didn't change anything (they got in).
Re: admission to MS (response to post by Minilek) | Reply
Minilek,

I agree with you - but, IMO that is only if you come from a known department. Which is not the case of Vinit or mine or many other people who apply.

While some top places do not care at all (UIUC-cs only, MIT), others like Stanford and U Migh do care about it and state it explicitly on their site. Even in those cases GRE is used chiefly as a negative example as you had said (avg+ GRE score not helping much, though bad one demolishing your chances). Again: I say this only for Masters and for those who are not from a better known dept or top dept..

A personal question: As per your experience, what is the weightage of GPA, given other circumstances - good papers at leading conferences, excellent tech related co-curricular, and other freelancing experience. I have a GPA of 8.26/10 in a lesser known (top 20) university in India, and work experience of a year at much better known research center for my area(broadly AI/ specifically NLP).
Re: admission to MS (response to post by surana.h) | Reply
As per your experience, what is the weightage of...

I don't know anything about master's. At least for phd, professors read applications and are trying to pick people who they think will do the best research. For this reason, having done good work already counts a lot (and one, but not the only, way for them to check this at a glance is seeing what you've already published). Recommendation letters also count a lot; I'm not sure but I guess what's important here is that the person reading your application finds out that your personal contribution to your research projects was significant, and that you're expected to do good research in the future too. If your research record is awesome, then basically nothing else matters (no one cares about your GPA, extracurriculars, etc. -- you're in). If your research record is impressive but not awesome, it doesn't hurt to impress them with non-research things too (e.g. GPA, programming contests), but those are 2nd and 3rd order terms and shouldn't be emphasized more than research.
Re: admission to MS (response to post by Minilek) | Reply
Thanks for your response...

If your research record is impressive but not awesome, it doesn't hurt to impress them with non-research things too (e.g. GPA, programming contests)

Well, I could not phrase my question correctly. I don't have a great academic record, 8.26 average, with random grades in some core courses. So, I was asking how much would such average acads hurt my chances.. I was not talking about impressing with GPA, but compensating for my GPA with other things. Anyways - I got the message, what you were implying.

As for research - its evaluation is very subjective, except for the quality of conference published in. But, roughly I would say that considering - I was exposed to research only a year back - I have done atleast the equivalent work (and publications) of what an average Phd student in top 10 does in a year. However, in many of my papers I am the second author, as I am working with a Phd student. I hope this qualifies for 'impressive'. Also my set of research has been very broad, ranging a lot fields of computer science and various applications. I dont know whether Professors will like it or would prefer those who are more focussed on a specific area.

As, for Recommendation letters - what should be more important - letters from a very well known person, but with average appraisals or quite lesser known person, with whom I have actually worked with and who can provide concrete examples of my abilities, besides better appraisals.

Edit: Added the quoted thing, corrected strong typos.
Re: admission to MS (response to post by surana.h) | Reply
what should be more important - letters from a very well known person, but with average appraisals or quite lesser known person, with whom I have actually worked with...

Probably the latter, but it depends on what you mean by "average appraisal". If a very well known person just says you did well in their class, it counts for 0. Anyway, I'm not them, so I can't tell you what would impress them. Just try to put yourself in their position and view your situation outside yourself, and do what you think would be best.
Re: admission to MS (response to post by surana.h) | Reply
Such excellent timing...

Michael Mitzenmacher just posted on his blog about the importance of recommendation letters.
Re: admission to MS (response to post by Minilek) | Reply
wanna ask one personal question.
I am currently working with Sun Microsystems as an intern for 1 year. My designation is Student tech lead, Asia. There are 6 of us across the globe and two for Asia (except China), including me.
Our job is to give technical help and guidance to the Sun's campus ambassadors and to do development work on Sun's open source technologies.

How much can this help me for getting into Master's program?

Also what are the criteria on which international students get scholarships?
Re: admission to MS (response to post by vineet7kumar) | Reply
I am totally not an expert and honestly have no idea. : ) Besides, even if I did know the answer (which I don't, and I think no one can since there's some subjectivity involved), there's nothing to be gained by you knowing what I would say; you've accomplished what you've accomplished, and my response to you is not going to alter reality in any way at all, negatively or positively.
Re: admission to MS (response to post by Minilek) | Reply
What if no research experience is in your profile with a LOW GRE score (1100?), and a GPA around 3.5? Is it unlikely that one should apply for a Ph.D. program at a top 10 school?

I noticed your research experience is vast, and worldwide - Google (USA), Israel, Japan...

But maybe you have some advice to others that don't have much experience to get into Ph.D. programs (or even non-research positions at top companies)...

Thanks.
Re: admission to MS (response to post by the_perk) | Reply
But maybe you have some advice to others...

I haven't researched the topic much, so I can only tell you things from what I've personally seen. So, it might be good to get other people's experiences too. For non-research positions at companies, I don't understand much about how the pre-interview process works. All I can say is, when you get jobs around campus try to get jobs that are as closely related as possible to things you actually want to do later. Once you get the interview though, most tech companies have a chunk of the interview where they ask coding questions of the type you'd see on TopCoder SRMs (<= div1 500s). They also ask some brainteasers. For all of these questions, it's important to ask a lot of questions and state any assumptions you're making. Often times they are intentionally vague in the problem statement and expect you to ask for clarifications. The rest of the interview I usually got asked about my previous experiences and interests, and they asked me whether I had questions for them. For software engineering interviews, I usually wore jeans and a free T-shirt from that company (if I had one). Otherwise I wore khakis and a button-up shirt. I don't know what choice of clothing is good, or whether it even matters.

For PhD, you'll be devoting 4+ years of your life (actually, even more on average) to pure research. Ignoring what schools care about, for your own sake it would be good to try out a few research opportunities before deciding to want to do a PhD.
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