Stressing about getting accepted :(

Newton
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:34 am

Stressing about getting accepted :(

Postby Newton » Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:46 am

Hi all, first off... this is an amazing forum :D It has been really helpful for me over the last few months.

So I am applying to graduate school and will take the PGRE for the first time this Saturday. I am hopeful that I will do well as I have been studying for two months straight. I really need this to offset my GPA, even though it is from 5 years ago. I have no idea what my chances are for getting accepted to programs and wanted to ask you all if my sights are too low or too high? Here is my information:

GPA: 2.9, strong programming skills and solid math/physics (spent one year in Computer Science and then changed majors to Electrical Engineering)
GRE: 156/159/3.5 (I had expected to get something like 160/164/?... but I was sorta stressing during the exam. I could take it for the second time the week after the PGRE?)

I worked for three years with a physicist at his company(president) working on engineering projects as a signal integrity engineer. Then I moved to Germany to join a €600M/year company with a global footprint. Their R&D program gets about €90M/year in funds, and work in a team there as a SI development engineer. I have experience working with TDR, VNA, SEM, X-ray machine, anecobic chamber, etc. Primarily, my work is in micron-scale interconnects but I am also involved in designing products that work at very high frequency (10-100 GHz). I plan to move back to the States and seek a PhD in Condensed Matter focusing on the industrial applications of graphene nanocomposites.

Current List:
Uni. Illinois
Uni. Texas @ Austin
Uni. Boulder @ Boulder
(my undergrad school)

Recommendations:
CTO of current company
project leader for current company (micron-interconnects)
physicist from previous company

My basic concern is that I won't be accepted anywhere, even my undergrad school which isn't ranked highly :( What are your thoughts? Will my current work experience be enough to offset my GPA? I read the other topics about having a GPA less than 3.0, but how much will that really set me back if I say get a 700, 800, or 900 on the PGRE? Thanks!

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Stressing about getting accepted :(

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Nov 06, 2012 10:49 pm

You need to diversify with some lower ranked schools; try the lower midwest (Purdue, Indiana, Washington University in St. Louis, Vanderbilt, Tennessee) and southwest (Arizona State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma). Also the Colorado School of Mines. These schools have faculty that are active participants in the scientific community, but aren't as hard to get into. Your low GPA will kill your chances at UIUC and UT Austin regardless of your PGRE, and being from a school as an undergrad generally hurts your chances at getting into it as a grad school.

Newton
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:34 am

Re: Stressing about getting accepted :(

Postby Newton » Wed Nov 07, 2012 4:14 am

Thanks for the response. I figured as much. Do you mean me having only a BS in EE will hurt my chances compared to already having a Masters?

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Stressing about getting accepted :(

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Nov 07, 2012 12:02 pm

in EE? Having a masters might hurt (shows indecision, which physics grad schools hate). To be clear, none of those schools ranked above are by any means guarantees for you (having a GPA < 3.0 is the biggest red flag an applicant can have), but they probably represent as far down the ladder as I'd go* before strongly considering trying to obtain a masters degree from somewhere state university and try my luck again a couple years down the road. So, if you're serious, you should definitely apply to some terminal masters programs (in Physics) in case all your PhD options don't work out.



*Personal opinion, obviously. And I'm not saying they're just barely meeting my criteria for an acceptable graduate school. I just think there's a huge drop-off at some point where the faculty at a given school just does not do research pertinent enough to be taken seriously.

Newton
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2012 6:34 am

Re: Stressing about getting accepted :(

Postby Newton » Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:02 pm

I just mean comparing: BS in EE vs a Masters in Physics. That's what I was thinking of doing but many schools I have looked at don't accept Masters degrees but will let you get accepted as a PhD and then drop down to Masters. Weird... I know there are many others that don't do this though.

