Roadmap for applying to MS programs abroad

[About the author: Sanket Gupte is currently doing his PhD in Stanford University. He did his undergrad in BITS Goa and currently writes on LinkedIn helping aspiring graduate students and computer scientists.]
 
Have you considered pursuing a Masters degree abroad but are unsure about how to apply? Here's my roadmap which will help you navigate the application process, and will hopefully lead you to your dream admit.
 
  1. Shortlist universities - Decide which program you want to apply to, like MS in CS, and pick a range of universities which are ambitious, moderate, and safe. Also consider other factors such as post-graduation outcomes, cost of education, location, and funding opportunities. This is a very time consuming step but making poor choices here will screw up your application, so start very early.
  1. Give standardized tests - Depending on your choice of universities, you may need to give GRE / GMAT / TOEFL / IELTS. Start your preparation and book slots early so that you can give these tests comfortably with time for a second attempt, if necessary.
  1. Request transcripts - You may need to submit scanned transcripts, or mail physical copies to the universities you are applying to. In some cases, you may need an external evaluation like WES. Make sure you request these from your college well in advance since it may take a while. You may also need to upload a copy of your degree certificate.
  1. Write your SOP - Applications require a statement of purpose - it needs to outline your past experience and highlight your suitability and motivation for pursuing an MS program. This is your chance to shine and describe all the cool things you've done and explain why you'd be a great fit. You can reuse chunks of it for different universities, but it will need to be customized.
  1. Request LORs - Most MS applications require 3 letters of recommendation from people who supervised you closely in an academic or professional environment and can attest to your ability to pursue a challenging graduate program. Ideally they would come from your professors or managers. Give them plenty of time to write these, and remind them frequently.
  1. Submit application - Fill in the application form, upload all your documents (transcripts, degree, resume, SOP), enter your recommenders details, do a final review, pay the application fee, and submit. Make sure you create an online application account well in advance - it will help you figure out what docs you need. Organize everything using a spreadsheet (see image) and keep everything in a drive folder.
 
Then you're all done, the hardest part is waiting for decisions!