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Grad School101


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Grad School Fundaes for Juniors of CSE, IITB. Compiled and Edited the material provided by Aaditya Ramdas and Srivathsan B.

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Grad School101

  1. 1. Grad School 101 Not completely cogged from the internet. The title is, however, pretty non-original. Grad school fundaes that have been passed on through batches in CSE, IITB since many years Compiled and Edited by: Aaditya Ramdas (CSE IITB 2005-2009) Pratik Poddar (CSE IITB 2006-2010) Srivathsan B (CSE IITB 2004-2009)
  2. 2. What you need – Min Requirements 1. 1-2 internships and 3 Good Recos 2. GRE/TOEFL 3. <= 2 fields of focus (for internships, BTP, Seminar) 4. Decent CPI (> 8 would be nice, > 9 is enough to get you top apps if you have the other 3)
  3. 3. Timeline  First Year – Concentrate on coursework – Think about your career goals, and whether you want to go to graduate school – Better to study some Math, if you are interested and want to study something “extra”  Sophie Year – Either take the GRE/TOEFL or do an internship (better to do an internship) – UROP – take advice of seniors on the topics offered – Internship either locally at IIT or abroad Good to get one reco secured, maybe even a publication!  Third Year – Time to make decisions! – GRE / TOEFL (Make sure this is done in 3rd year second semester. Don't wait for fourth year first sem.) – Internship / Seminar / BTP (Preferably in the same topic. All the more better if your internship guide is working in collaboration with your BTP/seminar guide)  Fourth Year – Work on BTP, app!
  4. 4. First Year / Second Year  First year end: Go home! (For those who are a bit more enthu, read up on math)  Second year: – Imp. Courses: Pay attention! – UROP: Talk to Seniors. Big commitment. – Internship after second year advised – Start looking at your fields of interest (Already exposed to Theory, FM by end of second year) – If doing an internship at IIT, also club it with GRE/TOEFL
  5. 5. Third Year  4 solid decisions to be taken – PT field and prof / place – Seminar field and prof – BTP field and prof – Apping fields – can be delayed, but better now  Kick up your CPI – last chance to improve DR  Give the GRE & TOEFL (Jan/Feb optimal, ToEFL one month later) Don't wait for September/October
  6. 6. Fourth Year  Apping decisions to be taken, deadlines to be met  Gather information. Talk to professors/seniors before deciding what to do  Work hard on BTP first stage, last chance to impress BTP guide  Give the GRE & TOEFL if not done already
  7. 7. Fields of interest  You need upto 2 fields of interest to app  Common ones at IITB – Theoretical CS – Formal Methods – Databases – Machine Learning / AI – Cryptography – Networks – Graphics  Other fields – VLSI / Hardware – Systems – OS / Compilers / PL
  8. 8. Fields of interest (contd)  More the better, but too much is bad  One sub-dept decides to take you  Two is good to diversify (FM + Theory, or ML + NLP, Approx Algos + Comp Geo., Cryptography+Theory)  Ideally, the two should have some solid connections that you can emphasize in your SOP  Not completely binding later on, unless you app to a prof or to a particular group (depends on univ)  Better to app in areas you have worked on  Choose 2 fields wisely asap!
  9. 9. Fields of Interest (contd.)  ML – Soumen  Formal Methods – Krishna, Supratik, Adsul  Theory – Ranade, Diwan, Sundar, Sohoni  NLP / AI – PB  DB – Sudarshan, Soumen  Graphics – Sharat  Cryptography – Bernard, Sohoni
  10. 10. Reco Letters  Need 3. More the better!  Plan early. Start looking for these in 5th semester itself.  Sources – 2nd year internship guide (?) – 3rd year internship guide (s) (1-?) – Seminar guide (Same as BTP guide ?) – BTP guide (1) – 3rd year / 2nd year Winter internship guide (?) – Course instructors (?) – BTP / Seminar co-guide / examiner (?)  Look for recos from researchers with enough experience in the field, PhDs from good US universities and in general successful (connections to univs you wish to app to is a bonus)
  11. 11. Apping – What matters  CPI / DR – Matters ENOUGH, but not as much as you may think – Can be substituted with good research work – High CPI + Decent-ish recos = a top-6 app  Recos – Very important – excellent reco from well known prof = damn good chance of a great app  Papers / Publications – A good publication can do wonders for your application – Good publication = good reco – Too tough for a UG, atleast in some areas  Internships – More the better – Prof with whom you work more important than the place you work in  SOP – Consult enough people and write good english – Not too important, but a bad sop can work against you  GRE / TOEFL – Not important for good universities – Aim to do well enough for it to not show up as a black mark on your app
  12. 12. Apping – What Matters (contd.)  Moral of the story: – Univs look for research calibre – Stuff which proves that, for example  Good recos from researchers to that effect  Good research internships and projects  Good academic background  Therefore, aim to maximize these qualifications: Take good internships and impress profs!!
