Dear Mentor:

Can research experience compensate for non-stellar academics?

My engineering percentage is 65% from Bangalore University, which includes some supplimentaries [make-up exams for having performed at unacceptable level]. My GRE [Graduate Record Exam] score is 2050. I have presented research papers at national level competitions conducted by IIT [Indian Institute of Technology] Delhi and IIT Madras. At both the places, I came first throughout India. I have worked in IISc [Indian Institute of Science] for 6 months. At present, I am working at IIT Delhi on a research project. Within few months, I am expecting a paper to be published in an International journal. Also i will be getting 2 recommendations from IIT, 1 recommendation from IISc and 1 from my college. By the time I reach the US, I will have 2 years of research experience working at IIT. Please let me know my chances of getting seat in top universities in US. Will this research experience compensate for my bad academics?

Assessing Performance, New Delhi, India

Dear Assessing Performance:

The iMahal Guide on Studying in America and Canada addresses all aspects of higher education, from the admission and financial aid criteria, to entrance exams, to selecting colleges, applying for admission and financial aid, to applying for student visa, and so on. You will be well advised to read this guide to answer most of your questions, and then some.

The primary criteria for admission and financial aid for a Master's program in the US and Canada are:

  • Academic performance
  • Performance on the entrance exam, typically the GRE for engineering
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement of purpose
Since the graduate studies (Master's and PhD programs) involve research, your prior research experience and success is relevant. A vastly superior performance on one element of the criteria may offset poor performance on another, but it does not override it. Your not-so-good academic performance is liable to hold you back from getting admitted to top universities in the US, since they can get candidates who have demonstrated superior performance on all elements of the criteria. Your GRE score is reasonable.

The iMahal Guide on Studying in America and Canada advises you on how you can improve your chances for success by working on each element of the selection carefully.

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