I gotta excel in things I can so my application has a higher chance to stand out
I realised that my grades were not that excellent. I won no award. I published no journal articles. I had been an ordinary person with extra-ordinary (with some degree of naivety) plan. I need to laundry my past. That’s it. So what are things I still have chance to improve and excel at? They GRE general test, TOEFL, research statement/proposal, and get my self qualified intellectually, professionally, and spiritually (memantaskan diri) so God gives the opportunity to me to pursue my PhD in the US. Unfortunately, I was late to register for GRE subject Chemistry test which could have support my application. In another perspective, I thank God because it means that my focus can be more spent on less number of things. Praise is due to Allah.
Some tips for your research statement
To tailor the writing for your audience and aim to specific faculties by citing his/her works in your writing. So my homework is to read much and think of ideas!
There few types of funding that can finance your study
They are fellowships (scholarships from the university or government), research assistantships (stipends from your potential boss’ funding), and teaching assistant (stipends from department because you teach). Fellowships are always preferred because they are fixed and secure. Research assistantship is like fellowship, in which you don’t have to teach and can focus on your research progress, but at any point, your professor may change his/her mind not to pay for your living so you have to teach so you can continue living. Teaching means spending less time in the lab for research and slower rate of progress toward your dissertation. May be that’s why many PhD students graduate late (5 years or more).
Private or public universities?
Public or state-governed universities have a policy that US citizens pay much less that international students. In the occasion of teaching assistantship, your boss also pays your tuition fee although you are not taking courses any more. In public schools, international students are less preferred. In private schools, all students regardless nationalities pay the same.
Understand the country where you are applying to
Because researches are dependent on state and industrial funding, each country has different focus on field of interests. Let’s say, “I want to study novel nano-sized photocatalysis for water management.” Your topic sounds good. But, would you be paid to do such? Or would there be any research group working on that stuff and able to fund you in research assistant scheme? It depends. US citizens are more or less aware of environmental issues thus waste or other environmental issues are not hot any more. Nowadays, people in the US care more about energy. Much funding flows from NSF, NIH, Department of energy, and Department of Defence for energy researches.
Homework: you gotta read news, schools’ website, as well as government’s websites about current updates on funding
Finding the correct schools
What is your research interests? Are the schools you have listed are good on that field of interests? Read more on the faculty’s group websites. You gotta find where the prof has sustainable funding by looking at his/her publication and funding pages. To know more about the school are good on particular fields, you can browse top journals and list some affiliated universities of the authors. Furthermore, you may want to ask around which schools are less popular but actually better in the subject you are applying so you may have less competitors. Smart, right?
Top schools or so-so schools?
The good thing about top schools are more trusted to do “weird” researches unlike the so-so schools. So-so schools (SSS’s) are more practical and pragmatic for research. They do what more likely brings money. Suppose in a Chemistry department of a SSS, there are 30 faculty members. There are usually a group of faculty who do very well because they have more funding while the others are just struggling to fight for ones. We call it “pocket of excellence”. SSS has particular pocket of excellence that you need to seek out. While in top schools, the professor can just throw a rock and get funded. Remember, if there is funding, there is higher chance for a faculty member “employing” you.
Universities in cheaper states are financially wise choices?
Not really. Universities in more expensive states in fact give more stipend. The stipend adjusts according to the states’ or cities’ standard living cost.
It is the matter of choice. Whichever and wherever you like. Suppress you silly will to try all possibilities. Narrow down your choices and focus. You know your time is expensive. So are the application and standardized tests’ fees.
Make sure you do your homework!
PhD in Chemistry is best in the US?