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I am expecting to finish my masters degree in computer science by mid October and then I was planning to apply for a PhD program this year.

My question is, how much time will I have after being done with my masters to apply? I know different US universities have different deadlines but a general safe assumption would really be appreciated.

I still haven't decided which universities I would be applying to. I am also aware of the fact that eventually I'll have to look up at the websites for the exact deadlines but for now I just needed an approximate idea of a date by which I should have everything ready for submission including my GRE scores (which I am planning to retake).

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It varies greatly.

  • There are the fixed deadline places, for which there are deadlines starting from Nov 15 or thereabouts, all the way upto Jan 15.
  • There are also places with rolling deadlines, where it's better to apply early.

In general, you should have your materials ready to go in the beginning/middle of November and that should take care of most deadlines.

  • Why is day 15 of the month usually picked? – Ooker Dec 18 '15 at 14:37
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The situation also depends a bit on if you're looking for financial support in the form of fellowships. If so, then you need to be a bit ahead of the schedule for applying to the graduate departments directly—some fellowship programs, including the NSF, typically have deadlines in November.

However, in general, if the school does not do "rolling admissions," then the deadline will be somewhere in December or early January, with decisions given in February or early March, and a decision expected usually by May 1.

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    Most computer science PhD programs, at least in North America, have a decision deadline of April 15. – JeffE Jun 15 '12 at 18:17
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It depends on what program it is.

Most top ecology and biology programs have deadlines in early December.

Most top-20 physics and astronomy programs (excluding Columbia) have deadlines on December 15th. Columbia's deadlines are usually on the first few days of January. Mid-tier astronomy programs tend to have deadlines around January 15.

That said, there are weaker programs in Physics (like Montana State and Kansas) that have deadlines that go well into Spring.

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As for most strong Earth/Atmospheric/Planetary science programs - they primarily have deadlines in late December and early January.

(E.g. for this year for EAPS programs - deadlines were Stanford in mid-December, Berkeley on Dec 19, Harvard/Princeton on Dec 31, Caltech on Jan 1, Yale on Jan 2, Columbia on Jan 4, MIT on Jan 5, Chicago on Jan 9, UWash+Brown on Jan 15, and Cornell on Feb. 1st).

As for my case, I was utterly unprepared until mid-December.

I didn't take my General GREs until mid-December (though I took the Biology GRE in mid-October and the Physics GRE in mid-November - those two dates are the two subject GRE test dates in autumn), and only asked for LORs in mid-December (I managed to get them all in by January 2, but a couple of professors said that they wouldn't be able to write me LORs because they would be traveling during late December - I was fortunate to have many options to choose from though). Then I didn't start on my personal statement until the last two weeks of December (and I went through like 7-8 proofreaders). So the result was that I missed the Harvard/Princeton deadline and barely made the Caltech deadline with a crappy essay. Everything past January 2 was fine though.

  • is there any reason why the dates are so varied? – Ooker Dec 18 '15 at 14:40

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