Graduate Studies; One step at a time!!!!

A new beginning

Posted by saintdeb on February 15, 2013

With my PhD Program heading towards its inevitable end, I have decided to start penning down a few pointers for all prospective grad students to give them a taste of what’s in store for them. 5 years is indeed a very long time and when I look back at all of those years, I realize how time has flown by so quickly. Coming up with new ideas to work on, trying to make algorithms and codes to work, learning a completely new discipline ….. oh wait! make that two disciplines. Writing endless abstracts, proposals, papers, reports, attending meetings, …. the list is indeed exhaustive. But to wrap it all up, I am humbled with the experience I have gained and excited to be finally graduating and start working again. I will try to and put together a short checklist for prospective PhD students to run through before they take the plunge. Keep a lookout for the same.

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A new beginning!

Posted by saintdeb on January 13, 2009

It has been a really long time since I blogged and I was feeling that I might never post here again thanks to my own languidness and demanding course work. Looking back at the last few months though, I must confess the former played a much more prominent catalyst in my decision to stay away from this blog. I hope that I do put up posts with more vigour in the near future though as I find it one intellectual investment worth sticking to.

I have had one complete semester of courses and must say that I was completely disillusioned by the same. I was hoping that I would have research work right from the word go but alas, I am still stuck with more courses to conquer till my screening due in may this year. Looking back at the courses I did take up I must say they were not too challenging. I am just glad I got through the semester with the maximum possible grades.

Some tips for novice grads from what I have learnt in a semester…..

  • Try to get through the first semester without a job. If you do take up a job, make sure you use your free time judiciously. I am personally of the opinion that one should stick to fewer courses if s/he has a job going in parallel.
  • PhD students should try and make sure they get enough research experience right from the onset of first semester. Though I must agree that courses are a much better option for the first few semesters for those getting into a completely new field.
  • Attend conferences as soon as they show up.
  • Have textbooks/ references with you as soon as the semester starts. They are valuable in any situation.
  • Make sure you have membership of all the pertinent organizations.
  • 6) Have a completed and updated resume at all times. Make changes as and when they occur.

Graduate education is a rewarding experience indeed. I am looking forward to my spring semester and hoping that I would do something meaningful this time around.

Some good sources of books:

Professional organizations/ societies (check respective websites)

A new beginning

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First week in oblivion….

Posted by saintdeb on August 14, 2008

Yes! One week and I am still going strong. But when I think of the five more years of my life¬†I need to spend here, I start having second thoughts. Let’s however do a reality check of the life here in LA. First I will list the good things that I must say, I have come to admire when it comes to the “american way of life”.

1) The Americans are very helpful. They are quite friendly and more often than not, will initiate a conversation observing the niceties on the slightest pretext. At the same time, it tends to be a wee bit odd at times as I feel an artificial touch to the whole exercise.

2) Traffic is well organized and pedestrians are given due respect. I just hope I don’t get into an accident when I go back to India after having been habituated to the rules here.

3) One can find anything and everything just a block away at the maximum. The prices though seem to be exorbitant.

4) Unfortunately, downtown LA fares far worse than some Indian cities when it comes to safety. I must add that at this stage, my chances of surviving without any untoward incident seems low at best.

5) Universities here are well organized and managed. But time for retrospection for indian varsities is long gone. Differences seem insurmountable!!!

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Straight from the Horse’s mouth!

Posted by saintdeb on August 3, 2008

I have seen countless blogs and sites with tons of information for prospective undergrad/grad students going for their education from USA. I would suggest using the most comprehensive tools made available by education usa.


Go through the publications for certain. They have more comprehensive information than any blog or site.

2nd publication, Link:

4th publication, Link:

Use others as well (for undergrads). Use this resource to the fullest. You can also contact the local offices in some of the major metros in India.

PS: I am not the horse hereūüėõ

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$$$ matters

Posted by saintdeb on July 26, 2008

I have been putting aside the task of¬†penning this post¬†for a long time now! Its perhaps the inherent uneasiness I feel when it comes¬†to the¬†money matters¬†or maybe it has more to do with my own “seemingly” never ending laziness!

However, without wasting more time, let me just try and put down the information I wish to share…..

Money is inherent part of our education. More so when it comes to getting an education from the states. One needs to have adequate finances for the entire application, admission and program continuation stages! Sources of the same can vary and is often dependent on many factors. Having said that, let me just pen down the approximate expenses one can expect to incur at each stage under some specific conditions and also some useful tips which might be helpful for the aspirants!


It would depend on the number of applications and also vary according to the universities as well. But a rough estimate of around $75 for each application should be good for an approximation. Also add the cost of tests (GRE/GMAT/TOEFL) at approximately 300$. Add the cost for sending the applications which would depend on the service used and can go upto as high as 20$ per application for DHL. Also include the cost of sending scores through ETS.

My Expenses: My total application expenditure came close to $1600.


This stage is one of the most intense with regard to finances if one is planning on masters and has little or no scholarship or other similar financial backing.

Add the cost of Visa application, Any confirmation charges for the university, i20 expenses (these need to be shown at the visa interview), pre-departure shopping, airline tickets, booking, etc!

