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Need Advice: Have a job and bachelors but want to go back Fall 2016.


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Hi Y’all,

I’m looking for some advice about applying to the Fall 2016 school year for an Aero Masters/maybe a PhD. 


My Background:

Graduated aero undergrad in 2014 from UT Austin. Started working as a structures engineer for a large aircraft manufacture, but looking to go back to school for my masters at least. I am interested in aircraft design, spacecraft design, and spacecraft propulsion. I didn’t do any research during my undergrad, which I am really afraid is going to hurt me (also one of the reasons that scared me out of applying right after graduating). I did have 2 internships and was really involved in my senior design team, though so I have that going for me. (GPA A-)


Purpose of going back:

Increase my knowledge, academics is a better fit for me, really interested in advance technology and research.


Right now I am prepping for the GRE (second time taking first time V146 Q168 Essay3) and making a SOP. Since I am kind of all over the place about what I would like to do, I was planning on applying to 10-11 schools with 5-6 of those in the top 10 for Aero Engineering.


Advice I am looking for:

How would I make contact with potential professors for research or getting an idea of where would be a good fit for me (besides reading the websites and their publications)?

Since I lack research and don’t have too many professor contacts, how do I know what professors to list as possible research advisers?

I’ve been told to apply for PhD if I have even the smallest intention to get one (which I do), but am I competing in a harder pool of candidates since I don’t have research experience to prove myself?

For recommendation letters, can I use some people I work with?

I keep psyching myself out, so thought it be nice to get some outside advice.


Thank you J

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You definitely cannot get all of your references from people you work with if you want to be successful. You need to get at least 2 letters from professors who can attest to your potential to succeed in graduate school. Perhaps the person you oversaw your senior design team? 


Also, I bet you have more research experience than you think. What did you do during your internships? What did your senior design team do? Those probably involved doing some research, even if there wasn't a lot of it. That's something your recommenders can talk about and experience you can highlight in your CV and your SOP.


To be really successful, you'll need to narrow down what you want to do somewhat. Read up on what people are doing right now in your field. Look at the lab pages of professors to see what they're working on. Read the abstracts of recently funded projects from NSF, DoD, etc. to see where the research funding is going. Spend several months doing that (so now until August or September). Only after that should you contact individual professors to see if they're accepting new students, explaining your interests, etc. Right now, when you're uncertain about what you want to do, you should not contact them. 

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Thank you, that helps a lot. It is hard having no direction and being all over the place. My SOP and CV is where I am planning on anchoring my argument for a good student. I have a couple professors that I think would be able to give me good recommendations, but they might not be necessarily in the field that I am applying to. 

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