Graduate school application advice for student with little research experience?

Thread Starter


Joined Jul 27, 2011
I'm wondering if anyone can offer some advice. Forgive the length, but all is germane to my question.

I'll be graduating with my BS in EE in the spring of next year and I'm planning to continue directly on to graduate school that Fall. I'm applying to Ph.D programs in electrical and computer engineering.

My current college has a very small undergraduate engineering program and no graduate engineering program (we are ABET accredited however.) I've participated in no detailed research during my 4 years - there isn't really any research going on at the school. The small department has also meant limited choices for technical electives. I've had to take whatever electives were offered in order to fill out the necessary number of technical electives for on-time graduation.
None of these electives have been particularly interesting to me (mostly power systems and microelectronics.) The areas of research I would like to persue (DSP/image processing and computer vision,) I have little experience with.

I don't really know how to approach this on my statement of purpose essay. From everything I've read about writing a statement of purpose, it should be focused and discuss specific research objectives and interests. I can't really do this with no previous research experience and only a superficial understanding of the fields I'm interested in.

Any suggestions on how to approach this?

I have also scheduled meetings with professors at the universities I will be applying to. Any suggestions about how I should approach this matter face-to-face would also be appreciated.

Thank you.


Joined Mar 9, 2011
you should try to get to know as much as possible what research the profs who are your perspective advisors are working on. Even with no experience in the area you should know why you are interested in the field, and not just vague aspects of it. This is where looking at specific research helps. I think it is OK not to have deep understanding of the area at the beginning, but you need to be able to convince people that you understand why you chose that area and how your actual experience relates to it (if in doubt, write about communication skills ;)) this might require some creative manipulation but is a must.