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London School of Economics (LSE) could be a dream destination for thousands of students across the world as some of the most known economists and intellectuals such as India’s former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Nobel laureate Prof. Amartya Sen have come out of its portals to lead nations and renowned institutions.
Sanaa Alvira from Bengaluru joined the LSE for an M.Sc in International Relations course in early September. Sanaa had done her undergraduate studies at St. Stephens College, Delhi from where she took her BA in History and Political Science last June. Maqbool Ahmed Siraj spoke to Sanaa for Islamic Voice on the preparation that went into the effort. Excerpts:

What kind of preparation went into your effort to reach the LSE? 

The whole process takes about a year, from the time of making a list of universities, filling up the application form, waiting for the decision, applying for the visa and arrival at the college. 
The application has to be submitted online. A lot of preparation is required before submitting the application form. I have mentioned the key areas here:
(a) I did a lot of research before shortlisting the universities which included talking to my professors, friends, parents and others who provided a lot of inputs and guidance. Once the list was ready, I checked the requirements of each university, including cut-off scores and deadlines.
(b) For LSE, applicants have to write a Personal Statement (PS) of approximately 1,000 words about why he or she wants to study this course. PS is a pretty tough job as it carries a lot of weightage. So I went through a lot of online videos posted by students who had been accepted at Stanford, Oxford and LSE. They had provided a number of tips on how to write a Personal Statement that would tie all aspects like academic record, academic interest and strengths, all activities (like internships, volunteering etc.) that show that the applicant has a very high interest in this subject; career aspiration and a strong motivation for studying the subject. These videos helped me a lot.
(c) Next we have to make sure that we have all our Transcripts ready, which are typically score cards of all the semesters till the time of applying. All universities have a minimum cut-off score for accepting applications.
(d) For postgraduate studies in most international universities, a 2 or 3 years work experience is considered advantageous. In absence of it, we need to make sure that our application is very robust with activities that are highly relevant to the subject of study like – projects and internships. 
Once all items were ready, I filled up the application form, attached the documents online and hit the ‘submit’ button.  Sometimes, the whole effort takes about 3 to 4 weeks, so it is best to start early, as soon as the applications open, mostly in the month of September, for the next academic year.

Why did you choose M.Sc International Relations? 

I attended the first Model United Nations (MUN) conference in 2011 in Class XI, which is a simulation of the UN and its related bodies at school and college level. I was very interested in how the UN debates and topics were simulated at these conferences by the student delegates and therefore actively participated in MUN for the next five years, both as a delegate, representing various countries and as Director General, in-charge of supervising the MUN conferences.
In addition to MUN, I also discovered that I liked studying History and Political Science, when I opted for Social Sciences in Class XI and XII.  I had very high scores in Class XII in History and Political Science, so I opted to study these as my core subjects at St. Stephen’s College for my B.A. Studying Political Science and History, along with all the MUN activities propelled me to choose International Relations for my postgraduate studies.

How helpful was your tenure at St. Stephens in preparing you for the LSE? 

I feel very fortunate to have studied at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University. The classroom discussions are amazing and the insights that the professors bring to the discussion help us to think beyond the immediate. At Stephen’s a number of leaders from various fields like politics, journalism, banking etc., are invited to give talks and all these added to our knowledge and preparation. St. Stephen’s is also known for its ‘Societies’ (clubs) and the college has a wide range of Societies that help students to take forward their interests and talent. I actively participated in the Stephen’s Planning Forum Society which was responsible for Planning leadership talks and Model United Nations.

When was the first time you began to envision LSE as your next port of call in your educational career? 

In August 2017, when I made a shortlist of universities, I felt that the London School of Economics and Political Science would be the best option as it is ranked among the top universities in the world for International Relations. 

What do you plan to do after M.Sc? 

I want to discuss with my professors and better understand the options. I will have a better idea after February 2019.