Dear Mentor:

What are my chances of admission with a 55% aggregate?

I have completed my Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics & Communications, with an aggregate of 55%. I am planning to take the GRE [Graduate Record Exam] and TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] quite soon. What are my chances of getting admission into a good university in the US for MS with my aggregate? I am confident of getting a score of around 2000 in the GRE, and above 250 in the TOEFL. Can you tell me whether its really worth going to the US at all, considering that job prospects in the US are very much bleak at the moment?

What-If Questions, Panaji, Goa, India

Dear What-If Questions:

The iMahal Authoritative Guide for Studying in America and Canada addresses most of your questions and then some. You will be well advised to read the iMahal Guide to learn how to target colleges and what you can do to improve your chances of success.

The selection criteria for admission and financial aid are multidimensional. They include: past academic performance, reputation of the degree-granting institutions, performance on entrance exam(s) such as the GRE (Graduate Record Exam), letters of recommendation, personal statement of purpose, and so on. A somewhat weak performance on one dimension can be offset, to some extent, by far superior performance on others.

While your aggregate of 55% is not terribly good, we do not know - nor do you - how you would perform on the other dimensions of the selection criteria. We can play the what-if game, based on what might be your GRE score. While it may be interesting, it is not very productive. If you wish, you can use the iMahal College Finder in the iMahal Education Channel to play the game yourself. However, we would encourage you to invest your time instead on excelling on the GRE.

The TOEFL is a threshold test; that is, you must score above a certain level set by the target college. The amount by which you exceed the threshold is irrelevant. If you score below the threshold, you candidacy is rejected summarily. The reason is simple: The TOEFL tests your proficiency in the English language, the medium of instruction in the US. You must have certain level of proficiency in the English language or you are assumed not to have the ability to perform well.

Now we come to the bleak job prospects in the US "at the moment." We would strongly urge you to look beyond your nose, as the saying goes. Are you pursuing your education for a moment in time, or for a lifetime? Even if you were pursuing your education for a moment in time - that is, immediately upon graduation - is that moment here and now, or several years from now? Free economies like the US go through ups and downs, called business cycles, in response to the supply and demand imbalances. Historically, the downs last for a much shorter duration than the ups. No one can predict how long the economic downturn will last in the US or elsewhere. But basing your lifetime decisions on what is happening at a moment in time is something we can neither comprehend nor recommend.

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