  13. 13. Apping – The process  Number of univs to app to: – Varies with your profile – App to enough places, but not too many – Costs money, and can cause disadvantage to others – Coordinate:  A person with similar profile and higher CPI would invariably be chosen over you, unless they are picking many people  Good univs don’t take too many junta  Try to have a different profile from others apping to the same place (else clashes will hurt) – Aim high: app to a few places where you think you wont get, just for fun – Keep backups: app to a few places where you are sure you will get – 10 should be an upper bound for > 8.5 CPI junta, and 8-9 should be an upper bound for > 9 CPI junta.
  14. 14. Apping – The process (contd.)  Choosing where to app: – Places / groups / people that have similar research interest to yours – DO NOT app to places where there is no one working on areas that you have worked on – Customize your application to highlight the work uve done in the area of the group which you want to get into – USNews is a good rough guide on top CS programs – Talk to your guide and google for places that match your interests – Overall goodness vs. Group goodness (for eg. PhD @ UIUC vs. Phd with Rajeev Alur at UPenn) - Depends on what you are looking for  wanting to explore (not sure) vs. fixed on area  brand name / industry exposure / prospects / collaboration vs. good advisor / better research
  15. 15. Apping – The process (contd.)  (More) Lessons learnt – Choose BTP/Internship topics wisely. Avoid obscure/non- real-world topics (pick problems being worked on at the places you want to be when you graduate) – Do enough research, start short-listing universities early – Work with well known profs and show them your initiative and expertise => good recos, maybe paper, all good – Work hard on acads, always helps to have something tangible on your app – Take that extra step – attend conferences, meet people, look for opportunities to interact with potential gradschool advisors
  16. 16. Apping – The myths   Extra curriculars matter  You need a +9 cpi to get into a top-6 place  I can loaf off in my fourth year and still expect to get a good app  One must aim to publish at any cost  If I choose a field now, I have to do a PhD in it  Undergraduate time is for checking out as many fields as possible  CS GRE is required
  17. 17. To Go, or Not to Go  Good Reasons to Go  Not Such Good – Enjoy research Reasons – Want to teach at the – What else will I do next college level year? – Careers with more – Make more money autonomy – Prestige of another – Deep interest in and degree dedication to a single – Pressure from family, area friends, others – More challenging work (?)
  18. 18. To Go Now, or To Go Later  Now  Later – Your TA salary looks – More professional big compared to experience actually paying tuition! – Greater focus – More family – Financial responsibilities later considerations – Larger peer group – Take a break from – Might never go later school to avoid burnout
  19. 19. M.S. vs. Ph.D.  Different job opportunities – M.S. is primarily a professional degree  Master’s degree is an asset / requirement for many industry jobs  Teaching positions at community college level – Ph.D. is a research degree  Research and teaching positions in academia  Research positions in industry and national labs  Sometimes different programs – Focus of the Ph.D. is an original thesis – M.S. requires coursework, sometimes a Master’s thesis  Financial Issues (next slide)
  20. 20. Financial Issues  Funding? – Ph.D. students are generally supported financially – M.S. students may or may not be supported (varies by program)  Types of Funding – Teaching Assistantships – Research Assistantships – Fellowships (usually for Ph.D.) – Employer sponsorship (usually for M.S.)
  21. 21. Europe PhD - Myths  Not recognised in the world  Easy to get admissions  Medium of Instruction/PhD Defence is French/German
  22. 22. Pros and Cons of Studies in Europe  (-) If the PhD programme does not want you to take courses, then you are expected to know what you are primarily interested in. If you do not know what you are interested in and you want to explore, take up a PhD programme that obliges you to take courses in the first few years. US univs are better in this aspect as they require you to take up courses in the first 2 years  (+) Academic job depends on the research you do during your PhD. In general, an academic position anywhere in the world depends mainly on the research done during PhD and not where u did it  (-) Industrial jobs generally better in US than Europe after MS/PhD  (+) Opportunities to work with big names
  23. 23. General Advice  Nothing is permanent! – If you take a job, you can always go back to school – If you decide grad school isn’t for you, you can always get a job – Either way, don’t burn your bridges  Be flexible – Many people change research areas – Program might take longer than you expect  If unsure, you might as well apply and decide later 
  24. 24. General Advice  Ifyou want to app, but not applying now for financial reasons, target jobs only in your field  Databases: Yahoo, Google  Math: Quant (Tower, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, etc)  IBM Research, Microsoft Research, Yahoo! Research also have good groups