[By Shawhin] In the past few weeks, we’ve had the pleasure of getting questions on applying to grad school in the US and particularly Berkeley. Most questions came from friends we made during our visit to Iran, blog readers, some family, etc. Since I was sharing a lot of the same information, I thought it would be useful to put an entry here on tehranshake. My timing is a bit off because most applications we were helping with were due sometime in the past few weeks. Nevertheless, I’m sure applicants for next year could still benefit from this info – especially given that some advanced planning, in terms of getting familiar with professors, should be done well before the application.
As a background, I’ve been through the undergrad application for civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at Berkeley (as well as a few other schools), the MS application process for CEE at Cornell, and just this past month, the PhD application process for the college of environmental design (CED) at Berkeley. Shideh’s done the undergrad application for CEE at Cornell (and about 8 other schools), the MS application for geotechnical engineering at Berkeley (and 2 other schools), and the PhD application again for geotech at Berkeley.
Note: the info in this post and comments are just opinion and by no means official or necessarily correct! So take it all with a grain of salt. That said, feel free to post questions and we’ll be more than happy to respond with our thoughts. We also invite anyone else to respond to others’ questions as well. Also note, that requirements may differ greatly between departments and universities, so our experiences with the CEE and CED departments may not hold for other fields such as mechanical engineering, etc.
So to start this thing off, I’ll concisely list things we’ve discussed with friends and provide more detail in later comments to this post:
+ If applying for the PhD in engineering, it is very important to get familiar with the faculty you want to work with – go to the department website and read about faculty research and pinpoint a few people you want to work with. Establish contact with them ASAP and express interest. This is hard given that a lot of professors rarely respond to email! If you can call by phone, I think that’s a good idea too.
+ Figure out application requirements (essays, exam scores, resume?, etc) early on and plan to spend months getting everything in order. The essays can take weeks or more and should be pretty perfect in terms of grammar and style. (I’d be happy to read your essays and provide feedback to the best of my ability.) At Berkeley the essays are very important.
+ If you don’t think your GPA is high, don’t let that stop you. Good essays and established contact with a professor at the department can go a long way.
+ If you get accepted, or leading up to your application, be sure the faculty or the research you will be involved in will provide funding for your education and living expenses. Shideh, could speak better to this. If they offer something very basic in terms of funding, you should negotiate. Kelaas bezar!
+ Depending on the department, they may not allow you to communicate with faculty after submitting your application.
These are summaries of a few conversations I’ve had that come to mind right now. Like I said, please feel free to ask whatever comes to mind.
Hope this helps!