What 'tier' of schools should I be looking at?

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What 'tier' of schools should I be looking at?

Postby KestrelLowing » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:40 pm UTC

I graduate a year from now (Dec. 2012) and am planning on going to grad school for my masters in mechanical engineering. Right now, however, I'm kind of at a loss as to what schools I should be looking at/what ones I would actually have a chance of getting into.

I currently attend Michigan Tech. Tech is usually ranked just below the top 50 mechanical engineering schools for undergrad and grad. Tech also is more known for training engineers for industry - not so much for academia.

I currently just got my GPA up to a 3.75. My GRE scores (in the new scoring system) are 160 for the verbal section and 162 for the quantitative section (86th percentile and 87th percentile, respectively) although those scores aren't technically final (those are the ones reported at the end of the test). The big kicker is that I do not have any research experience. However, I will have 2 years of engineering work experience as of the end of this summer. I'm pretty certain I could get 2 solid letters of recommendation from professors. I have taken two classes from both - one undergrad level, and one grad level - and I'm pretty well know to them. However, both of those professors don't really do any research - they just teach. With any luck, I hope I could befriend another professor this semester and I believe 3 recommendations is what's standard.

Soo, what tier of grad schools should I be looking at? I know I won't be able to get into MIT or anything that ridiculous, but I'm wondering beyond that what seems realistic. I know my grades are fairly reasonable, but it's the lack of research and the recommendation letters from not well-known research profs, that I'm worried about.

I am currently deciding between two concentrations - controls and vibrations. With controls, I'd be looking to go more into the robotics side of things and with vibrations, pretty much just vibrational analysis.

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Re: What 'tier' of schools should I be looking at?

Postby jmorgan3 » Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:38 am UTC

If you had good research experience, you probably would have a shot at a "top-tier" school like MIT. Without research experience, it's very hard to say, because I don't know anyone who applied to grad schools with no research experience. If I had to guess, I'd say to make your "reach" schools the top public universities like Michigan or Georgia Tech. The important thing, though, is finding professors you would like to work for, and selling yourself to each professor in your statements of purpose.
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Re: What 'tier' of schools should I be looking at?

Postby Bakemaster » Sat Jan 07, 2012 10:50 pm UTC

Looking at schools by "tier" is not an ideal early approach to grad school applications. I understand you don't want to waste your time and money applying to schools unrealistically, but this is one of the weakest tools any applicant has for determining whether to apply to a particular school or not.

Right now you should be acting as though you can gain admission to any school you want, and using stronger tools to eliminate schools from consideration. The strongest tools in this context are those which can most definitively eliminate one or more schools from consideration. For instance, if you are unwilling to move out of state.

In my opinion, lacking research experience or super-fantastiche GPA and test scores, you are making a prudent decision to eliminate the most selective schools (e.g. MIT). But beyond that, who can say? These most prestigious schools are so incredibly more selective than any others that I would say there are very few schools that are beyond your reach, provided you have enthusiasm for the program offered and can communicate it successfully.
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