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Ph.D. Admission after Professional Master of Engineering


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I have been admitted into Professional Master of Engineering - Electrical Engineering from University of Maryland College Park which doesn't comprise of any research or thesis work. It is fully 30 credit course work based program.

I would like to apply for Doctoral Program in top graduate schools after the compltion of Masters program.

What should I do to improve my admission chances ?

Any suggestions will be appreciated.


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I have an MS in EE, did research and a thesis, and will be starting a PhD at U Michigan this fall so hopefully my advice is applicable to you.

Why are you doing an MEng if you know you want to get a PhD? Can you switch to MS? I would seriously try and switch to an MS if there is any way you can swing that. If you are dead set on getting this MEng degree than you need to take it upon yourself to do research. This will mean you will have to do extra work and probably do it on a volunteer basis, maybe even take an extra year to gain more research experience. One of the TOP factors in PhD admissions is research experience and your potential as a researcher. Gaining lots of research experience adds a lot to your resume: you will be able to pick a subject that interests you and show that you are willing to work in a research setting to study that subjects, if you do good work you should be able to PUBLISH (which really makes you stand out), and you will also have LORs that speak highly of your ability to be a good researcher.

Universities that you would want to attend for your PhD are based on research. The rankings and such highly depend on how much research funding the faculty brings in and how productive they are in publishing. So you can imagine how much value these faculty members place on applicants that have shown strong experience in research and publications. Also, by doings lots of research you will be able to specialize yourself and make you attractive to potential advisers that need specific skill sets.

For reference, I had an undergrad GPA ~2.5, my MS is from a school not nearly as prestigious as UMD, but all my PhD acceptances were at top 15 engineering schools. I have about 4 years of full-time research experience, 5 first author pubs, and another 10+ secondary author pubs. All the places I got accepted told me they specifically accepted me because my research background was very valuable to their research and that they needed someone with my skill set. I would have been rejected otherwise since my undergrad GPA is so low.

Also, this goes without saying, keep you GPA up. If you want to goto a top 10 school, you should have a GPA ~3.8.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I just finished an MEng with the intention of doing a PhD after my program and here are some of my thoughts:

First, some will say that the MEng can be a "backdoor" entrance to the graduate program since you are already in the system and this is certainly true. But it depends on the school. At Cornell, they explicitly say that it is impossible because they don't want "cross-breeding" between programs, which means they don't want people thinking the MEng is the ticket to their more prestigious program. However, I have friends who've made the transition, and like the previous poster stated, the ticket in is (a) finding an internal adviser who agrees to be your adviser, and (B) pursuing research which will lead to a publication after the program.

From my experience, it's definitely possible to cater your MEng to anything you want to do afterwards. We had people who wanted to go to medical school, dental school, industry, PhD, etc. But I think this is more dependent on the program than the degree itself since requirements are different at various schools. Also, since its mostly coursework, you will have the chance to do well in graduate classes if your undergraduate performance wasn't as well as you expected it to be. However, different schools will weigh graduate and undergraduate GPAs for admissions.

My Advise: Contact the schools and clarify everything before you choose to pursue an expensive degree (MEng is self-funded). Find out how lenient schools are with having people shift around in programs. It varies by size of specific departments within schools as well. Best of luck!

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  • 4 weeks later...

@ghanada & collegebum1989:

Firstly, Thank you both for putting your invaluable suggestions.

I chose UMD's professional master of engineering program because of its course content and quality of education I am expecting. UMD is offering me Electrical Engineering with specialization in Communication and Signal Processing. However my future goal is to pursue Doctoral studies, now the situation is that I don't have any admits for Fall 2012 semester, so I think I should join this program without wasting time. If you have any suggestions, you are welcome to put it in front. I would be much obliged.

Moreover, I have asked my program coordinator about the same query, he replies "If I perform well during this program, I shall even improve my chances of getting into Doctoral program.” This positive connotation had poured confidence in me (Still I don't take future Doctoral admit as grated with this comment of my coordinator).

Since I am new in USA and coming as an international student, can you suggest me, possible ways of doing independent research work in U.S.A. during the program? I've already contacted with Research Laboratories at UMD but they denied me to give a research work authorization because of professional program I am enrolled.

My undergrad GPA is 3.96, GRE 1200 (will retake GRE to score >1500) and I have 1 international research publication till date (as 1st author) and one more publication (as 1st author) is under review. What do think guys, how should I move forward and utilize my energy and time during Master of Engineering studies?

I would really appreciate if you could give suggestions in this scenario of mine.

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Is your MEng program 1 or 2 years? If you plan on applying for Fall 2013 this will be very tricky since you won't have much time at your new program before you have to turn in apps. This means your app won't really be that different than it was this last year when you applied.

My advice would be to not apply for PhDs until Fall 2014 so that you can get a full year of this MEng program under your belt. Hopefully in that time you will build up connections and find some research positions and get good letters of recs. You should not expect to get a paid RA position, but rather do it on a volunteer basis. If you do it this way you should have no problems finding professors that would take you on. Doing research on your own would really help improve your skills and get a good letter for PhDs apps.

Also improve your GRE. At least make sure your Quant. is > 780, especially for EE.

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