I'm looking to apply to grad school once my wife finishes her PhD next year. She has a post-doc lined up in Canada and I'm thinking during that time would be a great time for me to finally start mine (PhD).

My issue is that I do not have any research experience and I'm about 4 years into industry as a practicing software engineer. I have a bachelors and masters in computer science and I'm currently about to publish a paper with my wife that is a mix of CS/Biology. Given that she is going to Canada, I'm wanting to try to get into University of Toronto, which seems highly ranked. What things can I do starting today to get into this school given my experience?

2 Answers 2


You may want to reach out to a professor ahead of time and inquire if they’re going to be accepting students during the period you wish to apply. It’s by no means a sure fire way to get in, because you could be beaten out by competition, but it’s a good start. Apart from that, you’d be best to get all of the documents together on time and submit it before the deadline. Maybe try to exploit your network, work on getting solid recommendation letters from past professors or people who can speak to your ability to do research.

  • Thanks for the response. As far as competition goes, is there still opportunities to get into grad school at the PhD level without prior research experience?
    – Ryan
    Jul 26, 2020 at 4:13
  • 1
    @Ryan how can you be about to publish a paper if you don't have prior research experience? Seems contradictory to me. Jul 26, 2020 at 11:01
  • OP also mentioned they have a masters, but it may have just been a course based masters without a significant research component? Jul 26, 2020 at 12:34
  • It is a course-based masters with little research. My wife is a PhD student and we are currently doing research together. This experience is my first actual research experience. The publication will be submitted to a different field than the field that I am interested in. I am the second author assisting with the technical aspect of the experiment.
    – Ryan
    Jul 27, 2020 at 18:20

I do not know about univ. of Toronto but in general, if you are full fee-paying student universities usually accept you as a PhD student more easily compared to the ones who rely on funding/scholarships.

Since your wife has already done (almost) her PhD I am sure you know about the requirements for application etc.

As mentioned in another answer getting in touch with the prospective supervisor is a good start. Try collaborating with your previous professors. Read the papers of the prospective supervisors and try to identify your research direction. Think of your PhD research proposal. I believe you would be required to give a PhD Qualifying exam. Why not start preparing for it?

Your paper with your wife might not be considered seriously unless you are the primary author. Are you? If not then try to work on another paper which you could be the primary author.

Best of luck! Univ. of Toronto is a great university.

  • 3
    Why you should not self-fund: academia.stackexchange.com/a/29509/13240 Apr 23, 2021 at 11:00
  • @AnonymousPhysicist Not every university is so expensive. Some of them cost $20K per year and the Ph.D. candidate gets tutoring positions from the second year covering the fees a good extent. By the third year, you start getting into funded projects. If you cannot or your Professor is not supporting, then quit the PhD, because it wont end well. (IMHO)
    – kosmos
    Apr 23, 2021 at 12:20
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    @kosmos Not every University is so expensive, true, but it is not just about the tuition cost. A funded PhD typically also covers your life expenses (how much would you spend on rent/food during 3 years?), conference and other travel expenses, lab equipment. Even if the tuition fees were zero, just living and eating for 3 years is quite expensive.
    – penelope
    Apr 23, 2021 at 12:30
  • Also, consider fairness as well as money. The linked answers go into some detail. Apr 23, 2021 at 22:02
  • @Anonymous Physicist If the OP wants to get a PhD position at the said University without serious publication record and research background, he has no choice.
    – kosmos
    Apr 23, 2021 at 22:27

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