More Grad School Admissions Crap…on V-Day

February 15, 2006 at 11:45 am 1 comment

So yesterday a group of us grad students in the department decided it was better to have a meal together at one’s place than to spend it alone working in the labs. See? We have life! Incidentally, everyone present was, erm East Asian. I don’t know why, although I think the main reason was that the building was mostly devoid of people by that time (around 5.30pm) except us.

V-Day Dinner 2006
Some of the dishes…See the big heart-shaped box of chocolates?

Somehow the dinner conversation drifted to our academic backgrounds. (What do you expect from a group of nerds???) Most had completed their undergrad degrees in their home countries, and people started sharing some (open) secrets about US grad school admissions for international students.

Many of the departments here have a list of ‘approved’ overseas universities from which they will consider the applicants favorably. Which immediately reminded me of this. (scroll towards the end of the post)

If you are applying as an international applicant (foreigners who did their undergrad in US universities are grouped together with the US applicants), the first thing the admissions committee looks at is the school you graduate from. If it is not on the list, the rest of your application will not be read, even if you did exceptionally well in your GREs and graduated top of your class. However, I do think there are exceptions. But such cases are extremely rare, if anecdotal evidence in this institution and 4 other engineering powerhouses are of any guide.

So the vast majority of successful Asian applicants (dominated by the top 3 countries below) hail from:

The IITs (7 of them)

北大, 清华, 浙大, 交大, 复旦

S Korea:
SNU, POSTECH, KAIST, Korea U, Yonsei

東大, 京大, 東工大, 東北大




Institut Teknologi Bandung

University of the Philippines

I didn’t know many of the above universities until I left Singapore for undergrad. I guess we were too Anglo-Saxon in our outlook when it comes to higher education.

From one of the FAQs on admissions (of a US university):

Q: I am an international student and I would like to apply for admission to the graduate program. Do my chances of being admitted differ from those who can establish permanent residency?

A: Admission to the graduate program in XXX at XXX University is highly competitive. Each year, we have almost 1000 applicants and can admit only a few. Therefore, your chances of being admitted are good only if you are at the top of your class and come from an exceptionally good school. The Graduate School at XXX University requires a minimum grade point average of 3.0/4.0 and a minimum score of 550 on the TOEFL.

While another school had this on record, in addition to the above:

The Department of XXX requires that applicants be able to demonstrate an A- or better undergraduate record.

At the other end of the scale, we have local universities having some kind of anti-Singaporean discrimination for admissions (albeit at the undergrad level). What is sad is that we are paying for them to come over; while on the US side, international undergrads are paying to go to study.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

More like Winter now; non V-day; Why Asian guys get fewer chicks Notable News on the (Singapore) Education Front

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. ted  |  February 16, 2006 at 1:22 am

    Well not only the US, even with most Singaporeans laughing at people going over to Australia for their third rate universities, the stigma oh the stigma, Australia is at least somewhat laughing their way to the bank with some AUD$5 billion bucks from the pockets of international students.

    I wonder how much subsidies we give to the international students (undergrad level only, we all know postgrad is a different kettle of fish) annually.


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