Pavitra Tejasvi, an alumnus of IIT Madras, speaks of her experiences while applying to colleges for higher studies.For Chennai36

1. When did you decide to apply for further studies?

I found the course, “Transportation Engineering I” (in my fifth semester) taught by Dr. J Murali Krishnan quite interesting. It was an introductory course to the geometric and pavement designs. During the same semester I approached the professor for a project in the area related to pavement design. I started working on a project based on a current testing procedure of bituminous mixtures from the winter break of my third year, which helped me have some interesting research experience. That was around when I thought about higher studies.

2. How did you make the choice between placements and applying? 

One of the reasons for my choice of applying over placements was that I really enjoyed working on this project I mentioned earlier. It gave me chance to know a lot more interesting stuff than what I learnt from the course. I got a chance to explore different modeling techniques, learn and use some new software, solve some mathematical problems, get some laboratory exposure etc.

3. Is a high CGPA required for applying? 

Not always! Getting a good admit depends on a lot of factors such as CGPA, publications, any previous work carried out in the area that we are applying, SoP, GRE and ToEFL scores etc. It’s not always necessary that you have to be extremely good in all these aspects. For example, having a publication in a reputed journal might come in handy when your  CGPA is a little low. So, CGPA is not all that counts. But a minimum of 7.5 is encouraged.

4. How relevant are extra-curriculars and Positions of Responsibility?

I don’t think they are really that important. As per my understanding, each application would be viewed by the admissions committee of a university for merely a few minutes before taking a decision. So, they would bother mostly about your academic background than your extra curriculars or positions of responsibility. Having said that, being TA or RA (for Dual Degree students) might add value to the application.

5. How did you identify your recos?

I took the help of my DDP advisor on this. I was applying in the area of Mechanics of Materials. So, it would make better impact if I could get at least two of my three recos from the professors working in Materials. So, my first two recos were my DDP advisor, Dr. J Murali Krishnan and Dr. Ravindra Gettu with whom I did a course on Concrete Technology. My third reco was from Dr. Indumathi Nambi. I had done two courses with her and got decent grades. Also, I worked as a TA for one of her courses in my ninth semester. So, I felt she will have quite a number of things to mention in my reco.

6. Why do you think TAMU selected you?

I think the project that I started in my third year which I later converted to my DDP was my major plus as I could communicate a paper to a conference held by TDI and ASCE. With regard to other aspects, I think I had a balanced application.

7. How and which colleges did you decide to apply to?

I started off by selecting some 10 to 12 universities based on their ranking with respect to my area of interest. Then I went through the profiles of the faculty in each of these universities and made my final list of seven universities, with the help of my advisor, which are MIT (Civil), UIUC (Civil), UC Davis (Civil), Purdue (Civil), NCSU(Civil), Madison (Civil) and TAMU (Mechanical).

8. Did you have alternate options? If yes, what made you decide on TAMU? 

Yes. I had four admits in all. One of my major reasons for applying to the Mechanical Engineering department in TAMU was to get an opportunity to work with Dr. Rajagopal, a very renowned name in the field of Continuum Mechanics. It’s the same reason that drove me to choose TAMU.

9. Any useful tips on SoPs, CV, Recos, Projects, Papers and choosing courses?

SoP- Do not read too many SoPs of your seniors as it is highly likely that you will end up writing your SoP which is almost similar to those that you have read. So read just one or two, preferably of a student applying in a different area than yours, to get an idea about SoP.

CV- There is no standard format of a CV for higher studies unlike for placements. So you are free to give details on some interesting projects that you have, if relevant! Concentrate more on your academics and related stuff!! You can just mention your extracurriculars and positions of responsibility without elaborating.

10. Did you have a mentor? Would you like to be one?

My DDP advisor was my mentor. He helped me with almost everything at every stage of my applying.

If the student has similar background as mine with similar areas of interest, I am ready to help.

11. What is your field of specialization, where did you do related projects/internship and how did you go about selecting the best way of utilization of summers/winters?

My field of specialization is Mechanics of Materials.

I got a chance to be at TU Dresden in Germany during the summer of my second year where I assisted a senior from insti (who came there on DAAD) on a project on Concrete (Materials). Later, I started working on a project on a testing procedure of bituminous mixtures which I later converted to my DDP. During the summer break of my third year, I did an internship with L&T- IDPL, Chennai where I was mainly involved in designing of the pavement of a six-lane highway project.

– Pavitra Tejaswi graduated from IIT Madras with a Dual Degree in Civil Engineering in 2013, She is currently pursuing  Mechanics of Materials at Texas A&M University.