Fundamentals of Applying to Grad School Fall 2012 Prof. Krste Asanovic & Prof.

Fundamentals of Applying to Grad School
Fall 2012
Prof. Krste Asanovic & Prof. Claire Tomlin
Computer Science & Electrical Engineering
UC Berkeley
with some slides from Profs. Ras Bodik and Joe Hellerstein
Why are we here?
Is grad school for me?
What is grad school like, and who will pay for it?
Applying to grad school, and choosing one.
Why grad school?
Surround yourself with smart people
Get paid to have fun solving problems, hacking
Work on projects too risky for startups
Deepen your understanding of CS other areas
Change industry and education
Free food
Bad reasons to go to grad school
I like collecting degrees (BS, MS, PhD)
My parents told me to
I like taking classes*
I don’t want to work too hard
I can’t find a job
Free food
Grad school projects: sample from Berkeley
Robots that fold laundry
Flying mechanical insects
Brain interfaces
New programming languages
Machine learning everywhere
Why grad school?
Fascination with
– building what was thought impossible
– clarifying what was not understood
– teaching or technological leadership
Work on an influential project
or even start a new one
Gain qualifications for advanced tech work
MS or Ph.D.
MS: 1-2 years. Two flavors:
Professional MS (now at Berkeley too, as 1-year
MEng, Berkeley also has 5th-year MS)
“Research” MS (2 years)
PhD: 4-7 years
MS typical along the way
Better if you love it!
Is grad school for me?
How do I know if PhD is for me?
Try it. No such thing as dropping out (you get MS).
It's just like changing jobs and getting a raise.
Grad students usually funded from a grant
Tuition + salary of roughly $2100+/month.
More in summer during internship.
Usually some TA-ing part of PhD requirement
My history
• Undergrad, Electrical and Information Sciences
Tripos, University of Cambridge, England (1987)
• Worked in industrial research lab in England
• PhD in Computer Science from UC Berkeley (1998)
• Assistant and Associate Professor at MIT (19982007)
• Joined UC Berkeley as Associate Professor in 2007,
Full Professor in 2012
How I read a grad school application
1. Reference letters from project supervisors
How successful where they at independent research
projects (not just course projects)? Any publications?
2. Statement of purpose
– Can the student write? What have they done before?
What do they want to do now? What research excites
3. Are there any problems with their scores/grades?
Low scores in relevant courses? Low GREs? Low overall
How to improve your grad application
• Work on independent research project to get
glowing letter from faculty research advisor,
possibly a publication
– should start research very early (> 1.5 years before
– take the relevant upper-level course in 4th semester
– find advisor during the course or right after
• Have faculty member review your statement of
• Do well in courses in your major area
Where to apply
• Apply lots of places
– Randomness in the process
– You hope to choose among a few
– “Stretch” and “safety”
• Know the top 10 schools in your area
– Ask the faculty in your area what are good schools for
the areas you’re interested in, not always the top three
– Check out US News (not always accurate or fine-grained
– Check out research websites, but note these are often
out of date
Admissions process is a little random…
Ph.D. Admits: Stanford vs. UCB vs. MIT
Selecting a school
• Go to the Department Visit Day
– It will be a few weeks before you need to decide
• Talk to students, professors at Visit Day
• Find a match for your interest
• Use faculty at UCB as sounding board after getting
decisions and attending visit days
• When deciding, listen to your gut
– A few $K of stipend shouldn’t sway your decision
– “Brand name” isn’t a good reason to choose a school
– Potential research advisors much more important
Have you considered Berkeley?
• Mixed message:
– Healthier to go somewhere new
– Though ... if you’re the best, this might be the best place
for you...
• Don’t wait till grad school to get involved in
• Find out if research is for you, and what areas you
• Get to know faculty members, who will be more
than happy to provide letters and advice for
undergrads who do well in their research projects

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