In this special bonus podcast Tim has compiled application advice from four MS students (Shreyas Chandrakaladharan, Amber Teng, Eric He and Aja Klevs) and four PhD students (Chris Ick, Irina Espejo, William Falcon and Katrina Evtimova).
December 11, 2019 | 12:50
Tim Baker (host) [0:00] Welcome to the NYU Center for Data Science Admissions Podcast. I’m your host, Tim Baker. This week we’ll hear from current MS and PhD students, and they’ll offer application advice.
Shreyas Chandrakaladharan [0:15] Hi I’m Shreyas. I’m a second year Masters student in Center for Data Science at NYU. And I’ve been loving it here so far, so excited for this podcast. I would say talk to a lot of people. So the major thing is networking. So it sort of begins before you join NYU and also continues after you join NYU. So go to LinkedIn, use podcast like these. And there are also networking opportunities with students that I know for a fact that CDS provides – use those opportunities to talk to the people who are present in CDS to get the best as to how to structure your apply application because there’s nobody better to speak to. So talk to a lot of people to get more info. Everything is sort of organized on the website so all you need to do is go to the NYU website – and this applies for any college and not NYU – just go to their admissions website and they’ll have clear instructions about how to apply. And moreover, I also found other online blogs and forums like Reddit are useful for the application and admission process. So they’ll they’ll help you structure your applications better so you can also Google stuff. I’d suggest that you talk to professors whom you have actually worked closely with. So for example, in my case, I had a Bachelor’s thesis advisor. So I did an exchange program and he was advising me for six months on my research, and he gave me a letter of recommendation. Moreover, it’s also a fact that I actually had to ask him for the letter, so he did not give out of his own accord, which does not happen always if it happens, good for you. But nevertheless, I asked and he was more than willing to and he was able to give a more personal level. Because he had actually supervise me for six months, so it’s better if you can find people like that. Otherwise go with good courses that you have enjoyed and you have interacted with professors a lot through like office hours. Those should also get you good letters of recommendation
Amber Teng [2:15] Hi, I’m Amber Teng. I’m a first year student at CDS. My current track is NLP. And before coming to CDS, I used to work in risk and finance. But I majored in economics and archaeology. Actually, I really liked applying to CDS because I thought that the kinds of questions that they asked on the essay were very, like academically stimulating and kind of made me think about whether or not I actually wanted to do data science, what I wanted to do with with a degree and kind of like where I wanted it to lead me and why like this time in my life was the best time to do it. So in terms of the application for me, it was like a couple of parts. So first, I had to take the GRE, which is like the standardized testing that you have to take to apply to grad school. And then I got recommendation forms from my professors. So my thesis professor gave me one and also my manager at the company I was working at before coming to CDS. It really wasn’t too difficult because my professors were absolutely amazing. Like I had a very close relationship with him in college and even after my thesis advisor, we stayed in touch. So kind of asking him to write a referral or a recommendation letter for me, wasn’t that difficult. And he knew me very well, because I took like two classes with him. And he advised me during my undergrad years as well. In terms of asking my manager, I think that was a bit trickier just because if you’re working at a company, they don’t necessarily expect you to be applying to grad school. But they were very supportive because the team I was working on was focused on risk analytics. So we were dealing mostly with fraud identification and identifying fraudsters and bad guys in banks, basically. He knew that the degree was related to my job so he was also pretty supportive about that.
Chris Ick [4:10] My name is Chris Eric. I am a first year PhD student but I also did my first years of the master’s program before switching into the PhD program. I’ll go through the main components, right, your statement of purpose, your letters of recommendation, and your GRE scores, right? Because those are the things you can probably change now, like, obviously, in your transcript, but it’s probably too late to change that at this point. So on those three things, I think it’s important to make sure you pick people who know you very well for your letters of recommendation and people with diverse perspectives of you. So I was lucky enough to have a lot of research background coming into this but I made sure that only two of my letters were specifically research-oriented. And I picked a third professor who was more related to the field I was interested in which was music and audio.. And then I had him write a letter about how I was as a student taking courses. For the statement of purpose – a lot of people want to talk a lot about their technical requirements and their research background and stuff like that. And I think that’s fine. But there are other places in the application for that to shine through. Whereas the statement of purpose is the only place for you to really talk about you as a person, your motivations and the sort of reasons you have for pursuing a graduate degree in data science. So I’d advise you spend at least half if not more of your statement of purpose talking about you and why you want to do the program, what you bring to the program, etc, etc, more of the sort of softer skills and things about you that may not come through in like a formal list of research background or a resume or a CV or something like that. And finally, your GRE scores… best I can say for that is don’t stress about it too much. You could make it every two weeks. So I would start by taking it right away as soon as you can, and getting an assessment on how much more you need to study before you can get a score you’re satisfied with. Because I know a lot of people will spend 10 hours or even 15 hours a week studying for a month, two months in advance, which is totally fine. I’m sure I’ll do very well doing that. But that’s energy and resources that might be better spent focusing on your statement of purpose or somebody like that. So try to get an assessment of how much will you need to do for the GRE or how much more you need to study for the GRE before really stressing about that. People seem to put a lot of emphasis on it in terms of the amount of work they put into it, but it’s only one part of your application.
