Graduate Studies: Life/Biological Sciences

This document is originally written by Rashedul Islam Rony, PhD Student in Bioinformatics (University of British Columbia); Reviewed by Abdullah Al Maruf, PhD (University of Toronto).

Year of Publication: 2014

©PBSCU Any unauthorized use of this article, including copying or editing is prohibited. If you want to use the article, you need to take permission from us: or from the author and you must mention the author's name and the group's name in all cases.

After coming Canada, some juniors asked me about the process of application or,contacting to professors in Canada. I think this article might answer few of their questions. I would be happy, if it helps anyone. Thanks!

I have categorized the whole application process into 5 major steps:

1. Searching suitable departments and universities

2. Contacting professors

3. Interview in Skype or, phone

4. Direct apply to the program without contacting to professors

5. Applying for admission and acceptance

These are the main steps I followed to get admission in the masters program in Bioinformatics at the University of British Columbia, Canada. But before I made my steps to follow, I talked to many seniors who are studying abroad and Google helped me a lot in all steps as well. Now I am giving a detail of each step.

1. Searching Suitable Departments and Universities:

I have completed my BSc in Bangladesh and I did job for one year. By this time, I had IELTS score at my hand. In September 01, 2013, I started the process and got official acceptance in the middle of March, 2014. So, it was a long time to go through this process. At first, I search for which degree I want and which program is suitable for my career goal. Then I searched for universities which provide this particular degree. Along with it, every time I checked for the minimum requirements of the program. To search universities and departments, I only used Google because I knew no seniors can suggest me which program is suitable for me. In this step, I spent a good amount of time in searching university information. Then I made an excel sheet containing the university, program and minimum requirement information. For university selection, I started exploring universities from top ranking universities in Canada. So, anyone can select universities of their choice and matching their profiles.

2. Contacting Professors:

This is an important step I think to apply to Canadian universities. So, I was careful in this step. I studied in Google how to write to professors and made a template email to contact professors. Before sending email to professors, I asked few questions to myself.

In this step, I contacted to all the professors of the departments I like to join because I do not know which professor will be interested on me. I choose the closely related departments that suits to my background and sent email to all the faculty members. I wrote a brief email describing my degree and courses, about my BSc project, my job experience and my publication. In the attachment, I sent a brief CV and copy of my paper. I sent same email to all professors with a simple and meaningful subject line. Then I asked the professor whether he/she is interested on my background and experience. I found reading the profile of professors and their publication is time consuming. For that reason,I asked the professors to see my background if it matched to his/her need. But to do so I was not too much irrelevant. Since I sent same email template to the departments of different universities, it saved my time greatly. Mainly, I sent email to 5 universities of my choice and got reply from almost all. In the first reply of the professor, often they asked more information/documents or,questions. In each university, there were more than one department where I could apply. So, I contacted to the departments where I met the requirements.

3. Interview - Skype or Phone:

I faced about 12 interviews in Skype and phone. In the interviews I found, the professor does not ask difficult academic questions and it looks like a formality to me. A good CV, CGPA, publication and work experience can help more to convince a professor.So, a Skype interview can change things a little I think. In this interview, other lab members with the professor may participate. The general questions they ask are:

Finally, professors asked specific questions from my CV and/or, publication. In my experience, I found few professors were also interested on my extra-curricular activities.So, a good CV is really necessary because professors read it thoroughly. Be careful about the interview date and time because I missed one interview by misunderstanding the schedule and professors could not take it again. Time distance between Bangladesh and Canada often makes confusion.

4. Direct apply to the program without contacting to professors:

There are few programs in Canadian universities where students can apply directly to the program and contacting to the professors is not required. For such departments,an excellent statement of purpose (SOP) is highly needed. It could make the main difference with other applicants. Now I am enrolled in such type of program where I applied directly without contacting professors. I think my research background and goal which is described in my SOP perfectly matched to the goal of the program and I was accepted. Before applying such programs, check your suitability to the programs.

5. Applying for Admission and Acceptance:

In my case, most of the professors informed their decisions within one month.Usually, professors take interviews of few prospective students for a position and make final decision comparing them. So, it often takes longer time. Once professor said he/she is interested to take you, you need to apply to the department formally. At this position you are not confirmed yet. A professor can change his decision at the final stage, if he/she has better options. After formal acceptance of by the university as well as professor you are admitted to the program. At the end of my application process, two professors accepted me for their project and one professor said me to join his lab in the next semester because he will get fund later. At the same time, I also got acceptance from the program where I applied directly without contacting to professors. Finally,I selected the program that best suits me and informed my acceptance to other contacting professors.At this stage, I discussed about this situation of multiple offers to the contacting professors and the seniors to know what should I do and how to deal with the situation.

NB: Here, I described my experience only. So, this is not a concrete guideline to follow but someone can get help from it. I think everyone should make his/her own decision how to approach, since there is no standard rule for this. Different people use different ways to apply. So, find out what is better for you. Good luck!