Niharika Salar, alumuns of NUSRL, on her admission at National University of Singapore

  1. Please introduce yourself, your areas of interest and share your achievements vis-a-vis your acceptance to the LLM programme?

Firstly, thanks for reaching out.

I am Niharika Salar, a recent graduate from National University of Study & Research in Law, Ranchi and currently pursuing my Masters in Law with specialization in Intellectual Property & Technology Law from National University of Singapore. My areas of interest include Intellectual Property and International Law.

Speaking of achievements, I would like to point out that I have been a very average student in academics and I knew this might hamper my application, if at all I decide to apply to foreign universities. So I tried to build myself holistically, in furtherance of which I tried my hand at Moot Court Competitions and Trial Advocacy Competitions, as a speaker as well as a researcher. Organizational skills have always fascinated me from the very beginning so I tried to contribute backstage to any major event in my school or University. I was also the Core Committee Member of the Moot Court Committee, NUSRL Ranchi and played a key role during the conduction of NUSRL National Trial Advocacy Competition (Edition 2 & 3). Other than relevant internships, I have also been published on a few portals; both online and print.Meanwhile, I also did online internships. Not only did it bring in some extra money, but also helped me understand time management.

  1. What has motivated you to pursue LLM in the chosen field of law? What were the major hurdles you had to overcome? 

Intellectual Property Rights was something which interested me only by chance when I was given a basic research work during an internship.Eventually I realized the willingness to study the subject in depth.

Coming from a young National Law School, I didn’t have too many alumni going abroad to study and I safely assumed I wouldn’t get in anyway. But when a senior of mine went to University of Oxford and came back to speak about the same, I left the room inspired and I felt the application deserved an attempt.

Because I didn’t know many people who were studying abroad from my university, I had to reach out to people and request them to answer my queries. That was probably the major obstacle I faced, lack of well-informed people to reach out to. But here, LinkedIn played a key role. Gradually, I experienced the “hurdle” turning into a blessing in disguise because then I started networking with people from various Universities which helped me immensely in my application research.

  1. When is the ideal time to set your mind on pursuing LLM. How did you decide on the college?

Stating a definite ideal time is very subjective and depends from person to person. I know of people who applied at the last moment and still got in and I am also aware of people who have been trying for a while now but couldn’t be successful.

In my personal opinion, understanding the reason behind why one wants to pursue an LLM from a foreign University is what matters the most. Once you have that decided, it becomes easier.

Personally, I wanted global exposure. Having spent a considerable period of time in Kuwait, I understood,and more importantly appreciated the humongous role exposure can play in shaping your personality as a whole.This was particularly why I was adamant on doing an LLM from abroad (even before I decided on my specialization) and I was mentally prepared on applying again next year if I didn’t get in this year.

Answering the latter, I had a couple of Universities in my mind from the very beginning when I used to fantasize about the idea of studying abroad. Once I decided upon the courses which I wanted to specialise in, I looked at the faculties, the modules on offer and accordingly started applying. I applied to 5 Universities, and I was accepted by 3 of them. I felt NUS was a better choice as far as faculty, international repute, class diversity, jurisdiction issues, finances, possible opportunities and cultural aspect is concerned.Secondly, NUS is known to have a rigorous curriculum. Sitting in a class with highly competitive students from all over the world would just encourage me to push my limits to some place I didn’t even know existed. I am quite literally prepared to feel like the dumbest person in my class initially, but that’s what I am here for, to be challenged at every stage. Having said that, it’s also a very personal choice and I have had my own reasons too on choosing NUS, so anybody reading this will eventually have to do his/her own research before making such decisions.

