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Study abroad tips: How to improve your essay

April 12, 2015 12:00 IST
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"We, as parents and coaches, must ask and understand would be what subjects are exciting for him."

"Your essay must share something personal to you (an experience, a story), it must be passionate and enthusiastic, and well structured."

"A strong verbal, quantitative and writing skill is required for you to do well in your graduate programme."

In an online chat with readers, overseas consultant NNS Chandra offers crucial advice to aspirants on how to go about pursuing an international programme.

On April 10, 2015, had organised an online chat with overseas consultant NNS Chandra.

For those who missed the chat, here's the unedited transcript.

How to improve your essaysuman singh: What is the approximate cost of pursuing an MS in finance abroad?

NNS Chandra: It depends, Suman. On the University, on the location (country. city), etc, Also your living expenses depends on your life style, right- And for Grad programmes there is this concept of academic units in some schools (example Stanford).

My direct experience, budget 50,000 US $ plus If you are careful, get reasonable financial assistance etc

gpandit: My son is a US citizen. He has been studying in India since Std II. Now he is in 12th std preparing for IIT JEE.

Recently we got to know that he is not eligible for NITs and other institutes thru JEE but thru DASA SAT scores.

The fees is $4000 a semester. Studying in US as an undergraduate is also beyond our reach. Plz. suggest a solution to this problem.

NNS Chandra: Mr Pandit - I can feel your pain. Direct admission for student abroad (DASA) is a challenge. Please do not feel discouraged.

Ask your son to continue his efforts.

Let work some alternative route. I would like to review. We will find a solution.

Email me his grades, subjects, academic achievements so far and ECs. Let us get to work.

vasundhara agnihotri: Hi Syam, my son just got accepted in Berklee College of music, Boston. How do you rate Berklee?

NNS Chandra: Wow. Congratulations. It is simply an amazing school Vasundhara.

I have several students there and graduated from there, been to some of their performances at the school. Also attended couple of graduation ceremonies as guest. Impressive.

The opportunities students get in Berklee, to learn, perform, study, is world class. And they are in Boston and the school got official partnership with even MIT.

Comparing with Julliard or Curtis doesn't mean much, in my opinion. This is a personal choice, right?

Ask your son to shoot me an invite for one of his performances, my office is a not far from school, and I would love it.

Aatish Jagmanani: What are the overseas living arrangements?

NNS Chandra: You can always stay in Campus. But sometimes I encourage my students to stay outside the campus.

Challenging, yes. But it will give you quite a life experience and help you to manage your finances better. As you are in charge.

sumeet salgaonkar: Mr Chandra, my son is in class 9 and he is very confused about what stream he should pursue his graduation in.

He is creative and also good at science and math. He wants to study abroad as well.

NNS Chandra: Dear Sumeet, Being confused is a good thing. That shows he is thinking, analysing.

The question we, as parents and coaches, must ask and understand would be what subjects are exciting for him? Being good in Math and science would not be enough info. What ticks him?

What makes him to drop everything and focus?

You said he is creative. Does he spend time and energy around arts?

Being creative and also good in science and Math means a lot. He must have a sense of inquiry I him.

Encourage that. Stream he is going to be in is quite important, I know. Big decision for your son.

Ask him to e-mail me. It would be my pleasure to work with someone like your son.

Satish Pulli: Sir I'm from Maharashtra state board. Can you pls tell me more about the AP courses and how I can pursue them?

NNS Chandra: I am so happy that you are considering taking AP courses, Satish. Preparing for AP courses while in India is still a challenge. But things are changing.

There are now more centres and training support available, especially in Mumbai. Recently I got a chance to meet with an AP trainer in Mumbai. Several of my students are now taking AP courses.

My American students prepare taking advanced lessons in school setting, for months before exam.

Identifying the courses to select for AP I might be able to guide you, do write to me.

For you, this May exams are out of question now, but you can plan for next year.

Check out college board for more details on AP. Please feel free to write to me if you got more questions.

Amol Dhurve: Hi Sir. Thank you for the opportunity. Pls let me know some best options for undergraduate programmes in the US and Canada.

NNS Chandra: Hi Amol – Which grade are you in right now? I mean which class?

What are the subjects you are studying or studied? Which are the ones you are really interested in and excite you?

I must add that there are several other questions I have to ask, before answering your question, like where and what program are you on for your high school diploma -- etc.

I am big fan of liberal art education, can explain and detail if you write to me with additional information.

Nitin Deshmukh: My scores in class 10 and 12 are 79 and 72 percent. What are my chances of getting admission in a good college?

NNS Chandra: Hello Nitin, your 72 per cent is a challenge for top schools but should be just enough to get to several good schools in North America, if that is where you are looking to apply.

But, in North America, grades in high school is only one criteria based on which admission is offered, one need to show he or she is intellectually capable, academically driven, engaged in society.

You must present a total picture of who you are as a person, as a student and you will be judged based on that.

Vinayak Tavade: Sir I want to do my MBA in finance, I have appeared for my TYBCom and I am waiting for my results, I want to do my MBA in Spain , can you help me with the procedure and the scholarship for the admission in Spain?

NNS Chandra: Absolutely, Vinayak. Which school in Spain you are interested, IE or Esade - let me know.

Vinayak Tavade: My agent told me that my application was rejected because my essay was poor. Can you pls tell me how to write a good essay?

NNS Chandra: I am sorry to hear about your application, Vinayak. But quite impressed with the attitude you are demonstrating here -- how can I improve.

I follow a (patent pending) process to guide students to come up with great personal college application essays and it is challenging to explain in this short conversation format.

I would be glad to explain in detail, please write to me.

For now, I would argue that your essay must share something personal to you (an experience, a story), it must be passionate and enthusiastic, and well structured. I know it is easy for me to say all these. But assure you that if you follow your heart you will get better result.

Anyway, if you want me to review your essay please send it over along with the course and school you applied to.

Your essay is only piece of application. I recommend you do a full review of your application and improve.

Aatish Jagmanani: What is the minimum GRE score required to get admission in the US universities?

NNS Chandra: Hi Aatish -- I must admit this is one of the most common questions we receive. What should be the minimum score I must be looking at?

As always I am saying to you aim to get as much as possible.

But to answer your question -- there is a minimum; or rather acceptance requirement would depend on course, and the university you are applying to. That changes from year to year.

Also depends on your GPA (undergrad), experience, academic achievements and awards during and after under grad.

Look at it this way, a strong verbal, quantitative and writing skill is required for you to do well in your graduate programme. So give all out.

Do not think of minimums. But work hard. Improve your skills. I assure you will thus become a better student.

Photo courtesy: Creative Commons

ALSO READ: 'Which university should I opt for?'

Have questions for NNS Chandra? Post them here! He'll answer them every Friday between 3 pm and 4 pm IST.

You may also email him on

About NNS Chandra

Based in Boston, USA, Chandra is an engineer by training, an academician by trade and researcher by passion.

He often shuttles between India and the US to coach students in admission related counselling.

He is associated with professional organisations like Study Iowa, NACAC, OCACA, ACA, ASCA to name a few.

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