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Help With Choosing Safety Schools


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My attempt to gain admission to CS PhD programmes for the coming academic year ended miserably. Every school, sans my alma mater for an MPhil (no direct PhD entry), rejected me.

Initially I was quite despondent by said turn of events, but with the encouragement of one of my professors, I have decided to try again this year. Moreover, during my gap year, I have published two papers, and I am currently awaiting a decision on a third (I should hear back next month). All of these papers are in the same area - an area different to one I mentioned in my SOP from the last round of applications, but that I would now want to pursue research in - and are advised by the aforementioned professor. Even though teaching experience counts for very little to most admission committees, I have also gained a lot more teaching experience in the past year as a TA for my alma mater's CS department. My GRE scores were less than stellar to say the least, so I think I might have to retake the GREs. 

Last year I only applied to 3 schools (sans my alma mater), but this year I want to apply to at least 6 (sans my alma mater). I know some people suggest that you should choose at least 2 schools that you think are out of your league, 2 schools that match your current capabilities, and 2 schools that are safe. However, I am having difficulty formulating said mix of schools. Most of them seem out of my reach. Any advice on choosing a mixture of schools would be greatly appreciated.

Current Stats:

Type: Non-US student from an unknown university outside of the US and Canada
Major GPA: 3.70 / 4.0
Major: Computer Science
General GPA: 3.64 / 4.0
Current GREs (Verbal/Quantitative/Analytical Writing) 166/154/4.0
Research Experience: approx. 1 year 3 months. During my undergrad I took part in a research project over the summer, but didn't get results that were good enough for publication. Did my undergraduate thesis in another area with another lecturer, but the paper was rejected (we are planning to integrate the reviewers comments and re-submit). Over the last year, I've done research in another area and have 2 publications so far. 
Other: I interned at a very reputable scientific organisation in US during my last summer as an undergrad doing software development.

Possible Selection So Far (needs improvement and to be whittled down):


UC Davis
UC Irvine

Not sure (possibly reach or maybe match):

University of Michigan
Northeastern University
University of Florida
University of Central Florida


Alma mater (time and cost to apply is minimal, so I can apply to here in addition to the other six I choose)






Edited by LotsToLearn
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I apologize for having no advice to give, but I do have a question for you.  My reach list is very similar to yours, and my Verbal and Math were great, but my writing score was the same as yours (4.0).  Do you (or anyone else answering) think it would be worth retaking with our mediocre writing scores?  I've heard that the writing score matters the least, but I've also heard that a 4.0 might not be enough to get into these kind of schools.  Thoughts?  Would you be happy with a much higher math/verbal but a 4.0 in writing?  I'm considering retaking but it would be nice to not have to!

Edited by The_Longest_Hound
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