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

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

Note: any information on this page is my own interpretation and is not an official call. The only official information is published on the official site of the CIC. Some information may be outdated, but the majority of information should be valid.

1.    On the official info

The following table provides links to information and official calls in various forms, in particular, in interactive form with automatic translation (use flag icons there to translate). These pages contain more information, such as FAQ, than my translation, and might be more up to date. Also, I provide Google translation: it might be more up to date if the original pages change; on the other hand, my manual translation has important comments (see the cells in yellow color below) -- you can check both to be sure. Past calls give examples of dates for the other semester, but there is no guarantee the dates will not change.

Note that you must fill in an online registration form before sending the files (if you see this form in Spanish, try to use Google Translator).

  MSc PhD
For Fall 2018
For Spring 2019
For Fall 2018
For Spring 2018
Deadlines (note *) Proposal & application May 25 Nov 23 May 18 Nov 16
Formal documents June 15 June 15
External exams results June 15 Dec 7 June 15 Dec 7
Local English exam option
(no problem if you miss this:
see other options)
Apr 23
(no problem
if passed)
Oct 15
(no problem
if passed)
April 23
(no problem
if passed)
Oct 15
(no problem
if passed)
Manually translated
into English
with my comments
Call: cached
(may be out of date)
  Translation with
my comments
  Translation with
my comments
Original (Spanish)
with automatic
translation (use the
flag icons there)
General info info and application form (use flag icons there for translation)
interactive and more complete (use flag icons) interactive and more complete (use flag icons)
Call: live web PDF PDF PDF PDF
Call: cached PDF PDF PDF PDF
Google Translator
General info info and application form (don't use this, use flag icons on the original page)
call (don't use this, see above) call (don't use this, see above)
Call: live web PDF PDF PDF PDF
Call: cached PDF PDF PDF PDF

* Note on the deadline: Please contact your future advisor ASAP, 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.

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.

Disclaimer: The official calls are the only official info; everything else on this page is my personal interpretation and can be incorrect, incomplete, or obsolete. Read carefully the official calls.

2.    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.

3.    Plan your time

Admission is two times a year, for Spring and Fall semesters.

To start your study in August, it is best to start preparation in February (including contacting your advisor) and apply in April or May (see the call); for January, it is best to start preparation in September and apply in early November (but see the call). The admission process can take a couple of months, plus getting a visa can take also a couple of months. 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.

4.    Contact your future advisor

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

Please choose only one; simultaneous submissions will be rejected.

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.

5.    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.

6.    PhD: Write your research proposal

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.

See the official call for the structure of this document.

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 the following sections:

7.    Book a date for external exams

Before formally applying to CIC (but after you talk informally with your future advisor) you will need to sit for the GRE / EXADEP and TOEFL (or equivalent) exams, which you can present in your country.

Please make an appointment for these exams (GRE / EXADEP and TOEFL) 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.

8.    Send the documents to your advisor and discuss them 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, and use DropBox or similar if the zip file is too large to be sent by email. Use meaningful file names easily understandable by others, such as CV.pdf or Letter-of-motivation.pdf.

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.

9.    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, or both). 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.