Questions to ask School if PhD Admission is given and You need to decide ?

PhD decision questions admissionRecently, one of my friends got admission into PhD program at a University, The chair emailed admission acceptance letter and then followed up with a personal email asking if there are any questions that he can answer about the school. He asked to call and ask if any questions.  This post will have a list of questions you have to ask the School if you were offered PhD admission letter and you had to talk to the chair.  The decision is much complicated if you have acceptance letters from multiple schools and these questions will help you decide.

Typically when you apply for PhD, you choose multiple schools and if your application is really good, you might be offered admission at multiple places. Once you get the offer letters of PhD admission from multiple schools, you will have to decide. In the process of deciding you might have to judge the school based on a set of questions and how others are rated on it. Here are the list of questions that can be used. PhD is a Four to five year commitment and you will have to be very careful when you choose the school. If you choose the wrong school that does not fit your interests and your lifestyle, you will hate it so much and regret your decision. So, be careful.

As an example, I am taking Computer Sciences(CS) as the PhD program and School as University of Massachusetts (UM)  and the student was offered Teaching Fellowship.

Question to ask after PhD Admission offer letter :

  • What are the research areas in CS  at UM  ?
  • How much Coding / Theory is involved in CS  research at UO ?
  • How many professors are there in CS Department ? How many PhD students ?
  • How many PhD students are assigned to a professor ?
  • How is the interaction with Professor for PhD students ? Daily or Weekly ?
  • Does school support and fund to attend CS Academic and Research Conferences  in other countries or domestic conferences ?
  • How many conferences do we get to attend as PhD student ?
  • Are there any specific requirements on publishing Scholarly journals as PhD students ?
  • Do we travel abroad for PhD research and research collaboration if any ?
  • How long does it take for PhD to complete ? Typical time period ?
  • When are the Qualification exams for PhD taken ? Which year ?
  • Is there a dual program ? Will I get MS in CS and then PhD ? How does Dual degree work at UM?
  • What are my options if I do not clear Qualifiers (just in case) ? Will I get Masters at least?
  • How long will the funding be offered for PhD ? How many years after Qualifiers completion?
  • How many students are in a typical class for Teach Fellowship(TF) ?
  • Are there Research Assistantships available instead of TFs ?
  • How is On-campus housing for PhDs ? Where do PhDs usually live?
  • Do  I get on-campus housing ?
  • How does insurance work ? Does full insurance always come with TF ?
  • How many Female/ Male PhD students are there in CS  program ?
  • If I am offered funding, when is the last date for me to tell the decision to accept the PhD and Funding offer ?
  • Is there any contract that I have to sign as soon as I accept offer ?
  • Do I have to come to UM and talk to professors before I accept the offer ?
  • How is Student life at UM (you can get this of websites) ?

For some of the questions, you can get information on the website. You do not need to ask those kind of questions to the chair. But, rest of them you have to ask and clarify. If you have any questions that you can think of, add as comment.

Image Credits : http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcleod/4150969115/

13 comments… add one

  • Maddy Jun 24, 2014 Reply

    hi, I have low gre score of295 and i am masters passout from IIT Madras with 9.2 CGPA. I have 57% agg in my Btech . I have 1 journal publication and 1 yr work exp. I want to know will I be able to get admission for PhD at uni of houston in Mech engg.?

  • Harini Mar 22, 2012 Reply

    Hi Kumar & Saurabh,

    Thank you for the great job you guys are doing. This is the third time I am seeking your advice. The first two suggestions that you gave were of great help. This is my situation.
    I have been offered a PhD at CUNY starting in Fall 2012. I have been in the US on a H4 visa since April 2011. Right now I need to change my status to F1 in order to start school from fall 2012 and make use of the scholarship offered to me.

    The other concern is, my husband lost his job a few months back. He moved from company A to company B and they let him go within 2 weeks after he joined. He has just got into a new job. The time gap between his last pay check and the one which is yet to come will be approximately 3 months. However, his previous employer(company A) did not revoke his H1B. We applied for his H1B transfer and my H4 a few weeks back through the new employer ( who is a consultant) . We received a confirmation from them that both the requests have been submitted. Considering this situation.. what do you suggest I can do to change my status from H4 to F1 ? Will there be any issues if I apply for a F1 visa now because of the changes with my husband’s H1 and since I have already applied for a H4?

