Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bachelors in X, but applying for MS/PhD in Y

Q. I did my BTech/BE in X field of study. However, for my graduate studies in the US, I want to apply for a graduate programme in a different field Y. What are things to keep in mind for such a situation?

Quite a few students do this every year. Whether this poses a problem at all depends on how close or far apart the two branches are. For instance, it might take a bit of convincing if you are applying for a MS in Computer Science but your undergraduate major is Political Science or even an unrelated engineering branch like Civil engineering. It would be easier if your bachelors was in one of the so-called circuit branches (electrical, electronics, computers, etc.). However, in the end, more than what your bachelor degree says, more important would be factors like your individual courses, projects and work experience, and their relevance to the branch you are applying to.

Here are a few things that can help:
1. Highlight in your SOP any relevant courses done even if it's at an introductory level (e.g. if you are a MSCS aspirant, this might be any CS-related course like intro to algorithms, programming, etc.). Also highlight any projects or work-ex which requires a similar skill set as your intended graduate field of study.
2. If such a relevant project or work-ex exists, get a recommendation letter supporting that.
3. In your SOP, very clearly state the reason or background for considering a branch switch. It should be genuine and logical. For instance, it could be the interest you developed from a course project, or work-ex, etc. which got you really excited in the other branch.
4. Consider giving the subject GRE (in fact this might even be a requirement for some universities when your UG degree is in a completely different field of study - check this individually on the admissions website of each university you are interested in).


  1. How is that no one has commented on your blogs??? They are so informative, and basically answer all the questions that I, at the very least, have had for a while. This particular post is most helpful, since my BS is in Physics and Chemistry, and I'm applying for a PhD in Experimental Psychology. Reason #3 is precisely what I'll be focusing on when I write my SOP. It's a shame your last post was made in 2010. Thank you for creating this blog, however. VERY helpful

  2. Thanks for your comment! I am glad that you found it useful and I hope you had a chance to look at the DAGAP article as well.

    Well, a few people have commented here and there on other posts, but most choose to follow up directly by sending me emails. And the reason for me not having updated it since 2010 is that I haven't found something that's really missing (so I guess, I can in a way take credit for more or less being complete in my coverage of topics with my first set of posts :) ).

    Most of the follow up queries I get these days are specific to the individual concerned, and not that relevant to be treated as a generic FAQ. But may be one of these days, I should look at my mails from the past couple of years and see if there are any new recurring themes which can get added here. If you have any suggestions, do let me know.

    And please, do share the blog with anyone you think might find it useful.