This is a guest post from 2002 UT Austin Graduate who writes this one for all the Computer science and Computer Engineering Enthusiasts. Hope this post is helpful for your MS in US dream.
Steps to your MS in US
1. Selecting your area of interest for MS in US – This is very important, because all your next steps are going to be based on what you really want to do. I would strongly suggest spending a lot of time thinking about this because it will determine your career and your future course of life. In the US, the universities typically do not have an Information Technology department. Depending on your area of interest, you can consider the following majors:
Computer Science – Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, Data Mining, Software Development Methods, Database Design, Computer Programming
Computer Engineering – Networks and communications, signal systems, digital and wireless communications etc.
MIS – This is a track that deals with employing technologies for business and is usually under the business school. These involve database systems, ecommerce technologies, ERP systems etc.
I would imagine that most of you will be more interested in Computer Science for your MS in US. Even if that is the case, think about what is the specific area of your interest – Software development, Algorithms, Databases, Data Mining, Artificial Intelligence etc. Though it is important to focus on job market and what is hot right now, the main factor should be your INTEREST and PASSION. Job market conditions change, so don’t let that be your primary decision criteria.
2. After you select your area of interest for the MS in US, the next step and probably the hardest, is selecting universities. Use the following guidelines for selecting universities a. Rankings – Computer Science Rankings are given below:
Depending on your GRE score you can finalize your list, but as a starting point, I would recommend picking 2-3 schools from top 25, 2-5 schools from 25-75, and 2-3 schools from 75 – 125. b. Location – There are three factors to consider here. Employment Opportunities, Cost of Living, and Weather. Universities in bigger metropolitan areas generally have better employment opportunities. So consider universities in and near big cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta. This is not a rule, just a general guideline. There are some excellent universities in small college towns such as Texas A & M university in College Station, University of Texas at Austin (As an Alumni, I am biased, but this is the best University in the world J). Another big decision regarding your MS in US! As far as cost of living, the east coast and northeast US states such as Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, as well as west coast states such as California tend to be a lot more expensive that the central and southern states such as Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Florida. Lets talk about weather, In general the further north you go, the colder it gets. Southern California (San Diego area) has the best weather in the Country. You get used to the cold after the first winter so this is usually not a major concern, just something to keep in mind.
c. Financial Aid – Financial Aid for MS in US is usually of two types – Teaching Assistantship and Research Assistantship. Teaching Assistantship is when you help a professor with grading exams, conducting lab sessions, posting study material on the course website, and sometimes, even teach undergraduate classes. Universities with large undergraduate student enrollment (25,000+) have lot of teaching assistantship positions. Research Assistantship is when you help a professor with Research projects. These are much harder to get. Most students actually end up supporting themselves by working on-campus as lab proctors, library staff, parking enforcement, administrative staff etc. The good thing about getting an assistantship versus working on-campus is that with an assistantship you typically get whole or part of your tuition and fees covered for your MS in US.