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Any hope for a dyslexic?


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This is the second year in a row that I've been struck out by every school that I've applied to. I'm dyslexic and have had some health issues but it's mainly the dyslexia. I have a (barely) sub-3.0 GPA from my masters and a slightly lower GPA from my double bachelors degrees. I was actually diagnosed in the 2nd grade but my mother decided to ignore this information with the hopes that the problem would just go away. By the time I was diagnosed as an adult significant damage had been done to my transcript, mainly from liberal arts courses. Any course that requires rote memorization of data rather than learning processes is difficult to me. I learn best by doing things but most schools nowadays are all about memorizing and not actually doing things so my GPA isn't an accurate representation of my capabilities. I'm trying to get into a machine learning PhD program but this GPA is killing my dream and I have no job offers right now mainly because of my GPA. I don't have many options left in life.

 

I have nothing but As in machine learning courses and a large amount of math and statistics coursework under my belt. Both schools I attended quantized grades such that each grade is an integer while many competitors have grades that are in third or quarter grade intervals. This causes a lifting effect so extreme that I'd have a 3.5ish GPA using their system. I went to two non-inflationary schools and didn't realize how much other universities inflated grades. I pointed out this discrepancy this year and got a little bit more consideration than I did last year but the outcome was still the same. I can't even get a conditional admission.

 

Do I actually need a PhD? Honestly, I'd rather learn on the job but that option is not available to me. I've seen a few jobs that offer training but you have to have the right GPA. Most openings that I see are PhD only, no MS allowed. Pursuing a PhD is my best option right now but I have a low GPA, little work experience (recession claimed my job before grad school), and no research experience (only the high GPA students were allowed to do research). My teaching\training experience doesn't seem to matter either. I've found one school in particular that houses computational versions of my previous 3 studies within the CS dept, has lots of machine learning coursework and a fairly flexible PhD program. They seem to prefer c++ and Python which are my two languages of choice. It's a high ranking school but 2/3 of my degrees were from #1 ranked depts and the other was #14 so hopefully that won't be an issue. How can I get through to the admissions board? Is there anything I can do before I apply?

 

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A low gpa won't bar you from all schools, and while I do sympathize with your condition, realistic advise is still the best advise.

 

Things I'd reommend you do before you apply

 

Write personal statement letters that focus on your strengths, however, if you feel your low gpa is the largest factor preventing success, use what resources you can to mitigate this.  Include in your personal statement why your gpa shouldn't be the primary focus, ask your reference writers to try and address the issue if possible, if possible show product you have created (publications, patents, etc) to demonstrate your competence outside of memorization.

 

 

As far as research experience in a lab goes, yes it might be true that for a course or directed studies, working in a lab requires a higher gpa.  However, many labs will take on volunteers who have a bit lower gpa.  This will still allow you to gain that vital aspect to your application should you need it.

 

Contact individuals youd like to work with and see if they are accepting grad students.  It might be the individuals you are interested in working with, will not be accepting any further students as is.  Similarly you can test if you two have a good fit or not.

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Try applying outside the US. Good luck!

 

I've been looking at a program in Canada that I think would be a good match. They've got several ML courses instead of jamming everyting in 2-3 classes. They're also well funded but it appears that they are very highly ranked in CS. I meet the resident GPA cutoff but not the international one. I might be able to get an exception but it's still intimidating. Believe it or not I didn't know the two #1 ranked depts that I had joined were so well regarded. I practically stumbled into them.

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A low gpa won't bar you from all schools, and while I do sympathize with your condition, realistic advise is still the best advise.

 

Things I'd reommend you do before you apply

 

Write personal statement letters that focus on your strengths, however, if you feel your low gpa is the largest factor preventing success, use what resources you can to mitigate this.  Include in your personal statement why your gpa shouldn't be the primary focus, ask your reference writers to try and address the issue if possible, if possible show product you have created (publications, patents, etc) to demonstrate your competence outside of memorization.

 

 

As far as research experience in a lab goes, yes it might be true that for a course or directed studies, working in a lab requires a higher gpa.  However, many labs will take on volunteers who have a bit lower gpa.  This will still allow you to gain that vital aspect to your application should you need it.

 

Contact individuals youd like to work with and see if they are accepting grad students.  It might be the individuals you are interested in working with, will not be accepting any further students as is.  Similarly you can test if you two have a good fit or not.

Is there any way to do research to boost my odds? I've seen a few non-profits that offer these sorts of opportunities but they all seem to be region-centric and on the east of west coasts. I'm in Houston which poses a problem.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Is there any way to do research to boost my odds? I've seen a few non-profits that offer these sorts of opportunities but they all seem to be region-centric and on the east of west coasts. I'm in Houston which poses a problem.

You could ask a professor at your university and volunteer to work as a research assistant. These won't be posted as "job opportunities", but rather as opportunities that you have to ask for in person. 

 

What about applying for masters programs? You could work on your graduate GPA then, and reapply for a PhD program afterward with a higher GPA. 

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