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Years 1-2

During your first two years of undergraduate study, aim to:

  • Make the most of your intellectual opportunities at Penn by excelling academically
  • Engage in activities in which you are genuinely interested
  • Educate yourself on current issues in your fields of interest
  • Determine how you can work with others to help solve existing problems
  • Engage in service to help others beyond Penn's campus
  • Enroll in small classes such as Freshman Seminars that allow you to get to know Penn faculty well
  • Explore research and independent study opportunities to dig deeper into the questions that interest you
  • Enroll in Penn graduate courses in your areas of interest
  • Maintain and strengthen connections with faculty and others seeking to solve problems that perplex and engage you
Floor-level view of 2019 Research Expo
people pointing at screen

Once you identify a problem or issue you wish to address, engage with Penn faculty and others who are working on the problem:

  • Learn from others working on the problem, and contribute your ideas to efforts to solve it
  • Seek advice from faculty work on the problem, and ask them how you can learn more
    • What solutions have been attempted?
    • Why have efforts to solve this problem fallen short?
  • Determine how you might contribute to finding a solution to the problem
  • Seek assistance from others, and take action to solve the problem
  • Take initiative to demonstrate leadership on and beyond campus

As your interests develop, you should be moving from broad questions (e.g., the power dynamics of nonprofits) to more specialized issues (e.g., Has anyone looked at how effectively psychiatric care is administered for geriatric patients in country X, and what can be done to improve it?)

Ask yourself: How am I going to improve the world?

Years 3-4

Juniors and Seniors should begin to focus on next steps:

Potential applicants seeking UK degrees should identify specific academic programs you wish to pursue:

  • Seek advice from your Penn faculty mentors to identify key faculty and departments in the United Kingdom (UK) and elsewhere
  • UK applicants should use the keyword search at Prospects.ac.ukto identify available UK grad programs
  • Use the UK government's Research Excellence Framework 2021 ranking of UK graduate programs to identify the strongest and most appropriate UK graduate degree programs that fit your interests as determined by UK faculty. This is an extremely useful snapshot of the quality of graduate programs based on the academic strength of departments at UK universities as determined by UK faculty, and helps dispel the myth that Oxford, Cambridge, and the best-known universities in London are the strongest academic programs in all fields. Instructions on how to use the REF 2021 results by subject
  • Once you have identified departments with strong programs in your field, review the department's website and the "Courses" they offer
  • Use CURF's resources to identify potential courses of graduate study
  • Finally, use the Fellowships Directory to determine which fellowships potentially fund your chosen course of study
Person walking in front of the split button in front of Van Pelt library

Identify a Graduate Program

In the US, students typically seek a graduate degree in a "field" (e.g., Epidemiology), while in the United Kingdom, graduate students often pursue what the UK calls a "Course" in a much more specialized area (e.g., "International Health and Tropical Medicine"). When seeking a fellowship for graduate study, selecting the appropriate course is among the very most important aspects of one's application.

The first question you should ask yourself is: "What skills will I need to enhance to make myself more effective at contributing to solving this problem?" In UK terms:

  • Do you need to pursue a "Taught Course" (consisting primarily of course work and culminating in a thesis)?
  • Or would a "Research Course" such as an M.Phil. (consisting almost exclusively of a research project under the guidance of a leading faculty member) or even a doctorate (typically three or four years of research culminating in a major contribution to knowledge) be more useful and appropriate?

Whichever type of Course you pursue, who are the specific faculty you wish to work with, and why?

  • Use the UK government's Research Excellence Framework 2021 ranking of UK graduate programs (link is external)to identify the strongest and most appropriate UK graduate degree programs that fit your interests as determined by UK faculty. This is an extremely useful snapshot of the quality of graduate programs based on the academic strength of departments at UK universities as determined by UK faculty, and helps dispel the myth that Oxford, Cambridge, and the best-known universities in London are the strongest academic programs in all fields. Instructions on how to use the REF 2021 results by subject(link is external)
  • Once you have identified potential faculty mentors in the UK (ideally with advice and assistance of your Penn faculty mentor):
    • Contact faculty with whom you wish to study under or work with on a specific research project
    • For program questions, contact the faculty "Course Convener" or department administrator as directed by a program's website 

The answer to the following question should be clear in your personal statement: "Why will this program be so valuable to me and my ability to address the problem?"

Funding Graduate Study in the UK

In addition to the fellowships listed on CURF's Find Fellowships page, potential funding resources for graduate study in the UK for both US citizens and non-US citizens include:

For applicants interested in graduate study in the United Kingdom, the UK maintains a ranking system for graduate programs based on formal evaluation by UK faculty in dozens of fields:

Department of Computer Science in Oxford