  1. Tell us something about the timeline of the application and the commitment it requires?

A good application can take anything from 3 to 5 months (that is when you finally sit down on the application drafting after doing your research about the course and colleges)

What people don’t understand is that an LLM application is not just about applying and forgetting. It requires a lot of research if you want to make the most of your investment, because let’s just face it; studying abroad is a lot of money. Researching about which jurisdiction would be the best for you in terms of opportunities, job market (if you are interested in getting absorbed by the country and not come back), financial expenses, political scenario, personal comfort and cultural differences gives you a good and necessary head start. The research continues towhich college offers the best program in your interest areas, which college suits your pocket, what is the faculty like, what are the modules available to take, what are the scholarships/financial aid available (if any) and so on. This has to be done for every single college you seek to apply to. Once you are done with that and shortlisted the colleges, that is where you actually start applying.

So ideally, the Statement of Purpose/Personal Statement/Essay (SoP) and the Letters of Recommendation (LoR) are the documents which are the most time taking, at least for me. The SoP is a very essential component of your application because Universities cannot practically interview every candidate and hence your SoP reflects your personality.

  1. What should be kept in mind while writing SOPS, essays etc.? What according to you made your application stand out?

An ideal applicant should be mentally prepared to devote at least 1-2 months for the drafting of these documents. One senior told me this and I thought “I am sure it wouldn’t take that long, I just have to draft like 500 words!” But thankfully I did start in time, and eventually I realized why people keep saying the above statement.

There is a lot of information available on the internet regarding the contents of the perfect SoP already and I don’t think I can add much to that. I ensured I talked about my failures, my successful endeavours, my future aspirations, my reasons for choosing the University (due to which I had a different SoP for each University I was applying to) and so on. The idea was to make it as real and personal as possible and not look like a perfect unreal profile.

Once I was ready with the first draft, I tried to get inputs from as many people as possible and update the draft with recommended changes. As mentioned earlier, since I didn’t have many seniors to go to, I would look up current students of the University I was aiming for on various social media platforms, send them connection requests and hope that they would agree to review my SoP. This is where your time goes by, showing it to as many people as possible and editing your SoP accordingly. Also, getting inputs from current students is helpful because they have just been through the process and are best updated as to what the University wants in your SoP.

As far as LoRs are concerned, figuring out who is the best person to get it from is what matters.There are two types of recommendations, academic ones; which are written by faculty members who have taught you at some point of time and professional ones; which are written by people who have worked with you. Most Universities require at least one academic recommendation. I was still an undergrad student when I was applying and while I was lured into getting professional recommendation (since it looks good in the application) I mostly stuck to only academic recommendation. This was precisely because I was advised that reputed Universities have been conducting the admission process for decades now and they can make out the genuineness of the LoR by reading just the initial sentences. Having said that, for a fresh graduate student, Universities are usually of the opinion that a faculty member can write you a more genuine recommendation letter who has taught you for years rather than somebody who has worked with you for around a month. However, I did take my chances of using a professional recommendation in a few applications because the particular person was highly impressed by my work (so I was assured I would be recommended really well) and the designation looked brilliant on the application, especially in the jurisdiction I was applying to. All in all, you will have to figure out what combination will work the best for you.

Most of the people do not have the time to write the recommendation for you, so they ask you to draft one and then show it to them. So that is what also takes up a good amount of time.

Other documents were not that difficult to gather like my Resume (please note that different jurisdictions have different drafting requirements and hence I had a separate resume too for each university I was applying to), transcripts, passport and other documents.

  1. What are your future aspirations? Any messages to all other LLM aspirants? 

I am inclined towards chalking out a career path in research & academics, be it any jurisdiction. Let’s see what the future holds for me. As of now I am just trying to make the most of my limited time at NUS.

For all the LLM aspirants out there:

  • Figure out your reasons for doing an LLM from a foreign university. Do not just dive in because it looks fancy.
  • Choose your college wisely and research well before applying and accepting offers.
  • Be consistent

The entire LLM application process is designed to be long and exhausting deliberately so that only serious students are able to complete it. It just reduces the burden of the Admissions Committee. There will be times when you would feel like giving up and applying next year (and if that time doesn’t come, you aren’t trying hard enough), but if you are really persistent, good colleges aren’t very difficult to achieve irrespective of your background.J

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