in Articles, Featured, Inspirational

Take chances, if you know what you are doing.  —-My experience with the GRE, TOEFL and MS in USA.

Not so long after graduating from Cochin University of Science and Technology as a Bachelor of Technology in Electrical Engineering in 2013, I started to take chances and went far away from home to study for various exams which later hurt me in a way nothing else did. Every chance I took was my own, my own decision, my own way of studying, of doing things and behaving to people. It was late when I found myself dragging my cumbersome mind, without a faint knowledge of what to do next.

The numerous visits I had with my professor Dr. C.A.Babu gave me an opportunity to challenge myself once again. I knew that failure wasn’t an option. It was in early 2014 when I was introduced to one of my seniors by my professor and that guy really changed my life!

University of Texas and San antonio. Source :

This senior of mine is currently doing his MS in University of Texas at San Antonio in the USA. He told me that I have a good chance in getting admission there. I wasn’t sure of myself then, but I took that chance. I was aiming for Summer 2015 semester in UTSA, so I had to write the GRE and TOEFL in October or by early November 2014.  He gave me a brief idea of what to expect and what is needed. Thus I got an aim, a score which I must get in-order to get through the admission process. I started studying for GRE and TOEFL from early-2014, sitting in my room, doing nothing other than studying, for quite a long time. I didn’t wanted to waste time and money going for any kind of coaching, so the Internet was my real teacher.

GRE is, to be frank, easy, if you know how to handle it. Numerous friends advised me to go for coaching else where rather than studying alone at home. They advised me and left. It was a handful of my best who stayed and supported me. I don’t have a list of names and I will forget to mention every (sorry), but I cannot forget to mention the support my best friends Rishal, Nima, Sonia, Rinu, Udayan and Anju gave me during the time of studies. Rishal and Nima even installed Vocabulary apps in their phones to study with me, even in their busy schedules! The detailed GRE experience in another note, soon.

I studied day in and out. Did almost all the problems that were available in the books I found online. I was confident and slowly improved my scores from 300’s to 310 in practice tests. Finally I was able to bid bye to that grueling experience, which I cannot explain without referring these words my professor Dr. C.A.B. always used to remind me -“Persistent hard-work will never go unrewarded”.

The GRE was scheduled on late October, and TOEFL 4 days after that. My loving uncle and aunt Gopakumar and Anjana  (my appu maman & anju ammayi) gave me the best possible environment to study in Chennai, where I was writing the tests. As the days went by, I became very confident with the Quantitative section, but the Verbal lagged. On the day of test, I was both tensed and relaxed, felt numb and excited. The Prometric testing center, Chennai was awesome. I never had that kind of a ‘serious-exam’ feel elsewhere. People barely talked, everyone gave instructions on what to do and expects that we do it on time. They checked our shoes, cuffs, pockets and everything; a thorough security check! Not even pencils were allowed, they will provide them. Enter with your passport and acknowledgement letter, nothing else. Finally, I wrote the GRE with a calm mind and scored more than what I aimed for.

That evening I started preparing for TOEFL, had 3 full days to study. YouTube videos and numerous blogs were my study material. I had already collected much needed materials and videos beforehand. I did practice tests for 2 days, gave extra attention to Speaking section. On my TOEFL test day I barely ate anything because of the tension I had, but once I started the test all the tension vanished, peace of mind was all I had until the Speaking section finally came. I gave it so much hype that even though it is as simple as the rest of the sections, it somehow was eccentric. I knew that failure wasn’t an option and that I may not get another chance, I faced my fears with an open heart and voila! It was all over in peace.

I scored 312.5 (including AWA)for my GRE and 105 for TOEFL which gave me a good chance to get admit in University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). From early November I started preparing for the application and other required documents. To be honest, I didn’t had a clue on how to proceed. All the gaps were filled by my loving uncle Jithesh who answered my every questions and enlightened me with his MS experience in National University of Singapore. The statement of purpose, or the ‘SOP’ pronounced soap, was the next villain. I wrote paragraphs after paragraphs just to understand that I am writing worse than I ever wrote. With the help of my uncle Jithesh, my lovely sissy Syama, my Anoop, Ashmi, Nima, Varun, and my senior in UTSA I revised and revised the SOP until I got a good version.I even sat with Ashmi numerous hours to finalize it. My loving professors at CUSAT gave me good Letter of Recommendations too. I was able to submit the completed application on time.

