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Admissions Do Graduate Schools Look at Extra Curiccular Involvement In Admissions?

  1. Oct 20, 2009 #1
    Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    I'm a freshman in the honors college, and we were told to make a resume that we'd like to have in four years when we graduate.

    I wrote that I'd have a B.S. in aerospace engineering with a minor in nondestructive testing, and a 3.7 gpa (hopefully). I intend to go on to an MS, at least.

    They told me no graduate program would take me if I didn't have more "involvement". How true is this for engineering graduate programs?

    Thanks.
    Abraham
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 20, 2009 #2
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    Extracurricular involvement is often much more important than GPA. Grad schools will have many, many engineering majors applying with a 3.7 GPA. Heading a successful organization, volunteering abroad, and getting published are some of the activities that will really set you apart. Having a GPA above 3.2 or so (depending on the program you're applying to) is important, but generally GPA is not weighted more heavily than even GRE.

    That said, as long as you participate in some kind of research, I find it hard to believe that NO grad program would accept you with a 3.7 GPA and a decent GRE even if you don't have bomb ECs.
     
  4. Oct 20, 2009 #3

    Pengwuino

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    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    There's usually a distinction between research and extracurricular activities. Having an internship at an aerospace company or giving talks at conferences are not the same as volunteering at a soup kitchen or being part of some dance company or what have you. I remember having a conversation with a professor and we got on the subject of building up applications for graduate schools and he said that admissions people look at volunteerism and extra curricular activities and go "who cares? This won't help us".
     
  5. Oct 20, 2009 #4
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    Complete and utter falsehood. Graduate admissions is NOT the same as undergraduate admissions. They care first and foremost about research experience, GPA, and GRE. It's nice if you spent time volunteering in Timbuktu but it's not going to give you a significant advantage. In short; don't worry about fluff ECs, they're not very important. Worry about research!
     
  6. Oct 20, 2009 #5
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    Depends on the sort of extracurricular involvement. Like Pengwuino said, volunteering at a soup kitchen, participating in a local sports club, and the various other activities that would typically be included in an undergraduate admissions application will get you nowhere. On the other hand, research and/or lab experience, conferences, participation/membership in a relevant and distinguished club/society, or some administrative role in an undergraduate science journal will offer an advantage. Tutoring and assistant teaching experience may also be helpful.

    That said, there is absolutely no subsitute for research. Put yourself in the shoes of the grad school admissions committee - they want to see that you are driven, keen to conduct research, and most importantly show research potential. They also want to know that you can survive graduate school, so research + any graduate classes you may have already taken would offer a strong advantage.
     
  7. Oct 20, 2009 #6
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    Research is the most important extra curricular activity (and it is VERY VERY important).

    Second to research is involvement in relevant groups. If you're applying for physics grad school, for example, involvement in a physics club or SPS (Society of Physics Students) is good to have. (Actually SPS is a good thing to be a part of for physics undergrads anyway). In your case, there may be an engineering club or something that might be useful to join.

    Least important is any other kind of extra curricular activities. I don't imagine any grad schools are going to care very much that you were the leader of the ultimate frisbee club or whatever.

    I suppose I'm just repeating what has been said, but whatevs. The important thing is RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. I'd try to get involved right after you get done with intro classes. If you're at a big university, it's super easy to find research work if you're willing to do it for free, and often you can find paid research work. Also, it is important to try to get into REUs for your summers. Or internships, if you're looking at industry work.
     
  8. Oct 20, 2009 #7
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    One other thing from long personal experience. It may not be such a good thing to center your entire life around getting into grad school. One thing that did happen to me was that because I spent quite a bit of time doing extra-curricular stuff like student government, and reading things that had nothing to do with physics, I had more difficulty getting into grad school than I otherwise would have.

    On the other hand, doing non-physics related stuff helped me in life in general. One thing that you need to realize is that eventually the system will chew you up and spit you out. At some point in your life, you have to start doing things for their own sake rather than as a means of getting something else. Also, you need to make some very careful decisions on whether or not you should do what *THE COMMITTEE* wants you to do.

    So if it makes you feel better to work in a soup kitchen even though you know they it doesn't help you to get into grad school or possibly that it will even hurt your chances for getting into grad school, then you might still consider doing it.

    Something that you should do is to read some philosophy and history, because you'll need that for the really, really big questions, like why do I want to go to grad school?
     
  9. Oct 21, 2009 #8
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    The answer is NO.
     
  10. Oct 21, 2009 #9
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    Excellent. Thanks for all the replies
     
  11. Oct 21, 2009 #10

    t!m

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    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    There is one thing I would like to point out before this discussion is considered closed. While I agree that volunteer-ish EC activities are largely unimportant for grad school, it is very much worth pointing out that this is *NOT* the case for many graduate fellowships, particularly those funded by the government. Mention the phrase "broader impacts" to anyone who has ever applied to the NSF, and listen for groans. The government fellowships want to see how you help your community, help society, seek leadership roles, broaden participation of underrepresented groups, etc. So while grad schools only want you to be good scientists, government fellowships want you to be good for your country (it is their tax money after all!).
     
