How to get into a MSc or Phd in optometry? - Part 2
Vinod Maseedupally earned his PhD from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia in 2013, he currently holds a postdoctoral research fellow title at the same university. At the university he teaches practical aspects of contact lenses, clinical optometry and dispensing optics to undergraduate students. He also teaches postgraduate course work students.
Vinod started his optometry career with a Diploma in Ophthalmic Techniques (DOT) at LV Prasad Eye Institute in 1996. He joined the BS Optometry program at the Bausch & Lomb School of Optometry (BLSO) laterally in 2003 and completed it in two years. The period before and after bachelor degree, he played various roles at LVPEI and BLSO. These roles include consultant at the contact lens clinic, research optometrist at Brien Holden Eye Research Centre and teacher at the Bausch & Lomb School of Optometry. At BLSO he was widely revered for his teaching skills. He extensively taught ‘Contact Lenses’ and ‘Visual Optics’ to undergraduates.
He presented his work at various international conferences and he was also invited to lecture at various symposiums. He has publications in peer-reviewed optometry and ophthalmology journals.
About the author
Firstly, a Very Happy New Year and good luck with your Higher Degree Research application process if you are planning to put one this year.
In the earlier part, I explained briefly on choosing the university, supervisor and how to approach them. In this continuation article I will touch admission and scholarship processes. I will again start with the disclaimer: “The admission and scholarship processes differ between universities and also between countries. So you are advised to do your research for your application. Do not just depend on this article”
Admission and Scholarships
You have already chosen your university, which means you have delved into admission the process required by the university. These days admission process of universities is available on the university’s website. Most potential candidates are in the assumption that they will get extra information by contacting the administrative staff – as far as I know this administrative staff generally lookup their website before answering you. If any information is not available (of course after thorough browsing the website) then you may contact the administrative staff of the universities.
Some universities have admission and scholarship application process separately and some have combined these two. For this article purposes I will consider that the admission and scholarship processes are combined.
Some important admission and scholarship requirements are age, undergraduate degree requirements, professional experience, English proficiency, and availability of supervisor, strength of contact with the potential supervisor, availability or resources for conducting your research, your publications and conference paper/poster presentations, experience in the research field and so on.
Undergraduate degree requirements
As I explained earlier, your undergraduate marks carry a lot of weighting. Also ensure that your undergraduate degree has honors component. An honors component is where you will undertake a research project in your final year of undergraduate course (sometimes this may be in year 3 of a four your course). For MSc by research or PhD this honors component is important.
MSc by course work or MSc by research or a PhD?
When I said in my earlier article HDR (higher degree research) this means I am writing this article only for MSc by research or PhD. But it may be worth if I touch up on MSc by course work briefly in order to make your higher degree application process easy. Most people already know what each of these mean and some get confused. Understanding differences between these is important so you do not waste your time and realize the career goals for each of these programs later after enrolling into the programs.
MSc by coursework is an extension of BSc undergraduate program (in most cases this is MOptom) ; you are gaining lot more experience in the field of interest (like optometry, in our case) through this course. This is an additional qualification. This is good for people who would like to continue in the academia by teaching undergraduates but not in core research. Most universities that offer MSc by coursework do not offer scholarships. You will have to pay the tuition fees and if the university is not in India you will have to pay international fee and also you will have to financially support yourself for the stay in the country (living expenses) during the entire duration of the course.
MSc by research or PhD: Candidates who have core interests in research and would like to continue in research and teaching field in their career must go for MSc or PhD. If one would want to get into PhD directly after completion of an undergraduate degree, strong grades and good publication record is required. Otherwise, get into MSc by research first and then one can upgrade it to PhD showing good progress during MSc by research.
For MSc by research or PhD, universities offer scholarships and these scholarships will cover your tuition fees and sometimes even living expenses. Please analyze your case and choose what is best for you.
Referees in your application process
In addition to filling personal details in the application form, you will have to provide referees details. In most cases you will have to provide two referees details, in some cases three may be necessary.
It is important to choose good referees to support your HDR application. I am sure during your undergraduate course, you would have had a senior faculty member that supervised your research project. It makes more sense to request this supervisor to support your application if you are applying for a research degree. Moreover, this supervisor can provide a detail account of just not only on your academic intellect but also your aptitude dedication and so on. Another person you may request to be your referee is a co-supervisor (of your undergraduate research project) or your immediate work supervisor (or head of the department or employer).
Please provide full details of your application to your referees and also send your latest CV to them. Although they provide a detail account about you in their references your CV helps them to reiterate of what you both have done together, just in case.
Be ready to answer any queries that your potential referees may ask, as most are not aware of these procedures.
Documents needed with your application
Along with academic transcripts please provide every single document that you have to support your application. This may be a short course you have undertaken, awards, achievements, scholarships publications, poster or paper presentations etc. Ensure that certificates and documents are in a very logical order also ensuring that the order matches with your CV. A very disorderly organized application is the first sign of rejection.
It is wise to check with the universities in what format they accept grades. Most prefer Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA). Therefore if you have transcripts with percentage on it you may have to convert these to CGPA as required.
If you are keen on applying for HDR in international universities, undertaking language tests such as International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and/or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a compulsory. Most people undertake these language tests once the HDR application has been submitted. But I strongly recommend undertaking these exams as soon as you are planning to apply to universities. Since they are valid more than one year there is no loss. I have seen some candidates who received conditional offer letters and the only thing due from the candidate end was language test results, else their admission was confirmed. The candidate could not clear the language test in time and their application was deferred to the following semester or sometimes a year.
Candidates with long professional experience
Candidates who have long professional experience but minimal or no research experience also can apply for higher degree research. Universities generally would like to support as many students as possible. So it is worth trying than live in the assumption that it is an impossible thing to do. If you made up your mind, the first thing that you must do is get a conference paper or research publication.
What happens after you have applied to universities?
Your application is assessed for the completeness and if everything is good, you will get an admission offer. Given that an international tuition fee is enormous, a scholarship is 100% needed. Therefore you must wait until you receive scholarship offer to accept or defer your admission offer.
The scholarship process is quite competitive. Your application is ranked based on your academic and professional credentials. Factors like your proposed research project, availability of supervisor and resources also taken into account while assessing your application.
The success of your application not only depends on the above mentioned factors but also other applications at that time. Therefore do not get disappointed if your application was not successful always try in the next semester.
Hope this article helps you to process your HDR applications. Please provide your constructive comments about the article. If you need these type of articles to be published please suggest a topic and ALO will publish the same in the future.
Good luck and again Happy New Year