Fully Funded PhD admission process in North America i.e. (US/Canada)

Simple Steps for a newbie who is looking for an admission

Step by Step guide towards your PhD Admission

I have prepared this guide for those who are interested to pursue a fully-funded Ph.D in Canada after their Masters.

It’s a six step process:- 1. Select universities 2. Find the right faculty 3. Contact professor 4. Appear for interview 5. Apply for university 6. Apply for study permit

  1. Select Universities: You are supposed to select 10 universities to narrow down your scope and attention. Choose 3 top-level, 4 mediocre and 3 low-ranking universities. This list is where your attention should be limited to.

Choose universities wisely. Ranking is a good predictor but it’s not everything. Look for the best university according to your area of research. Also check for weather, Canada is a cold place but weather varies from state to state. For example, British Columbia’s weather is the best in the world but living is expensive. On the other hand, Alberta is the coldest but with the best Data Science, Medical and Engineering faculty in Canada. Ontario is where you’ll find most of the Muslim and Pakistan community with moderate weather as compared to Alberta and Quebec. Ontario offer good immigration programs as well. Quebec is bit conservative region for Muslims as compared to the rest. Also, it’s a French dominated area with official language as French but it has strong Muslim community.

Do consider these factors while choosing a university because once you’ll get selected you have to settle-in and that could be difficult if you only considered ranking as your parameter while applying.

One thing is to make sure that your university provides consistent funding. Usually low ranking universities promise funding but later when their budget gets dropped, students have to face financial issues.

An alternative way is to find the best professors of your field in Canada and short-list their universities.

  1. Find the right faculty: Once you have a list of universities, start searching for the right professors. Scroll through university’s faculty pages and see which professors’ work is most relevant to your area of research.

Do check each professor’s personal website. Most of the professors advertise Ph.D. positions on their homepage.

Short-list at least three professors from each university. So now you have 30 professors in your list. If you’re good in your field, you would have already known best professors from Canada and they would already be there in your list :)

Now prioritize these names university-wise. This means that for each university you are supposed to contact only one professor, the second and third were there only in-case things went wrong with the first one.

Never apply to more than one professor in the same university simultaneously. All research labs within the department are interconnected or sometimes v.close so they’ll probably talk about you over the coffee. Contact second professor, in case first didn’t respond or rejected your application and apply to third one if the first case happened with the second professor. So ideally, you’ll have to contact 10 professor only i.e. one from each university.

  1. Contact professors:- This is the most crucial part of your quest. Do not write a general email to the professors, otherwise they won’t reply. Do not sound desperate in your email, you’re supposed to be professional. You should contact the professor as if it’s a business deal between two persons. You have to mention how your research can be useful for his/her work. Things to consider while emailing a professor:-
  2. a) Spend at least 2-3 days on his/her profile. Make sure your email reflects that you are well aware of the professor’s work.
  3. b) If the professor is a big-gun, it’s better to read a few of their publications and mention how you find their work interesting in your email
  4. c) Be natural. If you sound artificial or desperate, the professor won’t reply. Don’t act like your life depends on this position. Act like a strong candidate, be confident about yourself and your profile no matter how good or bad it is.
  5. d) Attach your transcript and CV along with the email
  6. e) Write a one page research proposal which shows what you’re going to do in your Ph.D. This is a very important manuscript which would help the professor evaluate your vision in the area of your research. Research proposal doesn’t mean that you’ll be doing that work in your Ph.D but it is just a manuscript to evaluate your research and writing skills. Make sure you don’t copy any idea in it. If you put a small hint of extension of your thesis work, that would be enough. They won’t be expecting you to propose a novel contribution.
  7. f) Ask the professor if he/she is interested to supervise you for you thesis

If the professor is really interested they’ll call you for a skype interview. Some professors who think that your profile isn’t that strong would ask you to apply to the university. What they basically do is that they wait for all the applicants in admission pool so that they can pick the best candidate for themselves. I would recommend you don’t apply in this case because you can lose your admission fees.

First of all, make sure that the professor is serious about supervising you. If he is serious and then have asked you to apply in university, only then you’re supposed to pay application fees to university. The professor is serious if: - a) He conducts a skype interview - b) Talks to you about funding - c) Asks you to apply for Ph.d and agrees to supervise your thesis

  1. Appear for interview:- Be confident during the interview just like at the time of your first email. The first interview is going to be messy so better give it to a random professor for experience. At the end of your interview, do ask questions about funding and research project you’ll be working on during your Ph.D. This discussion will not only clear a lot of confusions but also let you know if the professor is serious. Do ask the professor if their offered funding is going to be enough for you or not. Specially, if you have a family.

  2. Apply for university:- Save money! Don’t apply if the professor didn’t ask you to. Ph.D candidates are selected by professors and not universities. If the professor has agreed to supervise you, it means you’re already admitted 99% even if you didn’t apply to the university yet.

  3. Apply for study permit: There is too much to write about it. So you better visit official CIC website for tips and tricks. You can also join PSA-CANADA ASSOCIATION facebook group for help. One thing, if you’re married, please apply with family (it isn’t any different from applying alone) because later on it would be very difficult to get visa for spouse. Best of luck! :)

Please note that these assumptions are totally according to my personal experiences. The purpose of this post is to share knowledge and help fellow Pakistani students who are interested.

Also note that there is no shortcut to success so you do have to show full commitment to each and every point mentioned above. I have seen people with very low profile securing good positions because they were serious about it.

The requirements are that you should be enrolled in your Masters thesis and have a good IELTS score > 6.5. GRE is required only for some universities. It’s better to save money and cross these universities out of your list :)

Publications is a top-up but not always necessary. Please don’t seek any consultancy in regard of study permit. In consultant’s case, your profile looks fake and professional instead of natural and have high chances of rejection. Also, for IELTS please don’t join any academy just take edX online Queen’s university IELTS course.

Like this post or have questions? Drop your words in comments and I’ll get right back to you.