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Grad School Guide

Before You Submit

  • Don’t forget that as a PhD student in a STEM field you will very likely not have to pay tuition. Rather, your tuition will be paid for by the school or by the faculty member who serves as your research advisor. In addition to free tuition, you should also receive a stipend (i.e., monthly salary) that will (mostly or fully) cover your living expenses. That’s right, you will be paid to complete your PhD! The size of the stipend will vary from school to school due to variations in living expenses. Typical values as of 2021 fall in the range of $25-$40K/year. Health insurance is also provided by many schools. You can use the MIT living wage calculator to compare the stipend offer to how much it costs to live in the city where the school is located. 
  • Review the web pages of faculty in the Departments that interest you. Send a copy of your resume to those that share your research interests. In this email explain that you are interested in applying to their lab for PhD studies. Ask if they anticipate taking on new students in the near future. Explain that you are willing to speak with them via the phone if they think you may be a good fit for their research group.
    • Note: Websites might not always be updated regularly. Looking at a professor’s most recently published research is also a good way to see what kind of work they are doing and if you are interested. If a professor has not done work on a research topic in a while, their interests may have shifted. Make sure that your interests align with a professors more recent work
    • Note: When asking a professor if they are taking new students, it may also be beneficial to ask how they plan to financially support this student. Is there a project that they have in mind for their new students? Do they expect their students to come up with their own project? Do first year students have the flexibility to design their own project? Even if a student has a great research idea, if there is not funding or financial support for that idea, it may be hard to pursue that idea.