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Getting in to Grad School for CS

  1. May 20, 2009 #1
    I'm thinking about studying HCI or Computer Architecture in grad school, and I'm look at certain top tier colleges such as MIT, Stanford, CMU, and Berkeley.

    What are my chances of getting in to these schools?

    • My current GPA is around 3.85 which I think puts me in the top 10% of the university and the department.
    • I haven't taken the GRE yet, but I could more than likely get an above average score (probably not 99 percentile though, cause I'm terrible at standardized tests).
    • I have had software engineering internships with two very well-known companies.

    I don't know if that makes me competitive enough, so I just wanted to get some feedback.

    Also, what are some HCI or Comp Arch school on the west coasts?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 20, 2009 #2

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    Well, one thing you can do is find out how many students these schools accept collectively and compare that to the number of CS grads produced. If they accept 200 students and there are 10,000 CS grads per year, that tells you that you need to be in the top 2%.
  4. May 20, 2009 #3
    Have you done any undergraduate research?
  5. May 20, 2009 #4
    No, I have not.
  6. May 21, 2009 #5
    That's assuming all 10,000 CS grads apply to grad school... which is not the case. The total number of grads per year doesn't really matter, because many of them won't be competing with you for slots.

    As an example of the overall difficulty, at the best programs I've seen for physics (MIT), they receive 600 apps per year and accept 35-40 (according to their website). I imagine it is probably comparable for CS -- it is really difficult.

    Anyways, your GPA sounds good, then it just comes down to recs, GRE, and research/work experience. There's not really a good way of predicting your chances. The best thing to do is just apply to a lot of different schools (at least 10) and make sure you apply to several "safety" schools so that you know you won't be screwed in the end. I applied for grad school this past fall and got rejected from almost all the schools I applied to, but I still got accepted to one school which was pretty good, so this strategy was effective for me.
  7. May 21, 2009 #6

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    No, it only assumes that the very best students are applying for graduate school.
  8. May 21, 2009 #7
    ... how did you assume that?
  9. May 21, 2009 #8
    I have heard that undergraduate research experience is important for getting into top graduate programs. I know anything is possible, but if you're in the business of maximizing your chances, at least one semester of some sort of research would be good.

    For instance, consider that you will be competing for slots in top programs with other good students. Realistically, all of you will have > 3.5 GPA and similar GRE scores (which should probably be at least 1500 Q+V and Q close to 800). Such similar academic records are hard to distinguish.

    This is where extracurriculars come in. You say you have internships. While these will help, most likely, in showing that you're a well rounded student, it probably won't be as beneficial as you'd like. Industry loves internships, but I think grad programs are more interested in your research potential, per se. Nothing demonstrates research potential like doing research (and maybe doing some tutoring...)

    Anyway, your exceptional student will have several semesters of undergraduate research and possibly have his/her name on published papers. They will have presented at conferences or forums and immersed themselves in the culture of research while at the same time doing their undergraduate.

    Is this bad information? Does the OP have the time or inclination to find some project to start working on? Is undergraduate research not important? The point of graduate school, at least I thought, was to teach you how to do research.
  10. May 21, 2009 #9
    What are some good "safety" schools with decent program in HCI?
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