This is a little guide containing some advice on applying to graduate schools, based on the experiences I had in Fall 2019 - Spring 2020. I hope that this will serve as some words of wisdom, and also as some encouragement. While this was originally intended for Swarthmore CS students, I thought it might be nice if it was publicly available in the case that someone else would also benefit from it. Please read the disclaimers first!! Also, please feel free to email me ( if you have any questions or concerns, I'd be happy to help!

Disclaimers and About Me


  1. EVERYONE’s grad school application experiences are different. Please take most things in this document with a grain of salt, because this doc is based on my own experience. That being said, I will try my best to keep this doc as general as possible.
  2. Adding onto #1, the expectations for grad school applications vary based on field, even sub-fields of CS. Also for MS vs PhD.
  3. I only applied for CS PhD programs, so that’s what I will be talking about. Hopefully some of the things in this doc (ex. GRE stuff) will be helpful for people in other situations though!
  4. I do not know what got me into grad school, so please don’t expect any info of the sort in this doc. As everyone says, grad school applications are a crapshoot. Sometimes a good one, sometimes a bad one. The goal of this doc is to feature things that I wish I knew when I was applying. (I have to admit that most of this is advice you can hear from your profs)
Given the Disclaimers, I should probably explain a bit of my background…

About Me

  1. I am currently a first-year PhD student at Cornell University (as of fall 2020). At Swarthmore, I was a double major in Computer Science and Music.
  2. I applied in my senior fall, so the ideal target audience of this doc might be people who are thinking of doing the same thing.
  3. My main area of interest when I applied was Programming Language theory and applications. While I am still interested in PL theory and applications, I've pivoted ever so slightly since I started grad school; now I mainly work in Software Engineering, where I get to apply concepts from PL theory.
  4. I did PL research during my Junior spring, the summer between my Junior and Senior year, and all throughout my senior year.


Applying to Grad School

General Advice

Choosing Schools to Apply to


Planning Fall Semester

Statement of Purpose

Letters of Recommendation

Putting together your CV

On the topic of Emailing potential advisors...