Facts About PhD Full Funding Scholarship (TA & RA) In US

A good percentage of universities in the US have a ranking below 100, according to TimesHigher and USNews. Also, the United States is known for giving out postgraduate scholarships in the form of teaching or research assistants more than any other country, with stipends in the range of $10,000 to $45,000, depending on the school. Most Ivy League or top 10 give higher stipends to their graduate students. In addition, the prospect of getting a relatively good job after graduate studies in the US adds more ice to the cake. This is why students across the world prefer the US for their graduate studies. However, many students need to learn that graduate schools are challenging to gain admission to. In fact, it is competitive to be offered admission with full funding. The number of students submitting applications for Fall or Spring admission is now high. Although the percentage of students that applied for fall are higher than spring admission.

The bar is always raised because each faculty has limited space to admit students when compared with the number of applications submitted for each cycle. For example, the number of applications for admission into the physics faculty at Standford, Princeton, Yale, and Harvard exceeds one thousand. I believe the physics faculty in each department can’t accommodate more than 100 students. This means in each admission cycle only 10% will be admitted with full funding, and the remaining 90% will have to try in another cycle or look for something else to do. So, to get that 10%, different criteria are used to ensure the right candidate for the program is admitted.

The Importance of GPA

After observing US graduate admissions for a few years, I discovered that GPA is very important. Although each school puts 3.0 as the minimum GPA, it can only help if there is not much competition in that school. From observation and what I have heard from others, one thing that first shows your fit to the admission committee (Adcom) or Professor of interest (POI) is your GPA. In the US, GPA is over 4, and 3.8 is considered a high or good enough grade to stand competitive. Also, someone who had a 3.6 from the top 10 may have a slight edge over someone with a 3.8 from the top 100 i.e school reputation is important. My point is a good GPA is like a magnet that attracts those on the admission committee.

Someone may ask, is a GPA of 3.0 – 3.50 not good enough? They are good but can’t be relied on when the competition gets fierce. GPA is an important quantitative metric during the selection, and the way some schools do it is to filter out applicants below 3.7 without checking the rest of their applications. Let’s look at it this way, 200 applicants with above 3.7, 300 applicants between 3.5 – 3.7, and the rest 3.0 – 3.4. The probability that the first 200 applicants with above 3.70 GPA will be considered is high because the admission committee believes those students have shown through their past academic record that they are capable of graduate studies. Emotionally, this may be painful, but when judged objectively, one will see that past success is an indicator of future success. For example, my undergraduate GPA was 3.37, and my postgraduate GPA was 3.58. Getting graduate admission hasn’t been easy, not that I am incapable, but my signals aren’t strong enough relative to other candidates.

Research Experience

This is very important and can sometimes help with a low GPA. Research experience means the experience you gathered conducting research. It may be your contribution during data analysis or when performing experiments. This shows that you are actively engaging academically no matter the amount. Your research experience might be your internship, final year capstone project or research, volunteering work, etc.

Research experience is also a good indicator that you can be successful in grad school. The good news is that having this is an addition to your application and may make you stand out.

Safe Schools

I have seen different classifications online. You hear of super reach, reach, and safety schools. Schools in the top 10 are considered super reach, with the top 50 being reach and the top 100 being safety. In logic, most applicants prefer the top 20 schools, while the top 100 don’t see the same volume of applications as the top 20. This implies that safety schools might have low competition, which may help secure admission. However, this is not guaranteed, as admission depends on many factors. In my honest opinion, if your GPA is not above 3.7, it is safe to consider schools that are top 100 among the schools you want to apply to.

GRE General and Subject

Applicants with low GPAs need this more than applicants with high GPAs. It is a way to show the admission committee that you are capable. This may put perspective on the reasons for your low GPA in your statement of purpose. For instance, you had a 3.3 GPA, 960% in GRE subject, 160 Quant and > 155 Verbal. The GRE score will make the Adcom think this applicant has a foundational or basic knowledge, which may strengthen the reasons he/she gave in the SOP. The idea is to show why you should be offered admission over hundreds of others in the pool.

In this article, I will add that SOP is also important. This depends on how you can translate your strengths and achievements into writing. This is a skill one must have to stand out in the pool. You have to convince the committee that you are the best candidate through your writing.

Also, research fit is important. Your research experience must align with your interested faculty. So, you have to look for professors whose research interests align with yours. This will help you stand out in the pool. Also, this makes your application targeted and not generic.

In conclusion, the admission process to get a full funding scholarship in the US takes hard work. Looking for schools that waive this or that is not helpful, as it will increase the number of applicants in the pool, lowering your chances if you aren’t a strong candidate.

Bolarinwa Olajire

A tutor with a demonstrated history of working in the education industry. Skilled in analytical skills. Strong education professional with a M. SC focused in condensed matter. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking on the icon below to ask questions.

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