2

I recently switched my major to Computer Science at a top university in Costa Rica. I'm seeking advice on things I should do during my undergrad to improve my chances of gaining admission to a reputable graduate school in the US.

For context, I've already completed some college-level math subjects, including Calc I and II, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, Probability Theory, and Introduction to Mathematical Proofs.

While my specific academic interests are not yet defined, I'm eager to pursue graduate studies in the US, as it has always been a dream of mine. I lived in New England for a couple of years and found it to be quite a charming place, but I'm open to pursuing a Master's or PhD anywhere in the US.

I would greatly appreciate any advice!

2
  • 1
    Research! Lots of available options for CS. While a bit taxing, scroll through Uni Departments and then their profs and see who's hiring remote (or even in person, or at your own uni) and do research!
    – Academic
    Feb 1 at 10:00
  • 1

2 Answers 2

2

I am not a CS major. But I would recommend having at least one research experience in your CV. I also recommend having a good relationship with the two referees who are willing to write letters of recommendation for you. Having these two requirements fullfilled will save you a lot of trouble when applying for a PhD, so that you can put your eggs in many baskets.

1
  • 1
    Actually, it is usually three letters.
    – Buffy
    Feb 1 at 12:52
1

In contrast to other answers and comments, let me suggest that, while some research experience is helpful, it isn't essential in the US for someone applying with only a bachelors. The doctoral program is designed to give you that experience in a more meaningful way than is possible in many (most?) undergraduate programs. If you can arrange something in research then do it, but don't feel you have a problem if it isn't available.

Doctoral admissions in the US is broad based. Grades matter, but mostly in upper level major (i.e. CS) courses and a few math courses, perhaps. Letters of recommendation are very important. The letters need to honestly predict your likelihood of success in a doctoral program and thereafter. They need to come from people who know you well enough to make that prediction. This means not just people you have taken a course with. This is where research is important, as it gives you a chance to work with someone who can speak for you with conviction.

Write a good Statement of Purpose for future studies. It needs some specificity, but doesn't need to propose a particular research project. A subfield of CS should be named (or possibly two) in which you want to contribute and have the skills to do so.

But, get close enough to a few CS (and maybe math) professors than can speak for you. Impress them with both your skills and your enthusiasm. Make sure they know something about your future plans. You will probably need three good letters.


Note that research as an undergraduate in the US is difficult to do for many reasons. One is the length of time available for it. You can't schedule results for translating the unknown to the known. The other is that the US undergraduate program is very broad (I don't know about Costa Rica) in which only about half of the courses are in the selected major. The others give a broad based education generally, including such things as writing, history, philosophy, etc. etc. In some other places the undergrad program is much more focused on one subject.

Even a course, directed by a researcher, that has you read some papers in a sub-field and discuss them in a seminar would be a plus as it would give you some sense about what research looks like even if there is insufficient time and resources to carry out a project.

1

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .