1. When did you decide to apply for further studies?
I decided roughly at the beginning of my final year (8th Sem) for me. After 4 years of undergrad, and having seen the industry, I decided that applying for PhD definitely makes sense with regards to my interests.
2. How did you make the choice between placements and applying?
Actually, I did sit for placements. The choice between a job and PhD was during the months of Feb and March. By then, I had seen a small glimpse of what a research career would entail through my Dual Degree project. I also had the opportunity of visiting the company that hired me to work to go and check them out. This allowed me to interact with various people in the company who had gone for a PhD and thus gave me data points to make my decision of going for a PhD.
3. Is a high CGPA required for applying?
In my field, you would typically need a good CGPA. Like all things, CGPA matters to an extent. It needs to be good, but you done need to agonize over the fact that you are not BP 1 or 2 for getting good PhD admits.
4. How relevant are extra-curriculars and Positions of Responsibility?
They really do not matter much for PhD applications. However, one must keep in mind that extra currciculars and PoRs are for your own growth and are an opportunity to learn. So, the way to think about them is as an experience that is useful for you rather than as a resume point. If you feel you like something, than pursue that. Do not optimize for CV points. That almost always never works.
5. How did you identify your recos?
Well, I took recos from two people I worked with (My DDP Guide and my Intern Advisor) and one other from a course professor with whom I had done two advanced courses.
6. Why do you think UT Austin selected you?
From what I heard, good overall credentials plus reco from someone known to them !
7. How and which colleges did you decide to apply to?
I applied to almost all the top schools in my line of work. For identifying them I just asked professors in my department about which places to apply to and they guided me all through in that by laying out the pluses and minuses of all the places I applied to.
8. Did you have alternate options? If yes, what made you decide on UT Austin?
I chose this based on my research interest. I had offers from other places, but i found that my interest resonated more with the faculty at my current place than the other universities.
9. Any useful tips on SoPs, CV, Recos, Projects, Papers and choosing courses?
In terms of courses and projects – Choose something that interests you regardless how painful it is to get grades in that course. Again, do not optimize your course selection for grades!
As for as SoPs are concerned, use that as an opportunity to think more deeply about what you want to work on.
10. Did you have a mentor? Would you like to help out?
I actually used to go to my DDP prof for any sort of advice for Grad school. He is an young prof from the US and hence could relate a lot to my questions and apprehensions about applying.
I would love to help anyone. Just send me an email.
11. What is your field of specialisation, where did you do related projects/internship and how did you go about selecting the best way of utilisation of summers/winters?
I did my third year summer intern at RWTH Aachen, Germany and my Fourth year intern at IBM Research Labs, Bangalore.
Abishek Sankararaman graduated with a Dual Degree in Electrical Engineering in 2013. He is presently a Research Associate at the University of Texas at Austin.