The i20 expenses will include tuition, living expenses and all other miscellaneous expenses. Typically varies from $10,000 per academic year to as high as $60,000 depending on the university. Normally, living expenses shown in the i20 are way more than what most Indians incur – thanks primarily to the frugal living style, sharing of apartments, etc! Source for the same (i20 expenses) is best shown through a Bank Loan. It is best to source a part of the same through the loan and also, is recommended, that one shows the total amount mentioned for the first year as expenses in the form of liquid assets and rest (second year) as fixed assets. However, this is not a dictum and in many cases; specially with good universities/good academic background, will not be that big an issue.

For PhD candidates, it is normallynot necessary to show for funds as they are fully supported by the university/department/professor! However, if they are not fully funded, the extra amount mentioned in the i20 has to be shown in personal/parental/sponsor assets!

A lot will depend on the university and your confidence level as well. It is normally seen that those going for highly ranked universities are never asked for financials!

My Expenses: My total admission expenditure came close to $1300. I have a fellowship from my University and therefore was in the clear!


A stage I am not conversant with since I have not started my program as such. But I am in a position to give a general idea.

Living expenses can vary from as low as $300 to $1000 depending on the state/university. Typical example for the two can be UTD for the former and USC for the latter. In most cases, it is possible to make up for the same by doing an on-campus job. In many universities, it is easy to get one. The best source for information on the same would be the graduate program you are applying to and the students already there in the university! One will also need to pay for the continuing tuition expenses (3 semesters in a year Рfall, spring, summer). Private Universities cost more than Public Universities in General. Typically, a masters will last 1.5 to 2 years while a PhD will last from 3 to 6 years! You would also need to pay for health insurance and health care! Apart from these there are some additional fixed expenses that one does incur in States. An important point to take note of is the fact that all earnings for international students in USA are taxable and come under the purview of IRS. Deductions are made at source. (This includes scholarships, fellowships, Graduate assistantships and on-campus jobs/internships, etc!)


Sources of funding for the program can incude external scholarships like those from Private funds, state scholarships (USA), Indian agencies (for indian students), Companies, Universities, Departments, etc. The hunt for funding can be very exhaustive and should be started right from the time one starts the application/initial research stage! It does pay off in many cases!

Best wishes to all prospectives…..

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As it stands!

Posted by saintdeb on July 18, 2008

Well, simply put, I am ready to fly. I am done with almost all the things i was supposed to do and I can’t seem to come up with anything else at this stage! All that is left now is arranging my bags so that they fall well within the specifications set by the airlines with regard to the maximum weight allowed!

Just to let everyone know, I have been quite busy the last few weeks!

1) I am finished with all the shopping I had to and must add, was quite an indulgence!

2) I have completed the formalities wrt for-ex and am now in possession of the necessary $ to travel and survive in the states!

3) I have got the endorsement from Air India to carry 3 check in cases instead of two – being a student helps!

4) I have now got a new joint account with my parents which i will use in part for any money transfer.

5) I have closed my DMAT accounts and also cancelled my credit cards (took 2 weeks!!!! – ICICI sucks)!

6) I am done with most of my packing as well.

And to add to the cocktail, I was fortunate enough to attend my cousins wedding!!

Now I am busy figuring out the modus operandi of survival in LA!!!!

PS: If anyone has any issues with regard to any formalities to be completed/done with regard to university admission, feel free to contact me anytime!

next post: $$$ matters

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Inches and centimeters…..

Posted by saintdeb on June 22, 2008

Yes! That’s right! I have been banging my head trying to make sure that my Luggage (check in) for the flight does not exceed the size and weight specifications!!! Its a tedious task and to be honest, I don’t even know if its taken¬†with the same¬†dose of¬†seriousness by the airlines. But I want to be prepared nonetheless. I would recommend a laptop backpack for all those guys carrying a laptop as it can not only be used for carrying the same but also used in the college or for laundry and stuff. A good one is a tidy investment indeed.

With a few things to confirm with the airlines, I am all set for my journey about a month in advance. Though I still have a lot of shopping to do, I guess it will all fall in place.

A few pointers for those who are done with their visas.

-> Ask the university for immunization needs. This is important as you might have no time left if this part gets delayed!

-> Make sure that all necessary documents are kept as copies at home before you leave. Also take extra copies with you as your university might want the same when going for orientation!

-> Make the best possible use for the available space (luggage). Don’t try and fit in everything under the sun. In most cases, even the guidelines which I found on the Internet (the now dreaded “things to bring” topics) look like too much! I would suggest a minimal of everything and to buy stuff once you get there to maximize the resources. However, there are quite a few exceptions to this!

-> Open a bank account and keep it joint. Can be easily used for money transfers! There are, however, other methods available!

more to follow!!!

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“Food” for thought!!

Posted by saintdeb on June 18, 2008

For those of you who are planning on going for their grad courses, your flight will be the first experience which would mark the incipience of your graduate experience. A great “in flight” experience is always welcome. And for me, food comes out on top as the most important part of any experience!

I found this website which would be useful not just for students going abroad, but also for other professionals. Moreover, you could also share your experience with others through the same!! I hope people will find this useful

Apart from the airline food, the site has a lot of other interesting information which I am sure many will find interesting indeed!!

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