Q&A: Can I Get Admission in PhD without Research Experience?

An interesting question from a student with a very good academic profile. He’s applying for PhD in U.S.

Dear Sir/Madam, Allow me to introduce myself as xxxxxx.

I have applied for the PhD Program offered by many US Universities for Fall 2009.

The following details may help you in evaluating my profile:

  • Class 10 Percentage: 90% (CBSE)
  • Class 12 Percentage: 92.7% (Andhra Pradesh State Board)
  • Undergraduation: BTech Mechanical Engineering- xxxxxxxxxxxx  (Tamil Nadu). It is a decent college
  • CGPA: 9.51/10.0 (Ranked 7 out of 200 students)
  • Awarded Scholarship twice for good academic performance
  • GRE General Test: 1480/1600; Quant: 790; Verbal: 690; AWA: 5.0
  • TOEFL: 113/120
  • No Paper Presentations, no Research Experience, no Work Experience, not many extra curricular activities.
  • Projects: 2 Decent Projects (Not Research Projects)
  • Recommendations: 2 Senior Lecturers and 1 Professor (Dean of my School)
  • SOP: Decent
  • Program Applied: PhD Aerospace engineering
  • Objective: To get admitted in any of the top 20 Universities in US

My Question is: will my lack of research experience and paper presentations affect my application for the PhD programs?

I would be very grateful if you can answer my query. Thank you for your time, effort and patience in reading this mail.


Majority of students applying to study at U.S universities for PhD don’t have research experience. You certainly know the amount of research exposure students from India get in engineering colleges.

Not having any prior research experience doesn’t mean you don’t have research potential.

U.S. universities give admission to students directly to a PhD program based on their academic background, letter of recommendation, GRE score, TOEFL score, SOP, and resumé.

Based on your profile, you will not have any issues getting admission into a PhD program in the U.S. You might even get admission with some form of scholarship.

Getting into the top 20 U.S. universities will be tough, but with a GRE Score 1,480 you might get admission, supported by your SOPs and Reco. But you have a better chance if you have applied at schools that suit your research interests.

Applying to PhD is not the same as applying to a master’s program. Unfortunately, most students from India have such wrong idea.

I have visited your college a couple of times. Can you pass the information about my blog to your friends and juniors? I remember crossing the railway bridge and walking to the hostel there.

Related: The PhD Experience: What’s Involved

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  1. Hi,

    My GRE score is 308 (V-148;Q-160;AWA-2.5). CGPA-8.725. I have published one paper, another has been accepted for publication and another I have submitted for publication. (All in International Conference).
    I like to pursue PhD in Robotics. Do I have a chance of getting admission in top univ such as CMU, Georgia tech etc.?
    I know I have a low GRE score, but many people on internet assert that selection process in random and high score in GRE is not required for PhD. Is is true?

  2. my self nilam patel,
    i completed my B.E mechanical in india with distinction and i also convert the credit then i got the 126.5 credit from the world education services.i also completed my Master of engineering in thermal with 8.31 CPI .
    Can u ask me how many credit is required for bacheral of science in mechanical in USA and please also suggest me i do MS in usa yes or No. and which course is demadable in usa for high JOB prospect.

  3. Hello,

    I know this blog has been posted 3 years ago but i was searching for the same topic and I found myself here.

    I would like to ask what is my chance too get accepted for PhD in Computer Science.
    I was in a french system university during my undergraduate years where they dont give full marks but yet I was among the best students. My GPA my look lower than other universities but compared to the system it’s a great average.

    My Master’s Degree is from an American system university and i have a GPA of 3.4/4.0.

    My GRE score is 1200/1600 with a 770/800 on the quantitative section.

    Toefl: 93/120

    I had 100% scholarship during my Master’s degree due to my high performance.

    I worked as a Business developer and team leader for about 2 years.

    I have teaching experience in universities and a little of research experience.

    I have very good recommendations.

    I applied to many universities, I got accepted in highly ranked (top 60) universities but without financial aid, while other universities that are not highly ranked rejected me. I still have some application that I am going to get the answer from them soon. I lost hope in being accepted with financial aid.

    What do u think is my week point that is preventing me from getting an acceptance with financial aid?

    Please reply.

    Thanks for ur help [email removed]

  4. I took the GRE and got a score of 1440,740-verbal,700-quant but had a low score of 3.5 in the analytical. I graduated with a first class (4.59/5) from OAU, Nigeria. What are my chances and what level of schools do you think I should apply to for a Ph.D.Thank you.

  5. hi i want to know that without good academic record is there possibility of p.hd ?for instances my academic record that is in high school 60% in intermediate 58% in graduation 56% and in masters 79% respectively. and there is no research work . so how can i apply for p.hd ? i also did diploma in forensic science and criminal law and i want to do p.hd in environmental chemistry. so please show me the right way

  6. Hi

    I wanted to give you some info. Might help you.