  12. Oct 21, 2009 #11
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    Oh, good point. I think I left out that money factor in my thinking. Thanks
     
  13. Oct 21, 2009 #12

    symbolipoint

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    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    "SOUP KITCHEN", yah???? Could any community service, voluntary social service, be useful for any kind of graduate school admission? Here is an opinion - just an opinion - based on some arrangments that exist with soup kitchens and places like them:

    Homeless shelters and soup kitchens, maybe community nonprofit education groups are often partnered with segments of public school systems and other educational organizations. Tutoring services and classes are offered or provided in some shelters and soup kitchens. The 'opinion' part is that some prospective university or undergrad students might not only help in running the soup kitchens or shelters, but can also directly teach literacy, reading or writing (at various levels), or Mathematics (also at various levels). Some care seekers there might just be learning Basic Math, but some might be nearing to finish "Algebra 1" (meaning the first course of generalized arithmetic usually studied in ninth grade). Such students could also continue beyond this level into "Algebra 2" (something which is at least for adult schools, not provided by the public school). Note, many adults might be getting care from shelters or the soup kitchens. The volunteer care giver could extend his help to the care seekers, as well as to extend some help to the care system, like maybe write a computer program to help manage data on services provided, data about who is staying at the shelter for how long, when began; maybe provide some finance consulting or calculations to track cost for materials and amount of materials week to week, day to day, ... maybe too, create software programs for educational purposes to be used at the shelter so that the shelter or soup kitchen system need not purchase software. Possibly other local groups might donate some of the computer equipment.

    My opinion is that some realistic value for graduate admission can be found in some kinds of community volunteering activity if the activity is really relevant to the intended graduate school program.
     
  14. Oct 22, 2009 #13
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    No, it won't. You are assuming here that the system is sane and rational when it isn't. Community service simply will not help your chances for admission to physics graduate school, and if anything, it might mildly hurt it.

    However, I think it's a bad idea to focus your entire life around career goals. If you do something that you think is good for the sake of doing good, knowing full well that it mildly hurts your career goals, then I will have much more respect for you than someone that just volunteers because it looks good on a resume.

    Some things are worth doing for the sake of doing.

    Now spending your time doing something other than research *will* slightly hurt your chances with the admission committee, but it's a mild negative and not fatal. How to balance conflicting goals, and deal with the fact that what you think is important may not be what *THE COMMITTEE* thinks is important is a life skill. Also, spending your time focusing on education and community service rather than research is a mild negative when it comes to grad school. It will be fatal when you go up for tenure.

    Personally, I think that stuff like that should be viewed positively by graduate admissions committees. The fact is, however, that it generally isn't, although you might by sheer luck have your application in front of someone that does think it is important.

    It should. However, unless you get your application in front of someone that is unusually sympathetic to this point of view, it won't. The good news is that at least for graduate school admissions, the trade off isn't huge. It's not that working in community service will kill your application, but it will leave your application at a slight disadvantage against people that spent all their time in the lab, since there are only so many hours in a day.
     
  15. Oct 22, 2009 #14
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    There is a good reason that it is irrelevant to graduate school admissions: They are not looking at esoteric goals like "helping to build leaders" or junk like that; they want people who can hack it at the grad level and do research. When you want to be a prof, you often need to be someone who can bring in some grant money, because otherwise the university does not get as much state/donor funding. Their concerns are very sane and pragmatic, none of the b.s. you did to get into a better college will get you into grad school; if you are the type of person who wants to freely volunteer your time with no expectation of reward simply to help your fellow man, good for you. If you are trying to pump the system for an easy way to pad your application, you're **** out of luck.
     
  16. Oct 27, 2009 #15
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    I am the president of the SPS at my school, and we organize tutoring sessions for the intro level physics classes. So, I volunteer 4 hours a week to tutor college physics. Also, I volunteer at a local high school to tutor math. Do these kind of "volunteering extracurricular activities" help an application for grad school?
     
  17. Oct 27, 2009 #16
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    They help less than they should. A lot will depend on who reviews the application. I know professors for which this sort of thing would be considered to be very, very positive. I also know professors for which this sort of this would be consider either irrelevant or mildly negative.

    One problem in graduate schools is that the system is very heavily biased toward research. Too heavily biased in that direction in my opinion.
     
  18. Oct 28, 2009 #17
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    In my experience research is the only "extra-curricular" grad schools might care about. On the job market, however, leadership positions in clubs, involvements in sports, internships, and other work experience can be extremely valuable - more or less so depending on the job and industry.

    You want to show your future employer that you know what you are getting into, that you know how to communicate, deal with people, and lead, and that you can make an impact in the real world.
     
  19. Oct 28, 2009 #18
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    Last year, I was also a homework grader and tutor for Calculus 2. I'll probably put them in my application, alongside my 6 semesters of research.

    Also, I really love to teach, and I really want to be a professor mostly because theoretical physics is interesting to me and beable to teach it to others. Should I note my desire to teach in my personal statement, or should I just emphasize my desire to research theoretical physics?

    Thanks.
     
  20. Oct 28, 2009 #19
    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    If I were you I would be very careful about expressing a teaching focus. Professors are out to find the students who will contribute the most to their research and also who will make a name for themselves in research, adding to the reputation of the professor and university. I would carefully check out the individual department before making known a potential teaching preference.

    Edit: Also keep in mind that depending on where you end up, you may be pretending to like research for the rest of your career. Teaching may or may not be your primary focus even if you are lucky and successful enough to end up in academia.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2009
  21. Oct 28, 2009 #20

    Choppy

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    Re: Do Graduate Schools Look at "Extra Curiccular Involvement" In Admissions?

    I think the experience that I've had has been somewhat different from the opinion's expressed here.

    Obviously research experience is valuable, but it's not necessarily the only experience that is considered when a student applies for graduate admissions. Consider extra-cirricular activities like work on engineering teams that enter inter-university competitions. If you were on a team that won an international engineering competition I suspect that would add considerable weight to your application.

    Teaching experience and work experience can also play a role and shouldn't be discounted. For example, many departments these days are very conscious of their teaching responsibilities and want to know that students on teaching assistantships will be able to teach effectively.

    The activities likely not to factor in are those that don't have any relevance to being a graduate student. But even those aren't completely useless. As mentioned, they can factor into your ability to gain funding and the more likely you are to receive an external scholarship, the higher your admission ranking will be.
     
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