I am 23, I have a Russian diploma in Computer Science and I am interested in getting into PhD in Computer Science in the US. But after reading this post and some google search I realized that I have some major problems in my application.
- I don't have any research experience and results to show:
when I was 17 I moved in (big Russian city) to attend university there and I had to work really hard (40-60 hours per week) in night shifts to pay for myself (rent, food, books, etc). So I have got major health problems and haven't got any time (and other resources) for high-quality study. Now, a year after graduation, I still don't have enough time for this kind of project because I have to work hard towards exams. I also have to work hard to earn money for application because of the difference between dollar and ruble.
- Recommendation letters from my university professors probably will not have any weight outside my country:
my university hasn't any famous projects or labs or publications even according to the standards of my own country. Of course, I remember that the most important thing about recommendation letter is that what does it tell about my professional and personal abilities. But will it make any sense since it's written by someone totally unknown for admission committee?
Also, I figured out some good points for my application:
I am very motivated and I already know what it's like to be alone in big city by myself. I already know what it's like to work hard and live on very limited amount of money. I know the difference between what I'm capable of and what I'm not.
I am good at doing an independent work. I did my diploma in digital sound processing and learned all the maths I needed during 3 months without guidance and without any background in this field (when I started I didn't even know what is a bitrate). Then I worked as a research C++ developer in one karaoke project, again in DSP field. There I learned how to work with angry bosses, how to summarise any completed work to present results to managers, how to deploy mathematical models in real project and how to do it fast and so on. This project had some business problems so I quit and started to freelance. For this purpose I had to develop a system for organizing myself and skills to set goals and to meet my own deadlines.
I have a lot of practical knowledge. I worked as a linux system administrator in a big hosting company for about a year, I can write on C++, python, php, Objective C and Java. I know how to work in team and how to communicate with different people.
For last two years I did great amount of work with myself. I quit smoking and drinking alcohol. I totally stopped to take caffeine in any doses, I lost more than 15 kilo (results of my health problems), I gained a lot of muscles and started to do some yoga. During all this time I learned a lot about neurophysiology, cognitive sciences and the basics of biology. I've got really inspired by all this knowledge and now I'm looking forward to work with neuroscience.
I have already took the TOEFL iBT test and have score of 104.
I have a GPA 4.98 from 5.0.
So my question is: how can I make my good points to overweight my problems?