How to apply for CIC’s Master's and PhD in Computer Science program

Alexander Gelbukh

Whenever I worried I wasn't going to finish my PhD – I looked
at the people dumber than me finishing theirs, and I would
think to myself, if that idiot can get a PhD, dammit, so can I.

Olin Shivers, cited by Matt Might

    Important notes

    I assume you have read a description of our NLP team and our programs.

    Parts of information on this page were written in different years and may be obsolete or not applicable to the current call. The rules tend to change over time. Please adjust the information on this page to the current call. Ask me if in doubt.

    Disclaimer. Any information on this page is my personal interpretation and can be incorrect, incomplete, or obsolete. No guarantee. Read carefully the official calls. The only official information is published on (WARNING: read next paragraph before clicking here) the official site of the CIC.

    On communication. Always send all communication with a copy to your advisor, for your advisor to have full information of your admission process.

    When you feel that something was to happen (such as the date of your interview assigned, or the results communicated) but you don't have news about it, please send a message to the official address or to the official with whom you had communication previously (who responded to your application). If they don't respond in reasonable time, send a message to your advisor. If he or she don't respond in reasonable time (I often miss emails), or if the thing is urgent, ping them on Skype or WhatsApp (for me, see my contacts).

    On deadlines. Deadlines in Mexico are a legal issue. If you miss the deadline by one second, you probably miss it completely and your application is rejected (I have had such experience with a very large and important project proposal). It is better to send your application incomplete and/or imperfect but in time, than complete and perfect but missing the deadline even by one second. You might be able to send missing documents later or replace the version if your application is considered at all, but if you miss the deadline, your application will probably not be considered at all.

    On the other hand, if you have already missed the deadline, please go ahead and try submitting anyway, and contact your advisor urgently. We might be able to still process your application (or might not).

    Read carefully the call

    The table gives links to the current or latest call and the past call (as an example of what next calls will probably look like).

    We have two different sets of deadlines: "early cut-off" with early notification that gives enough time for the visa paperwork for the immediately next semester, and "final cut-off" that is perhaps too late for the visa paperwork for the immediately next semester, but right in time for the semester that starts in half a year.

      MSc PhD
    Open Closed, similar to next Open Closed, similar to next
    To be enrolled in August 2021
    in time for visa
    August 2021 or
    January 2022**
    February 2021 February or
    August 2021**
    August 2021
    in time for visa
    August 2021 or
    January 2022**
    February 2021 February or
    August 2021**
    To be notified of acceptance on May 7 June 30 November 20 January 29 April 30 June 30 November 20 January 29
    Call in English with my comments MSc: Call and comments MSc: Call and comments PhD: Call and comments PhD: Call and comments
    (note *)
    Web form registration April 30 June 18 November 6 December 10 April 25 June 20 November 6 December 10
    Academic documents June 20 November 6 January 8 January 8
    GRE / papers & English
    Enrollment August 6 Aug 6 or Jan Feb 19 Feb 19 or August August 6 Aug 6 or Jan Feb 19 Feb 19 or August

    * Note on the deadline: Please contact your future advisor today, don't postpone things until the deadline: preparing the documents and the proposal takes a lot of time. On the other hand, we might be able to handle incomplete applications or late submissions. Incomplete application is better than late submission: send us the docs you have and complete the missing ones (such as translation and certification) later. Don't give up only because you don't have some docs ready or because you have missed the deadline; do fight for your future and use your chance.

    ** Note on the dates: There will be another call in half a year for the same enrollment date, but probably too close to the enrollment date in order for your visa paperwork. If possible, apply in this call.

    Please send a copy of all correspondence to your advisor. However, the only official application is done via the official address: sending anything to your advisor does not constitute an official application.


