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Probably will get denied... Now what?


engstudent728

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I'm looking to apply for a MS in electrical engineering. I applied to 4 schools in total.

 

To cut to the chase: I'm afraid my GPA might not let me make the cut. It's a 2.9. I did poorly in some of my courses (mostly my mechanical engineering ones), but my electrical engineering courses I have a B or better in. I guess it's because I never cared for mechanical engineering, so I never tried. (GRE = 160Q, 150V if you're wondering. That's about 760Q, 450V on the old scale.)

 

Last semester, I earned a 3.7 GPA while taking 5 courses. One of the courses I took was a graduate-level course, which I earned a solid A in. This 3.7 GPA brought my overall GPA up from a 2.75 to a 2.9 (roughly speaking). The other courses (with the exception of a writing course that I also earned a solid A in) were senior-level engineering courses.

 

I sent my transcript to universities with my most recent grades, but I have a feeling I'll be rejected anyways based on my previous grades. I applied to GA Tech, RPI, UT Austin, and Penn State. I never bothered contacting professors, which I guess I should have done in hindsight.

 

What can I do to boost my application if I get denied at all 4? I have 1 years research experience, but no publications. (Obviously publication is an option, as is improving my GRE score, but aside from the obvious.) And how would I approach a professor at another university?

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Engstudent87, you're not the only one who feels this way. This process is entirely too daunting and entirely too nervewracking - I'm going through it for the second time, for a second terminal degree, and the anxiety hasn't lessened...it's probably worse.

 

Just take things slowly - negative self talk is never productive.

 

As silly as it seems, if you don't get accepted this time, take a step back to reflect on your chosen path. If electrical engineering is truly your passion, then you'll find a way to squeeze (or ease) into a graduate program. I've known of a few people, especially in engineering, who have picked a school, then just paid for graduate courses. If that's not an option, you could always take more undergraduate courses to bolster your GPA.

 

As for contacting professors, just get gutsy and do it. The beauty of email is that you just have to hit the SEND button, and boom, it's done. There's no harm in inquiring about a graduate level program, and a genuine expressed connection over shared interests is always a bonus. Remember, professors are people too - they've been through this process and know how difficult it is. Just explain that you'd like to know more about how their labs function etc...and perhaps a compliment on a piece of work you've read might be nice as well.

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Getting in with a 2.9 is not totally unheard of, so wait and see. In the event that you are not admitted, you should do all that you and e.regina mentioned above. Also, have you looked at engineering graduate certificate programs? Some schools let you start with one of those and then roll it into a terminal masters degree. With a masters, and (presumably) a good GPA in a masters program, along with the ideas in previous posts, you could help yourself significantly towards a PhD admission.

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Great advice above. If I may add, if you don't get in this year (and you don't know yet!), when you apply next year, follow this formula:
apply to 1-2 Dream Schools
apply to 2-3 Schools You May or May-Not Get In (basically, you're a good fit and you have a decent chance)
apply to 2 Schools You Feel Are Shoe-Ins.

Given your list of schools, if i were you, i would humble my agenda next year. The programs you applied to are all stellar. Not saying you don't deserve to apply, but you should throw in some smaller-name programs to boot.

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engstudent728, I hear you. I went through the painful process last year of waiting to hear back from schools after knowing I'd sent in an imperfect application and not done X,Y & Z that could have boosted my chances. I did get rejected from everywhere I applied to...but my world didn't end when that happened.

 

Last year I felt as if contacting faculty and POIs by email would be some sort of...intrusion. It really isn't. If you do get rejected then perhaps you could contact a professor at one of your preferred schools and explain that you weren't accepted into the program this year, but are looking to try again next year and can they give you any pointers about strengthening your application? Include basic stats and your CV. This approach (a) shows  motivation about improving yourself (B) gets you on the radar of a POI or two © gives you a bit more perspective on your application strength (they might turn around and say your GPA was fine/could be offset by more research experience).

 

Coming from the British university system (and already having graduated) I couldn't turn back time and improve my undergraduate grades. What I could do was increase my research experience and make more contacts with faculty...which more than compensated for my other application weaknesses.

 

Good luck!

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I want a PhD in my field. But I knew that my GPA wouldn't likely make the cut (got a bit sick and a big bit lazy at times in undergrad). But I got into a great MA program with a 2.66.

 

My GPA from my MA was 3.81 and I've now had oodles more research experience. So now I can apply for the program's I originally wanted. 

 

It can happen dude. Keep the faith.

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Thank you all for your advice!

 

@Mnemonics: Wow! cool. But you must've had a solid SOP, GRE scores, etc.? 

 

Engstudent87, you're not the only one who feels this way. This process is entirely too daunting and entirely too nervewracking - I'm going through it for the second time, for a second terminal degree, and the anxiety hasn't lessened...it's probably worse.

 

Just take things slowly - negative self talk is never productive.

 

As silly as it seems, if you don't get accepted this time, take a step back to reflect on your chosen path. If electrical engineering is truly your passion, then you'll find a way to squeeze (or ease) into a graduate program. I've known of a few people, especially in engineering, who have picked a school, then just paid for graduate courses. If that's not an option, you could always take more undergraduate courses to bolster your GPA.

 

As for contacting professors, just get gutsy and do it. The beauty of email is that you just have to hit the SEND button, and boom, it's done. There's no harm in inquiring about a graduate level program, and a genuine expressed connection over shared interests is always a bonus. Remember, professors are people too - they've been through this process and know how difficult it is. Just explain that you'd like to know more about how their labs function etc...and perhaps a compliment on a piece of work you've read might be nice as well.

 

Yeah.

 

I was and still am a bit afraid to contact professors. Maybe I'm wrong, but I always thought that professors would get a little skeptical - sort of like they KNOW you're trying to get a leg in. So they might view it as you trying to gain an unfair advantage over other qualified students. I don't know. But hopefully you see what I mean. I definitely see what you're saying, and I think I'll contact them if I get denied... like St Andrews Lynx said.

 

 

Great advice above. If I may add, if you don't get in this year (and you don't know yet!), when you apply next year, follow this formula:
apply to 1-2 Dream Schools
apply to 2-3 Schools You May or May-Not Get In (basically, you're a good fit and you have a decent chance)
apply to 2 Schools You Feel Are Shoe-Ins.

Given your list of schools, if i were you, i would humble my agenda next year. The programs you applied to are all stellar. Not saying you don't deserve to apply, but you should throw in some smaller-name programs to boot.

 

No, I totally agree with you.

 

RPI is about at the same level as my undergrad institution, maybe a little lower actually. I got in for early decision at RPI as a high school student with $5000 a year, but was able to back out due to financial issues. Doubt they're going to remember that, though.

 

I guess I don't really want to go from a higher-tier school to a lower-tier one, which is probably a bad attitude/choice, but I'd rather take a year off to improve my package and potentially get into the school I want.

 

I know GA Tech is a reach for sure, as is UT Austin - at least more so than RPI and Penn State.

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