Visa Interview Prep

Hello All… So I had my US Visa Interview on 6th June, and luckily it went well and I got my Visa. I had my Interview at the Mumbai Consulate. I prepared for about a week, so in this post, I’ll be sharing my answers which I had made for my preparation.

This post is for people who have their Visa Interviews coming up maybe for Fall or Spring Intake. You could use my answers as a template, and edit it based on your University and course Structure. Personally, I found it really useful to have written the answers in advance because it’s so natural to get intimidated and go all blank at the Consulate, but if you have it all written then you can always look back.

However, I still want to stress the fact that It’s so necessary to be Convincing, Loud and Clear. Maybe even more than your answers, they check your Body Language and the Confidence. So I will recommend you all to practice in front of the mirror if you find yourself to be shy. Many Candidates find the Interview to be overhyped. To an extent, I’d agree with them. Once you are done with it you’ll find it to be a piece of cake, but there is always this fear of failure at the back of the head, just keep calm and prepare with that attitude that you’ll get it. And if you are still not sure about the University and the Course, I’d recommend you to really research well about it.

During the Interview, VO tends to confuse you, but if you have enough knowledge about your University, you’d be able to speak with confidence and you’ll sound convincing at the same time.

So below are the Questions and Answers. The Additional Points are if VO is expecting you to put up more points and wants to hear something else. Often VO asks the candidates to come up with a different answer, in those times these points can be added.

Program in which you have got Admit?

  • Masters in Data Informatics at the University of Southern California, LA, USA.

Other Universities? 

  • Applied to 5. Got 3 Admits.
    • Arizona State University – Admit (Information Technology)
    • University of Southern California – Admit (Data Informatics)
    • San Francisco State University – Admit (Computer Science)
    • San Diego State University – Reject (Computer Science)
    • University of Houston – Reject (Computer Science)

PS: I was asked the above question, and I actually forgot the University name during the Interview. It was the very first question, and I thought this will ruin it all, but fortunately handled the rest. So, I guess it’s fine to make some mistakes or forget here and there as long as you can put forth your major points well.

Director of the Department?

  • Cyrus Shahabi

Point of Contact at USC?

  • Sarah Butler

Why the United States?

  • For me, the biggest reason is that I will get an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced professors.
  • They are doing many innovative research projects.
  • These projects are actually creating a difference in society and the best part is that the students get the chance to work alongside them and hence it gives them exposure to Industry level challenges and Infrastructure.
  • Education System is also really flexible.
  • The students are given various electives to choose from.
  • Projects are set as a benchmark to test the understanding of the knowledge, maybe that’s the reason why the excellent websites and applications in today’s times are developed in the US.
  • Practical knowledge is given priority over Theory.

Additional Points:

  • Research Projects are fully funded by the University and the govt.
  • Students get to work with world-class Infrastructure and Laboratories.
  • US Degree is globally recognized.

Why the University of Southern California?

  • USC is the best among the 3 admits that I have received.
  • It is highly reputed and ranked among the Top 20 Universities for CS, Big Data, and other related fields in the US.
  • The Course structure aligns with my interest in the field of Machine Learning, Information Visualization, and Database Systems.
  • Professors at USC are highly experienced and involved in some really amazing Research projects.
  • One of the professors, Ellis Horwitz, is the founder of the company which invented UNIX application Software.
  • The professors like Jay Kuo, Meisam Razaviyam are involved in the application of Deep Learning Technology in Computer Vision and Medical Imaging.
  • There are many other well-experienced faculties in the Data Informatics Department at USC who has been working with companies such as FB, Google, IBM, many have received Fellowships from IEEE, ACM, and other such big organizations and hence it would be a privilege for me to learn from them.

Additional Points:

  • Alexandra Korolova, CMU Ph.D. Holder, was a Research Scientist at Google as well as FB.
  • One of the electives includes Capstone Projects where a real company would come up with its own Problem statement and Data, and we need to come up with an innovative solution for it. I find this particular elective to be really interesting and I am curiously looking forward to it.

Why this course, Data Informatics?

  • Data Informatics is a Specialization Program offered by USC in the field of Big Data and Machine Learning.
  • It has got a unique practical curriculum. Course Structure consists of topics such as Database Systems, Data mining, Knowledge Graphs, AI Techniques.
  • The program is devised in such a way that the student gets hands-on experience of working with Big Data. It has got electives for Research as well as Industry Projects.

Why this Program?

  • Most Important reason being that the program aligns with my interest in the field of Big Data.
  • I have been doing various Projects on ML and AI since I was in my 2nd Year of Engineering and that has been a major reason for me to apply for MS as well since I wanted to continue to be in this field.
  • The other two admits that I have received are in the General CS Field. I’ll prefer to do Specialization in the field of my interest.

Additional Points:

  • USC has got about 60 Research Labs spread across the campus and is one of the highly reputed universities in the US.
  • USC provides the best Infrastructure to their Students for the research and
    Innovation purposes.
  • The Professors in my Dept at USC are Ph.D. holders and have got years of Industry-level exposure.

PS: I was “What interests you the most about this field and Course?” This isn’t a typical question. But I had points on the top of my head, so it got easy for me to devise an answer on the spot.

Is the Course available in India? If so why not go for it?

