You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resources—including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.
Under Academia, we have courses, research, and STEM certification.
Fortunately, every department has a course catalog which lists all the courses you can potentially take during your graduate school. Apart from providing the course titles, most universities will supplement that with one-paragraph descriptions, instructor names, duration, offered semester, and number of credits. Similar to the admission requirements, this changes based on the university.
For example, Texas A&M lists all its mechanical engineering graduate courses with just a one-paragraph description on its site.* University of Washington goes further to create a separate page for each course—detailing your takeaways, syllabus, homework deadlines and more—from its list of courses.* Columbia University on the other hand provides you a flowchart of the courses you can take based on the specialization you are interested in.* Bottom line?
Course information will be on the department website.
If it isn’t, you should think twice about applying to that university.
Universities in the U.S. also go a step further to include course evaluations collected from past students. However, these are generally hidden behind an authentication portal, and not accessible to the public. It’s worth checking once, though.
Here’s some good news for all the computer science graduates out there: a huge chunk of your work in collecting information on research conducted at U.S. universities has already been completed by the creators of CSRankings.* Below is a good introduction to the website, taken from its FAQ page:
Rankings are intensely popular and influential. While we might wish for a world without rankings, wishing will not make rankings go away. Given this state of affairs, it makes sense to aim for a ranking system that is meaningful and transparent. Unfortunately, the most influential rankings right now are those from U.S. News & World Report, which is entirely reputation-based and relies on surveys sent to department heads and directors of graduate studies.
By contrast, CSRankings is entirely metrics-based: it weighs departments by their presence at the most prestigious publication venues. This approach is intended to be both incentive-aligned (faculty already aim to publish at top venues) and difficult to game, since publishing in such conferences is difficult. It is admittedly bean-counting, but its intent is to “count the right beans.”
CSRankings ranks universities based solely on the number of papers published and the venue of those publications.
Since a paper published in a tier one journal is not the same as a paper published in a tier three journal, the code takes this into account by only considering the conferences which are among the top in the respective domains. For example, only papers published in CVPR,* ECCV,* and ICCV* conferences are considered in the Computer Vision domain. It also uses an adjusted count when there is more than one contributing author so that the credit is divided equally among everyone (ergo more authors does not equal more value). The creator, Emery Berger,* who is a professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, used data from Google Scholar* and DBLP* to create this system.
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When you navigate to the website, we recommend reading the FAQ and the advice* they have for aspiring graduates before looking at the rankings.
Even then, understand that the default rankings are based on all domains under computer science. You should deselect them all to then choose the domain of your interest on the left pane and see the results.
Look at the faculty under each university and navigate to their home pages to see the research being conducted.
CSRankings is a great tool—but not a flawless one. As you use it to narrow down your universities, understand that it was still created by people who have biases.
Time to DIY
We know this still doesn’t answer the question for all of you non-computer science graduates out there. Fret not. There are always different layers of solving an issue.
You might be using novel digital tools today to perform calculations. But have you ever wondered what people used to use before Google Sheets came into the picture? Or Microsoft Office? Or VisiCalc?
Source: The sales ledger from Lou Groen’s opening day of business, January 13, 1959, at his first McDonald’s in Monfort Heights, Ohio. Image courtesy of Paul Groen. Smith, A. K. “The Fishy History of the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish Sandwich.” Smithsonian Magazine. (March 1, 2013).
Good old, plain white paper.
It wasn’t pretty, but it got the work done.
Although there isn’t a ready-made solution available, you’re just a few hours of research away from getting what you need. CSRankings built the ranking system based on data from sources such as Google Scholar and DBLP, which are readily available for you to view. So if you were to do it yourself, first identify the professors whose research you find interesting from your department’s research page. From there, you can navigate to the pages of these professors on the aforementioned aggregator sites to gain insight on their present and past work.
Last but not the least, if you plan to pursue your graduate studies in the U.S., please check if your major is STEM certified.
Glad you asked.
statsEvery eligible graduate student in the U.S. gets a 12-month period post degree completion, called Optional Practical Training (OPT), to work with an eligible employer and learn on the job.* Here comes the best part: if you’re an F1 student earning a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), you are eligible for a 24-month extension on top of the 12 months received by everyone.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states that:*
To qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, an F-1 student participating in an initial period of regular
Have a degree in an eligible STEM field from a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school that is accredited when the student submits their STEM OPT extension application to USCIS.
Pursue their STEM OPT extension through an employer that is enrolled in USCIS’s E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
Select a STEM OPT employer that provides the student with formal training and learning objectives.
Work a minimum of 20 hours per week per employer.
At this stage, you should only be concerned about the first point, which says your degree must be in an eligible STEM field from a school that is SEVP certified. If you’re wondering how to get that information, you can easily find it on the DHS website.* This list is curated by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This isn’t a list set in stone, however. They keep updating it and even mention that you can request for a degree to be added by emailing SEVP.*
In an ideal world, universities would publish information on every alumni’s job role, company, and salary in a massive database that can be queried. But in reality, this information is not available to the extent you would want, since universities that don’t have a great history tend to obfuscate this with less important data. For example, the Management Science and Engineering department at Columbia University does a reasonably good job of giving you all the numbers you need.* On the other hand, we couldn’t find the data at all for the Computer Science department at Virginia Tech.* Nevertheless, your first layer of research should once again begin with your department’s website.
Apart from spending time on the department site, we recommend resorting to platforms that pool this information. The professional networking site LinkedIn is your best bet here. We will detail best practices in creating a LinkedIn profile in a later chapter, but for now, use it to collect data on the alumni.
LinkedIn lets you look at the alumni of any institution and glean some basic categorical information on where they live, what they do, and what they majored in, and more.* You can also filter these fields to, say, look for students who majored in economics at Stanford University and are currently working at Apple in the U.S.*
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