There’s no harm in planning your application process early. Since the process of applying to graduate schools is a bit involved, it is good to tackle it strategically. Many US schools open their application portals in the month of September and impose the deadlines in early- or mid-December. To better prepare for these deadlines, here’re a few things that you can do before you apply.
- Get started on undergraduate or pre-doctoral research projects (2-3 years before applying)
We have talked about this in a previous post. But don’t worry too much if you are in the final year or have freshly graduated and don’t have much research experience! You still have a plenty of time to get started on a project associated with a topic you would want to focus. Or else you can start a research masters degree at the ENTC or CSE, and start working on a research project. Another option would be to apply for a junior lecturer/ instructor/research engineer/ research assistant position at a local or foreign university. Many of our graduates have done so in the past and have gained a lot of research experience while earning handsomely! One perk of becoming an instructor/ teaching assistant/ junior lecturer is the teaching experience you would get out of it. When you are doing a PhD, you would get to work as a graduate teaching assistant. Therefore, a lot of PhD program admission committees would love it if you have got some prior teaching experience apart from research and good grades.
- Determine which research or subject areas align the most with your interests (1 year before applying)
This is a critical step you have to follow. After you have finished your undergraduate degree program and have worked on several research projects, you should ponder critically about what research topics pique your interest the most. A PhD is a very challenging and sizable commitment, and because of that, it is very important that you work on an area you are passionate about. Therefore, you should do a lot of homework before you choose the field in which you will be pursuing your PhD. Talk to people (lecturers, peers, current PhD students, freshly graduated PhD students, etc) as much as you can, and read about the topics you are interested in. Also, don’t forget to think about how a certain subject area would grow in the future and what sort of opportunities it would ensue too! Finally, when you are confident enough, pick a few areas that stimulate your curiosity to delve deeper.