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The Next Frontier in Technology- Artificial Intelligence

When Dan Brown wrote Origin, he wasn’t so much predicting at the future as documenting the present. Google, Alexa, and Siri are today a part of our lives and we all use them without batting an eyelid. Two decades ago, suggesting that something like would be an essential part of our lives may have seemed ludicrous, but we all know that the day is not far when machines will rule our world. From medical science to the military and from offices to elderly care, we are already beginning to depend heavily on AI. That as a tech geek you should want to be a part of this revolution sweeping the globe is not surprising. Indeed several universities and colleges have revamped their CS departments to include courses in AI.

If you aspire to make a future in this ‘futuristic’ arena, you are sure to have several pressing questions you would like answered:

  1. Where can I study AI?
  2. What courses should I be taking?
  3. What are my options after graduating from college? Where will I find a lucrative job?

In this article, we will try to answer these questions for you.

Which colleges can I apply to?

 The short answer is: many! From Carnegie Mellon, which was among the first to start a course in AI to MIT, you are spoiled for choice. Carnegie Mellon tops the list of colleges with its groundbreaking and interdisciplinary course, followed closely by Stanford where this area has been studied and researched since 1962! MIT gives a lot of money and attention to its AI division and their Computer Science and AI Lab is among the best labs in the college. University of California, Berkeley has a robust AI department as does Harvard that also boasts an AI research center. Yale, Cornell, University of Maryland, Columbia, University of California LA, and Georgia Tech are some other incredible options. With significant research opportunities, large and accomplished faculty and increasing student strength, these are among your go-to options.

Which courses can I take?

While there is no dearth of options – from short-term certificate courses available of Coursera and similar platforms to degree programs, we would recommend aiming for the top guns. While it is impossible to list all the courses and programs available, we would like to draw your attention to a few that are top of the list. Carnegie Mellon’s BS in AI is among the Big Boss of majors you can apply for. Cornell’s Computer Science department offers numerous courses that can be of interest to you: Data Science for All, Autonomous Mobile Robots, Foundations of AI, Practicum in AI, Social and Ethical issues in AI (which we believe is a very relevant and essential component of this field), and Machine Learning for Data Science. USC Vertibi provides excellent undergrad research opportunities in Robotics and Autonomous Systems and among several other things they focus on niche areas such as healthcare, environmental monitoring, and machine learning and algorithms for control of humanoids. We recommend deep and thorough research before you take your pick.

Where can I work? And as what?

While the simple response to this is: the tech sector, obviously, there is actually an increasing demand for people who know their bots from their apps. According to job hunt sites such as Indeed, the positions open to you include machine learning engineers, data scientists, algorithm developers, deep learning engineers, and computer vision engineers among others. Job opportunities lie in companies as varied as Facebook and OCBC legal and compliance, according to another job hunt site Glassdoor. As always, the Bay Area remains among the top destination for job seekers with not only big established names but also a host of start-ups on the lookout for young engineers well versed in AI and machine learning. Among the highest-paid of these jobs are those of big data engineers, data scientists, data architects, information systems security managers, and data security analysts.

Colleges in Asia: Hong Kong or Singapore?

Whether it’s the fact that Asia has the fastest growing economies or the opportunity to get world-class education that’s not a transatlantic flight away, college in Asia is an amazing opportunity for countless students every year. So let’s talk about two of the hotspots – Hong Kong and Singapore.

SIMILARITIES

Language: Like India, both Hong Kong and Singapore are former British colonies, and like India, you can get around by speaking English in nearly all circumstances.

Location and Safety: Both places have a modern city landscape and easy transport access. And moreover are pretty safe places to live. Singapore has a reputation for safety and security in particular.

Job Prospects: Different companies are headquartered in Hong Kong and Singapore, making job prospects after graduation much easier than the US or UK. But even if you aren’t planning to stay in the country, the degrees are internationally recognized and appreciated. Hong Kong and Singaporean universities are research-based and have rigorous education systems which bodes well no matter the country you end up in after graduation.

Flexibility of Curriculum: Rather like India or the UK, there is limited flexibility in the curriculum which means if you apply for a specific major, you need to do that major. The only exception to this is Yale-NUS which is modelled after the US education system (including the admissions requirement) and thus offers you a lot more flexibility.

