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Graduate Admission Advice


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I am a U.S. Citizen but English is not my native language.  I applied for Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering to several top schools for Fall 2014, but so far ended up with zero acceptances.


Do you have any relevant advice for me?


I earned my BSc. in 2004, and my MSEE in 2011.  My GRE scores are V: 150, Q: 167, and A: 5.0.  I have 10 years of industrial experience in the wireless communication field working in top companies, 3 patents, and 1 paper published a world-class journal.  I flew all over the world, and have an excellent understanding of how to deal with different cultures.


My recommendations are very strong.  I waived my rights to seeing them, but my recommenders (all professors and senior lecturers from UT Dallas and one Director at my work), who know me and my capabilities quite well, showed me what they wrote and they highlighted my research capabilities and strongly recommended me to the programs I applied to.


In my statement of purpose I spoke mainly about how I started from Computer Engineering and ended up in the Wireless domain, and excelled in that despite many challenges such as having to work till very late on a MATLAB project while I have a customer meeting next day, or with my kids needing my attention.  I mentioned how a Ph.D. will help me in my future plans and shared some of my desired research insights.


I emailed several professors and heard back from them.  While they all showed interest in me and my case, none of them promised me admission stating they needed to review my profile first.  I mentioned that I would not require funding (but would appreciate any) and that I would be completely disconnected from work in the beginning of the program.


Here are some questions I would like your answers for:


1- What do you think could my short falling have been?

2- Is it worth applying again to the schools that rejected me in the future?



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I am in the same boat, however, my qualification might not be as good as you because I graduated from schools outside the US. 


I had a POI, and the person encouraged me to apply to the university, yet I got the rejection letter.


I would like to suggest sending an email to the grad admission, the person who rejected you, or POI, and asking them politely for the specific seasons 
or deficiencies that should have been improved so that you will gain the better chance in a future year.

However, you may keep in mind that there are some grad schools that are not willing to give more information than what it had been stated in your email.


Best wish, and good luck.  

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Thank you for your response.  I am sorry to see that you also got rejection letters despite POI encouragement.


I had actually sent out emails asking them for reasons after receiving the standard rejection letter, and the responses I got varied: some did not reply at all despite several attempts, such as UC Berkeley.  Others said it was their policy not to comment on the decisions, such as MIT and Stanford.  Georgia was the worst: they said to me that the committee did not feel that I had a concrete proof that I did not require funding.  That was quite disappointing to me.  Apparently some schools are only after your own money, which I understand, but they could have asked me for a bank statement (for example) just as they would for international applicants.


I am still waiting on UTexas, but I am not so sure if I will be lucky to get accepted or not.


Best wishes, and thanks again for your response.

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I'm sorry to hear that.


In my opinion, applying to top schools only is risky. All top applicants head there, and we (yes, we) may never know who we are competing with. One thing that I understand from this process with the top schools is that they judge the ability to grow to the level they expect. You might want to look through some results posted on GradCafe of applicants to top schools and see who are accepted, who get rejected.



 I mentioned that I would not require funding (but would appreciate any)


This may backfire. You've underestimated funding coming from top schools (and lesser known but good schools). The rule of the game for them is, once they admit somebody, they guarantee the funding until that person graduates, because otherwise finance is simply another big big stress on the students (and consequently, less quality works). They might question whether you understand and face the arduousness of getting a PhD. They might even question whether you have done a thorough research on the PhD admissions game and PhD-relevant stuff before applying.



Apparently some schools are only after your own money, which I understand


Or perhaps not...


So two things: either your credentials, or your mental preparedness that appears to the schools.


But by all means, yes, please reapply next year. And apply to other schools as well, from top 5 to top 50.

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Thank you for your response.  I really appreciate the insights you shared.  I agree with you that we may never know who we compete with, and I would also like to share with you UC Berkeley's response which I got 3 hours back and which stated that they accepted the top 5% applicants this year.


I have been looking into the results in GradCafe, to the extent that I even created a script to parse some of the results and show distribution of students' GRE's and undergrad GPAs, and I saw many people with high scores who got rejected, and those with scores similar to mine (and in two cases less than mine) making it in.


I need to admit that I had first applied 10 years ago, and I was also turned down.  At that time, I selected the option that I did require funding to be admitted, and that did not turn well either.  This time I thought a change would help, but I was wrong too.


Thank you for encouraging me to apply next year.  I will first need to work on what went wrong and will consider retaking the GRE (again!) hoping for a higher verbal and a perfect quantitative score.

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  • 5 months later...

Hi everyone,


I felt the need to get back to you all on this thread.  I emailed several professors from UC Berkeley and UT Austin asking what in my profile could have been done to strengthen my application for Ph.D. in EE.  Out of 20 emails, 6 professors responded.  Their response was pretty much around the same thing: without published papers in reputable journals or patents that can demonstrate one's readiness for research, the application will be at a disadvantage compared to other applicants.  No one point out to me my verbal GRE nor my undergrad 3.78 GPA.  I guess if someone wants top-ten admission, demonstrating proficiency of research through actual published papers is a must, but this may not be the case for schools below the top-ten.


I applied to Texas A&M and UT Dallas for Spring 2015, and both accepted me.  Not yet sure if I will attend either (pending details of the programs), but will form a good idea in November.


Good luck to you all.

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