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importance of research experience when applying to a master's

Guest Gnome Chomsky

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Guest Gnome Chomsky

I joined GradCafe about a year ago. Up until joining this site, I thought I was hot shit (excuse my francais). In all seriousness, I thought I was legitimate grad school candidate. I did my first two years at a community college, got my associate's, and then transferred to a university nearby. Not to knock my university, but it isn't exactly elite. I'd never heard of anyone writing an undergraduate thesis or getting undergraduate research experience, and I was the only person I knew with a 4.0. I didn't even know undergrads could do research, plus I was too busy working full-time to get any if I could. Not to mention, I didn't narrow down on a major until my senior year. I was doing an interdisciplinary degree before upgrading one of my minors (linguistics) to a major. Then I found out about computational linguistics, so I decided to cram a bunch of math and computer science classes into a year and a half in order to qualify myself for a computational linguistics master's program. 


I'm just giving you some background so you can understand my situation. I was a first generation college student, none of my friends were in college, and I no intentions on going to grad school when I first enrolled in college. My point is, stuff like undergraduate research and making good acquaintances with professors for future LORs might be common sense to many of you but it wasn't to me. Fortunately, I did make good acquaintances and I got three very strong LORs. I took a grad class (as an undergrad) with one of my LOR writers and got an A. I've also developed personal relationships with all three of my LORs. 


So, to summarize, I finally declared a major, then I decided on a grad school area of focus, I have a great GPA and great LORs. I even did some pretty impressive things at my community college: a paper of mine (completely irrelevant to computational linguistics) was published in an undergraduate peer-reviewed journal, I then got selected to become editor of that same journal (a year after I was published in it), I got selected to go on a big trip/conference to Washington DC (but didn't present anything; just watched), and I was awarded a nice little $8,000 Top Honors Student scholarship. But, like I said, I have no research experience or even relevant work experience. I worked retail and construction full-time throughout college. I'm wrapping up my final year of undergrad now, by the way.


Anyway, I wanted to get a master's first so that I could gain those things I lack: research experience, relevant work experience, relevant scholarly/research papers, a thesis, and perhaps even a relevant publication and/or presentation at a conference. But now (this ties it back into the beginning of my post) having been a member of GradCafe for a year now, I'm starting to wonder if I'll even get into a master's program without these things. The whole point of getting a master's first, and not going directly into a PhD, was to get the things I couldn't get or didn't get in undergrad. I would be totally understanding if I got rejected from PhD programs, but should I also be worried about master's programs? 


By the way, the program I'm most interested in is a 1-year professional master's of science. It's an interdisciplinary field (linguistics and computer science) so almost all of the applicants have no direct experience in computational linguistics. However, more of them are computer science majors than are linguistics majors, and a lot of them worked in the field (programming I assume) before applying. 

Edited by JoeyBoy718
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