I frequently visited CUSAT for various activities during those months. Department related Photo-shoot’s,Seminars and Workshops. I was active all day and gave all in. On Thursday December 11th 2014, I got an email from UTSA congratulating me on my successful admission to the MS-EE program. On that very day, I got the opportunity to be with my professors, telling my experience to others and being congratulated by the handful of teachers whom I have a good relation with.

Here I am on this day, happy, proud and very excited to start this new journey with the awesome help of my family and friends. I was able to get the necessary financial documents and submitted the same on time. The Visa experience at Chennai, which would never have been the same without Gopzz and Anjana, was awesome. The time I had at Chennai with them was great. Ever memorable! I scheduled my flight to Texas a few weeks back, will start from Cochin International Airport on May 7th 2015. Thanks to my bro Chinmay for paying the airfare, when I most needed it.

Looking back, I can see that this journey, even though started way back in mid-2014, has just begun. There is lot more for me to learn, understand and undergo. I am excited and confident, I am certain that I will be studious. For a person like me, who is often termed an introvert by many, goals once set will be checked no matter what. I don’t do this alone, I have my friends and family to support me. Once when I traveled through the darkest roads taking detour after detour my parents asked me whether I am doing the right thing; I told them to give me one more chance, and this is where I am now. I took the chance which was in-front of me, and tried day in and out for the result- “Persistent hard-work will never go unrewarded”.

If an average student like me can chase my dreams and start this wonderful journey, so can you! You have the talent, you have the potential. Stay awake and bring out your latent potential.You can get wonderful scores, much higher than mine, you just have to be patient and persistent. Success never come in a day or two. Make your goals and start preparing, start fighting for it.

Give love and be loved.

Thanking sincerely everyone who was there with me. I love you guys. Thank you, a lot!


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  1. Congratulations…..
    It feels good to hear that CUSATians are growing n reaching different parts of world n surely they will leave their impact.
    I have one question…. Are u self financing ur fee or u manged to get scholarship? Can you tell me about some scholarship programs to reach such university?

    • Dear KB,

      Currently I am enrolled in Summer semester. Usually universities will not provide scholarships in Summer as the students will be able to get the benefits only for 3 months. In my case, Summer semester starts in late May and ends in August. So I will have to apply for a Scholarship in August when the Fall semester starts.

      Scholarships are given to students based on their overall profile. No single mark, grade or score is a main and major thing. You are expected to have good academics, good GRE score, TOEFL score greater than 100, good statement of purpose, good letters of recommendation. If you have any research papers, it will be an added bonus. Colleges will specify the way they provide scholarships to students. While some scholarships are Need based, some are entirely depended on marks and the above said parameters. In my case, in August, I will be told to write a few paragraphs explaining why I need the scholarship.

      If you are a worthy candidate, you will get scholarship upon admission at the University, provided that you are applying for Fall or Spring. Else, you will have to finance self for 3 months and wait for the scholarship opportunity.

      All Scholarships are considered at the time of our admission and we will be notified about the same. Even if we didn’t get the scholarship during admission, we will get another chance like in my case.

      I will quote something from an email from the ECE Department at UTSA –

      “As an incoming new student, you do not need to apply for this scholarship. We will review all qualified application files and make award decisions. We will also notify you if you are awarded. You will have another chance to apply for the same scholarship once you start your study here. As mentioned in your email, you will start in Summer 2015. We usually don’t give out scholarship in summer because you can only benefit from the scholarship for one summer. If you are going to be awarded then the award will starts in Fall 2015.”

      Hope it helped.


  2. Dear Arun ,
    Your story is very inspiring and like you said ““Persistent hard-work will never go unrewarded” , may you have a bright future.