Applying to Graduate School

Applying to graduate school can seem like a long and overwhelming process. That is because it is. There are some general do's and dont's related to applying to graduate school that are well known by the folks who are reviewing applications, but this information trickles down to very few applicants. When I was applying to grad school, I often wished that that information was more widely available, and so I decided to create a section on my website that aggregates all the links and resources that helped me through the process.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. If you have more questions after going through these links, or would like to chat about the application process and my experience through it, please feel free to email me at suneja at

Last updated: July 2021

What is Grad School? Full guide to applying

Here are some documents that do a wonderful job of answering questions such as What is Grad School? Should I apply for a masters or a PhD? What does a PhD application need? and so on.

How to write a good SOP

Your SOP is probably the part of your application that you will spend the most time on. Linked below are some resources I think are worth checking out when it comes to writing a statement.

  • My friend Darya has a section on her website on writing a good SOP for grad school with a link to her own statement. She also has links to other folks' posts, which I would highly recommend that you check out.
  • How to write a bad statement for a CS PhD Application by Andy Pavlo
  • A lot of schools have programs led by graduate students that provide feedback on applicant SOPs. Some programs I took advantage of were CMU's GASP and UW's PAMS.
  • Your letter writers are another great resource to get your SOP reviewed. They are constantly reading the statements of applicants and know what a "good" statement looks like. Don't hesitate to email them to get some feedback, but make sure to give them atleast a week to get back to you.
  • Lastly, if you'd like to take a look at my statement, please email me and I will send it your way.

How do I get involved in undergrad research?

This is a question that I've been asked a lot, and the answer to this can often be university specific. My answer depends heavily on my experiences at UCSD, but I will try my best to generalize it.

  1. Take a course in the area that you are curious about. CS is a very wide field, and it is almost impossible for you to know what the research in an area includes unless you learn the basics of it. Ofcourse, you don't need to take a class on programming languages to know what they are (thank you, youtube), but classes are often good, structed ways to learn new content, and they help you meet the faculty that are likely to be researching in the given area.
  2. The most important - GO TO OFFICE HOURS! This is advice that you will hear everywhere in college, but it is especially crucial if you want to work with a professor. Going to a prof's office hours and showing genuine interest in their subject is how you get them to realize that you are curious about the area, which is kind of a pre-req for research. Note that this applies even if you are not taking a course with the professor.
  3. Don't get disheartened if a professor says no to doing research with you. More often than not, professors say no because they are overwhelmed, and because advising a student well is a lot of work. If a professor is unable to provide you with a research position, ask them for names of other faculty who you could ask instead. Some professors might even send out an introductory email to other faculty, which will definitely make it easier for you to get a position!

Last few words

First, I'd like to reiterate the fact that applying to graduate school is not an easy process. It will be challenging and tiring. You will have a lot of questions as you go through the process, so reach out to people who can help you - your advisor, grad students you know, your peers who are also applying to graduate school, etc. You are not alone in this.

Applying to grad school will also be fun and exciting. You will get to talk to folks who are working on really cool stuff, so remember to enjoy the conversations you have and learn as much as you can from them. This is one of the few times in your life when people will schedule time to just talk to you about their work, so take advantage of this opportunity.

Lastly, remember to keep track of all the resources and advice that helped you out so you can pass it along to the next batch of students. And when you have similar sections up on your websites, email me so I can add links to them on this page :)