Ep.2: Malavika Venkatraman

[1] Choosing a Programme

At the time when Malavika was starting her undergraduate degree, Economics as a field of study was booming and had promising prospects as a career choice, it was in fact also beginning to be introduced as a subject in high schools. This was one of her reasons for pursuing Economics. 

While pursuing her undergraduate study in Economics, she was drawn towards the more technical aspects of Economics and hence decided to study Applied Economics post-graduation. She also further grew interested in understanding the economics behind healthcare systems and hence went on two pursue a second master’s degree in Health Economics at LSE. 


[2] Choosing Universities

While choosing a university, Malavika’s criteria included - 

i. University rankings

ii. How well does the course offered by the university align with your interests and offers the skills and expertise you are looking for

iii. Exposure in terms of networking and job prospects offered by the university as well as the job prospects in the country of the university

[3] Importance of GPA

While the GPA is an important aspect of one’s application, the weightage it carries varies depending on a range of factors - 

A taught master’s course, for example, places more importance on the applicant’s undergraduate grades and academic curriculum as opposed to a research master’s course that would place more importance on the applicant’s research proposal. 

Further, in the case of a student applying right after graduating college, their GPA would hold more importance while in the case of a student applying a few years after graduating and having gained some experience in the field, more importance would be given to the applicant’s experience over their grades.

Universities also look for consistency in grades as opposed to random dips and peaks in consecutive semesters.

[4] Essential Skills
Having worked as a financial analyst herself, Malavika says that the essential skills required for an entry-level position may require one to have more soft skills than technical skills. A desirable recruit for such a position is one who is proactive and communicative and takes initiative. 

Beyond entry-level positions, for advanced jobs like research or financial analysts, one is expected to be detail-oriented, to be familiar with different statistical tools such as SPSS, Stata, R, Python, etc. and also have basic knowledge of corporate finance and financial markets. She also says that these roles can often be very demanding in terms of the hours put in and it is, hence, imperative to establish a good work-life balance.

It is important to demonstrate the desired skills gained through relevant experience in your CV and cover letter in a clear and concise manner. Internships and courses are a great way to show that you have gained some exposure as well as knowledge on the relevant field. 

[5] Writing a Research Proposal

A good research proposal precisely answers three key questions - 

  • Why do you want to conduct research in this specific field/topic?

  • How will you conduct this research?

  • “What would you really want to do with it?”

It also helps to know what specific areas of research the university faculty is interested in pursuing and whether they align with your research interests. One can also tap into the university’s network of alumni, PhD students, professors, post-doc researchers, etc. to gain more insights about the same.

[6] Statement of Purpose

In broad terms, Malavika explains that a good SoP includes three main points - 

  • Describing why you want to study this particular course and at this particular university; Elaborating on your interest and passion for the field of study and what you expect to gain from pursuing this particular course.

  • Talking about your previous experiences and how the skills and knowledge you gained from these experiences make you a desirable candidate. This could include both experiences in the relevant field that helped you gain exposure and knowledge about the field as well as experience in other areas that equipped you with transferable skills. 

  • Future plans: It is also important to provide a broad overview of your future plans and how the skills and knowledge you gain through the course will help you out in your endeavours.

[6] Letters of Recommendations

Since applicants are not privy to the LoR sent by professors, it is important to ask professors who know you well and are aware of your strengths, interests and goals and can make a genuine argument for endorsing you as a desirable candidate for the course. 

[7] Language Requirements

Malavika says that a week-long prep before the exam usually suffices. Two key aspects that one should pay attention to are - keeping track of time especially while answering the comprehension section of the exam since it tends to be the most time-consuming part; and familiarizing yourself with the accent used by the speakers in the listening section. 

[8] Adapting to Different Cultures

Having lived in India, Singapore and London, Malavika has experienced a range of cultures. She describes her experience to be a process of personal and professional growth as she strived to cope with the different expectations of the new academic and social cultures that she encountered. It was an exciting opportunity for her to learn and broaden her horizons, not only through attending classes but also through meeting people hailing from different parts of the world, belonging to different ethnicities.

It can be overwhelming at first, given that you have to get out of your comfort zone and adapt to a new environment, but the adversities and experiences are what help you grow. 


[9] Personal Suggestions

Malavika emphasises the importance of ensuring that the course aligns with your interests and career goals.

Further, she also points out that education may not be the same as it was in the pre-covid world. The pandemic has affected the way we interact and network, how courses are taught and even the curriculum. It is, thus, imperative to get an idea of these differences by talking to current students, graduates and professors and accommodate for these changes in your future education plans.