Reaching out for Ph. D. opportunities is more important than your research skills, in my opinion. Here are some of the most essential practical tips for you.
Build Your Connections
Connection is essential in all careers. The more people you know, the more opportunities you will have. One common mistake for students, especially Chinese students, is that nobody has ever taught us to build our connection. When I am aware of it, it is too late for me to compensate.
If you are lucky enough to publish one paper and present it at an international conference and not canceled due to the COVID-19, congratulations! It is your best chance to build your connection. You can discuss your researches with other professors and express yourself. Since many professors work in the same area as you, you are very likely to leave a deep impression on some of them and get a position for your Ph. D. study.
However, my conference was canceled due to the COVID-19, and nobody cared about the presentation videos anymore. That’s a pity! Hope everyone returns to normal life soon!
Moreover, you can attend academic conferences both on-site and online. If you can ask questions and discuss with the speaker, you are connecting with him/her. Usually, it is the only chance that they will reply to your email. You know, they always ignore those emails directly asking for Ph. D. positions.
If you want to build your connection with the industry, making a clean and impressive LinkedIn profile would benefit significantly. Here is my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/xieguochao/. By adding more friends, you would have a chance to reach out to scholars and researchers and look for Ph. D. opportunities. But personally speaking, it is more helpful in finding a job than a Ph. D. position.
Explore More Ways
Except for the official application, you may also consider other research chances such as summer research and Early Recruitment Application.
Most summer research opportunities will not be posted on the website if they are not well-funded, and most funding is only for US citizens (for US summer researches). In this situation, you need to contact researchers in other schools and share information with each other. Some research opportunities are not paid, but still, you will gain the research result and the recommendation letter!
Another way is to apply in the Early Recruitment Stage (in Hong Kong). You would need to apply before May. During the whole summer, you are likely to do summer research with your potential supervisors. If you are recognized, you will get your offer in September when your classmates haven’t started their applications. Usually, this stage is less competitive than the main round because many students may give up their offers, and schools will give more offers. If you choose to give it up, you may still get your professors’ recommendation letter to benefit your future application.
We have some groups to share research opportunities. If you would like to join us, send your WeChat ID, name, and your school to email@example.com.
Improve Your Reading Speed
If you are a freshman or sophomore student, training to improve your reading speed is critical because the faster you comprehend a paper, the more chances you can reach out. For example, I can gain the main idea and build a connection to a 15-paper standard system paper in 3 hours, so I can reach out at most 3 professors each day. For those interesting ones, I may read several papers of them and conclude them in one email.
Foreign Professors’ Recommendation Letters
Usually, foreign professors’ recommendation letters are more useful than Chinese ones, if you have worked with both. Don’t ask me the reason! You will be aware of it during your application!
If you would like to join our WeChat group, send your WeChat ID, name, and your school to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more undergraduate reflections: summary link.