    My profile

    GRE 1600 AWA 4.0

    College percentage 78% (topper in the college gets around 84%)

    Panjab University (BE Biotechnology)

    2 projects. Done in my University. Decent enough

    TOEFL 117/120

    Training project at NRCPB, New Delhi

    LORs – 1 from Professor, 1 from Assistant Prof. , 1 from Senior Scientist at NRCPB

    i applied to top 20 US univs for Biochem and Mol bio. Got interview calls from Michigan and Duke. BUt got rejected from Michigan. Waiting for the result from Duke (rank 13)though.

    Also applied to a lower ranking Univ – Vanderbilt Univ (36 rank) – waiting for that too.

    I didnt even get an interview call from U of Minnesota (rank 35)

    I would suggest people to be on the safer side when you dont have research ex. Rather apply for an MSc in Canada (its way cheaper and gives you research ex. ) Then apply as transfer candidate to US in the middle of your course. U of Mich people told me that they rejected me after the interview cuz of research ex.

  7. i have to get admission into MS or direct to ph.d.

    i have done my B.E in biotechnology with 72% aggregate. not written gre or tofel yet.will i get direct into ph.d or should i do master's and then ph.d? please help me

  8. hi,
    I have done mbbs and i am interested in doing PhD in medicine or pathology or physiology.
    Is it possible to get direct admission in phd in US universities directly after bachelor (mbbs) course .??

  9. Nice explanation. Thanks HSB for the useful informations. It helped me a lot to secure admission and helped to prepare for visa interview and all.

  10. Hi

    I hold an M.S. degree in Computer Science, (Indian) + 2 years of Industry experience (Of which 6 months is in Industrial Research at a top research institute. Rest of the work experience too is related to my field of interest.). Also, I have worked as a research assistant for two years during my graduation, while working on my M.S. thesis.

    I have 3 'average' level conference publications (one national and 2 international) and 1 good publication.

    My CGPA is 8.8, And during Bachelors, I stood in the top 10 of a class of 140.

    I am clear on the areas I want to work on for a PhD, but the places that do relevant work are mostly the top-15 universities.

    GRE score: 1400/1600 (800 quant+600 verbal) planning to take again. 110/120 TOEFL.

    Class 10th, 12th: both are above 90%.

    Have won awards for academics at various stages in education.

    -Does this profile stand a good chance… for a PhD admission in Top universities?

    I am kind of worried if my application will be considered, given the fact that I have a poor publication record.

  11. I have done M.Sc Biotechnology in 2005(70.3%). Theneafter i had been teaching in a college for 2.5 yrs .Then i got married and presently i am working in Delhi but its not related to biotech research short my job is not worth my degree. Now i am keenly looking for a job in biotech sector . I have been a good student throughout but m not sure whether because of this gap of around 3-4 yrs will any biotech companies entertain my C.V’s as so far i have not received any positive outcomes. Plz suggest me .

  12. Dear Sir,
    Like xxxxxx above, I have no research experience either. And my qualifications till date are as follows:
    # Class 10 Percentage : 94% (CBSE)
    # Class 12 Percentage: 84% (CBSE)
    # Undergraduation: BTech Genetic Engineering- from a chennai-based college
    # CGPA: 8.4/10.0 (as of now, I've just fijnished 3rd year)
    # GRE General Test: 1360/1600 Quant: 710 Verbal : 650 AWA: 4.5
    # No Paper Presentations, no Research Experience, no Work Experience, not many extra curricular activities, but I have been a Literary and Debate Club Convener for 1 year in my college and organised weekly seminars for students
    #Areas of interest: Direct PhD in Genetics/ Cell and Molecular Biology/ Stem cell biology

    Are these sufficient to get into a dream University. (I'm aiming for JohnHopkin's/ UC Berkley)?

    Can the quality of my 4th year project and the no. of summer/winter internships and industrial trainings make things better for me?

  13. Hello,

    I'm from the better USA! and I think I found my new home and hangout

    So, what's everyone's thoughts about the Canadian Olymipic Games?

  14. I am an average student who has done her masters in economics from gokhale institute of politics and economics throght out I have been an average student I am interested in apply ing for PHD can you pls send me the guidelines for the course and the list of universities offering a PHD and also as to how to go about it .

  15. @ happyschoolblog
    Hey, I am new to this blog. I finished my master in the US and working on a PhD now.
    “Majority of students applying for U.S Universities for PhD don’t have research experience. ”
    I do not agree to this statement. Many Professors prefer student’s with previous research exp., though its not mandatory. People who have worked as a research assistant, know how research is conducted. To get my research exp. I worked as research assistant for free at a private research lab. Professor’s at top schools here in the US are Nobel prize winner’s and they definitely expect some stuff from people who apply and because of the Indian educational system, we just do not know, what practicals mean. I suggest students to get research exp. even if it means working for free, trust me it pay later.

    1. Hey i am doing my 3rd year B.Tech in Biotech in INDIA. I aspire to become a researcher in the field of genetic engineering and molecular biology.

