Applying for Graduate Study at UC Davis John Owens
I receive frequent queries from students interested in graduate study at UC Davis. I am delighted that you are considering Davis as a place to continue your studies—I believe that we have a lot to offer potential graduate students and encourage you to apply.
First, if you have been admitted to Davis and are considering accepting your offer from admission or are definitely coming, and you are interested in my research or have other questions, please feel free to contact me.
If you are considering Davis and have not been admitted, first visit the information for prospective students page. This gives instructions on how to apply. In general, the document Applying to Ph.D. Programs in Computer Science"> by Mor Harchol-Balter is both fairly comprehensive and quite accurate.
I am predisposed to students who have experience in research areas that are closely related to my own. I'm also delighted to get notes from either of the following:
- If you know me personally, or one of your references knows me personally, please contact me.
- If you have done published research in a similar area to me, please contact me. However, if you have done published research of high quality, it is probable you won't need my help in admission anyway.
but if you don't fall into those categories I'm still happy to hear from you.
If you're interested in contacting me, please keep the following in mind:
- I strongly prefer students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. rather than a M.S. Foreign students who are only interested in a M.S. are rarely admitted to our graduate programs. However, self-funded M.S. students also may find interesting opportunities in my group.
- I have limited time for sponsoring undergraduates for internships or other research opportunities, so I strongly prefer spending that time with UC Davis students. The exceptions would be students who have experience in areas that are directly related to the research we do in our group.
- Do not send me big files (resumes, papers, class projects). If you are a potential student, you should have a web page. There's really no excuse to not have a web page. On your web page you should have at least a resume (in txt or pdf format), your research interests, and the names of your references. If you have published work or interesting class projects, those should definitely be on your web page.
- Do not send me Microsoft Word documents. They have serious problems with macros that do nasty things to your computer; also they only work on Microsoft-supported operating systems. Convert it to PDF. Or just send me a plain text file. I will delete Word documents from people I don't know.
- Jim Whitehead has some excellent advice for contacting faculty, and Scott Fahlman's answer to the Quora question How do I write the first email to a professor that may accept me as his graduate student? is absolutely spot on. Jeff Erickson has some equally great advice for Ph.D. applications.
- Address your letter personally. If I get a letter that is addressed "Dear Professor" and talks about your interest in studying at "your institution" I assume that you've sent that letter to not only me but also every other professor at a top university in the country. Only one step up from this is the note that says "Dear Professor Owens" and otherwise is completely generic. Make specific mention of my name, my school, and most importantly, my research interests and how they relate to yours. Perhaps read a paper or two, and ask me an interesting question about my research. It seems to me that a student genuinely interested in working with me and my group should at least take some time to familiarize him/herself with what we do. You might be tempted to send a thousand notes to a thousand professors, taking 1 minute each. I can assure you your time will be better spent sending 10 notes to the 10 professors in which you are most interested and taking a hundred minutes per note.
- I'd like to hear that you've taken some time to look at the work we do, and that it matches your interests. You should really mention this in your note. However, don't say it if it's not true, and don't be generic. When I see notes that say "I've looked at your papers and your research interests match mine", I'll probably get the impression that you say the same thing to all faculty to whom you're writing; instead actually talk specifically about what you've read and why you find it interesting.
- Despite the fact you've probably spent most of your schooling acquiring technical skills, one of the most important (perhaps THE most important) skill in graduate school and in your career afterwards is the ability to communicate clearly. To that end, make sure your letter has proper spelling and uses proper grammar. Ask yourself: If I were a professor, and if I got a note from someone who didn't even take the time to use proper spelling and grammar, what would I think about the care that person would put into his or her research?
- If you're writing from a country with a
different character set (East Asian countries in particular), consider
switching to a mailer that doesn't use your native character set. I
recently received a message from a student that got filtered into my
spam box. Here's why (anything over 5 points total gets filtered as
pts rule name description ---- ---------------------- -------------------------------------------------- 3.2 CHARSET_FARAWAY_HEADER A foreign language charset used in headers 0.3 HTML_60_70 BODY: Message is 60% to 70% HTML 0.0 HTML_MESSAGE BODY: HTML included in message 2.5 MIME_CHARSET_FARAWAY MIME character set indicates foreign languageLesson: Use the ASCII character set when contacting faculty in English-speaking countries. And don't use HTML in your mail.
Again, I appreciate your interest in Davis and encourage you to apply, get admitted, and contact me. I just don't have time to reply to all the notes I get and want to make sure you understand why.
John Owens | Last updated .