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Admissions Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and Whole Person Concept

  1. Jan 2, 2010 #1

    Cod

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    Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    I’ve searched through many of the different grad school threads on the forums and cannot find exactly what I am searching for, or I’m completely missing it.

    Going in to spring semester, I am a little over 50% through my degree (BS in Computer Science w/ a minor in Mathematical Sciences). Currently, I have a 3.58 GPA at my current school with a 3.5 in CS courses and 3.0 in Math courses. The problem is, before I started at my current university, I did some stints at universities after high school where I amassed an abyssmal 2.08 GPA. Realizing school was not my niche at the time, I enlisted in the US Armed Forces. After two years of being in the service, I decided to make use of all the benefits I receive while serving (on active duty til 2013). Since returning to school, I have done very well with no issues of poor grades, participation, etc..

    Now that I am on the right track and heading into my junior year, I’m having the “What’s Next” thoughts. Ultimately, I’d like to get into an applied mathematics MS program somewhere (preferrably AFIT since Air Force pays for everything).

    On to my questions…when applying to grad school programs that have GPA requirements (which most do), do they use the GPA from the university your bachelor’s was earned? Or do they look at transcripts from all universities attended? GPA aside, do universities tend to look at the “whole-person concept” (potential, background, etc.) or strictly academic acheivements? I do not mind writing an essay to go along with my admissions package explaining past issues and how I have overcome those issues. Ultimately, I am worried that my years of idiocy (2001 – 2004) will hurt what goals I’ve established for myself after “growing up”. From my research about graduate school admissions, I gathered that more weight is placed on GRE scores than GPA; however, there is no further guidance about the GPA factor.

    Any help is greatly appreciated.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2010 #2
    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    They look at all your transcripts, but place much more weight on the one you got your degree at. It's the same reason why a bad freshman year won't automatically kill you. If you're going for the sciences, research is the most important thing they look at. It'll help you if your research is strong, hurt a lot if you have none, and generally everything in between. Recommendations are the other really really important part of your application, and that goes back to the research thing.

    You'll probably have room for that in your personal statement, but look at how the question is phrased.

    Actually, from what I've read most of the best schools don't really care about the GRE scores provided it's over their baseline. Basically, it's a filter, (one that's usually fluid if everything else looks good) not a deciding factor. Your GPA actually matters more, but schools are fluid with numbers 'cause every university has their grading/transcript policies.
     
  4. Jan 2, 2010 #3

    Cod

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    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    First of all, thanks for the feedback. Your response did bring another issue to my attention that I had not thought about...research. Since I am active duty military, I take the majority of my classes online through UMUC. So the chances of doing any research are very slim, unless there are ways to do research from home. The fact that I will not be able to do any real research does bother me since I'd like to study Applied Mathematics in grad school.

    Again, thanks for the feedback.
     
  5. Jan 2, 2010 #4
    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    a) You can explain that in your personal statement and a lot of schools will definitely take that into consideration.
    b) Research from home may totally be possible, as applied math is usually a lot of number crunching and coding. You just have to find a professor who's willing to advise you.
     
  6. Jan 2, 2010 #5

    Cod

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    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    Thanks again story645. You've been a big help. Once I get get to the more in-depth computer science and math courses I will start talking with a professor or two.
     
  7. Jan 2, 2010 #6
    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    I totally missed that you were cs, but 'cause you are I've got some relevant experience. The computer science lab I work for (run by two math phds, so very applied math) is set up so that everyone can work from home, something one professor and another student make use of all the time. Most of the other cs professors I know are also very hands off with their research students, asking to meet anywhere from once a week to once a semester. I have a friend in applied math who also barely ever sees her adviser.
     
  8. Jan 9, 2010 #7

    Cod

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    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    Thanks for the undergrad research advice story645. It is much appreciated.

    The only other problem I may run into along my way to graduate school is the fact that I was readmitted on academic probation to one of the universities I attended prior to my current university. After readmission, I did not take any classes because I joined the military. Any thoughts on whether or not that will affect my chances adversly?
     
  9. Jan 9, 2010 #8
    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    It depends on the school, the people on the admissions committee, and the people you're competing against; I figure it's a good excuse, but you should talk to the admissions people at the schools you're applying to. They may tell you to write an explanation letter. You may also want to see if your school runs grad school admissions workshops or if anybody posts there's online.
     
  10. Jan 9, 2010 #9
    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    Depending on the school, some will say transcripts only from degree awarding institution or something to that effect. This means you do not have to send "ALL" your transcripts if you attended more than one college.
     
  11. Jan 10, 2010 #10
    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    The two questions that graduate schools ultimately care about are:

    1) can you do research?
    2) will you drop out?

