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I am an international student(south Asia) who has recently completed his 4th semester in CS.

My current CGPA is 3.2 (social science courses in my freshmen year messed it up) and Major GPA of 3.6. I am expecting my CGPA to be around 3.5 by the time I graduate.

I do not have any research experience and I am worried that I might not get into any good program.

My question is that How much research experience or publications are required to get into a good PhD program in US? or that How much experience does an average accepted candidate has? Phrased in a different way:

What kind of experience should I aim to get by the time I apply to grad school that I get accepted into a good program.

I am not talking Stanford, MIT etc but may be among the top 30-40.

  • I don't know about CS, but I had 0 publications, a masters thesis and a 3.05 undergraduate GPA and got into a top 20 Earth Science school. – Neo Jul 5 '14 at 3:08
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    The simplest response, which you'll find unsatisfying, is that you really need to do some research, not just to "get in" to graduate school but to find out if you enjoy science. If you do end up applying after deciding you like CS research, it's most critical that you be able to convey to an interviewer a deep understanding of the project you worked on, whether or not you got any publications out of the experience. – vector07 Jul 5 '14 at 5:46
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I think you should focus more on the quality and focus of your research than the amount. If you are researching a concrete topic, and have 1-2 solid works dealing with it, then you are golden. Make sure you explain the value of these works in your research statement/essay. That would be more or just as important as the resume, because it is an expression of you as an individual.

Other people will tell to go down the bullshit path and sprout several pieces that milk the same research but add little to the field. Some schools will buy that, but others will not differentiate you from the rest of students. You can also try this approach, but it may be even more time-consuming than the first.

Reading your question again, it is better that you engage in research before applying. Perhaps you can contact a professor and work with him, or a PhD student at your university, or find a research institute in which you can put in some time.

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    Other people will tell to go down the bullshit path — Not here, they won't. – JeffE Jul 5 '14 at 5:19
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I am relatively familiar with this for domestic (US) students, but less familiar with the requirements for international students. I'll assume the requirements are the same....

Have you done any research at all, even for a big class project or something on your own? If so, mention these. The admissions committee that reviews your application will want to know that you're interested in doing research and that you know what you're getting yourself in to.

If you have a couple years left before you graduate, I would try hard to get a research experience before you apply, even if you have to volunteer (work for free) for a semester. If I had to make a guess, I'd guess that most programs would want to see that you have done at least one or two research experiences, if only so that they know that you know what research is.

Formal research experiences (summer research internships, for example) and publishing a paper or two are great, but they're not the only criteria.

First, it depends on how competitive the program you are applying to is. More research experience may be needed to help you stand out enough to be accepted. Publications are always great, but research experience (which may not have resulted in a publication) is still well-regarded.

Another factor grad programs consider is how focused you are, and if you have an existing connection with a research group in that program. For example, you may have previously collaborated with a professor in their program, and he/she is familiar with your work. If you show a genuine interest in working with him/her, it will reflect well on you, and who knows -- he/she may be able to help your application get accepted. If you just want to get accepted into their program, but it looks like you have no direction or research interests after that, the committee reviewing your application will look less favorably on you.

Lastly, when you apply, you should apply for a spread of schools. Apply to 1-2 competitive programs which, if they accepted you, would make you feel lucky because you weren't sure you qualified. You should apply to several programs that you think might accept you. Lastly, apply to a few programs which you are certain you would be accepted to, just in case you aren't accepted to any of the others.

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