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How to contact the Department Chair and Graduate Program Director?


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I'm planning to apply to grad school for a Computer Science M.S. However I have a 2.4 GPA, and I realize that I have an uphill climb to even get my application read (although my GPA was a 3.67 for the last 60 credit hours and I got a 169V / 170Q / 5.0 on the GRE). I figure that if I can make a good impression speaking face-to-face with the department chair and graduate program director it might help my chances.

Is it considered appropriate for a prospective applicant to request an appointment like that, especially with the department chair? If so, what would be the best way to contact them? Would sending a simple email asking to make an appointment suffice, or should I give a summary of my background or any other information?

If I do meet with them, what should I talk about or ask them?

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I don't think it's appropriate for you to email the department chair to ask to meet for this reason. Also, the department chair will probably not be able to help you or give you any insight--they have a lot more responsibilities and jobs than graduate admissions. Of course, you can do what you want, and it might work out well in some places but not in others--just giving my opinion here.

I think the graduate director or graduate program coordinator or something title is the person you should be talking to instead. I would send them an email and quickly go over your background (1 paragraph) and ask them if they would consider you for admission if you applied. If you are in the area, you can even suggest a face-to-face meeting, or a Skype meeting if you're not in the area. Note that many people are reluctant to turn away applicants without the full application details, so you might get a generic friendly but not-too-helpful response saying that they look forward to seeing your application.

However, I would not push a meeting too hard. I think asking whether or not you would still be considered despite your overall GPA is a legitimate question (since if they won't consider you, then why waste the time and money applying). But, beyond that, asking to meet with them and trying to make a good impression via a one-on-one conversation is close to crossing the line. In some ways, this can hurt you as it appears as if you are trying to gain an advantage over other applicants by requesting a special meeting. And on top of that, these people are very busy: being the point person for graduate students is not their main job! So, don't be surprised or offended if they decline and/or they ignore your email completely.

Based on the norms in my field (which may not work for yours), I would suggest you do is to identify specific professors you might work with and contact them to talk about grad school research interests. Don't make the focus of the conversation be about your GPA, but instead, have a conversation about what you might work on together if you went to school there. If there is an upcoming major conference in your field, you could potentially meet the profs at that conference. Also, at the conference, you can seek out faculty in the schools you're interested in and talk to them about your graduate research interests etc. 

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