Questions About Applying To PhD Programs

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Questions About Applying To PhD Programs

Postby DorkRawk » Mon Oct 18, 2010 9:41 pm UTC

So, I'm currently in the process of applying for PhD programs in Computer Science (more specifically, artificial intelligence related areas) and I'm having a hard time getting a feel of where I might stand on my admission chances.

Some background:

My undergrad (CS/Math) grades were terrible. REALLY terrible.

My masters ( Human Computer Interaction) grades are really good (essentially a 4.0 GPA).

I haven't taken my GRE yet (Oct 30th... still studying...). I predict it will be fine (not 1600, but not too bad either)

I have some research experience (HCI related) and was part of (and have my name on) a published paper.

I think that my letters of recommendation are going to be good. All 3 are from faculty (with PhDs) and they can attest to my research abilities. I've seen one of the letters and it's very good.

I think I can write a good personal statement, too.

I'm worried about how my undergrad grades will affect my application chances. Will my good academic performance in my masters mitigate that? Can anybody provide some insight into the PhD application process? Any suggestions to improve my chances? Thanks!

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Re: Questions About Applying To PhD Programs

Postby Briareos » Mon Oct 18, 2010 9:48 pm UTC

I would not worry too much about your grades. They will only be significant to the decision-making if you didn't already make a great impression. I think that with good recs and research experience you should be fine. Especially since you have good grades in a graduate program.

Keep in mind that the most important thing is finding a good fit with the school that you're looking at. This means you need to find someone who's doing interesting work and you think you can get along with, who has money and space for a new student. If no one at your program of choice wants to work with you and work on things you're interested in, you're not going to get in, no matter how impressive the rest of your application is. This is because nobody wants to advise a student who doesn't have at least somewhat similar interests.

Conversely, if you can show interest and aptitude for something that a professor is already working on, there's a good chance that they'll give you strong consideration. That's why recommendations and research experience are more important than overall GPA -- they directly show that you are interested in the kind of work you'll have to do in a PhD, and that you can handle that.

(The above is based on experiences from two PhD application cycles. One went much better than the other, for much the reasons I just described.)
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Re: Questions About Applying To PhD Programs

Postby masakatsu » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:10 am UTC

I can agree with Briareos. I can add that you might want to consider what work they are doing, since if you go divergent on your dissertation, it can cause some friction. They are forming my dissertation committee right now, with a lot of 'you take him', 'no, you take him', since my subject actually crosses the schools at my University. Ah, the joy of mixing health care and project management.
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