Standardized Tests: Both Singapore and Hong Kong definitely require TOEFL or IELTS to prove proficiency in English (though there are exceptions for IB students) but when it comes to standardized tests, exams like the SAT or ACT are not required for admission, but if you have good scores send them in! They are internationally recognized exams. Again the exception is Yale-NUS.

DIFFERENCES (Largely in terms of Admissions Requirements)

Essay vs. SOP: HKU, HKUST and City University of HK all need an SOP or statement of purpose highlighting your chosen major and why you would like to do that major. As the name suggestions, this is a document conveying your purpose of applying to the college. The students need to keep their focus narrow and describe their reason for applying, their intended major or concentration, long term and short term goals and connect any coursework or extracurricular activities related to the major specifically.

Singapore on the other hand has essays, which are short (approx 300 words) and specify prompts. Yale-NUS too has essays though they are longer than those for NUS or SMU since Yale-NUS is based on the US admissions system and which requires multiple essays on a range of topics.

Grade Requirements: Because the universities haven’t seen the intense competition that Singaporean universities have their cutoffs or ideal grades are a little lower, right around 85% in the ICSE and CBSE board exams as of 2018 though each year gets more competitive. Singaporean universities are much more competitive hoping to see grades around 90-95% usually with the cutoff getting higher and higher each year.

Cost of Education: While the cost of education for international students are usually the same for both countries, Singapore offers bonds for students which are tied to a minimum time employed in Singapore or at a Singapore based company. With internationalisation efforts made by the Hong Kong government and universities, there are generous scholarships available based on merit or international accomplishments.

We can attest that, as in other Asian institutions, studying in a university in Hong Kong or Singapore is very rigorous and we have seen that with our students. But even though its tough, it is worth it. You walk away with a world-class education, an unforgettable experience and life adventure.

Differences between Essays and Statements of Purpose

If there is one part of the college application process that most people dread, it’s the writing aspect. Unlike the traditional colleges in India which tend to focus on cutoffs (Above 97%? You’re in! Below? You’re out.) the overseas admissions process tends to be more holistic. More holistic means that they look at more than just your grades and so, they very often want a piece of writing to understand you as an applicant more.

These pieces of writing tend to break down into two big pieces – Statement of Purpose and Application Essay. While these are used interchangeably quite often, there are key differences and similarities.

Difference: INTENT

Statement of Purpose:

Countries – Undergrad: UK, Hong Kong. Graduate: Nearly All Countries

As the name suggestions, this is a document conveying your purpose of applying to the college. The students need to keep their focus narrow and describe their reason for applying, their intended major or concentration, long term and short term goals and connect any coursework or extracurricular activities related to the major specifically.

Admissions Essays:

Countries Required – Undergrad: USA, Canada, Singapore. Graduate: Rarely required though sometimes part of MBA applications. Changes from college to college.

Admission Essays / Application Essays / Personal Essays are used interchangeably. Another title also used sometimes is Personal Statement. The focus of these essays changes by the topic. However, largely they want to figure out the person you are, your motivations and experiences. The topic may be “Tell us why you’re applying to Columbia University” hoping to understand your personal motivations and how you would want to make the most of the opportunities at Columbia. Or it could be “Tell us about a time you failed” hoping to gain and understanding of how you deal when things don’t go your way. It could also be something really quirky like “What’s so odd about odd numbers?” where the college is trying to gauge how you think, and if you can step out of the box.

Similarities: WRITING

While the intent may be different, there are some rules to always keep in mind, no matter what.

Word limit

The US Common Application Essay has a word limit of 650 words. The UK Statement of Purpose has a limit of 4000 characters. Both limits are hard limits and now that most applications are online, the system will cut you off after you’ve met the limit. So please don’t go overboard. Tip: Don’t type directly in the application. Always use word to check your word limits and make corrections as needed. Then input the information in the form and check again to make sure nothing is cut off.

No Quotes and No Clichés

1) No Mahatma Gandhi quotes. He’s relevant on your rupee notes. He’s not applying to college, so he’s not relevant on your essay

2) No To Be or Not to Be. Shakespeare is a god in the world of literature. But Hamlet has been quoted so often that if he wasn’t dead, he’d wish he was.