    • Saurabh Mar 22, 2012 Reply

      Harini,
      There can be an issue w/ this. Your husband didn’t maintain valid legal status for 3 months as he didn’t get paid during those months. It doesn’t matter whether the H-1 was revoked by A or not, as long as he is not getting paid he is considered to be out of status. As a dependent, your status is derived from his, and so you are also considered to be not maintaining status.

      For COS to F-1 to be approved, you need to be in legal status at the time of filing. What are the most recent payslips that your husband has?

    • Harini Mar 22, 2012 Reply

      Thank you for your reply Saurabh. The last pay slip that he received was on December 25 2011. In his new job he will be getting his first pay check by April 13th 2012. Please tell me how to approach this issue.

      • Saurabh Mar 22, 2012 Reply

        Harini,
        Then he is not maintaining status and so are you. You can wait to see if USCIS approves the transfer. If rejected, he will have to leave US along w/ you. If it gets approved, then you can go for H-4 to F-1 COS.

        Also, talk to an attorney.

        • Harini Apr 5, 2012 Reply

          Hi Saurabh,

          Like you advised, I spoke to 2 lawyers about my case and my husband’s pending H1b transfer. My husband’s company ( their attorney) said since our I94 s are valid till Nov 2013, we shouldn’t be having trouble with our case. He says I could apply for a status change to F1 and withdraw the H4 petition which we had applied along with my husband’s new H1B transfer. According to him I should be getting my F1 in about 2 and half months( since I am joining City University of Newyork) while it might take longer than that for USCIS to decide on my husband’s H1B.

          The other attorney said since my University is providing me with all the scholarship documents, there would be no need for USCIS to look at my husband’s employment history and they will approve my F1 visa. But when asked about whether my husband’s H1B would be approved or denied she said, they might approve it without an extension and he might have to travel to India and get the stamping . At that point of time, whether the case officer approves or denies his H1B is unpredictable now.

          1. Could you please tell me when exactly is a person in H1B considered out of status? For example, in our case we ( me and husband) have our I 94 s stamped in our passport that says ” valid till Nov 2013″. Are we still considered to be out of status because my husband was unemployed for 3months?

          2. What are the possible worst outcomes that you think we should be prepared for ?

          Please help

          • Saurabh Apr 7, 2012 Reply

            Harini,
            1. Yes, you are considered out of status as he didn’t get paid for 3 months.
            2. Worst case scenario is that your petitions will be denied or approved w/ consular processing (same thing attorney #2 mentioned), in which case you will have to go for visa stamping. Your COS can also be denied, as you didn’t maintain valid H-4 status.

  • shilpa shree N Aug 23, 2011 Reply

    hello everyone,
    Im shilpa, im currently doing Mtech in Environmntal Engineering in SJCE Mysore, im in my 3rd sem and planning to take up Phd in US, im going for GRE tutorials. My problem is i havnt had any reserch , or journal published yet, so wil i be applicable for PhD. I have done a few academic semonars n project, is it enough!….n should i take subject gre r general GRE.

    Regards,
    Shilpa
    PLZ.. guide

  • Niels Dec 17, 2010 Reply

    Hi Kumar,

    Thanks for posting this list of questions! Some of them I had not thought of yet myself. Right now I’m in the middle of the application process and hopefully I get multiple offers and have a choice. However, I am applying only to six carefully selected universities and I’m just as happy when only one would select me. Exciting times lie ahead!

    – Niels

    • Kumar Dec 20, 2010 Reply

      Niels,
      I am sure all your hard work and research about schools would give you best results. Keep us posted…if you have time, send your experience searching for schools, I will share it with our readers.
      Good Luck !

  • Rushabh Hathi Sep 16, 2010 Reply

    Thanks so muc for the prompt and positive reply…..
    I am relaxed a bit now….
    I will come backto you in case I need some guidance….
    Cheers sir..

  • Rushabh Hathi Sep 16, 2010 Reply

    Hi Kumar,
    Thanks for the Informative Website…
    I am in the final year of engineering and giving TOEFL examination on 9th October 2010.I have registered for GRE in the last week of November.
    I am sure till then I would have completed almost all of my documentation work.
    I just wanted to know that whether I will be late for fall 2011 ??
    Also I heard that it is possible to apply in universities in US now and then report the GRE scores later.Is it true ??
    Thanks in advance since I am sure you will be able to guide me …

    -Regards,
    Rushabh Hathi

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