It is not all downhill if you receive average marks in the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and Test for English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Instead, strengthen your overall resume if you plan to apply to universities abroad, suggest experts. A well-balanced student profile accompanied by a well-written statement of purpose and letters of recommendation are what students should work towards over the duration of their course. “Often students underestimate the importance of SOPs and LORs,” says Arul Joseph, an U.S. education expert.

The SOP gives admission committees in foreign universities an idea about the student’s goals, challenges and opportunities. “Sometimes students fare badly in a semester or they could have failed in a particular subject. The SOP gives students the opportunity to explain the reasons for the dip in performance and assure the university about their commitment to the course and how they overcame the problem that caused the low marks,” he says.

The SOP is also where students can share their short-term and long-term goals, the research projects they have worked on, and how they will contribute to the university. The recommendation letters from professors and college faculty tell the admission personnel what kind of student the candidate is, the kind of classroom diversity s/he will bring to the class, the peer participation skills and the like, explains Mr. Joseph.

Students must get their LORs from heads of departments and senior academicians to add more weight to the recommendations.

A profile that shows a focussed and committed student can achieve more than what marks can. “Students should decide what specialisation they want to take up and take active part in research projects, seminars and symposia in connection with their subject of choice,” he says.

According to Mr. Joseph, students should work on their leadership skills and in the case of those applying for management courses, participation in cultural events would also work in their favour.

Tough competition

Indian student pool is second to the Chinese when it comes to applying to universities abroad. “The competition is tough in terms of numbers but Indian students have an edge when it comes to communication skills and a robust academic curriculum. Students from Gulf countries have also started applying to the U.S., in addition to the existing pool of Korean and Chinese students,” he shares.

Students must also strategise which colleges they will apply to in a well-thought out manner. “They must first decide what course they wish to pursue and then the particular university/college where the course is offered. While looking for colleges, students must also keep track of the kind of research projects the faculty take up, the availability of funds, etc.,” says Mr. Joseph.