“When it comes to dressing well, American culture is so self-fulfilled that it has not only disregarded this courtesy of self-presentation, but has turned that disregard into a virtue. “We are too superior/busy/cool/not-uptight to bother about how we look to other people, and so we can wear pajamas to school and underwear to the mall.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
In 2011, I didn’t think I would be able to do a Ph.D. It wasn’t impostor syndrome (well, also), but the fact that the topic I wanted to research seemed only popular in the US and I had no idea how to get into a Ph.D. program there. I remember searching endlessly and desperately for online resources, and nobody would explain me how even start my application.
It took me ten years, but here below the article I wrote for the Times Higher Education. This is the article I would have loved to read ten years ago, and that I wrote out of a promise I did to my past self.
It is based on my experience, and I’m also not saying that anybody SHOULD absolutely study in the US. But if you want to, that’s a starting point to do it.
GRE. TOEFL. Statement of purpose. I remember staring at these terms when visiting university websites and trying to understand what they meant. After studying at universities in Italy and France, I decided to apply for a PhD programme in the US.
There are useful online resources on how to write successful application essays or how to understand the differences between studying in the US and Europe, but not many discuss the PhD application process. Supervisors and mentors in non-US universities are often not able to offer much support. This guide will help you start your applications, based on my personal experience of applying for a PhD in the US.
Getting your tests: GRE and TOEFL
Applications for a US PhD programme usually require scores from GRE and TOEFL tests, exams that international students might be unfamiliar with. These tests are time-consuming and expensive, so it is important to start planning for them as soon as possible, especially because it can be difficult to find test locations outside the US…..
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