I’m an incoming student at a top 10 CS graduate program and I’m currently planning my PhD applications. I’m worried about the fact that when I submit my PhD applications (December) I will have spent at most three months at my current Master’s program. I will not have time to do significant research, it’s as if I’m applying straight out of undergrad. I also read that most successful applicants at top CS PhD programs with a master’s under their belt have already published (or at least submitted a paper) by the time they apply (source: Jeff Erikson on Quora). What should I do to bolster my chances?
Certainly in the US, and probably other places, you should apply this year, starting soon.
In the US the process for doctoral admission is long with early deadlines almost everywhere. Meet those deadlines. Decisions won't be made until mid-winter or so, but you need to be in the system.
Also note, and this applies everywhere, you don't, in fact, have a MS "under your belt". You are just a beginning student. Even at the point decisions are made, unless you want a gap year, the MS won't be in hand.
Some places might let you update your application materials if good things happen prior to decision time.
Back to the US, most of the competition for a doctoral slot will be with people who have only a bachelors as that is very typical here. Even being in a good MS will be a plus.
Get in the game if you want to play.