Some Resources for Wesleyan University Students Interested in Pursuing
a Ph.D. in Computer Science
Assembled by Eric Aaron, Wesleyan University
(beta release, Sept. 2010)
This page presents resources that may be helpful to Wesleyan University
students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Science. I have not
personally examined every aspect of these resources, so
I can't fully recommend all of them, but they seem potentially useful,
so I include them here. Please be in touch with any feedback about
This page consists of the following:
A few words from me
My primary advice to students interested in graduate school:
your advisor(s), your mentor(s), your family, and others who know you best.
There is an enormous amount of information, opinion, and well-intentioned perspective available on the Web and elsewhere, and sorting through all of it can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, your decisions about graduate school might be substantially improved if you make the effort to sort through it and decide which of it is actually important to you. Your network of advisors and supporters can help.
Talk early, talk often. If you suspect you might be interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Science, taking the lead and initiating such conversations with your supporters as early as your sophomore year (or earlier!) can make your path easier near the end of your undergraduate career. As a sophomore in college, you might not be certain you want to attend graduate school--that's completely understood and absolutely okay! Still, if you might be interested in CS grad school, begin talking about it anyway, to help you get more informed, to make sure you're advised of opportunities as they arise, and to help you understand your own thoughts and feelings on the subject.
Talk early, talk often about research, too. In particular, you might want to have undergraduate research experience before applying to a Ph.D. program in Computer Science. There are many good options for undergraduate research experience, including various NSF REU programs (follow links to search for a program that interests you!) and Wesleyan's Hughes Program, which can support students for summer research experiences and, in some cases, research during the academic year, as well. An early start to discussing such options with your advisors can help you find the best ones for you.
References to some of the above-mentioned information, opinion, and perspective available on the Web
Some of the information and advice contained in these documents contradicts other information and advice contained in these documents. That's okay. These are intended to be thought-provoking discussion starters, not discussion closers.
In addition, some of the content in these documents is almost certainly redundant, or inaccurate, or simply inapplicable to you. Read carefully and critically.
- Applying to Ph.D. Programs in Computer Science, an informative, relatively thorough document written by a professor at Carnegie Mellon. (from a CMU site)
- Choosing a Ph.D. program in Computer Science, written by a graduate student who had recently gone through the process. (from a UBC site)
for undergraduates considering graduate school, a popular document from Phil Agre, noted author of career advice for academics. (from a UCLA site)
- A student's perspective on Everything I Wish Somebody Would Have Told Me About Graduate School Admissions. I don't strictly agree with everything in it, some of which is dated, but it does have some important points and advice that, indeed, someone should tell you about CS graduate school. (from a Rose-Hulman site)
- A brief hypothetical Q&A about applying to CS grad schools. (from a UCSD site)
- Some older advice about "why or why not grad school in CS" and the application process. Although some of it may be a bit outdated, some of it still seems sound, and it touches on some important points. (from a Dartmouth site)
- The three quotes that open this concise undergrad advising document from UCSD are, on their own, ample reason to check out the site. (The first of the quotes: "Graduate Life - it's not just a job, it's an indenture.") The rest of the document has some worthwhile info, too.
- Two short Q&A sessions from Purdue University, years 2007
and 2006, about CS grad school.
- A concise overview of some key points with some subtle and important elements, plainly presented. (from a Utah site)
- A relatively short Princeton CS Major's Guide to Applying to Graduate School, with some information (e.g., the timeline portion) that could be useful for non-Princetonians, as well.
- The "What It Takes" and "Warnings" sections of Notes on
the PhD Degree may be of particular interest to students looking for such perspectives. (from a Purdue site)
- Some general information for Swarthmore College students about grad school in CS and what to expect from it. It has more links than text; judging by titles, many links seem less about the application process and how to get to grad school, and more about what CS grad school is and how to succeed once you're there.
- A wide-ranging Graduate
Study in the computer and mathematical sciences: a survival
manual, by Dianne O'Leary, covering topics from grad school application to careers and ethics. (from a UMD site)
- A more thorough links page than mine, with coverage of everything from applying to CS grad school up to doing research and getting jobs. There's a lot there (some redundant with my links), maybe more than is easy to manage, but it seems consistently interesting. (from a CMU site)
GRE Information and Resources
GRE tests are often required, to some extent, for graduate study or fellowship awards. Please note, however, that requirements can vary from program to program. For full information, see the requirements of each individual graduate program or fellowship to which you want to apply.