      I am planning on applying for a direct PhD course after my B.Tech degree which i will get in 2012.

      Could you give me a few pointers on what my resume should look like for applying for a direct PhD. Especially if research experiences like projects(I am currently doing one under CSIR-The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) and research assistantships(planning to do for a year after my 4 years in biotech) will help me to what extent in the application evaluation process.

      Also could you suggest how i should go about choosing the best research institutes in the US in my field of interest.

  16. I HAVE bombed the GRE big time.I was expecting a score of 1400+, but crashed in verbal part and scored only 1290.My academic profile is no good either. A paltry 48% from Univ. of Delhi (UG) and 58% (Biotechnology)from Univ.of Madras.(Position-9th in class) A masters research project.3 years research and teaching experience and good LOR's . A thoughtful SOP. Searching for universities where I can get in for a PhD position in Molecular Biology/Genetics. Yet to take TOEFL, at least a score of 105+ is what I look for.

    Univ. of Southern Mississippi- No Prof. has replied in affirmative as yet.

    NDSU- Rejected me even before applying due to my GPA

    U MAssa-Amhrest- Still in initial inquiry stage.

    Kent State Univ.- Encouraging reply till now.

    Univ. of Wisconsin Milwaukee- Reply states a B avarage, but a prof. has shown interest.

    Can Any one help me with any suggestions?



  17. hi
    I need one guidance regarding 2-3-4 Years work experience required for MBA admission
    To have work experience in different departments and work culture,
    please guide me
    i should stick to only one company for 2-3-4 years for work experience
    i should try to work different department of same company
    i should try to work in different companies with different/same department to have experience of different culture
    every year or half year
    in same or different countries

    your guidance will be of most valuable tip for me

  18. Dear xxxx

    it is wonderful of you to have done smart effort to be at the top of the world.keep climbing higher.the whole world is waiting to listen to you.

    hats off'

    keep it up buddy





  19. HSB


    i do not know for reasons known to this blog admin, i am not getting back information regarding "PREMIUM CLUB MEMBERSHIP"

    Detail, is the premium club membership is still open

    can i send money to the account based in salem, tamilnadu

    please inform any body




  20. hi,

    i have just completed my b tech from wbut, with a dgpa of 7.53/10.

    i will appear for gre in oct this year. my question is can i do my phd directly without doing my masters?

  21. Can you give me the absolute details about FALL, SPRING etc..?

    What is the month for fall/spring intakes..? How moths before we should complete GRE/TOFEL and should apply the universities at which months?

  22. I am a final year student of B.Tech Biotech frm VIT University vellore.


    7 training programmes

    6 paper presentations (national and international)

    Plenty of Extra curricular stuff

    2 ongoing research projects.

    have good professors and HOD for LOR's

    interested in a Phd in stem cells.(embryonic/hematopoetic)

    what are the my chances of getting a Phd??

    what all countries except for US can i apply for a Phd directly after bachelors??

    What are the chances of Funding??

    How do i decide what schools fit my profile??

    Plss help

    My GRE is in first week of july…i hope to get >1400

  23. I have completed M.Sc in chemistry.I have no GATE score or NET.

    I want to admission in phD in current year.Please give me information

    about that area and institute.

  24. sir,

    Me pursuing B.pharma from chandigarh.

    Is it possible to get direct admission in phd in US universities w/o any publications as it is not possible to get publications in bachelors level in our college..??

  25. i need help to study in post doctarate in US. so tell me how to get admision in US unicversities.

  26. Hi,

    I have done my three years Diploma and Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering, I will be completing my MBA by March 2009 in US University. I'm planning to do my Doctorate. According to my educational qualification I can join for Doctorate in Business Administration but I would like to move to Information Technology (IT)field, so planning to take some pre-requisite course in Information Technology to do my Phd in Information Technology. I would like to have all of your suggestions, advise etc., before I change my career.


  27. MY score is V – 380,Q-740 and AWA 2.5…………since my AWA is quite low ,so this

    AWA score is enough that universities will think of considering me for their respective universities.

    i have done B.Tech(IT) applying for MS in computer science for fall 2009,now is it any chance of getting financial support(TA/RA) from the university with this low AWA score?PLZ reply its urgent

  28. I am interested in MS Forensic Science course. I have already taken the GRE exam and got 1020 [Q=710+v=310] and TOEFL yet to be taken. Let me know, is my GRE score is sufficient or i will have to give it one more shot. I have done post graduate diploma in forensic science and criminology with 65 percent and M.Sc in industrial chemistry with 73 percent marks from Panjab University, Chandigarh. I am very much interested to pursue my interest in forensic science from abroad esp. USA please guide me what should i do?….also let me know the career opportunities in USA. DO the students get jobs after doing MS in forensic science or should go for PhD further?….please reply….[email removed]

  29. hello

    myself is jatin my gre score was1040 and toefl score was 84 and now m working in tata cancer research institute as a trainee on oral cancer research.

    can i get for phd in a decent university and recomendation letters are from good scientist.

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