  • The course offered by USC is definitely one of it’s kind. It’s like a hands-on course where the students get to work on various Industry-level Projects.
  • There are various Data Science, Machine Learning and Statistics courses available around India, but none of them matches that in the US. Since it provides me with much better infrastructure and the quality of Education is way Ahead. I’ll get to learn from the leaders in the field directly which would be a huge opportunity.

Facts about USC?

  • USC’s Motto is “Achievement should be rewarded”.
  • It was established in the Year 1880.
  • Official Colors are Cardinal and Gold.
  • Nickname is Trojans.
  • The student to Faculty Ratio is 8X1
  • There are about 50 Research Labs in the Computer Science Department including Computer Vision, Intelligent Systems, Natural Language Processing, Robotics, Data Science, Computer Graphics, Games, and Multimedia Laboratories.
  • USC’s Mascot is Traveller the Horse. USC’s mascot horse is a symbol of ancient Troy. Its rider, with costume and sword, is a symbol of a Trojan warrior.
  • Recently celebrated the 135th Commencement Ceremony. Will Ferrall and Oprah Winfrey were the Alumni Speakers.
  • It has about 18 Schools for Arts, Engineering, Theatre, Social Work, Architecture, Law, and Medicine.
  • USC is the only University in the World to have Gold medals winning athletes in every Summer Olympiad since 1912.
  • Only University to have alumni nominated for an Oscar every year since Academy Award Inception.
  • Alumni Includes Shinzo Abe (Prime Minister of Japan), Neil Armstrong, Patrick Adams (Mike from Suits), Andrew Viterbi, Will Ferrall (Comedian and Host of TV Show).

Benefits of the Program?

  • The Data Informatics program at USC will give me excellent Knowledge in the domain of Big Data. It will provide me with world-class Infrastructural facilities and Professors.
  • India is still developing in this field of Technology, All major Companies are constantly searching for Candidates who can handle and maintain their systems.
  • Even the Indian govt has started working on using Big Data for Geospatial Analytics, and It’s planning to use Machine learning for better decision making. That would require knowledgeable individuals. With this Masters’s Degree, I’ll a good candidate for the position.

Course Relevance to your previous Works?

  • I have done many Personal projects and Courses on Image Recognition and Computer Vision. Besides that, I did Internship @ Tatvic Analytics ( Official Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager Partner ) as a Data Science Intern. I have been in this field for the past 2 years. Hence, I have been motivated to continue my studies in this field with a Masters’s degree.

What are your plans after MS?

  • I plan to come back to India and work in an MNC like TCS, Infosys, Accenture, SaS, Nest, AbsolutData, LatentView, HiddenBrain, etc.

PS: I was asked this question. Just be clear with your intentions in front of the VO. In case you want to start a business than you can put it up.

What if you get a job in the US?

  • In that case, If the offer is good, then I’ll take up the job, gain 1-2 years of work experience and return back to India. I do not see a point staying back there, all my family is here in India.

What do you plan on doing during your Summer Break?

  • Personal Projects
  • Visiting Tourist Attractions
  • Coming back to India to visit Family

Do you plan to work in the US?

  • My sole purpose in going to the US to complete my Master’s Degree. I do not intend to work during that. In case I get a good offer after my Master’s, then I might take it up, get 1-2 years of work experience, and return back to India.

Will you take up on-Campus jobs during the Master’s program?

  • If the on-campus job is related to Graduate Teaching/Research Assistantship then I’ll definitely take it, else I won’t. Since I want to focus on my studies.

The temperature of LA?

  • 21 C to 32 C. Mostly Sunny throughout the year.

Where did you find about the University?

  • I was suggested about the University by some Seniors who are currently in the US and many online platforms such as USNews, QSRanking, Yocket also had really good reviews about the University.

Subjects during the First Semester?

  • Data Management (4 Units)
  • Applied Machine Learning (4 Units)

Describe the Course Structure?

  • 4 Semester-Long program.
  • I can’t take more than 2 subjects each semester. Each subject weighs no more than 4 Units.
  • Required Courses: Data management, Machine Learning, Data mining, Information Visualization, UX Design, Knowledge Graphs.
  • It’s a highly flexible program with many electives to choose from.
  • One can opt for CS electives like NLP, Algorithm Analysis, Data Structures, Information Integration on Web, Advanced-Data Stores, etc.
  • 2 Units for Research work and Capstone Project.

BTech Subjects?

  • Programming Language – C, C++, Java, Advanced Java, Python.
  • Web Technology, Cryptography, AI, Data Mining, Computer Networks, Database Systems, Operating Systems, Computer Architecture, Theory of Computation, Advanced Processors, Big Data Analytics, High-Performance Computing.
  • Overall – Programming Languages + Network Security + Database Systems + Data Mining and Analysis + Computer Architecture

These were the questions that need the most practice. Besides these, there are question-related to finances but they all are one-liners, and answers vary from person to person. I’d put down the questions below so you can prepare accordingly.

  • Who is funding your education?
  • What do your parents do? Annual Income?
  • Savings + Assets and Total Worth?
  • What kind of Loan, and Rate of Interest?
  • How are you going to repay back the loan?

They might ask for documents as proof of Income and Assets. It’s advisable to carry original documents and CA Certificate as proof. In most cases, documents aren’t asked, but still, if you are asked you should be ready with everything. Lastly, don’t forget to thank VO for his time even if you get rejected, Basic Manners!

This brings me to the end of the post, hope you all find it useful. If you find the blog to be useful, do like it and share it with your friends who have their Interviews coming up.

Best of Luck … #FightOn !

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