    Decide if CIC is for you

    Note on the average score. A jury will decide whether your average score is sufficient for scholarship. As of 2015, the jury used the following procedure to judge (no guarantee it will be the same in this semester):

    1. Typically you are OK if your average score is at least the middle point between the lowest pass and highest score in your school. Example: if at your school the lowest pass score is 6 and the highest is 10, then you need at least (6 + 10) / 2 = 8. This is simple arithmetic, not weighted, average score. In this case the jury typically assumes (unless there is a reason to believe otherwise) that you comply with the condition in the next item.

    2. Strictly speaking, the simple average of your score sheet during MSc (BSc) should be within top 63% of the graduates of your university or your country. For example, your score sheet includes 30 subjects, for which the numeric scores sum up to 114, which gives a simple average of 3.8. Then you are OK if you can reliably prove that at least 37% (100% – 63%) of the graduates of the MSc (BSc) program of your university have this figure below 3.8.

    3. If your score is not sufficient, then we still may admit you, but we may not be able to provide your scholarship for the first semester. In this case we will still normally provide a scholarship starting from from the second semester. However, if your score is really low, think twice whether CIC is for you.

    Depending on your case above, you will need to provide the following evidence from an official, reliable, and verifiable source:

    1. Case 1 above: The lowest pass and highest possible score in your school (usually already printed on the score sheet), or

    2. Case 2 above: Statistics of the average scores of the graduates of MSc (BSc) level in your university or country (e.g., an official webpage of the university or Ministry of Education, or an official letter from your Dean might do), or

    3. Case 3 above: Financial solvency to stay in Mexico during your first semester without scholarship.

    Plan your time

    Admission is two times a year, for Spring and Fall semesters. It is recommended to start your admission process one semester in advance, to have enough time for the immigration formalities and for buying the tickets cheaper. That is,

    However, if you read this too late, do try: we might be able to process your application quickly.

    Meanwhile you can advance in getting certified translations of the documents (see below; it's not what you think) because this also takes time.

    Notably, getting certified translation and equivalence judgment of your score sheet can take a couple of months or more. Send your score sheet to your chosen advisor ASAP.

    Contact your future advisor

    The NLP Lab's faculty are: Alexander Gelbukh (that's me), Grigori Sidorov, Ildar Batyrshin, and Hiram Calvo; other labs of CIC have other faculty.

    Please choose only one as your possible future advisor; if we detect that you contacted more than one without clearly notifying all of them of this fact, your submission will be immediately rejected.

    Please use the Subject line "Prospective PhD student" or "Prospective MSc student" as applicable. Messages with a different Subject line might be lost.

    Contact this person in order to agree on the topic. Send him or her as many of the documents listed below as you have now, for the advisor to judge whether you are a strong candidate.

    At least send the CV, score sheets, and all your publications and awards if you have any. In case if they are not in English or Spanish, please provide a translation (at this stage it can be your own tarnslation).

    I advise you to describe your research idea (see the next section) or several ideas for the advisor to choose from. Without this, the person you contact might not be interested in you.

    Suggest a research topic

    Discuss with your advisor the topic of your future research. Suggest several topics and let the advisor choose which one is better. Don't suggest random topics, take it seriously and research about these topics before suggesting them. This is an extremely important decision, many years of your life from now on will be dedicated to the topic you choose. A good topic is where you have some ideas of your own (maybe wrong ideas, but your own ideas); for this you should know something about the topic, enough to suggest a specific problem and specific solution:

    As you see in this example, we don't expect something fancy or lengthy, but some clear idea (maybe wrong idea, your advisor will decide) to start a discussion from. This will also show that you didn't copy-and-paste a random topic taken from your advisor's CV, and that you devoted enough research effort to investigate on your future topic.

    Write your research proposal (PhD only)

    After your advisor approves the idea, coordinate with your advisor writing a detailed research proposal. This is a formal document resembling in format a thesis: title page, contents, section headings, numbered pages, etc. Please write and format it well: this is the main document on which your admission will be judged; if we see there careless writing, logic, or formatting, we will suspect that you would not be a responsible student and a careful researcher.

