Background: I'm planning to attend graduate school for CS at a school (UT Austin) where state residents pay significantly less tuition. Therefore, I will move to the city where the university is 16 months in advance of applying. I am planning on first applying to a Master's program to gain research experience and boost my credentials.

I want to do research with a certain professor at this university before applying to the Master's program.

Question: What can a non-enrolled student with only a bachelor's degree do to improve his/her chances of being able to do research with a professor to boost the student's resume for graduate admissions?

I.e., replicate his important research, try to publish in his area of research, use my university email so it's less likely to be treated as spam, have a professor I'm doing research with beforehand reach out (while continuing research with this professor), etc?

Edit: Well, I've been trying to get undergrad research as a distance learning student right now and I haven't gotten any response back yet. I wonder if it'll be even harder after I graduate.

  • 1
    What about finding a lab for an internship during some of these 16 months?
    – Guillaume
    Mar 12, 2018 at 20:11
  • 1
    I've pulled out a lot of the personal information to make this fit more with community standards so you might get an answer. Please roll back the edits if I have gone too far...
    – Dawn
    Mar 12, 2018 at 20:48
  • Thank you Dawn. That's a wonderful idea Guillaume; I'll read into it.
    – Kulgurae
    Mar 12, 2018 at 22:02
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    I don't have time to make this a full answer, but definitely use your current university email. If your current professor is willing to reach out to this other professor, definitely go that route and then follow up yourself. Otherwise, they may be willing to let you drop their name "So-and-so suggested that, given my interest in X, it would be appropriate to reach out to you." This is known as a "warm" contact and can increase chances of getting a response.
    – Dawn
    Mar 14, 2018 at 18:05
  • You may also want to see answers to this question: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/108045/… and this question: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/107401/… Apr 13, 2018 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


Contact the professor and ask (politely!).

Nobody ever explained to me how you applied for a doctorate until after I found out my undergrad results and people started suggesting I should think about it, so I approached a few of the departmental lecturers whose work I liked, explained that I was interested in working with them and asked if there was any way I could get experience in their group. One of them turned out to have some short-term funding and paid for me to work with the group for a year as long as I did two days a week of general group jobs. During the year I was able to get to know the group, contribute to papers and apply for doctoral funding (which was successful).

So, from personal experience of being in a similar situation, it's worth asking. This took place in the UK about (ahem) 20 years ago, but unpaid or self-funded 'placements' are common in other countries too. Since you have a clear aim (a specific project or area that you want to strengthen your CV in, for a defined period) and it doesn't sound like there is a specific structure in place to facilitate this, then I'd give it a go.

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