I am a senior student in JLU, working on earning a U.S. graduate school offer right now. I enjoy learning English and love CS, so I chose to go abroad to further my education. It is a big decision because there would be plenty of things you need to work on: required tests, GPAs, publications, and so forth. To be honest, I didn’t prepare all these things very well. I made detours along the process. But I believe detours can make good lessons sometimes. So I am writing this post to share some of my ideas.
First, a Question for You
How determined are you on going studying abroad?
A. I am very determined.
B. Would like to, but not that sure.
C. I prefer postgraduate recommendation.
D. I prefer taking postgraduate entrance exams.
E. I prefer finding a job.
For those who choose A:
It is great that you are so determined. Go on for latter parts of this post. They will be a help.
For those who choose B:
You are in the same situation as I was. My suggestion for you is- prepare for both A and C. It is totally possible for that both options depend largely on your major subjects’ grades. Earning a postgraduate recommendation wouldn’t be a burden if you have achieved(or you are confident on achieving) good results for many of your courses, most of which are supposed to precede the end of your Junior year.
You can take all required tests for studying abroad before your Senior year, which would free you for working for a postgraduate recommendation in the last summer vacation of your college life. Usually all places for recommendation would be decided by the middle of September in your Senior year. It is still OK if you didn’t take required tests before the start of your Senior year. Normally applying for a domestic graduate school is not that hard. There would still be time for you to take exams like GRE, TOEFL while earning a recommendation. (For example, most U.S. graduate schools’ application deadlines are in December or November. In that case, you would still have about 2 month for taking tests and preparing paperworks.)
For those who choose D:
Postgraduate entrance exams require extreme hard work and long-time preparing. If you are not that optimistic about earning yourself a postgraduate recommendation, don’t hesitate to start preparing for your entrance exam. In normal cases, a no less than 5 months preparation is necessary. So plan ahead, start early, and focus on it.
For those who choose E:
Directly finding a job is a thrilling option. But there are chances you change your mind in a year or two, or even after several years of working. I came to JLU with a very settled mind of looking for a job after graduation. Ironically, look where I am now.
If you change your mind halfway, it is totally Ok. Just take those tests needed for an admission and prepare your documents. You can apply for a graduate school at any time. (Many of my friends decided to go for further education abroad even if they had been working for many years.) But do note that even if you are not a student applicant, your undergraduate grades still matters.
Choose Universities and Programs
To minimize the risk, you need to pick more than 6 universities or programs to apply. While deciding which to apply, there are several things you need to concern:
- Do I like this university? (Location, History, Specilty Ranking, Housing, and so on)
- Does this program suits me? (Program Settings, Requirements, Self Interests, Scholarships, Apply Deadlines)
Once you select out all your options, recheck those program official sites and their admission requirements.(Documents needed for applying, tests score needed…)
Tests to Take
To give you a bad news, preparing for required test are usually tedious and hard. However things would be better if you do enjoy playing with English. In latter parts I will give some tips on learning English. Here let’s head back to the topic: tests.
There are normally two kinds of tests:
- Language Ability Tests (TOEFL, IELTS)
For the first category, all the tests focus on measuring test taker’s use and understand English at the university level. For expressing a specific meaning, depending on the words you choose, the sentences you write, you scores may vary. But that doesn’t mean you should always choose hard words over easy ones. Using a difficult word in a wrong way could be catastrophic. So instead of using difficult words, pick words you can manage.
- Academic Ability Tests (GRE, GMAT, LSAT)
For the second category, most tests focus on your reasoning ability, logical analysing ability, quantative ability, critical thinking skills, and so forth. In this kinds of exams, language is considered a tool for conveying your thought. So you are not likely to get a better score by doing things like replacing ‘hard-working’ with ‘assiduous’. But by improving your logical reasoning skills and practicing a lot, I am sure you can get high scores.
Normally, you will need to report two scores: one for language test, one for ability test. Different programs requires different tests.(For example, some requires TOEFL and GRE, others requires IELTS and GMAT). Check the official site of the program you are interested in for instructions on which test(tests) you should take.
I took TOEFL and GRE, if you would like to know more about these exams, you are welcomed to email me.
GPA is crucial for your admission. Try your very best for every major courses. They do matters a lot.
Different programs have different merits of calculating GPA. Sometimes one program would ask for your general GPA and your major GPA. Some programs exclude thesis courses while calculating GPA. So don’t paste the GPA given by the uims.jlu.edu.cn directly. Follow the instructions given by the program site.
And to give you another bad news, most programs related to computer science requires Major GPA, which means it is not useful to re-enroll some elective courses, even if you get a better general GPA.
Other Documents Required
A main accordance for knowing who you are. Refer to program sites for instructions on required details in your resume.
- Personal Statement
An essay used for explaining why you are interested in CS(or other fields), your acquired abilities, your plans on this profession, you passion and qualities for doing research and why you pick one specific university or program.
- Reference Letters
Normally, a program will ask you to provide no less than 3 referees. You can ask professors you are familar with or who once taught you.
Official or unofficial, depends on program requirements.
How to Improve Your Competitiveness
Publications, if you have any, is a strength which will guarantee you an obvious advantage. Follow your tutor on some research, do whatever you can. This kind of experience sometimes can make up for some of your weakness on GPA or test scores.
It is better that you have conducted one intership or two. If you never conduct one, there is no need to panic. You can still receive many offers if other aspects of you application is convincing.
Tips for Learning English
Buy Books Written in English
Modern novels are easier for starters. You can pick books like Harry Potter, The Twilight to read. There are many stores on taobao selling imported books on reasonable prices. Don’t buy too much at one time, instead, starting with no more than 2 books. And also, try avoid reading a big tome of book, it would be extremely frustrating. When you are reading, try guessing words instead of looking them up immediately.
Chew on Some Magazines
Most articles in a magazine like NG is not easy to read: full of difficult words, long sentence structures, abstruse topics… However, forcing yourself to read them will definitly improve your reading ability. When you are accustomed to reading passages in NG or TE, it would make you more confident when you are faced with test reading passages. And also, if you like, try to remember some sentences in them. Your english will be improving by leaps and bounds.
Abandon Yourself to Listening English Radios
This is the application I used. You can pick any station to listen. My favorites are the Fox News and NPR.
Also, iTunes can be used for listening international radios. Besides stations for talks and news, there are stations for different kinds of music. Check it out!
Writing eBook Recommendation
On Writing Well
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