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GRE 1420, writing 5, undergrad gpa 3.4, chances at MS program @ NYU, UT Austin, U Miami, etc

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Hi all, my stats are 1420 GRE (650V, 770Math) with writing score 5, gpa 3.4 by the time I send off transcripts.

My undergrad major is BS in Communication Studies & BS in Radio-TV Film

What are my chances at:

NYU: MA in Media, Culture & Communication

UT Austin: MA in Media Studies

UT Austin: Master in Public Affairs

U Miami: MA in Communication

UC Davis: MA in Comm

Purdue: MA in Comm

Georgetown: MA in Comm, Culture & Technology


Edited by fall12
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Your scores are good but, you know, scores aren't the most important part when you are applying. On the the most important things is fit. Read about all faculty in the schools you've listed, find out if there is somebody whose research interests fit yours, contact these professors, tell about your research, ask if they would be interested in supervising you and if they are taking grad students next fall. In schools where you get positive replies from professors your chances are high. In schools where there are no profs whose academic interests match yours your chances are low. That's the story :)

And also don't forget to write a great SOP and choose a good writing sample!

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I think a film analogy can be useful here.

Let's say a certain person, Doris Gabriella Smith (we'll call her DGS for short) wants to go see a movie tonight with her new boyfriend, but doesn't know which movie to see. She has a lot of tools to help her make a decision, which correspond nicely to parts of your application.

DGS might initially look at a review aggregating website like Rotten Tomatoes (RT) or Metacritic. These websites are great because they give you a uniform metric that, presumably, represents the "majority view" of whether a movie is good or not. These tools function like a gatekeeper, they are quick and easy, and show how a movie stacks up against other movies you might see; although they don't really tell DGS that much about the specific movie.

Your GPA and GRE are very similar. They are a uniform metric that most programs use to screen candidates at the broadest level. They are important, but most likely will only get your foot in the door. Analogically, DGS might only want to look at movies that are 80%+ on RT, which immediately excludes a lot of movies. Sure she might go back if she can't find anything else she wants to watch and look at a lower-rated movie, but not always.

Now that DGS has a list of potential movies to watch, she goes to find their trailers. Now, trailers are really important for DGs: they give her a sense of what she can expect in seeing a movie, including a general outline of the story, the actors that are in it, the director, etc. Trailers have a lot of useful information, and it seems unthinkable that anyone would go see a movie simply based on its RT % without having some clue what the movie is about. And if the trailer is miserable, DGS might lose interest and decide then and there not to see it.

Your Statement of Purpose (SOP) and writing sample are very similar. You are selling yourself to the committee. Indeed, what you choose to highlight in the SOP is exceptionally important because it shows the committee that "these are the qualities about myself which I think make me exceptional." That said, telling the committee why you're a great fit for them, and they're a great fit for you, is the most important part of the SOP. It is important to the remember that a trailer (like the SOP) only shows DGS what the production company wants her to see, and she knows it. The trailer wants to show the movie in the best light, because it wants DGS to buy a ticket!

So, DGS has watched some trailers, and narrowed her choice down to a couple of movies. She knows that Movie 1 and Movie 2 are both very well reviewed generally, and while different, both had enticing trailers. Sure Movie 1 had an interesting story, but Movie 2 had some really cool special effects! They appeal to her for different reasons--how will she decide? Well, she knows that what she saw in the trailer was just a truncated version of the whole film, what if (as is often the case with movies, I think) the trailer took all the good parts of the movie and the rest is awful? She decides to seek out the opinion of someone who has seen the whole movie: she reads some reviews! Now, DGS knows that not all reviews are created equal. She thinks some reviewers are smart, others are not; she knows who some are, and hasn't heard of others. Regardless, she's interested now in detailed opinions that describe exactly why she should spend her time and money watching a particular movie. So she reads a set of reviews fully, and weighs what they have to say against what she's seen from the trailer.

These reviews are like your recommendations. I have come to believe that recommendations are as important as your SOP/writing sample, if not more so. In-depth recommendations from someone who has worked with you and has something to say that is worth reading (NOT, for example, "he is punctual!") are the ones that will get you the furthest. Having a rec from a faculty member that is famous, or gets along famously with committee members from your target school, is great.

That said, some parts of DGS's decision making process are totally arbitrary. Let's say that the best looking movie is an action movie, but DGS saw an action movie last week with a guy who dumped her so she's psychologically barred from seeing another one. Or maybe the new guy she's interested in doesn't like romances, even though DGS LOVES them, so they go see something else. You can't guess what those constraints are going to be, and it's best not to worry about them. And while I think the description I've given of GPA/GRE importance is pretty much universal, the importance of your SOP/writing sample and recs will fluctuate pretty wildly between departments.

As someone who will (thankfully, and hopefully) never have to apply to schools again, I wish you good luck in the process!

Edited by CDRR
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Fit isn't as important if you're just looking for an MA. If at this point you just want to see how your numbers measure up statistically, you can often find admissions statistics for graduate programs on the school website, and see how you do compared to the average applicant/admission. Of course this guarantees nothing, but it's a start.

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