    The call seems not to specify the number of pages, but typically people write 10-15 pages. If your proposal is too short, the committee may feel offended thinking that you did not care to dedicate your time to writing it.

    See the official call for the structure of this document. Use exactly the items specified there (in exactly the same order) as section titles, and fill in the contents for these sections. For each section, have a short and clear formulation in the first paragraph, easy to locate and labeled in boldface, such as "The problem to address in this research is to build a sentiment classifier for medical texts", and then add more paragraphs with description. Some readers might not be willing to read the whole description, so provide a short info for them in the first paragraph of each section.

    If the call requires you to include a calendar of activities, then this can be a table as follows. Your goals are the partial objectives that you specified in your PhD proposal (copy the goal titles from there and use "X" for "..." as appropriate), plus include the following obligatory items in the following specific semesters (BTW, these are the obligatory milestones during your study):

    Activity Semester
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
    Literature review X              
    Your goal 1... such as development of the dataset ... ...            
    Your goal 2... such as implementation of classifier ... ...            
    Registration of PhD topic X              
    Your goal...   ... ...          
    Your goal...   .. ...          
    Pre-doctoral exam       X        
    Your goal...     ... ...        
    Your goal...       ... ...      
    Sending a paper to a top journal         X      
    Your goal...         ... ...    
    Your goal...           ... ...  
    Thesis review ("closed door") exam               X
    Final graduation exam               X

    This document seems not to formally require (but check the current call) to include scientific methodology, i.e., how you plan to reach the goals. However, I strongly encourage you to seriously discuss with your advisor and probably include in the document (perhaps under the section of description of the problem or the section of the expected results) the following sub-sections:

    Book a date for external exams well in advance, and a note on the English exam

    Unless you have published papers (check with your advisor whether your papers are enough), at some point of the submission process (or before), you will need to sit for the GRE / EXADEP and English exams, which you can present in your country.

    Please make an appointment for these exams (GRE / EXADEP and English) ASAP, because later dates within the deadline might not be available, plus receiving the certificate by mail takes several weeks.

    Note for India: in India, to sit for GRE you need to get a passport prior to the exam date. This is very unexpected, and other countries seem not to have this problem. Getting a passport is a very slow procedure. Please start it well in advance.

    Send the document set to your advisor and discuss it with him or her

    Note that contacting your advisor does not constitute a formal application. You or your advisor will need to pass the documents listed below to the PhD / MSc committee; see the respective official call. Sending only the proposal does not start your admission process. However, your advisor may be able to start preparation for the application process with some of those documents.

    Send as many of the required documents as you have now to your advisor. The more of these documents you send the more your advisor might be interested in you. However, please avoid sending irrelevant documents: bombarding your advisor with many irrelevant documents will only prevent him or her from paying attention to relevant ones.

    Please send to your advisor scanned copies of the documents in the original language. If this language is different from English or Spanish, then at this stage it is enough if you provide your own translation of them (for some of them you will eventually need a certified translation into Spanish, see below).

    Please zip all docs together, or (better) use DropBox, Google Drive, or similar web folder to put the documents there. Use meaningful file names easily understandable by others, and include the number of item in the list in the call as the first character of the file name, such as a-CV.pdf or b-Letter-of-motivation.pdf. Use exactly the same order and numbering in which the documents are listed in the call.

    Here are some recommendations:

    1. CV: Emphasize your education (specify average marks when applicable), honors, academic and/or relevant work experience and publications. I advise you to include a folder with additional documents (don't mix them with the main documents required by the call; instead, put them in a separate folder or archive). I advise to include there the full text of all your publications, if any. It would also help if you send any other relevant documents or explanations that proves what you say in your CV and/or helps us to interpret it. For example, if you have a "Second National Diploma," please explain how this can be mapped to the education hierarchy in the countries we are likely familiar with. Please report your average score and indicate the lower pass and higher possible score in your school and give some idea of what percentage of students have same or higher mark as you. Help us to really understand your CV, don't assume we are familiar with realities of your country or school. Don't be modest, state clearly which of your achievements are great achievements, and why we should consider them so great.

