Tips to apply to top PhD Programs in the US

Dr. El Kindi Rezig is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT .He holds a Phd in computer science from Purdue University, USA. His research interests lie in the area of Data Management in general and Data Quality in particular. He spends most of his time building systems that make it easier for users to clean, debug, and integrate their data. He has published multiple peer-reviewed papers at top-tier venues as well as a us patent and holds the Raymond Boyce teaching excellence award from Purdue University.

I joined the PhD program at Purdue directly from Algeria, I did my master’s in Algeria at the USTHB. In the US, when you join a PhD program, you can always have a master’s on the way to the PhD, for example in Purdue, one requirement to get your PhD is to take 9 graduate-level classes, in the master’s requirement, you need to take 10, so the requirements of the master’s degree intersect with one requirement of the PhD, which means that if you fulfill the PhD requirement, you have also almost fulfilled the Master’s requirement and can request a master’s degree while pursuing other PhD requirements.

Usually, the best way to increase your chances of admission in a US top school is to identify a professor (or professors) that you would like to work with during your PhD. So visit pages of professors in different schools to see what they are doing. This way, when you apply to that school, you could specify the name of that professor as a person you would like to work with if accepted into the program. In US top schools, there’s an admission committee that contains multiple professors, and they all need to give their OK for you to be admitted to the program. Also, note that many professors don’t accept to communicate with prospective students unless they are admitted to the program, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get any replies from a professor that you email before you apply to the school.

What will make your PhD application stand out ?

  1. Your transcripts: high grades + top ranking (you need to provide your class ranking, that’s crucial). This is a high-impact criterion.
  2. TOEFL (you just need to meet the minimum requirement of that university)
  3. GRE (score matters, the higher, the better)
  4. Student competitions you were a part of (hackathons, conferences). In US schools, they value hands-on experience a lot, so if you worked on projects during your undergrad that have some visibility (for example, open source projects or internships you do in reputable companies in the summer), that could go a long way. I would like to mention that big tech companies like Google and Microsoft have summer internships open to ALL students worldwide. That’s a golden opportunity to Algerian students.
  5. Research papers and experience: It would help if you had published some papers during your undergraduate program.

How to get Funding ?

For funding, I worked as a Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant during my PhD years. These funding options are called “assistantships” and you are expected to spend 20 hours weekly on this assignment. An assistantship provides you with a monthly stipend but more importantly, it exempts you from paying the tuition (which is typically over $25000 a year).

The monthly stipend varies, but talking from my experience, it is sufficient to cover rent and food. The funding also provides you with health insurance. Usually the stipend you get covers all you need in the area where you live and more. As an international student in the US, you can only work a job provided by your university.

Now, there are many forms of funding, for example research assistantship, teaching assistantship, graduate assistantship, fellowships and scholarships…etc. In large universities, finding a source of funding is usually doable, for example, you can always apply to become a software developer in some department of the school (the university produces software to serve the students and faculty). The best funding option is if your advisor funds you through a research grant, but, sometimes professors run out of money and you have to find another source of funding.

Another form of funding is the Fulbright Scholarship program. That’s a US program that grants a few scholarships every year to international students. You need to visit the website of the US Embassy in Algeria to find the application process and deadlines.

I’ve also known a few graduate students who got their funding through Al Ghurair, but I have no info about that program. Check out their website to read more about it.

I invite you to follow my Interview with El Kindi 🙂

Thank you El Kindi for being my guest on Salma Share ,your experience will help a lot of students and opportunities seekers 🙂 


#SalmaShare #CareerAbroad

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2 years ago

thanks a lot

1 year ago

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