Please be mindful of dates by which tests must be taken for scores to be received on time for your applications.
- The GRE Homepage at ETS.
From there, you can follow the link to information for test takers, or you can try the following links below, which might have become invalid by the time you try them:
- The GRE Practice Booklet for Computer Science, which includes a practice GRE Subject Test in Computer Science.
Everyone who applies for admission to a Ph.D. program in Computer Science should also apply for outside fellowships. Here are some to consider.
The first three below are particularly popular; many applicants to Ph.D. programs in Computer Science apply for all three of them. There are also other possibilities, some listed here. (Note that some information for the upcoming year was not available at the time this was written, so some guesses were made. Indeed, it is possible that some programs may even now be defunct.) Please read through the relevant material on the individual programs' websites for full information and to see which may be appropriate for you.
- DoD Science, Mathematics, And Research for Transformation (SMART) Defense Scholarship. Recipients of multi-year awards will serve as summer interns at DoD laboratories. (deadline: December)
- Department of Energy (DoE) Computational Science Graduate Fellowship. Primarily for students already in graduate school, but open to exceptional undergraduates. Each recipient will perform at least one "practicum" (research project) during a summer at a DoE research laboratory. (deadline: likely to be early January)
- National Physical Science Consortium (NPSC)National Physical Science Consortium (NPSC) Graduate Fellowships in science and engineering.
Includes computer science. Each recipient will work for an NPSC-member employer for the summer preceding and following the first year of graduate school.
"Ninety-three percent of NPSC fellows have been minority, female, or both, those historically underrepresented in science." (deadline: late November)
- Ford Foundation Predoctoral Diversity Fellowships. Open to all US citizens or nationals who are "committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level." Goals include increasing "the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students." Membership in an underrepresented group will be considered as a positive factor in choosing recipients. (deadline: early November)
Fellowship Program. National consortium for graduate degrees for minorities
in engineering and science. For US citizens who are members of an underrepresented group in science and engineering as defined by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. (deadline: mid-November)
- The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships For New Americans.
An applicant must be "an individual who (1) is a resident alien; i.e., holds a Green Card, or, (2) has been naturalized as a U.S. citizen, or (3) is the child of two parents who are both naturalized citizens." (deadline: early November)
In addition, please see the Resources for Women in Computer Science section below for fellowship opportunities specifically for women.
Finally, some advice on how to apply for and win fellowships:
It is not written specifically for CS, so some information may not be quite on point, but there are many worthy ideas in it.
- How to Win a Graduate Fellowship, by Michael Kiparsky, from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Note that this is "Premium Content" and may not be freely
accessible to everyone; computers at Wesleyan (or connected via VPN) seem to have access from Wesleyan's subscription to the website.
In particular, strong writing in an application can make a substantial difference in the success of that application. Please know your audience, and take all the time you can to craft a focused, attention-grabbing application!
Resources for Women in Computer Science
These resources support achievement and advancement for women in Computer Science and related fields. Such information may be of particular value to women interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Science; some of this information, however, may be useful for both men and women interested in CS, at various stages of their careers.
- Information from the CRA (Computing Research Association)
Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research,
CRA-W, including a page of Resources for Undergraduate Students.
Among several other elements of interest, the CRA-W site includes links to mentoring programs such as the two noted here.
- Information from the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) for ACM-W, the ACM Committee on Women in Computing.
- The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. Its programs and initiatives include the two noted here.
- Some scholarship and fellowship opportunities:
- An outstanding issue of CS4FN magazine, called "The Women are Here"
which (among other things) highlights current and past
accomplishments of women in
Computer Science. It's a fun, accessible read, not just for college-level CS students; the "gendered timeline of technology" is, in my opinion, especially
interesting (and a bit provocative). Well worth checking out!
Many thanks to the students who gave helpful feedback on an earlier version of this page. Thanks also to Tzu-Yi Chen of Pomona College for her inspiration and ideas, including exposing me to the quote below.
"I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes."
-- of uncertain origin (some online sources attribute it to Edna St. Vincent Millay, others to Gene Fowler)
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