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Aiming a PhD in Top Grad School? Important Points to Consider!
#1
Just procuring a PhD is not a guarantee to securing a great job ! You have to stand out of the crowd to make a mark. So, unless you secure a place in a top grad school, doing a PhD would more be a waste of 3-5 years (in India it may go as up as 7 years!), than a good decision! So, the question now is, "How to enter a good Graduate School?"

Before we jump ahead to the pointers on how to procure a PhD abroad/ in a good graduate school, let me share my motivation for writing this article:
Quote:In the last 7 years of my academic and professional career in Biotechnology, I've seen people worried from day 1 about their probable future in the field. Though there are ample amount of good jobs in this field, but considering the large pool of students passing with various diplomas and baccalaureate degrees in  Biotechnology every year, the scope of jobs has shrunk to only highest qualified people in the field, and it goes without saying that PhDs are much preferred for a decision making, well paid job in this sector, unless you are targeting the post of a lab technician/assistant only! At the same time, I would like to quote one of my previous articles on ( Scope of career in Biotech | Take it or leave it?):

Quote:There is this paradox existing in this field--People keep studying till PhD and then apply for jobs for which they are "Over-qualified" (companies have a policy of considering only Undergrads or post grads for a set of jobs, for which PhDs are obviously not going to be considered). It's an irony that Biotech is trending towards having huge numbers of PhDs every year and reason for that being the fear of not getting  a job after Undergraduate/Post grad studies (please shed your fears, if you wish for a job, try harder for a year for the same, you will get it!). 

Let me start answering the question of 'How to get admission in a foreign university/ How to get PhD position in a top grad school'  firstly by enlisting the top graduate schools for an esteemed PhD in Life Sciences/Biotechnology. Though Germany holds the record for largest number of Life Science dedicated universities, US & UK top the choice and dreams of any student, owing to the quality & reputation of their degrees.


Big Names: Difficult Targets
Here I'll enlist the best universities, with very stringent entrance criteria:
  • Biggest name is Harvard University (US)
  • Then Comes MIT (US)
  • Followed by Cambridge (UK)
  • Stanford (US)
  • UCB (US)
  • Yale (US)
  • UCLA, UCSD, Caltech (US)
  • Imperial College London (UK)
  • Columbia (US)
  • Princeton (US)
  • ETH Zurich (Switzerland)

Big Names:: Less Difficult
Here is a list of well renowned colleges/Universities where odds of getting selected are bit higher than the above listed ones:
  • University of Toronto (Canada)
  • University of Basel, University of Zurich (Switzerland)
  • Boston University (US)
  • University of Hong Kong (China)
  • University College London (UK)
  • Glasgow (UK)
  • Washington University (US)
  • EPFL (Switzerland)
  • University of Wisconsin (US)

Big Names::Easy to Enter
Here is a list of very good names on the globe, and as per experiences of people who got in, it's much easier to enter *when compared to above universities*:
  • National University of Singapore (Singapore)
  • HKUST
  • KAUST
  • The University of Queensland
  • National Taiwan University (Taiwan)
  • Purdue University (US)
  • University of Geneva (Switzerland)
  • University of Massachusetts Medical School - Worcester (US)
  • Freie Universität Berlin (Germany)
  • Technische Universität München (Germany)
  • Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Germany)
  • University of Cape Town (South Africa)
  • IIT Delhi, Bombay (India)
  • Indian Institute of Science Bangalore (India)
And the list may never end if you start referring the rankings of the universities (QS, Times etc)

Now, let's ponder over the points that could help you grab a seat in one of the above colleges.

1. GRE
Graduate Record Examination has established itself as the most preferred index of a grad school aspirants' aptitude for higher studies. Awareness of average scores apt for qualifying a particular institute's shortlisting criteria, is extremely important. Following links may help you in the same:

GRE cut-offs for Top US Universities  (Document belongs to: http://www.gretousvisa.com)

   

For downloading a complete book on  "A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States (2011)", goto: http://nap.edu/rdp/

2. Research Experience
Good Universities will always prefer candidates with 1-2 years of lab experience than the fresh undergraduates, unless you have an exceptional portfolio in terms of your undergraduate institute, CGPA and co-curriculars.

