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Need some advice - loss of direction


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Hi everyone, here's a summary of my background:

  • B.S. in CS, minor in IT from a small private school in Massachusetts (overall regional ranking < 100)
  • GPA: 3.43 Major GPA: 3.35
  • 2 year internship involving bus. intelligence, data modeling and project management at a fortune-ranked company
  • Summer REU program at UMASS Amherst involving systems research (2010)
  • GRE scores on the lower end - 390V // 600Q
    And here is my current situation/dilemma:

    I was accepted to Auburn's CS PhD program, but without any funding. Apparently this is typical and most students find funding within the first year.
    I was accepted to Brandeis' CS MA program with a 50% tuition scholarship (although I applied for the PhD program)
    I accepted a job at a small financial company, with a salary slightly below the average for CS.

    I haven't really traveled much at all, and i feel Auburn is too much of a "risk" - I will have to pay rent without having an immediate job and possibly be stuck with first years tuition .
    Brandeis is still too expensive with the scholarship, especially considering I already have 20k in loans.
    The job feels like a safety choice for me - I can pay off loans and *maybe* do a part time program, maybe even a distance program.
    But are there any legitimate programs?
    • RPI-Hartford is within commuting distance from this company, and it looks like a 3 yr part time program.
    • How about distance programs? Is the MS in CS at Nova Southeastern reputable at all? I am also looking at BU and Florida Tech but they are less technical
    • Any suggestions for distance programs?

Perhaps I should just pay off loans, work on certifications, and work towards getting into graduate school when I am more financially able to? (within the next couple of years)

I can work and do a part time distance program but I feel that is also a risk after reading some reviews.

Any advice for my situation?


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Take the job and reapply in one or two years... Retake the GREs. While they may not improve chances of admission/funding, lower end scores definitely set you back...

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I had similar GRE scores and was in a similar situation. I took a job a R&D job, (R never happened) and it worked out for me. Be sure, you work in a area you like,and can switch to education asap.

The "small" financial firm might have some people, who are going to grad school. In my case, when I joined my job, i was replacing someone who was going for Robotics in USC, and I could see myself standing tall after an year or two.

The GRE Scores can definitely be improved, and a reco from UMass REU will definitely boost your chances for next year. Not everyone gets it right the first time.

Finally , I would read books and develop cool software/prepare and give GRE rather than attending distance programs/ getting certifications. Most certifications wouldn't be useful for MS/Phd programs. I would take the Distance learning program only if it made sense to read all the material that they prescribe.

Edited by rejectMeNot
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What are your goals for after the PhD? What range of schools would you ideally like to get into? I'm confused: most people don't mention "PhD" and distance education in the same post. It sounds to me like you don't really know what you want to do, which is totally OK! Just don't think that distance education will help you get into graduate school (or more work experience, for that matter).

What would *really* help you is more research experience and better recommendation letters, which you won't get from a distance program. Did you make friends/do a good job at UMass? Can you e-mail the professor you worked under and volunteer to do research for free for them? If you take the job, is there an active research university nearby that you can volunteer yourself out to?

I agree that retaking the GRE will help your chances a lot. Normally I think people have the wrong priorities if they retake the GRE, but I wouldn't be surprised if your scores get you trashed immediately.

I wouldn't take a PhD offer if it wasn't funded, especially at a 3rd tier school.

Please don't get certifications. Steve Yegge says it better than I do:

Don't ever, ever use the word "certified" your resume. It's far and away one of the most prominent red flags in resume screening, bordering on a dead-giveaway round-file 86-that-bad-boy no-review-required situation, if you know what I mean. (If you don't know what I mean, well, you know the old saying about not knowing who the sucker is at the poker table.)

Certification is for the weak. It's something that flags you as a technician when you really want to be an engineer. If you want to be a television repairman, you can become certified in TV repair. If you want to work for Sony and design their next big-screen TV, then you clearly don't need a busy-working-adults course on how to repair the fugging things.

Same goes for tech certification. It means you had to take a course to learn something you could have read in a book. If you know something, just say you know it, and then be prepared to answer questions about it during your phone screens and/or interviews. If you feel compelled to add that you're certified in said skill, it's just broadcasting that you lack confidence in your own self-assessments, which doesn't help you in the slightest.

Seriously. Take all mentions of certifications off your tech resume. It's actively hurting your chances of getting an interview.

Good luck :) If you want to reapply next year, I'd be happy to review your statement of purpose.

Edited by OH YEAH
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