So this is NOT intended to be advice on how to apply. I don't know where I got into. This advice could all be completely wrong. There are many recources on how to apply well that you can find on the interwebs. Also, PhD apps are strange because it depends so much on the school - different professors want different things. And this isn't an advice blog. The purpose of this blog is to give an example of what it might be like to go from freshman year of undergrad to (hopefully) working in tech. That said, here is kinda how it went:
Applications for grad school are so massively different from undergraduate I cannot express it. First off, every school is massively different. Some, like Caltech, are very cut and dry. You give them exactly three letters of recomendation. You give them a statement of purpose. You give them your transcript. That's it. That is all you give them. You cannot give them anything else.
Then there are ones like Carnegie Mellon. They asked for a transcript, the GRE, possibly a subject GRE depending on department, a video essay where they give you a question and you have a minute to prepare a three minute response which they then take a video of you saying. They ask for a personal statement which is where you talk about your life. You can give 3 or 4 recomendation letters. There are also other questions that they ask but I forget. And don't even get me started on freaking Purdue!
So anyways that was not fun. But I did it, it's done, I'm happy about it, we'll see where I get accepted! Hopefully somewhere :)
One thing that graduate programs are really interested in is fellowships. If you get a fellowship, part of your tuition is paid for and that's less expense for the school and the proffessor. Most fellowships won't tell you if you got in until after grad school acceptances come out just due to how long these things tend to take, so on graduate program applications you are asked to list which fellowships you applied for. If you've applied for many that isn't a garuntee that your research will be funded extermanlly, but it's a possibility which they like. The two most important fellowships for computer science are the National Science Foundation gradate research fellowship program, and the GEM fellowship. I have no idea where I stand with the NSF grant, but I just got told that I was moved on to the next stage of the GEM fellowship admission proccess! Basically this means that they will send my apps to various companies, and they will see if they want me to intern them the summer before graduate school. The industry experiance bit is part of GEM's whole 'thing'. Anyways that was unexpected!
I never really considered working for Google. I am applying to jobs in case I don't get into any PhD programs, but Google is hardly a 'backup' job for me in terms of liklihood of getting in especially given the fact that the skillset required to get in is VASTLY different from my specialty. I'm good(ish) at machine learning, Google tends to test on the ability to solve complex problems using efficient algorithms. I doubt I'll be able to compete with those who have been studying leetcode (a programming interview training site) since Freshman year. But I applied, was phone interviewed, and moved onto their 'code screen stage' The code screening was essentially a programming assignment I had to do in a set amount of time. Their instructions however were... interesting to say the least.
Y'see, the questions were fairly standard. Hard for sure, but I mean it's Google. I went in expecting hard questions that require effort and that is what I received. However their warning beforehand was somewhat ominous. Nobody was proctering the exam and internet usage was allowed, but they didn't want you to ask a friend or look up the answer. Again, understandable. However they wrote on the instructions very clearly that if I cheated, they would know. If a teacher says that, maybe they will know, maybe they won't. But if google says they will know, you can bet that google will know! I mean what are you going to do, google the answer? I could use duckduckgo but I bet they have a way to track that too! In addition, they also asked me to fill out a snapshot survey which was basically something out of a Dilbert cartoon. They asked me a bunch of questions where we were asked to state how much we agreed or disagreed, but the answer they wanted was obvious. For example, "I don't like to push myself beyond my capacity", or "I try my best at everything I do". Who on earth would say that they don't try their best at everything they do during a job interview? They also asked me if I had taken a ride in a "loon balloon" which was an old Google idea where they floated enormous hot air balloons to beam down internet connectivity. This question did nothing but make me sad that I had never ridden in an enormous stratosphereic hot air ballon, and make me hope to go in one in the future. Anyways, Google is weird and seems to fully be embracing the 'huge corperation' vibe from what I can tell. Maybe it's different if you work there, but I still think I think I'm gonna set an alarm for 3am, grab my phone, and start googling things like "how to be a good corperate tool and make my boss super rich". Then if they track my search history they will hire me.
Also if Google sees this, please note that this is ENTIRELY A JOKE! I would never dare to defy the all-reaching arm of Google. I'm a very good capitalist tool, please pay me.May you be ever victorious in your endeavors.