I remember asking myself “Where should I apply for my PhD?” multiple times last fall. I had already appeared for my GRE and TOEFL and was ready with transcripts. What I lacked was the right approach to start looking for schools! So after some detailed online research and talking with other PhD applicants I decided to go with schools based on the criteria of research fit and scholarship availability. I was very clear about my research interests and decided to choose schools based on professors who actively worked in that area.
Rutgers University (RU) shot up in my radar sometime last fall when I spoke with a senior living in the States who mentioned that RU was classified as a “very high research activity” school according to the Carnegie Classification. It was a large state school, which offered generous funding to PhD students and seemed a right fit in many ways. Rutgers has three campuses- New Brunswick, Newark and Camden. Some more internet research revealed that The Earth & Environmental Science Department at the Newark campus had a graduate program which aligned with my research interests completely. The idea of living close to New York was very exciting as well! Since it was not possible to schedule a campus visit, I took the virtual campus tour (I did that with all other schools) and fell in love with the school instantly.
I got in touch with a potential advisor, Dr. Ashaki Rouff, who expressed some interest in me joining her research group. However she could not guarantee funding. That was the risky bit! With no funding I could not pursue a PhD; I lacked the finances needed to support myself in the US without a scholarship. I took a risk and decided to go ahead and apply and asked to be considered for the departmental funding.
The Application Know-How
The application process at Rutgers is fairly simple. Step 1 involves creating an account at the Admissions portal, choosing your program and filling in all the basic data, information, self reporting scores etc. Once you submit your application and pay the non-refundable application fee (if applicable) you are taken to Step 2. Here you upload the following PDF documents as a part of the application package:
- Official Test Scores
- Three letters of Recommendation
- Personal Statement / LOR
- Any additional documents required (program specific)
I had applied for funding and was an international student; the application deadline for my school was March 3, 2015. International applicants have an early deadline in most schools. I had put in an application in the first week of February. Rutgers was actually the last school I had applied to. All the other schools I had chosen had deadlines of December 15 and January 15.
Hearing back from them
I had written once or twice in-between to the departmental and grad school coordinator to ask about the status of my application. If you have any doubts, you can write to the admissions office or graduate school. They reply quite promptly and address your queries.
Rutgers informed me of their decision sometime late March. I was offered admission with full departmental funding and a Teaching Assistantship! Moreover Dr.Rouff had been appointed as my PhD advisor. That meant no lab rotations!! I could not be happier. 😀
They sent the official admissions letter and brochures quite promptly using the postal service. By April I had confirmed my admission and was contacted by the International Scholar Services regarding my I-20. Since I had a full fee waiver there was no need to pay the tuition fees after confirmation of admission.
The application and admission process is very easy and convenient at Rutgers. Not just RU, but I believe it’s the same throughout all schools of the USA. These additional pages on Rutger’s application might be helpful.
I hope this post helps all of you who’re looking to get admitted. Best of luck! 😀