I am thinking of doing what you have suggested. Just going to get accepted at my state school and work on a Masters then re-evaluate my options. I just needed a sanity check. I got people around me telling me to do this and that and I didn't really think I had a shot to start. Thanks.

hooverbm
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:32 pm

Re: Stressing about getting accepted :(

Postby hooverbm » Fri Nov 16, 2012 5:08 pm

I would encourage you to apply. I think you have a good shot if you properly explain yourself. Grades aren't everything, even though a 3.0 GPA is on the lower end. If you can sufficiently explain the reasons behind low performance (maybe didn't feel ready for college courses), and show how you've matured since then, I think you can be in a pretty good position to get accepted.

I think your letters of recommendation and your research experience are going to weigh more heavily on any decision made regarding your acceptance. What sets you apart from other applicants is that you have long-term real world experience. That's big. It's very different from an REU experience or a short-term internship. You no doubt worked long-term on a project, or several projects and produced important work. Talk about that in your personal statement. I think your three years in a company is a perfect opportunity to talk about "then and now." Maybe back then you felt unprepared for college (just an example) or weren't sure what you wanted to do, but through x, y, and z experiences you've solidified your research interests, which you can support with examples.

chenleo92
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Nov 22, 2013 3:04 am

Re: Stressing about getting accepted :(

Postby chenleo92 » Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:10 pm

hooverbm wrote:I would encourage you to apply. I think you have a good shot if you properly explain yourself. Grades aren't everything, even though a 3.0 GPA is on the lower end. If you can sufficiently explain the reasons behind low performance (maybe didn't feel ready for college courses), and show how you've matured since then, I think you can be in a pretty good position to get accepted.

I think your letters of recommendation and your research experience are going to weigh more heavily on any decision made regarding your acceptance. What sets you apart from other applicants is that you have long-term real world experience. That's big. It's very different from an REU experience or a short-term internship. You no doubt worked long-term on a project, or several projects and produced important work. Talk about that in your personal statement. I think your three years in a company is a perfect opportunity to talk about "then and now." Maybe back then you felt unprepared for college (just an example) or weren't sure what you wanted to do, but through x, y, and z experiences you've solidified your research interests, which you can support with examples.


Your words are really helpful for me with a low GPA, thank you!

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Stressing about getting accepted :(

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:31 pm

I don't want to be a buzzkill, but it's very hard to get in anywhere with a GPA of less than a 3.0. It's a graduate school (not department) rule at most places, and they'll only go through the rigamarole of getting it waved for extreme cases.

photomagnetic
Posts: 44
Joined: Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:13 pm

Re: Stressing about getting accepted :(

Postby photomagnetic » Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:46 pm

bfollinprm wrote:I don't want to be a buzzkill, but it's very hard to get in anywhere with a GPA of less than a 3.0. It's a graduate school (not department) rule at most places, and they'll only go through the rigamarole of getting it waved for extreme cases.


that's quite true. but if someone from the department really really wants to get the applicant graduate admissions cant say a word.
my both pals got accepted with 2.40 and 2.60. thou their high school and college were the most prestigious schools in the country.

and yea the stress is building up. cumulative mental damage i hate.

Guybrush
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 7:59 pm

Re: Stressing about getting accepted :(

Postby Guybrush » Fri Jan 03, 2014 8:49 pm

bfollinprm wrote:I don't want to be a buzzkill, but it's very hard to get in anywhere with a GPA of less than a 3.0. It's a graduate school (not department) rule at most places, and they'll only go through the rigamarole of getting it waved for extreme cases.


That is not completely true. A lot of schools (most?) have strict GPA cutoffs but many do not. For schools that do use cutoffs many are for the GPA on your last 60 credits or for Junior/Senior level classes or something similar. I know U Washington and Penn State both do this. It's usually pretty easy to find this information on department/ graduate school websites. I agree it would be very difficult to get into a top 50 department with a 2.9 GPA, but it's not completely impossible if the rest of your application is very strong.

One thing, if your degree is in EE how much physics training do you have? I'm still in undergrad, but from talking to grad students and looking at this board it looks like your grades in physics classes are one of the most important things when applying to grad school. I also took Circuit Analysis in our EE department as an elective and the emphasis was very different from what would be done in a physics class, so I don't know how well engineering courses would prepare you to study physics.

Maybe you could spend a year or so taking the physics classes you missed?




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