Applying to graduate school is both a stressful and competitive process. Our intent with this short guide is to help you present your case and provide insight into how we evaluate applications. Other schools may have different requirements, but overall this is a good standard for how to shape your graduate applications generally. The main components of your application are a transcript, a resume, a 2-page personal statement, and up to three reference letters.
Below, we describe the 5 criteria that the OSU robotics faculty use to evaluate graduate applications. Other schools may have different requirements, but overall this is a good standard for how to shape your graduate applications generally. Criteria 2-4 do not have to be specific to robotics.
Academic preparation: We want to know if you have a sufficiently strong technical background to pursue the research area you are interested in and if you are capable of completing more open-ended graduate courses. Your transcript provides information on what classes you took and how well you did in them. Your personal statement should fill us in on skills learned outside of classes that are relevant to your chosen research area. These can come from projects (class, summer projects, clubs, etc) or on-line classes.
Research experience: We want to know what research experience you have had and what motivates you to pursue research. Examples include volunteering in a lab, completing a research internship, co-authoring a conference paper, etc. If you have no formal research experience, then talk about open-ended class projects or competitions.
Extracurricular activities (soft skills): We want evidence of your drive, self-motivation, and ability to collaborate. Examples include extracurricular activities, leadership experiences, and any examples of independent learning (e.g. online classes) that involved these elements. What have you accomplished outside of the classroom?
Contributions to equity and inclusion: The OSU Robotics program expects students (and faculty) to contribute to making Robotics and the STEM fields more equitable, diverse, and inclusive. Your personal statement should describe any engagement that you have had with diversity activities. Examples include outreach and volunteer activities, participation in the Society of Women Engineers or Society of Black Engineers (or other, similar societies), tutoring, mentoring of members of disadvantaged communities, etc.
Program alignment: If you were to join the OSU Robotics Program, who are the 2-3 faculty members that you would potentially like to have as advisors? What is it about their labs (listed on the right) and research programs that interests you? How do you see yourself contributing to those research programs?
Your transcript provides a detailed record of the classes you have taken. Use your resume to provide a concise summary of your technical skills, internships, volunteer positions, job experience, and research products such as papers or repositories. Use your personal statement to provide more detailed information about the five categories above, and ask your letter writers to cover these criteria as appropriate. The personal statement is also the place to tell us about any adversity or special circumstances that have influenced your contributions in those five areas. Consider using one of the many on-line resources for writing good personal statements, for example the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
We only admit students where there is at least one faculty member willing to mentor them. You do not have to pick an adviser in advance, but providing information on your skills and the research programs that interest you can help us to guide your application to the appropriate faculty members for review.