Most of the students don’t know about the Direct Admissions Process and 5 years PhD programs in United States institutes. This write-up will clear your confusion about the direct admission process and 5 years of PhD Programs. This article consists of two parts:
First Part: This guide will help you in acquiring direct admission in US universities on scholarships.
Second Part: You will get to know about the difference between Fulbright Vs Direct Admissions – USA.
Read it very carefully and share it with other students, so more students can take benefit from this informative write-up.
Guide for Direct Admissions:
- We often do not consider the USA as an option for higher studies despite that fact that it has the most number of best universities and most of them have a lot of funding.
- USA PhD requires GRE and TOEFL (some accept IELTS too) and most of the PhD programs which have even less than decent ranking have fully funded scholarships awarded through fellowships and assistantships. (Here are some free online courses on TOEFL & IELTS, Join it and get a high score)
- Most of the students who ask about Ph.D. in groups, don’t know that for USA Ph.D. programs you don’t need a prior MS degree and you can apply with your 16 years (BS) education. If you have already done MS you can still apply for Ph.D. but mostly the Ph.D. tenure will remain the same.
- Ph.D. in the USA is almost always 5 years along, logically because most of the students joining such Ph.D. are coming straight after undergraduate degrees, unlike Pakistan and Europe where Ph.D. is done after MS (2 years) mostly for 3 years. So the total period (5 years) is the same but methodology is different. If you can’t or don’t want to study for 5 years after MS then you may not apply to US Ph.D. programs.
- Some students ask that after BS we don’t have any considerable research experience, what they don’t know is that Ph.D. schools in the US don’t need experience from undergraduates. BUT… If you plan to apply and still have time, I would advise making a good research project in final year and a one or two local research publications or conference publications will significantly increase your chances of selection.
- Ph.D. in the USA mostly doesn’t require you to have prior contact with professors, if you have some contact that is fine but not required. So you will have formal dates for the application intake and deadlines for submissions and selection decisions. Therefore, the process is very smooth but the admission system is on a rolling basis i.e. the earlier you apply the better are your chances to get selected and to get good funding. Admissions normally start around early September and deadlines go up until mid to end of December for most programs (for the next intake, classes start in coming August/September)
- Most of the decent Ph.D. programs are by default fully funded, you don’t need to bother about doing some external efforts in most cases. The selection automatically confirms full funding for 5 years.
- GRE scores vary by your field and University’s general and subject ranking. However, to get into top 50-100 schools in the US (general ranking), approximately 315 is safe for almost 90% of schools provided other components of the application and your profile is sound enough. Scores of 305+ keep you in the game always and given a good profile can be enough in 70% of the cases.
- You should have some clear intentions and goals for your research degree, a high-quality personal statement and research proposal along with focused recommendation letters can enhance your chances. Also, keep in mind that scoring good CGPA is not too tough in the US that is why they generally expect the same from applicants. Many schools restrict applications to those who have at least 3.0+ or 3.3+ CGPAs. So if you have got good CGPA then you are already at a degree of advantage. TOEFL is not a very tough exam, anyhow if you have average language skills you must prepare for it as well and try to score at least 100 and ideally 102+.
- Don’t forget that even today USA based Ph.D. is the most valued Ph.D. in general if you ever come back to Pakistan because the USA is perceived as a global leader in education and their quality of research and related facilities are great. So if you intend to apply coming September, you should be done with your GRE and TOEFL maximum by July to Mid-August. Applications for USA schools require a lot of time so the next 2-3 months should just be dedicated to making quality applications. Lastly, the application fee is not that cheap but I would say this investment can be very useful in the long run. Normally most of the students apply to at least 6-7 Ph.D. programs in their field in various tier universities that they deem suited to their profile and their interests. So for applications’ fee, you must save at least a 100K PKR. For shortlisting universities, you should do homework well beforehand. Explore universities and programs with due care. You should only use US-based special ranking website namely “US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT National University Rankings”. GRE is not as tough as you feel scared about it, a good preparation requires around 2-3 months of efforts for people who are below average in Maths and English, for those who are good in general Maths and English, a month is enough to cross 310-315 with ease.
Fulbright Vs Direct Admissions – USA
- Direct admissions don’t have a bond to return back on completion of Ph.D. Under Fulbright, you have to live in Pakistan for a tenure equal to the tenure of your USA based degree.
- Direct-MS in the USA sometimes can be partially or fully funded but it is not as common as direct Ph.D. Fulbright MS/Ph.D. are always fully funded.
- Under Fulbright, you can’t apply to 5 years Ph.D. without already holding an MS degree. After BS you can’t apply to direct 5 years Ph.D., you need to apply for those programs under Fulbright which offer only separate MS degree. In other words, indirect admission you can go for 5 years Ph.D. right after BS but for Fulbright you can only apply to either 2 years MS (if you have done BS) or PhD if you have done MS (not just BS).
- Fulbright doesn’t allow you to choose a university you like and you can only propose your suggested universities in the form etc. Direct admission is more logical as you will normally get into the degree commensurate to your profile.
- Related to the 4th point, ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND, Fulbright is not a purely merit-based program, they also account for minorities, neglected sectors of society, prefer fields which are vital for Pakistan, your impact as depicted by co-curricular and extra-curricular/unique research/jobs, etc. Direct admissions are always based on merit irrespective of your socio-economic/ethnic/religious background.
- You don’t need to apply twice for MS and Ph.D. under direct admissions if you are sure that you need an academic career and Ph.D. is your dream. So you will be saved from costs and efforts of applying again, so one time efforts can be enough for a full package.
- Lastly, from a behavioral and psychological perspective, there are 2 ways to ace in life, either compete and come on top in a thing chased by many (which has a scope) or make the competition irrelevant by being unique. So if you apply via Fulbright you are competing against many other good applicants and it is a rigorous process while in direct Ph.D., it is highly likely that you will be competing against very fewer applicants (because they all will be only from your field and it is less likely that many would be from our region or from Pakistan). So if you are competent, you will be assessed on the basis of your field worth and not on “other” criteria as I mentioned above which are important for Fulbright.
Yes, if you have a BS or MS you can apply for MS or PhD respectively in Fulbright (as a chance) and if you don’t get in then you may prefer direct admissions, especially those who don’t want a Ph.D. and only master degree or them at least don’t want Ph.D. at this stage.
For Fulbright, you can apply in any intake (like the one coming up soon for 2018 and deadlines are normally around the end of April or start of May), if your degree ends before the end of the same year that is before the end of December 2018 for the upcoming intake.
**You don’t need TOEFL to apply to Fulbright, only if you get selected in the first round, they ask you to submit TOEFL score once you are called for Interview. You need only GRE to submit an application for Fulbright.
But for direct admissions, GRE and TOEFL both are required to apply before the submission of application.
Muhammad Sohaib Niazi (Erasmus+ MS Scholar)
Erasmus+ Scholar – MS Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology
HR Professional | Industrial and Organizational Psychologist | Coach | Counselor | Mentor | Writer | Trainer | Consultant