    2. Letter explaining your motivation to enter CIC: This should be a formal signed letter addressed to, say, PhD Committee of CIC (not to your advisor). Please include a clear statement of a promise to finish the PhD program in time and to get a degree from this program and not abandon the program before getting the degree. We need a clear promise not to desert from the program and not to change to another program (except of course for really force majeure circumstances like sever illness). When explaining why you decided to apply to CIC, don't hesitate to state clearly that you are familiar with the work of your advisor and it is the excellence of his or her work that inspires you to choose CIC (if this is the case of course).

    3. (for PhD) Recommendation letters: The letter should state whether you have good research abilities and why they think so (say, in which projects you participated and what was their impression of your work), not just repeat things already seen from your CV. The letters can be addressed to the PhD Admission Committee of CIC.

    4. (for PhD) PhD research proposal: It should be close to 15 pages (not longer, but not much shorter), and should be very clear. Clarity is the first priority, not vague "scientific air". Contact your advisor and discuss your proposal with him or her first.

    5. (for PhD) Presentation of your proposal: I'd advice to include a couple of slides about your MSc thesis topic and results – I personally think that to show what you have done is more convincing than to show what you plan to do.

    6. Degree certificate (diploma):  averse and reverse. If you don't yet have it but will obtain it soon, it can be presented later when you have it; in this case present some evidence of your graduation or planned graduation date. For MSc, present your BSc certificate. For PhD, present your MSc certificate or equivalent.

    7. Marks (scores): Include the official transcript of the scores received during MSc study (or BSc if you have not studied MSc) and a formal evidence of what is the lowest pass score and the maximum score (often this info is printed on your score sheets; if not, then we will need some evidence, such as a formal letter from the university or a webpage of the university or the Ministry of Education). You can attach information on the finished (BSc / MSc) programs (subjects, syllabus, evidence of quality); this is not required but might help us to interpret the quality of a degree if your diploma is from a less known university or country. Often the subjects are already listed in your score sheet. It would greatly help if you provide an Excel sheet with your scores: just one column of the scores (credits are irrelevant for us) in the same order as they go in your score sheet, for us to verify the average (otherwise your advisor will have to spend their time on keying your scores into a calculator, which will not add them enthusiasm for your case, right?).

    8. Professional license: In many countries there is no such thing, then a note stating that there is no such thing in your country is enough.

    Prepare the official submission and show it to your advisor

    The call requires you to send one or two messages to an official address, with files or links as specified in the all.

    I advise you to show the file (and / or link), exactly how you plan to submit it, to your advisor before you submit it formally to the official address. This way your advisor can check if what you plan to submit is correct and give you feedback.

    However, if you do not receive feedback from your advisor some hours before the deadline, then please do go ahead and send things to the official address: it is better to submit imperfect application in time than to miss the deadline.

    Submit the documents officially

    Sending your documents to your advisor does not constitute a formal application. See the call for the submission procedure.

    If you do not have all the required documents by the submission deadline, submit with what you can. You may be able to send the missing documents or correct your data later provided that you submit your application in time; however, if you miss the deadline, you just miss the whole thing. Applying in time is more important than applying with perfect documents.

    Note that for PhD, you send a link to the official address. Tip: if you don't have all those docs ready, you can send a link to an incomplete (or even empty) web folder, and improve / add the contents there in the next hours after the deadline, in hope that they will not download your files immediately.

    All submission is electronic. In the PDF file you send, place the documents exactly in the order in which they are specified in the call. If you still do not have a document translated and have to include a document in a language other than English or Spanish, then provide your own translation of essential parts of it, or at least write over its image something like "This is my birth certificate, with place of birth: India; date of birth: Jan 21, 1992." for us to have some idea of a document in a language that we do not understand.

