cracking! the GRE

continued from part 1

It took some time coming, but here's part two, the final, of the
Praful Aggarwal interview, aimed at helping GRE aspirants with some of the general queries and FAQs. So here goes...

Me: From your personal experience, what's the right time to take the GRE, from the point of view of a four year engineering degree student?
Praful: All of us know that the GRE exam score is valid for 5 years, so an engineering student may take the exam any time from entering college till the fourth year. But, I think that the first couple of years are really taxing on any student so taking the exam during that period may not be appropriate. Also, by probably the end of the 6th semester a student is more clear about his future goals, so I think that the 7th semester i.e. the start of the 4th year is the best time to take the exam. Also if a student wants to give himself enough time to be able to avoid break in study after the B.Tech than the best time is probably the first couple of months into the 7th semester.
Me: Exceptions are always there and I guess I am one too. So, its almost the end of college and i am still undecided what to do next. Though I wish they paid people for blogging as a full time job. Life would have been so much more fun. Anyways, lets move on to some serious stuff that might help you guys out.

Me: Being a Bioinformatics major (OK, soon to be!) what according to you is the best place to pursue higher studies in the same stream?
Praful: I have looked a lot into the places where a degree course is provided related to BI for Masters or PhD and I think that the US without doubt leads the pack. India is a complete no-no because firstly there aren't more than a couple of decent places to study and secondly even these places offer the same curriculum as in the bachelors degree courses. Europe on the other hand has some good places but they are still not that well known in the international market. Australia and NZ don't offer degree courses so what we are left is Uncle Sam and a degree from US is anyways valued wherever you go in the world.
Me: Tell you what people, I seriously doubt this guy's motive behind his vehement support of the US. I mean, we do produce some of the best brains be it anything, so why the US of A? Maybe, that is all what you say when you have had the idea of having a hot American chick as your girlfriend, all your life. Or maybe, just about maybe, he was honest when he passed on that wisdom to us. Who knows!

Me: Coming back to your preparations, are you satisfied with the score that you had? (you could let the readers know if you think the other way round too - fluke you know ;))
Praful: Definitely. I think I couldn't have asked for a better score with the amount of preparation that I did. The night before the exam I could hardly sleep, but even then I was eyeing a score of around 1400 and thank God I managed just that bit. So I am happy with my score.
Me: And thankful he should be indeed, because we had this important little bet going on, which would have made him forfeit the license to my(our) room, had he performed any worse. Help your self to a complementary beverage son!

Me: Any essential formalities that one needs to be absolutely through with, before registering? Wait, why don't you briefly take us though the whole test registration procedure.
Praful: Registering for the GRE can sometimes prove to be a headache, as in my case I just couldn't find the links to register online. Well, registration for a GRE exam can be done either online or through the Telephone. The first and foremost requirement for registering for any such exams, like GRE, GMAT, TOEFL etc. is that you need to have a valid passport. The application number of the A/F passport won't work. So before you start registering you must have your passport in hand. Then from you can look for the exam centre that will suit you the most. Continuing the registration you will find the entire information about the exam centre on the same website. Then you can register through the net or through calling the concerned centre directly. During this make sure that you have a valid passport and a credit card with all their details, in hand. The GRE exam presently costs $170. Make sure to read or listen to every instruction properly while registering.
Me: The inconsiderate idiots that these Americans are. Imagine asking us, poor students from third world countries, to dish out that much for registering for a silly exam. And there's more frustration in store when you move on to the institute admission procedure, with little financial aid and scary fee structures. Is anybody listening?

Me: So what colleges are you going to be applying for... or have already applied?
Praful: Well I was pretty keen to apply to Stanford but it is too costly and they don't even provide any financial aid to international masters students, jerks.
As for now I have shortlisted a few State universities because the total expenditure is comparatively less and also that they do provide some aid. Some of the colleges I have shortlisted are: Grand Valley State University, MI; North Carolina State University; Indiana University; University of Utah etc.
Me: Stanford sounded cool and of course big. I'll still pray he lands up in there somehow. But, anyways I'd be happy to see him studying abroad. Buddies bring back cool gifts you see! ;-)

Me: On a personal level how did you choose the colleges? Curricula, Faculty, Department, institute, what was the order of precedence in choosing?
Praful: Well none of these occupy the centre of the podium. It is actually the availability of financial aid that is the first criteria for me. Then comes the curricula(almost up there with finances), next comes the reputation of the Institution and then the faculty. The department is no issue as I am only looking for places offering a Masters in Bioinformatics or related fields.
Me: Too technical for me to comment on I guess. You got it. didn't you?

Me: Your open advice to future aspirants?
Praful: For the GRE exam- make sure you give yourself ample time for preparation. Prepare in a manner which makes you feel comfortable because this way you'll retain more than expected. Don't stress yourself too much because this is just another exam the only issue with this is that it is a bit expensive. For BI graduates- I think that there is still probably a few more years for this field to really come up and occupy some mind share so take every decision carefully. Also, make sure that you are clear in your mind with what you wish to do with your lives because if you take a forced decision then only you'll be at loss.
Me: Ah! The last words (of the interview i.e.) summed it all. Yup, its all about knowing what your dreams really are, and then deciding what can best help you realise them. The journey is less strenuous then the actual planning you need to put in. And that's why I am taking all the time available to me in the world before pressing the NEXT button. And, probably that is what you should do as well.

That was the second and final part of the
Praful Aggarwal interview on cracking the GRE. - My perspective on my room mate's rather special achievement. All you questions and more would be answered right here on iNFINITY. Keep them coming.

Until the next time I find a super achiever worthy enough of being featured here on
iNFINTY, this is Aseem the interviewer signing off. Have a good time.

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