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M.S. ChemE programs: I'm an unusual applicant, do I stand a chance?


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I graduated with a B.S. ChemE in May 2007. Immediately after graduation I began working for a research start-up for approximately two years. My last assignment with this company involved temporary relocation to a tropical destination to help set-up a new office location. Being young and naive, I left this job when my assignment was finished and decided to stay in this geographical location. I was unemployed for about ten months then I got a job with the city government doing rudimentary laboratory work, and this is where I have been for about five years now.


I've realized that I need to get my career back on track and I have been putting in a ton of effort to stand a chance at getting into a reputable M.S. ChemE program. I took and passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Chemical discipline test in May 2014 as a personal refresher and confidence booster. Then I took the GRE general test at the beginning of September 2014 and scored 159/162/4.5 (V/Q/AW, 81%/83%/80%). I've secured letters of recommendation from my old research company supervisor and two former professors. My undergraduate GPA is 3.30 cumulative, 3.56 chemE. I have no published papers but I am on a pending patent for a coating technology developed at my old company.


In summary, I am a seven years out from my undergraduate degree with only two years of relevant research experience and five years of questionable time spent that I will have to explain in my statement of purpose. My undergraduate GPA and GRE scores are average at best. Do I even stand a chance at looking competitive in a pool of more typical applicants? I would greatly appreciate any thoughts and feedback.

Edited by Eigen
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  • 2 weeks later...

I cannot speak with any authority.  But I think you will have a shot.  If your GREs and GPA, seem on track with the averages at the schools, and your supervisor can say that you are a person that handles responsibility and has drive, then I don't think your dalliances will hurt you.


That FE was a good move.  It alone shows ability and that you are motivated.

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P.S. I'm not suggesting that you make it a plan or habit to deceive.  But… no one will know why YOU spent time in Hawaii.  A spiritual quest, love of nature, political action, personal relationship, these are all deeply human motivations that can lead us to veer from the standard path.  Maybe you were just getting drunk on the beach, but for all practical purposes you are the only one who will ever know for sure why you chose this path for yourself.  Admission committees are looking for a few things, do you have ability, are you driven to complete your work, do we want this guy around. Do what you can to show them you have ability, responsibility, and drive.  If and when the question of the time in Hawaii come up, be ready to truthfully present it in its best light.  


If I were sure you weren't a flake, I'd see it as a positive.

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