Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Hi All -

I was looking for some advice and I am hoping someone can shed some light for me. I am currently a master's student and will be completing my degree in summer of 2018. I am interested in applying to a doctoral program (specifically a Ph.D. in education, not an Ed.D.) for the fall of 2018. My current program is within higher education administration. I am looking to research distance education and technology integration, but I am having issues finding schools that offer that program, or even have faculty members who have a research background in that area. Also, I am not sure if my academic record warrants an admission consideration from schools for a doctorate level degree.

So my first question stems from the admission requirements. Most schools that I have started to look at require a undergraduate GPA of a 3.2-3.5, or higher (mine was only a 3.089 in a completely unrelated field, but had an honors GPA of a 3.8), and a graduate GPA of a 3.5-3.75, or higher (mine is currently a 4.0, but could dip to a 3.9 from an A- I may end up with in a demanding class this term). Would admission committees be more apt to look at my graduate GPA over my awful undergraduate one?

I know I can get good recommendations from my graduate professors and advisors (whom I have as professors as well) who would be able to speak on my behalf that I work very hard and go beyond the requirements of the courses. My GRE scores aren't amazing, but they are considered competitive with the highlight of my scores being my writing score at a 5.0. I wrote my undergraduate honors senior thesis in curriculum design and pedagogy which was a year of research and was quite substantial at the time. So, in all I just am worried about the GPA aspect of the application process as I think the other elements I have a competitive record in.

The second question comes from the research and topic I would chose to get into the doctorate programs. Would it be advisable to look for a related general degree program and then once I am in try to do what I want with a professor who has a related topic? Or, would it be preferable to just keep looking for a professor that has researched my exact topic and I can try to work with them? I have a bit of time, but most application deadlines are in December, or as early as October. So, I have only a few more months to start to cement what my plans are and list out schools to begin application preparation for.

Any advice would be helpful, thank you for reading and I hope to hear from some of you.

Thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think you could be a strong candidate, and your record clearly shows a positive trend and achievements within your field. In other words, I don't think your GPA will be a red flag. However, just because you're a decent candidate doesn't mean that you'll come out on top among the other applicants. Here's where your statements and recommendations come in. Make sure that you recommenders see your statements and give you feedback. Then follow that advice even if it means completely overhauling your statements five times.

One advice I've gotten is to be not too specific but also not too general. Committees want to know that you will learn from their program, not that you already know everything. They also want you to be well-rounded, not just an expert on a specific topic. However, they do also want you to have a direction, something that you're interested in, a question that you're curious to explore, and an idea of what you want to do. It's a delicate balance. I think one good way to go about doing that in your statements is to use a past research project as a starting point. Talk about what you did and how it led to your interest and preparation in both your specialization and in the field as a whole. It's important to identify prospective mentors, but it's equally important to show that you're willing to learn from scholars outside of your existing expertise.

That said, if you do see someone with an exact match, mention it in your statement! I got rejected outright by some schools with over a 50% acceptance rate. But I did get an interview and a top-of-the-waitlist position from an Ivy League school (not HPY but still) that seemed to have the lowest acceptance rate of all the schools I applied to. I'm convinced that the fact I had extensively cited one of the professors in my writing sample and mentioned this in my statement might have had something to do with it. And for the school I will be attending, the professor I intend to work with had taught the works I wrote about in his class and a lot of stuff matched his interests perfectly. It might not be the key to an acceptance, but it'll definitely make the person's eyes light up in recognition when they see your statement and your work.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/12/2017 at 10:23 AM, ThousandsHardships said:

I think you could be a strong candidate, and your record clearly shows a positive trend and achievements within your field. In other words, I don't think your GPA will be a red flag. However, just because you're a decent candidate doesn't mean that you'll come out on top among the other applicants. Here's where your statements and recommendations come in. Make sure that you recommenders see your statements and give you feedback. Then follow that advice even if it means completely overhauling your statements five times.

One advice I've gotten is to be not too specific but also not too general. Committees want to know that you will learn from their program, not that you already know everything. They also want you to be well-rounded, not just an expert on a specific topic. However, they do also want you to have a direction, something that you're interested in, a question that you're curious to explore, and an idea of what you want to do. It's a delicate balance. I think one good way to go about doing that in your statements is to use a past research project as a starting point. Talk about what you did and how it led to your interest and preparation in both your specialization and in the field as a whole. It's important to identify prospective mentors, but it's equally important to show that you're willing to learn from scholars outside of your existing expertise.