3) No Caterpillars or Cocoons. Not all creatures on Gods’ green earth are meant to be written about. Besides, everyone writes about them and this is a really unoriginal idea. Note: Caterpillars coming out of cocoons and becoming butterflies, is still not original.

This ‘No That’ list summarizes to one thing – No Quotes and No Clichés. Why? Because you’re hoping to stand out with your essay and quotes and clichés do the exact opposite. Don’t use quotes of famous people to start your essays. This is unoriginal and very often has nothing to do with the rest of the document. More than that, someone else could have also used that quote in their essay / SOP – maybe it was very bad and your admissions officer starts thinking of that or it was good and your admissions officer begins thinking about that other essay. Either way, please use your own writing and your own words – that’s why they want to see the essay / SOP any way.

Don’t overuse the Thesaurus or Dictionary

Don’t try and use big words to sound fancy. Instead express your ideas clearly. We don’t mean use slang here but “A tear rolled down my cheek” is not improved by “The spherical drop of H2O trundled down the epithelial tissues of my face.” You could use the words incorrectly and that would do more harm than good.

And of course, be careful of spelling, grammar and punctuation and always review and re-read before submission.

 

US vs. UK Admissions: What you need to know!

Winter is Coming… And with that, so is the Jan 1st deadline for Regular Decision applications to the US. However, this is right around the time that students start to consider the possibility of applying to the UK. Why now? Well for some, their Early Decision strategy didn’t work out. For others, they didn’t think about applying abroad and the overwhelming amount of work needed to apply to the US is a huge deterrent. For others, it’s just the fact that they still have some deadlines available to them.

While we generally don’t espouse a hurried decision to apply abroad, we recognize that for many students, applying to college is an opportunity to gain new experiences and the UK is an option they may want to consider. So while we covered Canada vs. the US way back in July, we are still providing information for “just in time” applications as allowed for the UK.

Note, we are not differentiating on the education systems here. There is plenty to be said on that! However, we are talking about the admissions process in particular.

But what do you need to know?

The Application: CommonApp vs. UCAS

While some US universities still have their own applications (MIT for example), they largely all have a presence on Common Application where the burden is lifted off the students by allowing them to apply to multiple colleges through the main application and then providing specific responses to supplements for each college. Effectively, this means each application is unique and really there is a lot of flexibility in presenting even different CommonApp essays, supplements etc. to each university you apply to.

For the UK however, students use the UCAS form or the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Now this sounds like a similar thing to the CommonApp. It is, with a few key differences.

       Every college in the UK uses the applications

       The application limits you to 5 total colleges and no more

       It is not modified or personalized to the colleges

This last point is very important. Students need to declare their major up front and so, have to apply to a specific major within each college. While each application has a supplement for the US the UK has only one Statement of Purpose, focused on your academic and career goals and preparation for the same and so you cannot express interest in a particular university but instead must focus on your preparation for college and your major in general. Moreover, you cannot apply to both Oxford and Cambridge, but only one college of the two.*

*It is to be noted that the deadline to Oxford and Cambridge has passed however it is important to know this for applicants applying next year.

Academic vs. Holistic Review

Folks talk a lot about the Holistic Review process of the US applications which takes into account test scores and grades but also a number of other things including the extracurriculars, essays, personal experiences etc. UK, the focus is largely academics. Rather like India! (Or you can say India’s education system is like the UK’s).

While the statement of purpose allows you to elaborate on extracurriculars, since the focus is on academics, that is the only way that extracurriculars should be included – to support your desire for a major. UK universities look for academic achievements in the SOP and also for academics to make decisions relying on your grades from school to offer admission.

Testing Requirements

SAT, ACT, PSAT, TOEFL – there is a LONG list of standardized test scores in the US. Students need to take the SAT or ACT which covers a variety of subjects in Math and English and some even need to take Subject Tests to show prowess in Physics etc.

In the UK however, there is no equivalent of the SAT and ACT. They will take university specific exams for some colleges and programs – Thinking Skills Assessment for Cambridge or MAT for Math majors. Other tests are considered but not mandatory. It comes down to academics.

However, it is important to highlight that TOEFL is required for the US and IELTS for the UK to test your proficiency in English if you are an international student.

Similarities

Not everything is about the differences, there are similarities as well!

