Graduate School Application

Webinar on "Applying to US graduate schools in STEM fields"

On August 23,2021, Prof. Sossina Haile and Dr. Iwnetim Iwnetu Abate presented a webinar on "Applying to US graduate schools in STEM fields". Here are the slides that Prof Sossina Haile and Dr. Iwnetim Iwnetu presented during the webinar.

The video recording of the webinar can be found here.

Section 1: The Application Process

US has several universities with excellent graduate school program. Most (if not all) universities offer PhD programs in STEM for FREE plus monthly stipend. In addition, one can directly apply to the PhD program right after Bachelors without Masters degree.


The following are the main requirements for graduate school application in the US. Please refer to documents at the bottom of the following list for details on the application process.

Note:

  1. Statement of Purpose (SOP): Statement (essay) about why you want to attend university “x” and why you are a good fit. Details and examples of SOP are provided in section 4 of this page.

  2. Diversity Statement: Statement (essay) about how you add to the diversity of the institution

  3. Letter of Recommendation: letters from previous research mentors (from academia and industry)

  4. Strong transcript:

    • High GPA with challenging courses; top of the class, particularly if from an unknown school

    • Competitive GPA: above 3.7/4.0

  5. Test scores:

    • GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

      • Competitive GRE scores:

        • Quant = 160 (70th percentile); Verb = 155 (67th percentile); Writing = 4.0 (50th percentile)

      • Many graduate programs no longer accept GRE scores

    • TOFEL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

      • Three types of test (take the one that is the most convenient for you)

        • PBT (Paper Based Test); CBT (Computer Based Test) and iBT (Interent Based Test)

      • Competitive TOFEL scores:

        • PBT:310-677 (Above 600); CBT:0-300 (Above 220) iBT:0-120 (Above 90)

  6. CV/Resume

    • Shows that you have had research experience, participated in more than just coursework


Here additional documents that cover the application process in detail in addition to the slides Prof. Sossina Haile and Dr. Iwnetim Abate used during the webinar.

Section 2: Identifying Programs

  • Choose a field/program that excites you and help you achieve your short/long term goals.

  • Use the following websites to see the ranking for your program (choose 5-10 to apply to)

  • Once you identify the programs; explore the research groups and the application requirement

    • For example: www.mit.edu/graduate/prospective/faq

  • For programs outside the US:

    • www.scholars4dev.com

Section 3: Timeline for the application process

Section 4: Statement of Purpose (SOP) Samples

The SOP is where you articulate why you want to PhD at X university and why you are a good fit. The main components of an SOP are as follows. Please refer to documents at the bottom of the following list for details on the application process.

  • Introduction of applicant/interests and motivation.

    • Be practically ambitious, changing the world through research, relating your background with what you want to do in the future

  • Summary of undergraduate and previous career.

    • Talk about your research/work experience and relate that to what you want to do in PhD.

  • Relevance of recent and current activities; how they influenced you and what you want to study during PhD

  • Talk about how the institutions have the resources and the focus you need to achieve your goal. (How it is the best fit for you)


Here samples of SOP and documents that cover the SOP writing process in detail.

Section 5: Curriculum Vitae (CV) Sample

  • Resume vs CV

    • Resume (~1-2 pgs, for MSc) vs CV (no length requirement, for PhD)

  • Shows that you have had research experience, participated in more than just coursework

  • Examples are provided on the website


Section 6: GRE and TOFEL Resources

Exam Resources:These are some resources to study for these exams.

Study Plans: Magoosh has different study plans you can adapt

  • Example of study plans

    • Day1: Do the ETS GRE POWERPREPII

    • Day 2 upto two or three weeks before taking GRE: Magoosh

    • The last 2-3 weeks before the exam: Practice question from the ETS GRE book and do the POWERPER again.

  • Those questions are very much like the actual exam.


The figure below summarize how one can prepare for these exams.

Section 7: Funding your education

While most (if not all) PhD programs in STEM are offered for Free at US universities, funding your Masters degree can rather be difficult. The figure below summarize how one can fund their higher education in the US.

You can refer to these websites on how to get:


Note: There are several Masters programs in Europe and Asia which are for free. You can refer to this website to find them.