That said, if you do see someone with an exact match, mention it in your statement! I got rejected outright by some schools with over a 50% acceptance rate. But I did get an interview and a top-of-the-waitlist position from an Ivy League school (not HPY but still) that seemed to have the lowest acceptance rate of all the schools I applied to. I'm convinced that the fact I had extensively cited one of the professors in my writing sample and mentioned this in my statement might have had something to do with it. And for the school I will be attending, the professor I intend to work with had taught the works I wrote about in his class and a lot of stuff matched his interests perfectly. It might not be the key to an acceptance, but it'll definitely make the person's eyes light up in recognition when they see your statement and your work.

Thank you for your encouragement. It makes me feel a bit better knowing I am at least possibly a competitive candidate.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

I wouldn't worry too much about your undergrad GPA. Contact some authors of work that you like who are faculty in programs that you would consider and see if they are accepting graduate students. Strike up a conversation. Show enthusiasm about their work. It doesn't have to be a perfect match with what they are currently working on--just has to be within the realm.

I can suggest a good school/advisor for that area if you PM me...

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/29/2017 at 5:03 PM, t_ruth said:

I wouldn't worry too much about your undergrad GPA. Contact some authors of work that you like who are faculty in programs that you would consider and see if they are accepting graduate students. Strike up a conversation. Show enthusiasm about their work. It doesn't have to be a perfect match with what they are currently working on--just has to be within the realm.

I can suggest a good school/advisor for that area if you PM me...

Thanks, I sent a pm your way! :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Okay, so some things have changed a little bit since I posted this thread, so I will post my more current stats if anyone wants to give advice as admissions applications are beginning to open up.

Schools I plan on applying to based on research interests (in no particular order):

  • University of California - Irvine
  • University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
  • Ohio State University
  • Michigan State University

My Stats for Application:

Applying for a Ph.D in Higher Education

  • UGRAD GPA: 3.089 (Cumulative), 3.757 (Honors)
    • Major: Physics - Secondary Education, Minor: Communication Studies, Awarded University Honors (Top University Honor with 37 Honors Credits Completed)
    • R2 State Institution
  • GRAD GPA: 3.75 (Cumulative) - 12 Credits Completed out of 33 Required for the Degree & Cert.
    • M.S Higher Education Administration
    • Graduate Certificate of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
    • R1 State Institution
  • GRE Scores: (Taken Last October) - Debating Retaking
    • Verbal: 151
    • Quantitative: 154
    • Analytical Writing: 5.0
  • Research Experience:
    • Completed 2 Undergraduate Honors Theses, one in Physics and one in Communication (Education based)
      • Physics was one semester long of research and writing the thesis and Communication was 5 semesters long with a full year dedicated to research and writing the thesis.
    • Undergraduate Research Program
      • In Physics for a semester (Program had limited funding, but learned a lot about research skills)
    • Graduate Research Papers (3 Papers)
      • Turned assignments from courses into independent studies on my research interests for the dissertation.
  • Publications:
    • 0 Current publications, but will try to publish a research paper by the end of my master's.
  • Writing Sample:
    • Using a term paper that is about 15 pages long and getting feedback from that professor (also a letter of recommendation for me)
  • Letters of Recommendations: (3 Letters)
    • Undergraduate Research Supervisor
    • Graduate Advisor and Professor
    • Graduate Professor (Wrote the writing sample for their course)
  • Statement of Purpose:
    • On it's fourth version now, I have about 4-5 friends in the higher education field helping revise and read it.

Let me know if anyone wants to give advice, or sees any red flags I should be addressing. Thank you all!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Like that revised list :)

If you can, maybe try submitting one of the projects you've worked on to a conference between now and when you submit your application. These sorts of things go a long way toward showing you are serious about research.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...
On 7/25/2017 at 4:04 PM, t_ruth said:

Like that revised list :)

If you can, maybe try submitting one of the projects you've worked on to a conference between now and when you submit your application. These sorts of things go a long way toward showing you are serious about research.

So, I tired submitting for a paper presentation, but unfortunately the regional conference I would attend (student member of) had already closed the proposal window and therefore my proposal was denied. I am hoping to secure a conference at the university I am at in the grad student showcase. :) It wont be before the app deadlines, but I can at least put in my statement that I am putting my research out there in hopes to present it.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

All 5 applications are officially complete! I am so relieved! Now comes the process of checking all of the applications 10 times a day to make sure they eventually get marked as complete. Waiting for GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and transcripts to arrive is nerve wrecking as they all need to be submitted by Dec 1 so I can be considered.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

I just wanted to thank everyone for their support and guidance. I have gotten two interview offers so far and my first acceptance at a third institution! :) I will keep you all updated as I hear more.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.