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Demystifying Admission Consulting for MS Abroad – A Personal Account

Every student preparing for the GRE and aspiring to an MS in the United States of America or the UK goes through a nebulous, misleading, often intimidating phase in his or her preparation: Admission Consulting. Quite a few Indian students make it past the first hurdle of acquiring a competitive score of over 1400; but those who do, find themselves at the mercy of Admission Consultants, most of whom are feared for offering incomplete advice at an exorbitant price. This article stands testimony to the hardwork, perseverance and wit of one such student, Swastika Singhal, who has not only managed to realise her dreams but also bothered to magnanimously share her experience with the rest of us.

Pursuing her B. Tech. in Computer Science at College of Engineering Roorkee, Swastika Singhal, now in her final year of graduation, came to Areté during her summer holidays in 2010 to prepare for the GRE. After devoting 5 weeks of rigorous training, and two months of intermittent practice, she finally wrote the GRE in October and mustered a 1460 (Quant: 780|Verbal: 680). Now, six months later, she has 6 final admit calls out of the 7 universities she had applied to. In search of her formula for success, I riddled Swastika with question after question on the kind of hurdles she found in her path, how she overcame them, and what kind of resources/guidance actually proved useful to her. The outcome of an hour long, telephonic interview: an eye-opener for both students and member of faculty alike; and an inspiration for me to write this article for the benefit of our students and subscribers.


Attention: The following are the views of Swastika Singhal. The opinions/arguments expressed here reflect Swastika’s personal deductions based on her experiences. Every individual is entitled to his/her opinion. This article is not intended to libel anyone, but to share a personal experience. She has presented reasons to support her opinions as far as possible; however, if anyone feels the contents of this article are false/ presumptuous, he may post a comment/ write back to us. If they are proven right, necessary action will be taken. Areté doesn’t endorse these views as its own.


I: What was your biggest apprehension once you had scored a 1460 on the GRE? What was your reaction toward your interim success and toward the oncoming stage for applying to the best universities in the world?

She: Well, I was extremely happy initially, because the GRE had taken a lot of hardwork. However, I had mixed feelings about the application phase because of certain mixed reviews:

  • The Jury, comprising seniors & consultants, were split two ways about the strength of my profile. It was the encouragement of only a few seniors, on Edulix, and my mentors that egged me on initially.  The rest raised apprehensions about the quality of university & course or the amount of scholarship, if any, I’d draw.
  • I had no clear idea of what I had gotten into. My parents were worried about the investments I had already made and the fact that there was no clarity further ahead.
  • My helplessness made me all the more dependent on and desperate for Professional Consultation, about which I had already heard more bad than good.


Thus, I wasn’t too confident or pleased about the state of my admission process.


I: What was your experience with professional Admission Consultants like? Did you get value for money? If no, why not?

She: Initially, paying a professional gave me peace of mind and the reassurance that I was in safe hands. I guess such a feeling at such a crucial juncture is quite relieving; however, as things progressed, certain systemic flaws and inherent inadequacies in the consulting process became apparent.

  • Most renowned consultancy firms were founded by deserving, knowledgeable and competent consultants, whose reputation precedes them to this date to draw students to their doorstep. However, these shepherds usually employ a team of junior consultants who barely measure up to their standards of efficiency and competence. The staff usually isn’t informed well enough to answer substantial questions of admission consulting. Some of the issues faced are as follow:
    • Although their inputs on Structure of Recommendation Letters/ Scholarship Essays/ Statements of Purpose/ Resume were quite useful, they didn’t really tell me exactly what to put into these that would impress the selection board at the universities. Such information can only be provided by someone who knows not only the requirements of the course & university, but also the nuances of the engineering discipline & contemporary job opportunities.
    • The ‘Do it yourself’ formula was relied upon way to much. It is understandable that SOPs, et al. need to be written by us ourselves; but what happens when we get stuck? Isn’t someone supposed to guide us through? We usually get stuck when we don’t know what to mention at certain places, or how to improve what we’ve already drafted 4 times over. Just saying, “Improve it” doesn’t really improve the document.
    • Over 80% of the interaction happens via email. This makes the process painfully slow, as the consultants usually cater to several students at a time. This used to put a minimum gap of 24 hours between consultations or edits.
    • On occasions, there used to be confusion and contradiction between junior consultants that made it all the more frustrating.
  • After purchasing the online application forms, I was promised that the consultants would go through the forms before submission. But that promise wasn’t delivered on until it was too late.
  • I was asked over and over again to decide on the basis of location, course, etc but no specific help was given nor was any decisive advice given.
  • When I finally prepared my own list of colleges to apply to, my list was totally different from theirs wherein only 2 of the colleges were common between us.

