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EECS - Odds of getting into a top 10 school? Help!


ccc2012

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Undergrad Institution: UC Irvine (Rank: 46, Tier 1)

Major(s): Computer Engineering

GPA in Major: 3.33

Overall GPA: 3.28

Length of Degree: 2 yrs at CC, 2 yrs at UCI (didn't attend college 1st yr out of HS due to personal/family reasons)

Position in Class: Better than average, I would guess

Type of Student: Domestic Male Minority (white/asian mixed)

GRE Scores:

Q: 800

V: 530

W: 6.0

Research Experience: None :(

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Dean's List. Have about 7 extracurricular awards (non-school related).

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:

2yrs, owner/sole-operater of an online business (while I was in school)

1yr, Engineering Intern, Broadcom (while I was in school)

1.5yrs, Embedded Engineer, Eaton

0.5yrs, Firmware Engineer, Marway (current position)

Applying for MS or PhD at:

Stanford - EE - 2011 (expecting rejection)

Berkeley - EECS - 2011 (expecting rejection)

UC Irvine - EECS - 2011 (expecting acceptance) -- they almost begged me to enter the program in 2008.

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:

I've been recognized as a great engineer and leader at my current position at Marway. I have a lot of respect from the VP of Engineering here, and I'm sure I'll be able to get a great letter of recommendation from him. I'm also one of the unlucky few who comes from a broken home, and I had to pay my own way through college. Because of this, I was working two jobs most of the time I was at UC Irvine.

Because of the lack of available engineering courses at my community college, I was forced to take 18-20 units every quarter at UCI if I wanted to graduate on time. Taking this many units, running my online business, and working at my internship took a toll on my grades (I was getting ~3.0 those quarters, the others quarters I got 3.5+). I regret this. Instead of the internship, I should have done research. And instead of taking 2 yrs at UCI, I should have finished in 3 yrs. My GPA would be much higher, I think.

It's more important to me than anything to get into a good institution right now. If there's some part of my profile that I can improve on to better my chances, please let me know what that is. Any other advice?

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At least for a CS PhD, the only part that really matters is your research experience. Of course this is only my opinion, but I'd say with no research experience you have no shot at getting into a top 10 university. I don't know what the admission process is like for engineering or MS programs, but since you said "EECS" and mentioned a PhD...

That said, good luck and I hope you prove me wrong!

Edited by OH YEAH
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At least for a CS PhD, the only part that really matters is your research experience. Of course this is only my opinion, but I'd say with no research experience you have no shot at getting into a top 10 university. I don't know what the admission process is like for engineering or MS programs, but since you said "EECS" and mentioned a PhD...

That said, good luck and I hope you prove me wrong!

Yeah, I figured. Should I try to do research now, after I've graduated? Is that possible? Is that worth doing, or should I focus my efforts elsewhere?

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A few things,

I'm not entirely sure you count as a minority, (I'm asian and almost every engineering school explicitly states that I don't count) so I wouldn't expect it to help you on an application.

some CS programs also look at practical experience, ie if you have completed large programming projects, those could help.

If you're going EE, your GPA is about on the cut-off for most top programs.

Stanford, in general, places more worth on entrepreneurial spirit than other schools.

Berkeley, when I applied, had 2800 applicants for less than 100 spots, but that was the first year of the current recession so it's probably better now, but the competition will still be very stiff.

What focus exactly are you applying for? from your profile I would guess some mix of computer architecture/software engineering. Different sub-fields in EE value different things in an applicant, and also sometimes have different schools sitting at the top.

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A few things,

I'm not entirely sure you count as a minority, (I'm asian and almost every engineering school explicitly states that I don't count) so I wouldn't expect it to help you on an application.

some CS programs also look at practical experience, ie if you have completed large programming projects, those could help.

If you're going EE, your GPA is about on the cut-off for most top programs.

Stanford, in general, places more worth on entrepreneurial spirit than other schools.

Berkeley, when I applied, had 2800 applicants for less than 100 spots, but that was the first year of the current recession so it's probably better now, but the competition will still be very stiff.

What focus exactly are you applying for? from your profile I would guess some mix of computer architecture/software engineering. Different sub-fields in EE value different things in an applicant, and also sometimes have different schools sitting at the top.

I don't know if I count as a minority, but I certainly feel like one (being mixed).