    If you submit a link to a set of documents in DropBox or similar, then use descriptive file names, with the first letter to be the number of the item in the list in the call, such as a-proposal.pdf, b-presentation.pdf.

    I advise you to include (as a last item) a copy of your current passport (the main page) that you will use to get your visa. This is needed for the visa paperwork and they will likely contact you later for it, which will cause an additional delay.

    On legalization of the documents

    While you probably can start the application process to without certified translations (so postpone this step if there is no time for before the deadline), eventually you will need to present the following documents and their certified translations:

    and probably some other documents (see the call). For the submission process, all documents are sent electronically; however, when you arrive here, you will need to present these three documents in hard copy original and their certified translations into Spanish (not English!) in hard copy original (don't forget them at home!). It is better to bring all other relevant original documents with you (such as the professional license).

    If your country is a member of the apostille convention (most countries are), then the documents must have an apostille (in my own case I had the apostille on the translation and not on the original, and they accepted it, but I would advise you to get the apostille on the original). It is advisable that you first send a scanned copy of all these documents to your advisor, who will tell you which of them really need to be translated and have an apostille. If you have many score sheets and if getting an apostille on each one is expensive, then getting an apostille on the last sheet which specifies the average may be enough. If in your country the apostille is made as a sticker, then please keep a scanned copy of the document (or even better, a certified copy) before getting the apostille if you think that the sticker may cover important parts of the document (we have faced this problem in India with score sheets where the apostille sticker covered the explanation of the score scale).

    If your country is not a member of the apostille convention, then there should be another legalization procedure. For example, for Pakistan, the two academic documents stamped by the Higher Education Commission; then all three documents are legalized at the Pakistani embassy in Mexico; see the table below. Call your local Mexican embassy to ask for the specific legalization procedure.

    After this certification, we will need a certified translation (into Spanish, not English). This can be done in Mexico or maybe at the Embassy of Mexico in your country (ask them if they can do it). The rules say this should be Mexican certification, but in the past people successfully submitted certified translations made in their country. You can contact your advisor on whether he or she can help you to get a certified translation in Mexico (in my case, I can).

    To summarize, here is what is to be done with the three documents (but before doing that, send to your advisor a scanned copy of your original documents as is):

    If your country has apostille:

      1. Apostille 2. Certified translation 3. Equivalence judgment
    Degree certificate You in your country Your advisor in Mexico, or you in Mexican Embassy  —
    Score transcript You in your country Your advisor in Mexico, or you in Mexican Embassy Your advisor in Mexico
    Birth certificate You in your country Your advisor in Mexico, or you in Mexican Embassy

    If your country does not have apostille, the procedure is different for each country; ask the Mexican Embassy what the procedure is. Here is an example for Pakistan as I understood it (in Pakistan, each step should take a day or two):

      1. Higher Education Commission 2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs 3. Embassy of Pakistan 4. Certified translation 5. Equivalence judgment
    Degree certificates You in Pakistan You in Pakistan You or your advisor in Mexico  —
    Score transcripts You in Pakistan You in Pakistan You or your advisor in Mexico Your advisor in Mexico
    Birth certificate You in Pakistan You in Mexico upon arrival You or your advisor in Mexico

    If you were graduated in a third country or from a university that belongs to a third country but has a campus in yours, such as Lancaster University (British) at Lahore (in Pakistan), then the legalization procedure may become quite complicated and may involve getting legalization in that third country. This will need more time, so you will need to start it many months in advance, because without legalization your scholarship cannot be requested.

    In complicated cases, the academic admission decision may be made using your original (not certified and not translated) documents, and upon arrival you do what is to be done in Mexico already. Of course in such a scenario your admission is conditioned by eventually providing all the certificates, even if during the first semester after your enrollment.

    Disclaimer: this what we have done in the past. The rules tend to change over time; there is no guarantee that you still can do it this way.