So, in answer to your question, I don’t think I got value for money.


I: Well, if the consultants don’t deserve all the credit, who or what does??

She: Edulix! www.edulix.com is to MS-abroad what www.pagalguy.com is to MBA in India! Maybe even more!


I: Tell us more about Edulix…

She: Edulix is an Online Discussion Forum for MS/MBA aspirants to universities abroad. Like any discussion forum, it has various threads that, besides the moderators, many working professionals, current MS/MBA students and aspirants post their advice, feedback, comments and queries on. This website helps bring unprejudiced, expert advice to your Personal Computer, free of cost! Many people have complained about how user unfriendly it is to use Edulix, but I believe all it takes is a little getting used to. In order to experience its true benefits, follow these steps carefully:

  • Log on to www.edulix.com
  • Right in front, below the ‘Latest News Tab’ you will read the line, “Hello there, Guest! (Login – Register)”
  • Click on Register, and now create a detailed & accurate Edulix Profile


It is possible to read threads without an Edulix Profile however, the true benefit of Edulix can be availed only by posting your profile and queries on it, and that’s not possible without an Edulix Profile.


Next, create a uniSearch profile by following these steps:

  • Once you’re done registering on Edulix, go to ‘Edulix Home’
  • Click on ‘College Finder’ at the top right corner of the page
  • In the drop-down menu, click on uniSearch
  • Now, click on Register/login again at the top right corner of the page, right beneath ‘College Finder’
  • Create a detailed and accurate uniSearch profile.


A uniSearch Profile helps Edulix track the queries, comments and admission status of its users. By creating an accurate profile, you will be able to earn the respect of the moderators & other users; something that is crucial to your journey ahead on Edulix. The clearer your profile, the more accurate the appraisal/evaluation of your profile will be. Moreover, the queries from other users to you will be more relevant as well.


Now, that you’re done registering on both Edulix & uniSearch, you’re ready to start your own, personalised and customised Admission Consulting!


I: That’s it? Is it really that simple here on? It seems like a pretty huge forum. Anyone could easily get lost in there. When exactly did you start off on Edulix, and how did you go about it? Could you give our readers a tutorial?

She: I was introduced to Edulix by one of my seniors! (Well students, this is one of those reasons why you shouldn’t shy away from a ‘friendly’ ragging by your seniors!) This was sometime before I wrote the GRE. I needed more practice material and wanted to shortlist colleges so that I wouldn’t waste the free score correspondence service to 4 universities offered by ETS. And boy did it help!


1. GRE Preparation Thread:

Once you start browsing through this thread you will find that there are plenty of helpful people just waiting to provide you with useful tips and study material to help you ace the GRE. Among the things I acquired from Edulix were:

  • The NOVA Math Prep Course, which is the best book in circulation for GRE Math.
  • The Official Guide to the TOEFL, Third Edition; which helped me score 112.
  • E-books on Analytical Writing Assessment, which had scores of sample essays on both Issues and Arguments.
  • Reference to “Dr. Raju’s Database for Verbal and Quant for the GRE” available on various sources like Scribd, 4shared, etc.

For an aspiring candidate, these can prove quite useful; and all this was for free!

2. Profile Evaluation Thread:

In order to shortlist universities, it is imperative that you conduct a profile evaluation by someone knowledgeable in this domain. Most experienced consultants are good at this and where better to find free expert advice than on Edulix. All you need to do is post your detailed profile on this thread along with a list of 25 relevant universities and request the experts to divide the universities into the following three categories:

  • Difficult/Aspirational: Universities that are difficult for students with your profile to get into. Also, chances of scholarships are slim in this category.
  • Moderate/Best Fit: Universities that are perfect fits for your profile. Moderate chances of getting scholarships.
  • Easy: Universities that would welcome you with open arms with partial or full scholarships.

