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Stay Extra Time in Undergrad? MS, or Direct to PhD?


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Hello All,


First off, I would like to thank those who take the time to read this.


For a quick rundown on my qualifications:


I am a double major in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics

at a state school in California, US.


My current gpa is 3.4, my major gpa's are 3.55 and 3.33 respectively.


The only research type experience I have will be later this summer when

I begin working with my university's physics department. From this, I will

likely get to be a co author, or will recieve some significant formal notion

of credit on the project. While I look forward to this opportunity, it is not

necessarily directly applied to what I'm interested in (Discrete math,

graph theory, complexity, algorithm analysis).


I have almost a year of work experience at this point. I am a software

developer intern at a company that creates spectrum analysis equipment.

It has been a wonderful experience, but school is really where I want

to be. 


I have a couple of questions:


1. Should I delay my currently planned graduation date for spring 14 and

graduate in fall 14?


My reasons for this question are as follows:

I could potentially raise my gpa to around 3.55 overall, and I could significantly

raise my math upper division gpa as well. This would allow me the opportunity 

to apply to solid math programs as well. I feel like I am leaning more towards math,

I just happen to be better at computer science lol. Also, if I were to extend my date,

I could take some classes like abstract algebra and combinatorics. Lastly, 

I would be able to apply for an REU which would definitely be research

more closely tied to my field. I feel that the gpa boost and the extension

in research qualifications could really help me, but I'm not sure. 


1a. Do I seem qualified for an REU?


2. Am I qualified enough to apply directly to PhD programs? Or should

I get a masters first to obtain more research experience and an even 

higher gpa?



These are the schools I currently like:


UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, USC(Like I could afford it haha), UC Irvine, Rensselear Polytechnic University and San Diego State


3. Could I be shooting for "better" schools, or am I shooting too high?


Again, thank you for reading my diatribe and thank you to anyone who lends advice.





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Hey All, 


Problem worked itself out in a way. It turns out that five of my remaining ten

needed courses are only offered during the spring term, so I would have to

delay my graduation until the following spring, which I am not willing to do.


Looks like I'll just have to tough it out and do the GRE this summer during 

my research.


For anyone curious, I will be taking the following courses for my two remaining terms.



Dynamic Systems

Vector Calculus

Applied Statistics

Programming Paradigms

Some philosophy class Who's name escapes me



Partial Differential Equations

Complex Variables

Numerical Analysis(Matlab)

Formal Language and Computability

Operating Systems


Before anyone says it, I know that spring is going to be incredibly tough haha.

Any remaining advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Glad the problem worked itself out. Still, I'd like to comment on 2 and 3.


You should probably apply directly to PhD programs, if you know that that is actually what you want--also, admissions will be more sure of that too, if you have some research experience. There's plenty of instances where either a masters is considered (either automatically or by you asking) for applicants who don't make the PhD cut, so you may not be taking too much of a risk if you apply directly to PhD programs. You'll obviously want to check with the school for their policy on that.


The 'better' schools will contain research groups that are publishing the kind of work you want to be doing in respected venues, placing alumni at the kind of institutions you want to eventually be employed at, and located in the environment you want to live in. I think a good starting point is to ask professors at your school who are familiar with your subfield to come up with a list of some of the research groups whose work they follow. From there, you can probably start ranking them in order of competitiveness (which could differ from the US News ranking system) and pick a few from the more selective, less selective, etc, schools, and eliminate places based on intangibles or overall reputation.

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First off, thank you for your response.

I would definitely like to discuss 2/3 more.

I would like to go directly into my phD program. My ultimate goal is to be a researcher in industry at some point.

Do you think my math major will help sway some phD committees to overlook some of my shortcomings? I only ask because of how heavily computer science uses math. When I am referring to shortcomings, I mean, my average gpa and non-related research.

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Also, I should note that my top school, after some contemplation is UC Santa Cruz.


I am hesitant to apply directly for a PhD there if it hurts my chances, because I believe

a strong research based masters program at santa cruz would give me a great chance

to complete my phD there.


Does anyone have any opinions on that school in particular?

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