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Admissions Experience as a non degree student to get into grad school?

  1. May 17, 2018 #1
    Has any one ever became a non degree student/special status student at university to get better grades in undergraduate courses so you can apply to a PH.D program? What was this like? Did you receive financial aid? What classes did you take? How many semester did you do? Did you get into graduate school? Any information will be helpful, thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2018 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Can you provide some context here?

    Are you saying someone wants to get into a PhD program so they first take courses as a non degree student ie meaning credits don’t count and then at some point try to finagle their way into a PhD program via the backdoor of professorial contacts?

    There’s only a few ways that i know of. One is the current strategy today where you compete with other students taking the GRE, writing essays etc... getting recommendation letters and crossing your fingers.

    There is another way where you might find a dissertation worthy project at work and you convince some PhDs to form a committee and review your work, suggest courses to take ... and if a lot of things work out you become a PhD the old fashioned way. This path is usually for older folks who can’t compete with the young students of today. It’s a much more difficult and uncertain path but it can be done.

    The third way is to discover some remarkable new thing that when written up as a thesis might convince a group of PhDs to review your work and award you a PhD. I have no examples of this. The closest would be the out of work prof who discovered an important twin primes theorem and gained enough fame to find a job in a college math department.


  4. May 17, 2018 #3
    Yes, students who take courses whose credits don't count. The Thing is for a variety of reasons my undergrad was not stellar. I'm graduating soon and things in life have gotten better. I'm more than ready and able to put in the work to do well in school now. I'm being given the opportunity to retake upper division undergraduate courses and possibly a graduate course or 2) to improve my academic record. This will not replace old grades because I will be doing this at a school where I did not receive my undergraduate degree but I will get a 2nd transcript from the new institution. I already have research experience and a publication but my grades were low.
  5. May 18, 2018 #4
    About 40 years ago, My GPA was very low (about 2.2), (However I did make a 3.35 for the last semester). I worked 40 hours a week at a non-professional job. I was upfront. I went to a professor teaching methods of mathematical physics (graduate level not undergraduate), and asked him if I could take his course as a "Special non-degree seeking student", (I already graduated with a BS. Physics) I also asked if I did well could I get a Letter of Recommendation from him. He agreed.
    I was financially unsupported by the school. My job gave me a living. I got a B+, applied to grad schools in the conventional manner, (scored about 60 percentile in the GRE), got 3 letters of recommendation etc. In addition, I visited one of the prospective grad schools, met the faculty. Asked intelligent questions tried to be very involved in their research areas and I think I impressed them.
    Bottom line. I got into grad school (a respectable one) the next year with only taking that one graduate course. Actually when talking to faculty a few years later about my case, they told me (surprisingly?), "Why wouldn't we take you." Ultimately, I was successful in grad school too.

    At least as of 1979, it was possible to go from special status to grad school as long as you apply in the conventional manner, with test scores and show a strongly improving trend.
  6. May 18, 2018 #5
    Thank you for your story. Apparently I do qualify for financial aid at this particular institution, I will do my best in whatever course(s) I take and prepare for the GRE. I will post with an update at a much later time.
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