    Everything else goes to those two questions. What makes it both good and bad, is that there is no one rule, different graduate schools have different rules, different *professors* have different criteria. Since you can't change the past, I'd focus on good research experience and recommendations. Also, you do need to ask people at the school about what they are specifically looking for as far as transcripts.

    [q]I do not mind writing an essay to go along with my admissions package explaining past issues and how I have overcome those issues.[/q]

    You are going to have to write a statement of purpose anyway. One bit of advice is to keep it positive. You only have a very brief space to talk about yourself, and that essay is going to be scanned rather then read. If you spend most of it talking about your past mistakes, then this isn't going to leave a good impression. You do need to mention your past, but don't dwell on it.

    [q]Ultimately, I am worried that my years of idiocy (2001 – 2004) will hurt what goals I’ve established for myself after “growing up”.[/q]

    Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has some things that hurt their future, but there is a difference between mildly hurting your future goals and being fatal to them, and I don't think that you are in a position where your past is fatal.
     
  12. Mar 12, 2010 #11

    Cod

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    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    Thanks for the advice twofish-quant. Sorry the thanks was belated (work and such).

    As I look more and more into my "grad school prospective", I'm becoming more discouraged about even applying. Along with the issues I mentioned earlier, when I graduate, I will have no research experience to go on my application. So with two strikes against me, I'm going to need to make them up somwhere...but where? What can I do over the next two years to make my admissions package stronger? Keep in mind that I'm working 40-hours (w/ possibility of deployment) per week, taking two-to-three classes per semester, and raising two young kids.

    Any further help / advice is greatly appreciated.
     
  13. Mar 12, 2010 #12
    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    just think of applying to graduate school as applying for a job. you are there to serve as "cheap" labor for a professor.

    as such, they're more interested (as twofish pointed out) in whether you can do reserach. this isnt undergrad- they dont necessarily care to read your life story and how it influenced you (sorry to say).

    that being said, you're experience is somewhat unique, so i wouldnt discount it completely. try to keep it as brief as possible.

    also, you noted you were looking for M.S. degrees. my understanding is the requirement of reserach as an admission criteria is much lower for a masters students, particularly one with a GI bill paying the tuition (they dont have to give you a TA, etc)

    also, research does not need to be in a university setting. companies do research too. im not sure of what goes on in the military, but im sure there is something you can work on they can be listed as "reserach". so long as you're actively thinking and not just a pencil pusher type, you're headed in the right direction.
     
  14. Mar 12, 2010 #13

    Choppy

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    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    You may also want to keep in mind that many undergraduate programs have a fourth year honours project. Rather than a formal class, you do a formal project. The work isn't always publishable, but it can count as research experience.
     
  15. Mar 12, 2010 #14
    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    Whatever you do. Apply. You lose nothing except a few hundred dollars. You might get lucky, and even if you don't, you are likely to get admitted *somewhere*, and if you get admitted to a bad graduate school, you are in the game. Even in the unlikely event that everyone rejects you, you'll *know* that you never had a chance rather than wondering "what if" for the rest of your life.
     
  16. Mar 12, 2010 #15
    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    One other thing. Masters degrees admissions is very different than Ph.D. admissions. Schools make money when they admit masters students, so they aren't particularly hard to get into.
     
  17. Mar 12, 2010 #16

    Cod

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    Re: Grad School Admissions Question – GPA and “Whole Person Concept”

    Again, thanks for the advice everyone.

    Flemmyd, you made a point about "research" that I never thought about before. I was under the impression research on grad school admissions had to be research of the same subject of the grad program you were applying to (if that makes sense). I'm an Intelligence Analyst in the military, so I've done my fair share of research throughout my years and I'm sure much more over the next three years (at least). Granted, my research isn't publishable per say due to classification requirements, but I have done plenty of it. I may need to make an appointment with my education center to discuss how I can go about placing the information on my applications. Thanks again for showing me "another side".

    Choppy, thanks for the head's up on the "honours project". I'm not sure if my current universities offers anything like that, but I can always ask.

    Twofish-quant, you sound like my wife :). She told me the other day that even if I have to spend hundreds of dollars just to get one school's acceptance, I'd better do it (wife speak for "You will do it"). Thanks for the information about master's admissions. I was under the assumption that all graduate admissions were the same. After all, most admissions departments only have one section for graduate admissions; deciphering the process is the problem. Are there any websites that explain the differences in master and PhD admissions?

    Take care everyone and thanks again.

    EDIT: I forgot to ask about reference letters in latest post. Since universities typically require at least 2 of these come from instructors, what's the best way to approach this since I'm at a predominantly online school? The chances of having the same teacher are slim. Would it be viable to get a letter from any math instructor for a class taken? Same with computer science? I'm not worried about any professional or personal references, I just need to figure out the academic letters.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2010
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