       Emphasis on grades – while the US is “holistic” in its approach, grades are king in both admissions processes

       Recommendations – both processes need recommendations from school though the requirements are different (more for the US, less for the UK)

       Deadlines – similar deadlines in that UCAS opens in September and CommonApp in August. Both are due in January though US colleges are largely Jan 1st and UK colleges Jan 15th

Whether you plan to apply to the UK or finish up the applications you’ve been working on for the US, at this stage remember 1) Stay Organized 2) Finish your Research 3) College is what you Make of it.

There are people who will be thrilled by their choices and those who will be disappointed. We are as a population, some of the most educated people in the world and competition is increasing more and more. But your admissions journey is your own and yours alone. While it’s important to aim high, don’t be distracted by big names or what your neighbor or friend may be doing. Focus on what makes you happy. Leverage your counselors to choose the best fit for YOU as a person.

As long as you apply to a range of colleges, you’ll make it to an amazing place where you will get a great education. Colleges is what you make of it, not the be all and end all.

Canada vs. the United States: Comparing College Systems

Of late, the political and economic climate has sparked a debate in the education world, about alternatives to the U.S. education. While a number of countries come to mind when you debate the educational alternatives, including the new-age college systems in India like Ashoka, the closest comparison often ends up being Canada.

The countries are culturally similar and offer similar options. But there is more to that decision than choosing the most attractive president.

Quality of Education: The first question is, are they equally good? A lot of people reference rankings here. Since rankings are done by university and not by country, there are a lot more US universities that show up in the first several spots. Then again, the US has well over 3000+ universities, Canada has about 98. In sheer numbers it makes sense that the US colleges and universities have a greater proportion.

So we compare and highlight specifics. In terms of a broad based, liberal arts education, the United States has been successful for a very long time. However, Canada has been keeping up. The differences arise in size for one. While in the United States, the private colleges like Harvard College and Stanford are often top of the list, in Canada, its Universities. And like most universities as opposed to colleges, class sizes are often larger.

Certain universities like the Rotman School of Business and Waterloo’s Computer Science Coop are well known amongst Indian students who understand the value of their education. But students shouldn’t disregard McGill and UToronto which are both fantastic in a variety of subjects including the liberal arts.

Factors for admission: American and Canadian universities generally differ in their approach to the admissions process. In Canada, the admissions process is transparent and straightforward. Students are primarily assessed based on upper-level grades in high school, and a supplementary application essay. Though, sometimes, for more competitive programs, SAT scores are required.

This seems far easier than the holistic system that the American universities use which requires a lot more data. Besides grades, SAT scores, there are numerous essays, letters of recommendation, not to mention an emphasis on a varied extracurricular experience (including internships and community service). There is one complication though. Canada does not have a Common Application which means students must submit separate applications to each university.

You may assume it is “easier” to get in. While in the past there have been fewer applications to the popular Canadian universities than to the popular American ones, it is getting competitive year by year so it is important to be realistic rather than pinning hopes on just one or two universities.

Finances: This may make your parents happy! Canadian universities are cheaper than American ones when it comes to tuition, often less than ¾ the price of American schools. However, they aren’t as generous with scholarships since they are public universities, something that is true of public universities in America as well.

Quality of Life (Weather): University of British Columbia is on the West Coast of Canada, close to Seattle and extremely popular with students from India because of similarities in weather, but it is safe to say that Canada doesn’t often the same diversity in weather that America does. Universities are largely in places where winters get very cold and there are not too many alternatives with the weather is a huge factor in your decision making process.

Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump. (Reuters)

After Graduation: This may be one of the greatest factors now that America seems to be tightening the opportunities to work there with the H1B restrictions and the travel bans. Even the student visa for America allows for 1 year of internships following graduation, removing some of the privileges the STEM majors had. Canada makes it relatively easier to work and stay in the country, encouraging talented students to work there. This factor resulted in a number of hilarious t-shirts following the recent presidential elections in America where disappointed voters expressed interest in moving to Canada. For this reason specifically we see more and more students seeking opportunities in Canada.

So, you see there is more than the battle between the presidents of these countries. This comparison is important to consider and you plan your future, and if you ever have more specific questions, we aat CollegeCore Education have over 17 years of experience helping students every year with their applications to these countries.