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Applying for Grad School in CS* Adam Wierman > Caltech *much of this was blatantly poached from Mor Harchol-Balter’s advice

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Presentation on theme: "Applying for Grad School in CS* Adam Wierman > Caltech *much of this was blatantly poached from Mor Harchol-Balter’s advice"— Presentation transcript:

1 Applying for Grad School in CS* Adam Wierman > Caltech *much of this was blatantly poached from Mor Harchol-Balter’s advice

2 Outline Do you really want a PhD ? The application process Funding a PhD Choosing the right program

3 What is a PhD? A long, in depth research exploration of one topic 6 years! by the end, you are the world expert on one narrow problem Very different from classes

4 Classes ≠ Research You know the HWs are solvable No clue how hard the problems are You are given well-defined problems Picking the right problem is half of the difficulty There’s always someone to ask for help You’re the expert! Often work alone External motivation (grades, etc) Purely internal motivation

5 Getting a PhD is hard check out com

6 Life after a PhD? Most PhDs either go to a research lab or become a professor (if these don’t appeal to you, a PhD probably isn’t necessary) your job is -doing research (~50% self guided) -company responsibilities -travelling to conferences, etc your life is -research (100% self guided) -applying for grants -working with students -teaching -conferences, etc.

7 Should you get a PhD - A PhD is not for everyone - It requires ~6 years (opportunity cost is high) - Don’t apply unless you’ve tried and enjoyed research - It helps a lot if you like teaching - You need to be a particular type of person (driven, …) - You need to be sure you want it - You need to be smart  If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to work for a few years

8 Outline Do you really want a PhD ? The application process Funding a PhD Choosing the right program

9 A PhD application 1)Transcript 2)GREs 3)Personal statement 4)Previous research experience (industry/academic) 5)Recommendation letters 6)Awards & extracurriculars

10 Grades are important …but not too important - Perfect grades with weak research won’t be enough - Grad courses are only impressive if they lead to research

11 GREs Top schools only check to make sure they are “good enough”  You should study  (if you are planning to work for a year, take the test now)

12 The personal statement …i.e. the research statement A template: 1)Describe the general areas that interest you and why 2)Describe a project you’ve worked on 3)Describe a project you’ve worked on 4)Say why you want a PhD 5)Why do you want to be at school X Don’t - Regurgitate your grades - Describe pre-college triumphs

13 Previous research experience …you’re doing it now Do SURFs Do research during the year Do research as part of classes Do work with more than one faculty Do research somewhere besides Caltech (try an REU) Do submit a paper(s) to a conference/journal  Remember that these advisors will be your recommenders

14 Recommendations …the most important piece “I highly recommend student X for your graduate program. Student X received an A+ in my undergraduate algorithms class. He was ranked Number 2 out of 100 students. He got the highest score on the final. He worked very hard all semester, never missed a class, and was always able to answer the questions that I asked in class. This conscientious attitude makes him an excellent candidate for any graduate program. ” Letter 1 DWIC

15 Recommendations …the most important piece “I highly recommend student Y for your graduate program. Student Y received a B in my undergraduate algorithms class. He was ranked Number 29 out of 100 students. Halfway through the semester we started working on network flows. Student Y seemed extremely excited by this topic. He disappeared for 4 weeks and even missed an exam. However when he came back, he showed me some work he had been doing on a new network flow algorithm for high-degree graphs. He had done some simulations and had some proofs. I’ve been working with student Y for the past couple months since then and he is full of ideas for new algorithms. I think student Y’s initiative makes him an excellent candidate for any graduate program.” Letter 2 self-motivated, independent, good potential

16 Recommendations …the most important piece Of the four letters, a good candidate has research advisor letters teacher letters that say more than just DWIC

17 Asking for recommendations Ask “do you feel comfortable writing me a strong letter” Give each person a packet - statement of purpose - summary of each research project - resume - class listing with grades - directions (including deadlines) - confirmation information  Send them a thank you afterwards

18 Awards & Extracurriculars … provide a way to be memorable

19 A PhD application 1)Transcript 2)GREs 3)Personal statement 4)Previous research experience (industry/academic) 5)Recommendation letters 6)Awards & extracurriculars

20 How many schools to apply to? 6-10, including some safeties

21 The rankings 1) MIT, Stanford, Berkely 4) CMU 5) Illinois 6) Cornell, Princeton, Washington 9) Georgia Tech, UT Austin 11) Caltech, Wisconsin-Madison 13) UCLA, Maryland, Michigan 16) Columbia, Harvard, UCSD, 19) Purdue 20) Brown, Duke, Rice, Umass-Amherst, UNC, Penn

22 Outline Do you really want a PhD ? The application process Funding a PhD Choosing the right program

23 You get a “livable” stipend and tuition paid for you Ideally, you just do research (and TA occasionally)  This costs your advisor 60+k per year Funding a PhD Having a fellowship virtually guarantees admission

24 Fellowships …can make the difference Same process as grad school applications WARNING : Fellowship deadlines are before grad school deadlines Some to check out: - NSF graduate research fellowship - NDSEG graduate fellowship - Hertz fellowship - National Physical Science Consortium (NPSC) - NASA - DOE - Homeland Security  If you don’t get them now, apply again your 1 st & 2 nd years Applying for a fellowship

25 Outline Do you really want a PhD ? The application process Funding a PhD Choosing the right program

26 You will get to visit each school you are accepted to Most important - Good rapport with your advisor - Good atmosphere in the department - Graduate students treated well (do students graduate) Also pay attention to - requirements for degree - overall rank - stipend  Talk to faculty here about the decision

27 Applying for Grad School in CS* Adam Wierman > Caltech *much of this was blatantly poached from Mor Harchol-Balter’s advice


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