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I recently graduated from a tier 3 (USNEWS ranking) state university with a BSCS. I didn't really try hard in my undergrad studies because I didn't have much direction. My motto was basically "do just enough to get by" and now that I am finished I regret this dearly. I have decided I want to go for a PhD and this is where I stand:

Ugrad GPA: 3.23

CS GPA: 3.2

GRE: not taken yet

LORs: none

Research Experience: none

I know I am not competitive at all right now so I am going to get a Masters first. I have decided to do the Masters via distance learning and have narrowed it down to 3 choices. I would like opinions on which school to choose:

University of Illinois Springfield - MSCS, thesis option, cost 11k.

University of Louisville - MSCS, thesis option, cost 18k.

Colorado State University - MCS, coursework only, cost 19k.

I plan on applying to state schools in the southeast for a PhD. None of the programs I apply to will be top schools. Here is my opinion on the schools I am considering for the Masters:

UIS - The school is pretty much unknown. It is a ranked tier 1 Masters midwest region (USNEWS ranking) school (the school doesn't offer PhDs). It is the cheapest and smallest program. I will interact more with the faculty and have a good chance of getting great LORs and research experience.

UofL - Seems to be a solid program. Decent size program so it may be difficult to get LORs since I will be doing distance learning. Will get research experience.

CSU - Same as UofL except will not get any research experience.

I am leaning towards UIS and then making it a point to get great LORs and research experience. I am hesitant because UIS is not known.

So basically, should I go with an unknown school and get great LORs and research experience or should I go with a known school and get decent LORs with little or no research experience?

Thank you for your help!

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I would rather come from an unknown school which will offer you great research experience.

I have a friend who graduated with me with about a 2.9 GPA + 1320 GRE score (740q, 580v, 5.0a). We didn't even graduate from a ranked school; our program is unranked. He did 2 research projects during his undergrad: a summer research program at another University and one with his Professor at our undergrad. I don't think he published anything. He was accepted to CMU's PhD program. I guess this is why I'm saying that it would be better to have great research experience.

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Thanks for the reply joro.

Hypothetically speaking, lets say all elements of my application are the same (GPA,GRE,LORs,Research) except for where I received my Masters. Would an adcomm see a difference between University of Illinois at Springfield and University of Louisville?

Am I worrying about nothing?

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