Yes, I have completed large projects.

And yes, I'd be applying for the area of computer architecture / firmware / systems level / etc, depending on the school.

You made me think of another question though... some of these schools (Stanford, for example), have an EE program and a CS program that both fit the degree that I'm looking for. Is it easier to get into one over the other?

Would I have better chances of getting in a couple years down the road? Does it hurt to apply to a school, get rejected, then apply again the next year (instead of just applying the next year, when your profile has improved)

Thanks for all your help.

Edited by ComtriS
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If they are in separate departments, EE programs tend to value GPA a bit more than CS, of course this is highly dependent on school. Since you're going PhD, you should look up professors that have similar interests in those schools and send them an email. Grad school acceptance rates can fluctuate greatly year to year, it all depends on if they have money to support new students, how many graduated the year before, if there are professors who can advise new students, etc. It's been more difficult these past few years partially due to tighter budgets and partially due to current students delaying graduation from fear of the job market, because of this I would suggest you at least consider more schools. Other top schools that you may want to look at are Carnegie Mellon, UT-Austin, UMich-Ann Arbor and Georgia Tech. If you can find a professor that likes you and wants you to work for them then it becomes much easier to get in.

if you apply, get rejected and try again the following year, I don't think it affects you negatively if you come back with an improved profile. getting rejected doesn't mean that you automatically spend the next year doing nothing. Whatever the reason for your applying the year after (rejected the year before or just didn't apply) you should address the gap in time in your application and talk about what you did during it.

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  • 4 months later...

Your odds of getting into Berkeley or Stanford's EE PhD programs are essentially zero. You might get accepted into Stanford's Master's only program, but even that would be a long shot. I would have recommended applying to some programs in between Berkeley and Stanford and Irvine in terms of prestige, but it's obviously a little late for this application cycle. If you end up reapplying next year though, I would consider this.

In the mean time, if you do want to go to grad school I would certainly try to get some research experience.

Edited by quadsbaby
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  • 2 weeks later...

Your odds of getting into Berkeley or Stanford's EE PhD programs are essentially zero. You might get accepted into Stanford's Master's only program, but even that would be a long shot. I would have recommended applying to some programs in between Berkeley and Stanford and Irvine in terms of prestige, but it's obviously a little late for this application cycle. If you end up reapplying next year though, I would consider this.

In the mean time, if you do want to go to grad school I would certainly try to get some research experience.

Why are my chances essentially zero? Also, in what ways can I gain research experience in the meantime?

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Without zero research experience, you would have gotten rejected from UCB/Stanford EE PhD even if you had a 4.0 from a top 5 university. The average profile for PhD domestic students at these two is something like 3.8-3.9 GPA, 800/570/4.5 GRE, 1-1.5 years of research experience, 0-1 publications, mostly from top 30 schools. The single most important factor is letters of recommendation (from professors, not managers) that comment on your ability to do research. You need AT LEAST one of those for a top 5 PhD. At schools below the top 5, you may still get in. For terminal MS, though, research is just a minor bonus.

Your best bet is to continue at UC Irvine with a thesis-based MS and then apply again for direct PhD admissions later. Unless you manage to get 1st author publications in prestigious journals, I would aim lower too because what you did in undergrad is still evaluated and your academic profile is too weak. Hardships, minority status, and non-research industry work experience (and by extensions, letters from industry managers) mean next to nothing in EE PhD admissions. Remember that it's basically a job application for a 6-year research position. UCB/Stanford are top schools and they're enrolling only 50-100 of the best candidates in the world each year. They don't really compromise on qualifications since there are more than enough highly-qualified applicants to fill every single one of those slots every year. Once you go down the ranking (outside top 10), it becomes MUCH easier to gain admission, so don't get caught up on having to go to a top school.

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On 1/26/2011 at 1:46 PM, ComtriS said:

Why are my chances essentially zero? Also, in what ways can I gain research experience in the meantime?

At the very top schools (at least in CS) the acceptance rate is pretty close to essentially zero (<5%). At the very top schools (like MIT, Stanford etc) there are thousands (as much as 3000) of applicants with <100 admission places. Those aren't good odds even if you have an exceptional background. There would probably be hundreds of applicants with a similar profile as yours and hundreds more with a better profile.

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