Pretty much what the tittle says. I'm currently studying for my TOEFL exam and considering start a graduate school application process for the next year or so, in Europe or Canada probably. I recently culminated my undergrad studies in a non-top university from my country, my notes overall are decent and I'm proud I could obtain a good GPA after all.

However, I have this concern that coming from an unknown university could be an important factor during my admission and I've been thinking in applying into research internships to gain experience.

But, is it my concern relevant? I'd appreciate any suggestions. Thanks in advance

  • If you don't apply, you don't get in. Just make your case like anyone.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 18:26
  • Thank you @Buffy any suggestion with regards my plan of get involved in a research internship? Do you think this could be convenient? Have a good day.
    – Luisvgs
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 18:39
  • Research is always good and boosts your chances.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 18:42
  • 1
    There are people who have made the PhD program at my undergraduate institution from smaller liberal arts colleges. Go ahead and go for it, worst they can do is say no.
    – Daveguy
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 3:20
  • If you are from an unknown university, then it is likely that your recommenders wouldn't be well known. That makes admissions to top graduate programs very difficult. Research internships at good labs (with good advisors and good research going on) will help you with good quality publications and recommendations if you can do some solid work while you are there. This would provide an immense boost to your profile.
    – Jihadi
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 5:40

1 Answer 1


First, a lot of people wind up in graduate schools that are rated better/higher than their undergraduate institutions. It can have some impact, but is normally not determinative. Of course, it is harder to get in to "top" universities than others since the competition is much stronger, but it is still possible if your application materials clearly indicate that you are a good candidate for success.

Anything that can make success seem more likely is a help. Publications, certainly. Research, even if not completed is a positive. Good grades, good letters from your professors, all contribute to a larger picture.

If any of your professors studied in the places you are contemplating, you might ask them for advice. Sometimes the personal contacts between professors can have an effect, depending on the admissions system. At a minimum, a letter from someone trusted by the reader has more impact than it would if there was no such relationship.

Make sure your CV is complete and, very important, make sure that your SoP talks about your future career goals and how you intend to pursue them. Any ideas you have about research projects can help, though less detail is probably a good thing. If you aren't a native speaker of the language of the country you apply to, make sure your materials are checked by someone who is so that the language is correct and not misleading or awkward.

And, also very important, is to apply to a range of institutions, not all rated about the same. There are a lot of good universities out there that aren't rated near the top in their respective regions.

  • Thank you so much for the kind comment, professor. I can confidently confirm that I have future career goals set in my mind, unfortunately my path is being affected by the lack of experience I have. I'm a fresh graduate with no experience in the industry, so my CV has nothing interesting yet to contemplate, besides self made projects (which I'm planning to keep adding) and projects made during my undergrad classes. Because of this, the research intern position could impact positively in my resume I'd say. Could you provide any comment with regards my argument? Best regards.
    – Luisvgs
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 20:42

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