Criteria for getting admission into a top ranked Ph.D. program - Power Punch Club
Power Punch Club

Criteria for getting admission into a top ranked Ph.D. program

Episode 6, The Power Punch Club Podcast

In this episode, we talk about:

  • What top ranked Ph.D. programs look like
  • How you should approach university selection for Ph.D. applicants
  • What it take to not to have regrets in your decision

Now on iTunes and Google Play!

There are two parts to this question. First one is TRUTH that you won’t hear anywhere else. A “top ranked” Ph.D. program should not be the focus in the application process. Actually a top ranked Ph.D. program is a misnomer. There is no Ph.D. program ranking because there are no meaningful factors you can use to create such a list. Only graduate school rankings exist, which are based on masters programs. 

So Ph.D. program rankings are irrelevant to the application process.

What’s relevant is the nature of the research you are interested in, which professors are indulging in these fields, who can accommodate another graduate student and how do they treat their graduate students. These are the only factors you need to decide which universities to apply to. 

So how do you decide?

Top ranked university for a Ph.D. doesn’t mean much if you don’t like the research, the environment, the professor etc. There are many other factors that are important for your sanity than whether the university is top ranked. But it may have more meaning in industry, but not in academia. 


Because in academia it’s all about the research. If you want to become a professor, and you’re working on this hot topic research from University of Florida, for example, you’ll have much better chances of becoming a professor (and before that getting a post-doc) than if you’re working on some so-so research at Harvard.

That’s the reality I went through. Georgia Tech is a Top 3 grad program in my field. But my research topic wasn’t popular for me to become a professor, every application got rejected without a second round. Whereas my colleague in the same research group, was the first one to work on the hottest topic in my field and after one year of post-doc he became a professor.

So it all depends on your goals in life. If you want to work in industry, first make sure you’re slightly to moderately interested in a research topic that the top ranked university conducts. Then look at the rankings of the universities to whittle down the list to a handful of universities.

BUT Even before all of this, consider if this is the best approach and most meaningful for your life (if industry is your goal). There are arguments from both sides.

If academia or entrepreneurship is your goal, then consider finding hot research areas or an idea that can make a difference to this world. I can tell you the research I conducted will never be talked about again. I have no regrets though, because I love what I do now.

The Power Punch Club podcast features Dr. Varun Gandhi, who has a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Vineet Jain, who has an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and Masters in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech. They have 18 years of combined experience in attending various top universities in America. They have both T.A. (teaching assistant) and R.A. (research assistant) experience. They have mentored numerous students during their grad school programs. They have worked at top firms in their respective fields with 10 years of combined experience working in the industry. They have 20 years of combined experience in university admissions.

The Power Punch Club podcast provides a fresh perspective of the university admissions process, job opportunities, interviews with experts, current and past students, professors, and university admissions committee members. Our mission is to combine tips and strategies from the experts with the journey and experience of past and current students, the research openings of faculty members, advice from university admissions committee members and experts in the student visa application process.

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