A new program launched by UChicago CS PhD students will assist prospective students from marginalized or underrepresented backgrounds in computer science through the application process.

The Student Application Support Program (SASP), launching this fall, pairs applicants with current PhD students for advice and feedback on their application materials. The initiative was started by graduate students Arthur Borem and Jake Chanenson, who also sit on the department’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee.

Borem and Chanenson were inspired to start the support program by similar initiatives from CS departments at Cornell, University of Washington, and University of Colorado Boulder. Students at those schools wanted to offer peer support that applicants from marginalized backgrounds might lack, including informed perspectives on their curriculum vitae and personal statements from those who have already enrolled in graduate school.

“They can look at your application and hopefully pull out pieces that speak well of you, that maybe you aren’t highlighting,” Chanenson said. “We want to bring out the best qualities in applicants from marginalized backgrounds that maybe wouldn’t be picked up on when it comes to the application review. What we want is to create an equal playing field for all candidates.”

The program is open to any prospective student who self-identifies as part of an underrepresented group, whether based on race, gender, sexuality, educational background, or other criteria. Participation in the program will not be disclosed to the faculty committee reviewing applications.

Applicants will be paired with UChicago CS PhD students, matched on the basis of a similar background or shared research interests. Borem and Chanenson said that the early response from UChicago CS students has been enthusiastic, with many volunteering to participate this application season.

“I think one of the important things we learned is to make sure that we have the support of faculty and, especially, fellow PhD students to help advise prospective applicants and to provide feedback at scale,” Chanenson said. “Thankfully, we do have that support from our community. A lot of people are excited about this initiative and want to help out and make it happen.”

Applications for the Student Application Support Program (SASP) will be accepted from now until November 15th. The deadline for application to the UChicago CS PhD program is December 15 – learn more on our Admissions page.

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