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Evaluation: MS/PhD, Fall 2011, systems/graphics


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I'm intending to apply for MS CS with the ultimate goal of a PhD at a US university, for fall 2011, looking for suggestions

my profile looks like following:

my UG university is in middle-east, generally only known in my country and surroundings

my CS dept. is ~#3 in my country

GPA: 95.5% (topper all years, highest in department history = 8 years )

GRE/TOELF : yet to take , expect average

interns : nil pinch.gif

work exp: by next Jan. i would have TA-ed for 4 moths in my department (3 courses: 2 senior level and 1 junior)

papers/projects :

my B.Sc one (about 25K Cpp lines) resulted in:

1 poster at SIGGRAPH 2010

1 journal paper (submitted, under review) to IEEE TVCG

(both as first author)

a package contributed to a big open-source project ,accepted with modifications (the nice thing about that project, is that it's managed by professors in a number of prestigious European universities)

another project that reached publishable results, but still needs alot of polishing and more concrete work (won't have any time to do now due to the very time-wasteful "standard tests")

Grants : 1800$ from a governmental graduation project support institution (later our dept. gave us another 500$ to complete our needs). proposal written by me.

LORs :

1 from advisor in B.Sc ,i also TA with him now (knows me well)

1 from professor i got A with and topped, and implemented a research paper(systems) as a project (yet was a small one month project)

1 from professor i also got A with and topped, i did a small research project with him (cross-disciplinary as he is a physics professor) but generally a small project

Area : systems/graphics

my inquiries:

1) generally how u think i stand for top 50 ? any chances for top 20 ? (I'm applying as domestic) , university suggestions please

2) I'm also applying for the NSF , any ideas about my relative chance for one?

3) just for sake of giving it a shot , i intend to also apply to Umass, UIUC (really nice for systems, nice/stable funding for MS/PhD), (maybe also the MIT biggrin.gif) any thoughts about that?


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I think you have a great shot at top 20 programs with your research experience. You should stand a fair chance at UMass and UIUC. I can't say about MIT though since its hard to predict applications to the very top schools. I'm not sure about NSF since I'm an international applicant myself - maybe someone else would be able to advise you on that.

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It sounds like you have a great profile, so I would encourage you to apply to top 10 schools. I agree that UIUC is good for systems (though I don't know much about this area so I can't recommend anything else). Of course it's always hard to predict, but it's worth applying wherever you are interested - you have a decent shot.

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thanks BKMD, newms for the nice and much encouraging review

I'm pretty worried about applying to top schools as:

1) chances that any of adcom would know / recognize my university / dept. are very low

2) due to first point and that i had no interns, my LORs aren't from people known by the adcom (though well, my advisor was a visiting Assistant Prof. in a top 100 US dept.)

do you have any thoughts about these points ?


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Those would be a concern, but I think it is offset by the fact that you have first author publications at recognised conferences or journals. I still think you'd have a good shot at top schools.

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Yeah, I think having a first-author publication in a recognized conference will help more than anything.

The main reason they might care about which school you went to is so that they have an idea of how well you might know the CS material. If you are concerned that they won't be familiar with your school, you can offset this by doing well on the CS subject GRE. If you do well, then this will give the admissions committees confidence that you are well prepared. This exam is pretty hard and requires some preparation, and it's pretty soon (I think they offer it in October and November), and I'm not sure how easy it would be for you to take where you live. But if it's an option and if you think you would do well, it would help. (though I wouldn't send your scores to schools unless you do well, say >80%).

Normally I tell people that the subject GRE is a waste of money, but I do think it can help if you're coming from a school that isn't well-known in the US.

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well, by all means I'm not ready and i don't even want to do the subject test

the thing is, about a year ago when i started preparing for applying, i had no means to convince the adcom i had the potential but taking the exam or going for a good project that can result in a publication. i decided to go for the project ( i liked doing this and really hated taking the exam just to convince them my school isn't bad)

now I'm distributing effort between GRE/TOEFL , TA-ing , preparing application materials (polishing old projects, personal page,resume,LOR writters, yet to start in NSF essays and the SoP). i will try in the following weeks also to contact potential advisors

Thanks alot,

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