Irina Espejo [6:21] So my name is Irina, and I’m a CDS PhD student, currently my second year. One of the things is to plan in advance because the deadline tends to be the same for almost all universities or around that time. So don’t leave it for last minute. Especially think about where you are in terms of content for your proposal, to have that in mind. It’s fine to write it a week before your deadline, but it’s good to know what you’re going to say. And related to that, it’s important to have done your research first about the universities, about the faculty members, and to have an idea of what you want to do and to make sure that when wherever you are applying, there is somebody that can be your advisor. The common theme that I’ve seen people doing and what I did myself was asking previous advisors, whether your bachelor thesis advisor or master thesis, or somebody that has to provide an internship. It’s important that at least one person knows you well, like you’ve worked with them, had academic discussions with them. Make sure they can say many things about how you work.
Eric He [7:52] My name is Eric. I’m currently a student part-time in the center. For Data Science, I was accepted just this current semester, Fall 2019. I expect to graduate in about three years. I think that like certainly some amount of work before always looks better right? But the people I see coming into this program come from all walks of life. There are many people who come here straight from undergrad. There are many people who come here after a few years in industry. Personally, I came straight from undergrad but I was also working part time for most of undergrad and I think that did help my application. I had three recommendation letters. Two were from professors. And one was from my manager for my internship. They were all happy to help. So it’s just a matter of asking them, essentially paying attention in class, asking good questions, doing good work, just putting some effort. I think a lot of people like to see that.
Aja Klevs [9:00] My name is Aja Klevs. I’m a master student at CDS, second year. And I guess I was accepted in 2018. Yeah, I think I applied to nine data science programs. And I remember specifically NYU asked for that personal statement, which some of the other ones did, but not most of them. It was somewhat overwhelming. And I was like working at the same time. Writing those essays has always been challenging for me. Something that I’ve found people don’t really realize is that professors get asked for this all the time, they don’t care, just do it, even if they don’t know you.
William Falcon [9:40] My name is William Falcon, a PhD student at the Center for Data Science and I’m a second year. I think, by the time you’re ready to apply, you kind of have done a lot of the work you need to do. Right? So like your grades, your GRE, all that stuff. You’re probably already doing it or have done it. Last things you need to figure out are your letters, your admissions essay. And I think there’s a good deal of networking involved as well, which I think people don’t really think about too much. You know, everyone talks about if you should contact professors before or not. And a lot of professors probably don’t want to be bombarded by emails. But there are ways to connect with them otherwise, right? And so I connected with Kyunghyun about a year before I even applied. So he kind of knew of me but didn’t necessarily know me. And I don’t know if that helped, I wasn’t in the admissions room. But I think it was not really a coincidence that the places where I got offers from I knew people from before. And the other places where I didn’t, I didn’t know anyone. And I validate this with other classmates as well. And it does seem that they kind of once I brought this up, they were like, huh, yeah, interesting. That does make sense. And they experience the same. I think when it comes to something that is this important, you should be specific enough about what you want to work on, and who you want to work with, without being overly specific so that they’re maybe not interested. And being too broad were like, it could be anyone in any program in the world. But I would for sure stress that when you have the application, make sure that it is since it’s so generic that the question of like, why our programs specifically makes sense for you – like for me, I couldn’t go work with these people at other programs, right. And two that the thing that you do want to work on is something that is kind of in line with the research, but not so overly specific that it may be a turn off, as well.
Katrina Evtimova [11:39] Hi, everyone. I’m Katrina. I’m a second year PhD student at the Center for Data Science and also an alumnus from the master’s program. I started a PhD in 2018 and graduated from the Masters in 2017. Keep a positive attitude and don’t feel overwhelmed. Try to like, speak about your strengths and have a clear view of like why you want to be here.
Tim Baker [12:18] Thank you for listening to the Center for Data Science Admissions podcast. If you have any questions regarding the admission process, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The music for this podcast was composed by the instrumental artist Cryptic One. You can find his work on his bandcamp profile.