It won’t be long before you get a personal evaluation by moderators or other frequent participants on this forum. You could study their profiles or interact with them personally to verify their claims by emailing them or by sending them private messages on their Edulix profile. I recommend the latter, as not all users subscribe to emails. However, you will get all kinds of advice: some in favour, some against. Be sure to collect information from a large sample of people on Edulix and take a calculated decision.


3. University Specific Thread:

On this thread, you can post queries on any topic remotely related to university selection and expect a genuine answer, be it about the fees, internships, job opportunities/placements, or even the weather. By now, you’ve already made a few good friends on Edulix that you know whom to go straight to in order to get answers to tough questions.

For instance, through Edulix, I was able to learn that whereas New York is the dream destination for those targeting finance companies like Bank of America, Bloomberg, etc.; California is the dream destination for students targeting the IT Biggies like Google, Microsoft, etc…

Another interesting point to note is that California is also rich in Start ups that pay hefty pay packages to fresh talent. Students often give up Facebook, etc for Start ups like Zynga (whose brainchild ‘Farmville’ I’m sure you’ve heard of by now). Students usually prefer these companies to established behemoths because they want faster growth, while drawing considerably good salaries.

One of my recent acquaintances on Edulix offered me a 29 GB Database of the state wise & university-wise break up of Placements and Internships in the United States collected over the past few years. So it wouldn’t hurt to keep an external hard disk handy, just in case!

Even when it came to choosing between University of Southern California and Long Island’s Stony Brook, I benefited immensely from Edulix. If you were to follow the rankings given on US News.com, you’d find out that USC is ranked 20, while Stony Brook, 44. Seems like a “No Brainier”. However, a closer look will show you that USC is ranked so high more due to its PhD program than its MS program. USC is actually considered a safe haven by most international students with a decent GRE score. What USC does is utilize the funds generated by its expensive MS program (close to twice that of Stony Brook), to invest in its prestigious Doctoral Programs. Stony Brook, on the other hand, is a lot cheaper but not that easy to get into. To get into Stony Brook, a student needs not only a good GRE score, but also an excellent academic record. Hence, although I would have chosen USC if I could afford it, I’m glad I chose the relatively inexpensive, reputed MS program in Computer Science, at Stony Brook instead. A mind-boggling dilemma I wouldn’t have been able to sort out without the genuine guidance given to me by the people on Edulix.


4. Another thing I benefited from was the Courier service offered by Edulix. While trusted courier service providers like DHL & FedEx are known for reliable and speedy delivery of couriers (3 days), Edulix’s TNT Courier service is a cheaper alternative if you’re willing to wait for a week. DHL courier costs Rs. 1090/- per courier and you may avail bulk discounts on groups of 5 or 10 couriers, which brings the price down to as low as Rs. 950/- per courier. However, TNT costs only Rs. 750/- per courier.


I: Wow…that was quite an eye opener! I have one last question to add before we end this interview. It is a question most students ask even before they enter into GRE preparation; maybe even before they decide to pursue an MS abroad. What kind of monetary investments did you make to get you to where you are today?

She: (Laughs) Well, before I received a single admit call; I had already incurred the following expenses:


Quantity Amount 

in Dollars

as on



in Rupees

GRE Prep @ Areté



Rs. 15000/-

Paying Guess Acc. in Dehradun

3 months


Rs. 10500/-

GRE Online



Rs. 8140/-

TOEFL Online



Rs. 7260/-

Admission Consultant



Rs. 12000/-

University Application Forms



Rs. 30800/-




Rs. 6650/-



Rs. 90,350/-


I: So, in closing, may we know the colleges you got final admit calls from?

She: Sure, why not:

  • University of Southern California
  • University at Buffalo (State University of New York, Buffalo)
  • University of California, Irvine
  • Arizona State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • State University of New York, Stony Brook (Destination)


Well, there you have it folks. We hope you found this article interesting and useful. I’d like to convey our utmost gratitude to Swastika Singhal on behalf of Areté and everyone who has read this interview, for sharing these priceless and hard to find insights into applying to universities abroad. We wish her all the best in her future endeavours.


Thank you.


Abhishek Raj.





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