Interview with Nipun Dave
Nipun Dave is currently studying Electrical Engineering at IIT Bombay. He is Cofounder and the technical head at two startups including a successful one which is presently developing a product for a renowned Indian bank. He is also the Convener of the U. Mashruwalla Innovation Cell (UMIC) at IIT Bombay. Nipun has secured admission for MS at Stanford from Fall 2009. In an exclusive interview with MentorPolis, Nipun shares his secrets for admission in Ivy League for Masters.
Mentorpolis: Nipun, first of all congratulations for your great success. Can you share with us what stream are you going to study at Stanford?
Nipun: Thanks for your wishes. I am planning to pursue MS in Electrical Engineering at Stanford. Having done a bit of robotics, signal processing and data-security in the past, I will be open to exploring some of the other fields like wireless communications or Artificial Intelligence.
Mentorpolis: What were your other options after Graduation, and why did you choose a MS? Why Stanford?
Nipun: Some of my other options included joining Cisco or iRunway (a law firm) or Nokia (which has been funding my research at IIT Bombay) or continuing to work in my startup in mobile banking. I could also have pursued a PhD at EPFL from where I had received an invitation during my internship. However, the state-of-the art research and facilities coupled with an entrepreneurial environment made me feel that this would be the best possible atmosphere where I could enhance my knowledge and skills to a greater extent. I have presently opted for only MS and not a PhD as I would like to establish a startup of my own quickly. The MS option gives me the opportunity to explore the life there and to reevaluate my future plans without being restricted by a 4 year long PhD.
Mentorpolis:So, Nipun, How and When during your UG did you decide about your decision to study further?
Nipun: During my stay in IIT, I did pursue active research in various fields. At the same time, I was also working in 2 startups. With each of the two alternatives seeming equally appealing, I had been in a fix for the first 4 years here. The discussions with peers and seniors revealed the advantages and disadvantages of entering either domains. In the end, the external factors viz. the recession in the global market played a primarily role in my deciding to pursue higher education at this stage. Besides, the fact that the looming recession would create a better opportunity for the establishment of new technical startups in the future contributed to the same. I am planning to evaluate and explore some of my entrepreneurial ideas while interacting with others at Stanford.
Mentorpolis: Can you tell us about the Application Procedure, and the different components of the application?
Nipun: The Applications process involves the following steps:
- Interact with your seniors and go through the university websites briefly to identify the potential universities that you might like to get into. These options could be filled in during the GRE and TOEFL exams.
- Give the GRE exam. (My recommendation would be that people who are inclined to go for higher studies give the GRE exam at least 6 months before they are actually begin their application process. This allows for some time cushion in case the scores are not that great.)
- Give the TOEFL exam at least 2 months before the beginning of the application process.
- Browse through the university websites in greater detail with a lot of emphasis on the research work and the facilities available in each of the institutes. Discuss the options with your project guides, mentors, sensible seniors who would give you an unbiased opinion about each of the universities. In case one is looking at pursuing higher studies in other countries apart from US, do identify the job opportunities available after graduation. Simultaneously note down the admission requirements and the deadlines for each of the universities.
- Identify at least 1 professor under whom you have a significant amount of project work for the purpose of a very strong recommendation. The other two recommendations could be from other profs in whose courses you might have excelled or under who guidance you must have done some additional project work. One of them could also be from your supervisor at the company where you interned or from one of the mentors of the startup you might have worked in. It is extremely essential to have two strong recommendation letters. Also do enquire with your recommenders if they could write a strong and positive recommendation for you.
- Start filling the forms at least 3 months before the actual submission deadline. Simultaneously start preparing your resume, statement of purpose and any other essays that might be required. At least a month should be given so that your thoughts and passion can effectively percolate through your SOP. Get it read by not only your seniors but also by students studying in those universities as they have a better idea of what is expected in the SOP.
- Once all the requirements are ready, complete the online form and also courier the documents. To avoid the last minute rush, plan to finish this well before your semester exams begin. Also send reminders to your recommenders that they should fill in the recommendation forms online.
- Periodically check the account setup for the admission process to verify if any of the documents are missing and if they recommenders have done their job.
- Also try to establish a healthy conversation with the professors under whom you would really love to work at each of those universities. However, if the professors do not respond it is still fine.
Mentorpolis: If there are 5 tips which you would want to share with our mentees about positioning for an IVY league Masters, what would those be?
- Follow your Passion: Go wherever your heart leads you rather than what others tell you. Your passion will bring out the best in you.
- Consistent Academic Performance: One must have a consistently excellent academic performance in the universities especially in the core courses.
- Broaden your horizons: The world has evolved to a stage where people who are Jack of all trades and Master of at least one are preferred. Apart from delving deeper into your field on interest, explore the other disjoint fields too. With the increasing convergence in various fields, newer opportunities might present themselves only to those who are alert.
- Express yourself and your achievements: This is unfortunately something that most people are not comfortable with. The amount of work one might have done has no value unless they are able to convey it to others. This particular quality really comes out in your SOPs and the other essays and hence it is critical to develop this particular quality.
- Research Papers: This definitely has a tremendous impact on your application. The preference order from the point of an application is Papers in Transactions, Journal Papers, International Conferences and finally National conferences.
Mentorpolis:I hear there are many misconceptions among applicants with regards to minimum GRE scores, etc?
Nipun: Some of the prevalent misconceptions are that the applicants should have at least 1400 to get into the Ivy League universities. It is important to remember especially with respect to GRE it is just one measure of your intellectual capabilities. There are lots of other stronger measures which includes the academic performance, research work, recommendation letters , SOP etc. The same applies to TOEFL. However, some universities set some minimum limit for the TOEFL scores for students who might be interested in taking up a Teaching Assistantship.
It is not vital for one to have done a lot of research work in the field that you are planning to pursue higher studies in. Whats more important is that you have excelled in whatever other activity you might have taken up. However, it is essential to give convincing reasons for changing to the new field.
Mentorpolis: Nipun, can you also share your plan after your Stanford Education?
Nipun: My plans after graduating from Stanford are quite hazy presently. However, I am sure that I would like to establish some technology based company in the future in some field. I am keeping myself mentally open to all possible options and I am planning to ensure that the future does not surprise me too much.
Mentorpolis: It was great talking to you Nipun- thanks a lot from us and our readers. I am sure this interview will be a great help to future applicants.
All the best for your future endeavors!