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Questions from an Undergrad in EE


mrdman
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Hi there

How are you folks doing? I am new to this website so haven't found my way around yet...so I hope this is the right place to ask such questions.

I am in EE at U. of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada (not sure if you guys have heard about this univ. and their program). I just completed my first semester of my 3rd year. I am interested in doing Masters in EE aswell. Some might say its a bit early too be thinking about that, but I want to know beforehand where I stand and where can I possibly reach from here. At this point in time, I'm interested in Communications/DSP as my major in EE. I think this will do for my introduction. If you guys need more info. about me in answering the questions I have posted, please let me know and I'll post more info. gladly :)

So here are my questions:

1) Do most universities focus more on the last two years of your undergrad. EE degree marks or is it just a myth? If they do, how much of a weight you would think the last two years have in comparison to the first two years (I just kindly need an estimate)?

2) Does a prior work experience help you if you are applying for Masters? If it does, how many years are ideally suited for an application?

3) What kind of reference letters are needed? Among work related and academics related reference letters, which ones you think weigh more?

4) Does having a PEng help you in any way for your Masters' application?

5) I have seen that some university require that GRE without any subjects is required. Does giving GRE with subject help u rise above other applicants? If it helps, then which subjects help?

I know that these are very generic question and I should have been more specific in some areas. But I am honestly new to this idea of Masters in EE therefore don't have enough knowledge to be more specific. So I apologize beforehand :)

I want to be prepared in advance for having a good chance of getting into a good grad. school. So please if you think there is something else I should know beforehand, I will really appreciate your kind advice. Thank you!

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1) GPA is mostly a box that the admissions committee secretary will check off. "GPA over 3.X? GRE quantitative over 7XX? Okay, this one's worth the committee's time." In later stages the committee may review your transcripts in more depth, and at that point upper division coursework will probably be given more weight, but mostly what matters is your cumulative GPA for the AdCom's first cut.

2) It helps. How much? Depends on your field, your research interests in grad school, the kind of work, the recommendations your employers are willing to write for you, etc etc. More information needed for a meaningful response.

3) 3 is the standard number of references. A mix of academic and industry recommenders is fine, but letters from well-connected professors or industry PhDs carry more weight. The best letter is from someone who's known by the AdCom at the school of your choice. Academics are more likely to have those connections.

4) PEng as in professional engineer's license? If you've passed the FE and done your apprenticeship under a PE for 5 years and passed the PE test, then yeah-- that's a great credential.

5) Subject GRE tests are for the subject they test. Take the physics GRE if you want to go into physics. Take the chemistry GRE if you want to study chemistry. No subject GRE tests are required for engineers. If, for instance, you're doing something like material science or semiconductor physics -- something that draws heavily on physics -- then the physics GRE might help. But in your case anything other than the general GRE would be a waste of time, IMO.

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1) GPA is mostly a box that the admissions committee secretary will check off. "GPA over 3.X? GRE quantitative over 7XX? Okay, this one's worth the committee's time." In later stages the committee may review your transcripts in more depth, and at that point upper division coursework will probably be given more weight, but mostly what matters is your cumulative GPA for the AdCom's first cut.

2) It helps. How much? Depends on your field, your research interests in grad school, the kind of work, the recommendations your employers are willing to write for you, etc etc. More information needed for a meaningful response.

3) 3 is the standard number of references. A mix of academic and industry recommenders is fine, but letters from well-connected professors or industry PhDs carry more weight. The best letter is from someone who's known by the AdCom at the school of your choice. Academics are more likely to have those connections.

4) PEng as in professional engineer's license? If you've passed the FE and done your apprenticeship under a PE for 5 years and passed the PE test, then yeah-- that's a great credential.

5) Subject GRE tests are for the subject they test. Take the physics GRE if you want to go into physics. Take the chemistry GRE if you want to study chemistry. No subject GRE tests are required for engineers. If, for instance, you're doing something like material science or semiconductor physics -- something that draws heavily on physics -- then the physics GRE might help. But in your case anything other than the general GRE would be a waste of time, IMO.

Thanks alot for your reply!

1) So basically if my GPA is below the minimum required there is no point in applying? I have heard some universities do look at exceptions...is that not ture? My GPA has been very fluctuating but I have started to maintain a good GPA. Thats why I am asking this question.

2) Well, normally after your Undergrad. you don't find a job in R&D that easily. Thats what I have felt seen my seniors graduate and find non-research related jobs. But to apply for a Master (with thesis) any sort of work experience is ok or only research related work counts?

4) Yes, by PEng I meant the Professional Engineering license.

Would you be able to make a brief list of things, weightage wise, needed to get into a good grad. school. Thanks again!

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1) So basically if my GPA is below the minimum required there is no point in applying? I have heard some universities do look at exceptions...is that not ture? My GPA has been very fluctuating but I have started to maintain a good GPA. Thats why I am asking this question.

There are always exceptions, of course, and it depends where you're applying. There's no hard and fast GPA cutoff for a given school, but the top universities get many hundreds of applications each fall and have to choose a couple dozen out of the bunch. GPA and GRE are easy weed-out statistics. That being said, if you have redeeming qualities like a strong GRE score or great recommendations, a sub-average GPA won't kill you.

Take a look at the profiles thread at the top of this forum to get at least an idea of where people with GPAs like yours get in.

2) Well, normally after your Undergrad. you don't find a job in R&D that easily. Thats what I have felt seen my seniors graduate and find non-research related jobs. But to apply for a Master (with thesis) any sort of work experience is ok or only research related work counts?

Any work experience helps. Again, can't really tell you how much yours would help without more information.

Would you be able to make a brief list of things, weightage wise, needed to get into a good grad. school. Thanks again!

Heh, this information is out there if you just google around, but I'll humor you. These are just my opinions.

1) Strong recommendations from professors/employers who know you well.

2) A personal statement clearly outlining your qualifications, research interests and goals.

3) Experience. Getting into a funded graduate program in engineering is like interviewing for a job. You need to demonstrate that you'll be a good employee (researcher) to your future boss (advisor). Research experience is priceless, work experience is also good.

4) A good GPA from a good university (Waterloo qualifies).

5) GRE scores good enough to get you past the first cut.

As far as weight goes? I dunno. I'd say 1 >> 2 > 3 > 4 >> 5. #1 is sort of a wildcard, because having a connection with a professor at the university you're applying to can make up for any number of weak points on your application.

Good luck.

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