CUSE Spotlights

Word of Advice from a recent Ph.D. grad (GVSU Alum and now faculty).

Word of Advice from a recent Ph.D. grad (GVSU Alum and now faculty).

Interest Area(s)
Computer Science

As someone who fairly recently completed their Ph.D. (undergrad from GVSU in 2013, Ph.D. from UIUC in 2019), expect a mad rush of work for the applications followed by a bunch of waiting (where I obsessively checked gradcafe). Here are a few pieces of advice (more applicable for the PhD route, not sure if it applies as much for law school or med school route):

  1. Definitely emphasize research experience you have on your cv and in your personal statement. Grad schools look really favorably on research experience and even better a publication — it shows that you know what you are getting into.
  2. Your resume for grad schools (often called a CV) may look quite a bit different then resumes you’ve made for other job applications (i.e., the standard is typically a 1-page resume for jobs, but academic CVs can be longer). Prepare this early on because it’ll likely be the same for all of the schools you apply to.
  3. For PhD programs, you really want to focus on applying to schools that fit your research interests and have people that you want to work with. This should be clear in your personal statement. You can likely reuse pieces of the personal statement for the different schools, but they should be personalized. This means that you’ll need to do research about each school you are applying to — why would you be a good fit there and who would you want to work with? do you know what the people you want to work with do research on? For finding this out, I’d recommend looking at their website, recent papers, and websites of their graduate students. One thing to be cautious about with faculty websites is that they can be quite a bit out of date sometimes (which is why recent papers help make sure you aren’t saying you’d really like to work on X, where X is some 10 year old project that no longer has funding).
  4. If there are a small number of faculty at a couple of schools that you’d really like to work with, you can often reach out to them before applying (email). Check their website first — many have specific guidance on whether you should email before you apply or not (often department/discipline/school specific based on how admissions are handled) and they’ll often describe who they are looking for as prospective students (background, skills, career path, etc.). First and foremost, follow their instructions:  if they say don’t email until after you are accepted, don’t. But, if they indicate to email them (or if they don’t indicate either way), then you can reach out. I didn’t do this, but I know others who have and it worked out well so it’s something to consider (as long as the faculty don’t say not to).  Just don’t be offended if they don’t respond — faculty at R1 schools can be really busy with hundreds of emails a day and just have a habit of not responding to a lot of emails (even some of the nicest faculty I know were not always great about responding to emails). If you are going to do this, do your homework first — look at their website, read their recent papers, etc and reach out to learn more about the projects they have going on and their research. You want it to be clear that 1) you know what they do and you are just really interested in learning more about it 2) you are not just asking for funding, etc.  If you plan to do this, my recommendation would be to do this no earlier than a few months before you apply (aka, you plan to apply in Fall 2022, don’t do this now, wait until next summer). They won’t be thinking this far out as far as admitting grad students.  Also, note that there’s no guarantee you’ll get in just because you do this — sometimes the faculty you are interested in are not interested in working with you for some reason, and that’s okay.  It’s also okay if you just are not comfortable doing this.

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Page last modified June 15, 2022