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I have an undergraduate degree in CS from UK. I have a good GPA and a decent GRE score (164 Quantitative, 159 Verbal). I hope to apply to some PhD programs, most in the US, but am afraid that my lack of prior research experience might hold me back. I know that my chances of joining the absolute top universities like MIT are almost non-existent. But that's fine with me because I know there are other universities that still offer strong PhD programs. However, even then, I might be at a significant disadvantage. As such, I want to make the best use of the SOP to make my application as appealing as possible. I want to do my PhD research in programming languages, but my only research during my undergraduate studies was about a specific vulnerability in Windows 7 systems, which is a completely different research area. So I'm not sure if mentioning the research would help or hurt my chances. And what other things that I must include in my SOP to help make it appealing? Do I mention my work experience? etc. Thank you for your help.

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You are correct that the top universities may be out of reach, but that is more a matter of number of applicants than anything.

But joining a doctoral program in US with only a bachelors is the, by far, typical situation. And most students have little if any research experience at that point. So, in that regard you are more or less typical. In fact, I'm guessing that the UK CS degree has more actual CS courses than is the case in US where a bachelors is a general degree with only some specialization.

However, don't use the SoP to pump yourself or to "explain" what you think are deficiencies. That isn't its purpose. Use the CV and letters of recommendation for pumping. The SoP is about your future plans both for graduate study and thereafter. So, concentrate on that. Let your letter writers say how great you are and how they are confident in your future success. Put research experiences (and work experience) in the CV, even if they didn't result in publication.

Also, see the answer for the US to this question.

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  • Thank you so much. Your answer really helps.
    – niripir
    Dec 23, 2021 at 13:51

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