So, dedicating your time for an intern/project assistant-ship, while you prepare for applying at a grad school, is always going to be a PLUS.

3. CGPA & Co-curriculars

How you performed during your undergraduate degree, is going to be a huge index for assessing your prospective candidature for the PhD. A good CGPA (above 9 on a scale of 10) gives you an edge over others who aren't at par. In case your CGPA is below 9, prefer going for Subject GRE and excelling well in  that. It will show your command over the subject and will make-up for the loss.

Co-curriculars here mean your participation in National/International conferences, social service, event organization related to your field of interest. They give an extra kick to your resume!

4. Publications

Though it's not so common to get a publication right after/during your Bachelors/Masters degree. But a publication "in a good impact journal" is a huge asset.

P.S: It would be better not to have a publication, than to have one in a poor impact journal!

5. SOP (Your Statement of Purpose)

Now, this is that factor that can take you through despite all the bad CGPA/No Publications/Low Class Institute etc. It's through your SOP that the selection committee comes to know the real character of yours. How you communicate your motivation for research and why you chose their institute is really going to decide the fate. Be true and tell it truely. Tell your voyage, how you got motivated for the chosen field. Support it with instances and events. Don't make stories, you will be caught. Be original, be simple, but tell all your thoughts.

6. Letters of Recommendation

This is another very significant factor deciding your admission. A recommendation from a reputed professor/scientist makes your case very strong. But make sure it should reflect your true association with the recommend-er. Your recommendation comes mostly from your internship supervisor(s) or a professor in your institute. So, better work well for both cases.

If your application makes a mark through these factors, you may get an interview call. Once you are called, your confidence levels should be high (don't be afraid/nervous, you have already done a wonderful job by making it through). During the interview, they often cross check with your statements in SOP and recommendation letter. They may ask you about the reason for choosing their institute and not any other. And they may put you in a situation like "What if you don't get the project in the field you aspire to work on, will you still join us?" The answer from a true researcher should be:


" Yes!, as long as the field I'm assigned helps me work for the welfare of the society. At the end of the day, that's my true aspiration behind research."

Thank you
Hope it helps all those who seek a bright scientific career.
All the Best!


Topics covered: PhD Tips | PhD abroad | Tips for PhD Abroad | Tips for admission in foreign university
Sunil Nagpal
MS(Research) Scholar, IIT Delhi (Alumnus)
Advisor for the Biotech Students portal (BiotechStudents.com)
Computational Researcher in BioSciences at a leading MNC


Suggested Reads:
Top Biotech Companies | Top places to work
Indian Biotech Companies and Job Openings
Aiming a PhD in Top Grad School? | These are the Important Points to Consider
Careers in Biotechnology | A list of various Options
Biotechnology Competitive Exams in India
#2
IIT/IISc/TIFR are the priority institute to do PhD if a student want to do it in India.I want to ask about PhD from ICGEB,RCB,THTSI like places is equally valuable or not??
#3
Hello vbiotech,
ICGEB, RGCB, THSTI are amongst the best research centres in India. If you have an opportunity there, and wish to pursue PhD in India only, then yes you dont need to be in doubt about these research centres.

NII, NCL, BARC, IISERs, JNU are also worth mentioning.

Readers are requested to add the names of other universities/research centres in their knowledge, which are well renowned and worth going for a PhD.

Best wishes
Sunil
Sunil Nagpal
MS(Research) Scholar, IIT Delhi (Alumnus)
Advisor for the Biotech Students portal (BiotechStudents.com)
Computational Researcher in BioSciences at a leading MNC


Suggested Reads:
Top Biotech Companies | Top places to work
Indian Biotech Companies and Job Openings
Aiming a PhD in Top Grad School? | These are the Important Points to Consider
Careers in Biotechnology | A list of various Options
Biotechnology Competitive Exams in India
#4
Hello sir,

Your post was very helpful. I am at my final year pursuing B.tech in Plant biotechnology. I am interested to do my higher studies abroad, preferably US. Can you please provide me information regarding scholarships available to do MS / Ph.d at US universities? Thanks in advance.
  

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