As you are aware, when you are active on the Internet – whether posting on social media, buying something online, completing a healthcare profile, and so on – your information is being collected into big datasets. The field of data science has expanded such that it has an impact on healthcare, government, agriculture, risk and security, airline route planning, gaming, business, and so much more. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 23% job growth in computer and information science from 2022 to 2032. And the typical entry level job requires a master’s degree, while some jobs demand additional certifications or a PhD. Most of my clients have been admitted to full-time graduate programs, but some have opted for part-time and/or online programs so they can continue to work full-time while completing their studies.
I recently wrote to a few former clients who were admitted to their target schools and asked them to respond to some questions, which resulted in some advice for future data science applicants. Here, I list the questions I posed, followed by a compilation of their responses.
1. If you were starting the process now to apply to graduate school, what would you think about or do prior to beginning the application?
- Spend time thinking about what you really want to gain from the graduate school program as well as what the goals of the particular program are. If you are interested in a research program and a school mentions that 90% of its students entered technology or consulting firms, look elsewhere.
- Make sure your resume or CV highlights relevant work experience and how you added value to the organization – the results of your work.
2. What would you do differently if you were applying now, knowing what you learned from going through the process?
- Attend any school webinars that provide information on the program and what they are seeking in their applicants.
- Reach out to individuals you will be asking for references early in the process to find out if they are willing to write a letter. Then, stay in touch with them and provide detailed information about your accomplishments, reminders of what work you completed under their guidance, as well as the program goals and your career goals.
- Do more in-depth research about the programs so that you can highlight why you would stand out and be a good fit for each one.
- Hire a consultant to support you with the process. It is extremely helpful to have someone objectively review your strengths and goals, strengthening your statement of purpose.
3. How much time do you recommend an applicant reserve for the application process?
- Start your research as soon as you are thinking about attending graduate school. You can note ideas for your statement of purpose over the months leading up to actually writing it. Ideally, start 6 months ahead of the deadline, but a minimum of 2-3 months.
4. Which part of the application took you the longest to complete?
- Writing the personal statement. You may go through many drafts, especially if you don’t adequately research each of the programs you are applying to prior to writing the SOP.
5. Any advice concerning letters of recommendation?
- Your references are usually very busy individuals – either full-time professors or work supervisors. Make sure you give them sufficient time to craft a letter that provides details about your skills, accomplishments, and how you stand out from your peers.
- While you may want to use a professor as your reference, it is important that they know you well and are familiar with the quality of your work.
6. How do you recommend approaching the statement of purpose (SOP)?
- Pay attention to the specific question the school is asking. They can differ in asking about your career accomplishments, research, or personal motivation for selecting this field, this program. While the main body of your SOP may be used for multiple essays, you will want to write several paragraphs describing why this program and school are aligned with your interests, academic and career goals, and personal preferences.
- If you aren’t sufficiently familiar with the program, your SOP will come across as generic. Also, don’t be afraid to mention poor academics – as long as you can provide an explanation and how you ultimately succeeded.
- Reach out to current students or recent alumni to learn about their experiences, information you won’t find on the website. It will help you write a stronger SOP.
7. How has AI impacted your current work, and do you believe it could replace the need for humans in data science?
- ChatGPT has resulted in many conversations among work colleagues. It also can make work more efficient, providing outlines and translating code from one language to another.
- Data science is a multi-step process. There are some methods that could be replaceable, changed by the use of AI. But, data scientists provide the judgments and insights to interpret computational results, just as in the field of accounting, digital spreadsheets automated traditional accounting practices, but accounting professionals are hired to interpret trends and make predictions based on many economic, political, and risk factors.
- Humans have to make the hard decisions based on data presentations.
- At least as of now, communicating and presenting data to stakeholders is more effectively done by humans.
- Currently, AI cannot make true advancements or discoveries without human insight.
Data science is everywhere you look today. It is an exciting field that can be applied in every academic discipline and work setting. I hope you find some of the information in this post helpful as you search for the right program for you.
With 30 years of career and admissions experience at four universities, including Cornell’s College of Engineering and Johnson Business School, Dr. Karin Ash facilitated students’ entry into the world’s best companies. As an adcom member, she also evaluated applications and therefore knows what schools and employers seek. Want Karin to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!