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* I'm just curious if residency in the United States ever affects PhD committees in regards to admission. *

As a CS PhD student, I have asked this question before of professors on the admissions committee.

Once the applications come in, they sort them into 3 separate piles: US, India, and China. Each pile is evaluated separately, because they aren't comparable. e.g. grades and prof recommendations from the US matter a lot, whereas from China, it's hard to compare grades and prof recommendations are almost always fraudulent. (I don't know what differs about India.)

Then they accept the top ones from each pile, and try to overall choose the top students across all piles. So it's hard to compare "maybe accepts" from different piles, but they do their best.

I guess other countries (besides the big 3) get treated differently because they are more rare.

So, basically, the answer is no, being US based does not really help or hurt you.

I have heard that you have to be extremely good if you're Chinese, because if you're not, it's just too hard to compare you to people from the other piles reliably.

Obviously, this story is highly anecdotal. I'm sure other departments have other ways of handling the problem of compraring people from different educational systems.




I'm always wary of claims of "reverse discrimination" but I honestly can't think of a reason that, all else being equal (important caveat), that a PhD program would pick an American over a foreign student. Seems like the foreigner would be more motivated, more likely to do whatever the advisor asks with no complaints, less likely to complain about the poor working conditions and pay of a grad student, and much less likely to say "screw this" and go to work for anybody.com (an option not available for the non-green-card-holding foreigner).

Speaking english is a certainly a plus, but it seems outweighed by all the other benefits to the advisors that a foreign student brings.

(Full disclosure: I'm an American who's going to apply next year to PhD programs.)

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Here's one reason: a lot of state schools (Berkeley, for example) charge a lower tuition rate for in-state residents. Americans can gain state residency after a year or so of living there in a PhD program, but international students are always nonresidents. So supporting an international student is significantly more expensive than supporting a domestic student from the perspective of whatever research grant or departmental fund is paying your tuition.

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Oh, that makes sense. Thanks.

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Seems like the foreigner would be more motivated, more likely to do whatever the advisor asks with no complaints, less likely to complain about the poor working conditions and pay of a grad student, and much less likely to say "screw this" and go to work for anybody.com (an option not available for the non-green-card-holding foreigner).

But, more likely to be pressured by their family into a "prestigious" career that they aren't really interested in, more likely to have the additional pressure of supporting a wife and be thinking about kids, more likely to be unable to learn how to write research papers well in English (this is surprisingly hard)...

Also, I've definitely seen people from abroad use American grad school as a temporary stepping stone to get a job at a big company (like Microsoft) that will deal with the visa stuff. Not saying they were planning it all along, but it happens.

Of all the above, I think the "being able to write polished, professional, technical research papers" is by far the biggest risk factor that neutralizes the benefits of foreign students that you mentioned.

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Thanks, I didn't think of that.

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Obviously, this story is highly anecdotal. I'm sure other departments have other ways of handling the problem of compraring people from different educational systems.

It feels like the main difference here is that the admissions committee looks for evidence of high/low English proficiency. There are also plenty of things other than grades to look at -- test scores, research experience, interests that match faculty here, etc.

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Well, it's true that being a good communicator (particularly, writing papers) is a major differentiator in terms of actual grad student success. Since the job of a CS grad student is basically to write research papers.

That said, how do you judge the English proficiency of someone from India or China, without meeting them and working with them?

They make them take standardized tests that show very basic English skills, but I think you can't really judge that well in terms of doing high-quality writing and good interpersonal communication.

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