Q&A with Mahati Kumar, MS student in CS, UCLA

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Mahati is a graduate student pursuing her Masters in Computer Science from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Prior to this, she completed her BE in Computer Science Engineering from SSN College of Engineering, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Here, she shares useful information regarding the university and the course.

What do you believe helped you get into a competitive school such as UCLA?
I believe that top schools look for students who have tried learning something on their own that is outside their coursework. During my undergraduate years, I got the opportunity to do some wonderful research internships in Computer Science. My first internship was at IIITD&M Kancheepuram where I worked in Graph Theory and Algorithms. My second internship (which lasted more than a year) was at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc, Chennai) in Game Theory. My mentors at both the institutes were amazing and truly inspiring individuals who helped me look beyond the confines of what I was taught in class. I described my internship experiences in my Statement of Purpose. The best way to prove to these universities that you fit their bill perfectly is to try doing things that will help your resume or application stand out easily, such as internships, personal projects, contribution to open source, an online presence showcasing any or all of the above. This will help you stand out among the large number of applications they receive each year for their graduate program.

How is UCLA in terms of education, opportunities etc?
UCLA is just amazing. I am presently one semester into my MS degree and it has been a wonderful experience so far. The assignments are very challenging, requires a lot of effort and are such that you can solve them only if you know the concepts thoroughly. Unlike other universities, UCLA follows a quarter system instead of a semester system. It is a rigorous course of 10 weeks in which you'll have to work on the subjects you've chosen for that particular quarter. You can design the coursework the way you want to as long as the basic requirements and the breadth requirements are fulfilled. There is no dearth for good opportunities at UCLA. There is career fair every Fall and Winter and many companies often have "tea-times" to interact with the students. The career center does an amazing job of bringing the top names in the industry to you throughout the quarter.

How is the funding opportunities in UCLA for MS students? What about part time technical jobs to fund your living expenses?
As far as I am aware, UCLA being a public university, it is hard to find good funding if you are a Master's student. However, there are plenty of part-time opportunities and technicals positions for which Computer Science students and most CS students offset their living expenses this way. If you are keen on landing a part time technical job, start early and apply before your course starts.

How are jobs in the US for Computer Science presently? Do UCLA students get a lot of calls when compared with other universities?
As far as CS is concerned, there are plenty of opportunities for internships as well as jobs here. And as I mentioned before, it is up to you to be steadfast and to rigorously focus on taking these job calls all the way through to an offer. And yes, a lot of companies come to UCLA and a lot of students get multiple interview calls here.