Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Graduate School Prospects - I have no idea!

  1. Jul 10, 2012 #1
    Hello all,

    I, like so many others here, am planning on attending graduate school in the near future (in my case, I graduate next year). I'd like some advice that isn't just what I want to hear, so I figured the internet would be just the place!

    OVERVIEW: I want to know what "tier" (for lack of a better term) of grad schools I have a decent shot at.

    About me:

    Interests: Virtually every aspect of science, math, and engineering is enthralling to me. In particular I am a fanatic about military machinery, especially military aircraft. I also enjoy all topics regarding weapons, be they missiles, guns, or bombs. It is fitting that me and my father are huge pyromaniacs to boot!

    Age: 22
    Undergrad University: Oregon State University
    Undergrad Major: Mechanical Engineering, Physics Minor
    GPA (At the moment): 3.70
    Industry Experience: Two 6-month periods totaling to one full year
    Research Experience: ~1.5 terms (Planning on researching every term next year, which would bring my total to 4.5 terms)
    Major-Related Work: Tutored for two years and T/A'ed for three terms
    Non-Major Related Work During College: Worked a regular food service job for three years at 20 hours minimum/week (the max allowed by law). I worked the same job plus another job (for a total of roughly full time) for a year. Needless to say, that was miserable.
    Electives Taken Thus Far: Intermediate Fluid Mechanics, Applied Heat Transfer, Applied Stress Analysis, Thermal and Fluid Sciences Lab
    Electives to be Taken Next Year: Advanced Power Generation, Gas Dynamics, Combustion, Mathematical Methods for Scientists and Engineers (3 courses), and Linkages if I have time.

    Desired Master's Degree: Aerospace Engineering
    Dream School: CalTech
    Other Dream Schools: MIT, U.C. Berkeley, Stanford, Purdue, you get the idea...

    I honestly have no idea what level of school I even have a shot at. No one in my family is in any sort of technical field, so the advice is minimal.

    Some clarification on the info above:

    OSU is a great school, but I fear that I will not have as good a shot as someone from, say, MIT since OSU is not in the same "echelon".

    I am happy with my grades, but I don't know if they are good enough for a top school... However, my worst grades are in the general ed. courses. I have only received one 'B' and two 'B+'es in engineering courses. The rest are 'A's and 'A-'es.

    I am hoping my industry experience is relevant... I have a full year of legitimate engineering work experience. This was in the form of two internships, each lasting 6 months, at two separate companies. While they were "internships", I was given exactly the same assignments, system access, and evaluations as a full engineer. The only differece is the company has no employment obligation after the internship. For more info, see:


    I am really afraid that I don't have enough research experience. The ONLY reason I haven't researched every waking moment of my undergrad is that I simply did not have the time. Between working hard for school and working minimum 20 hours/week (I was DIRT poor) plus other obligations (e.g. tutoring), it was simply impossible. Even during the ~1.5 terms of research I did, I was barely able to make it into the lab for more than about 6 hours per week. I am really hoping that A) I can research a lot next year (I made tons of money on my internships), and B) My lack of research will not be a huge factor due to the aforementioned circumstances.

    I am also hoping that my work ethic will factor into my chances. I believe I have a very strong work ethic and that it will show.

    Thanks in advance for your time. I honestly have no idea what to expect or what my chances are at any school, let alone my dream schools!
    If you want further information or you have any advice for me and my grad school prospects, please reply!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 12, 2012 #2
    I hate to bump, but I really need advice...
  4. Jul 12, 2012 #3
    You certainly have good enough credentials to get into all those schools. Caltech might be the hardest, just because they have so few students and therefore admissions slots. Do really well on the GRE, and get good references and I would so you have a real shot. As always, apply to a few backup schools as well. Applying to all of your dream schools is a good idea. I got into some of my dream schools and not into others. I had friends who got into schools I was rejected from and who got rejected from schools I got into. So who knows?

    Also, I would omit any statements about your enjoyment of all topics regarding weapons in your personal statement of research. Try to pick a concrete research topic in which you're interested.

    Good luck!

    EDIT: The admissions committees know how good a school in Engineering Oregon State is. I wouldn't sweat that.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
  5. Jul 12, 2012 #4
    Thanks so much for the informative reply! I wasn't planning on mentioning anything to do with weapons... That doesn't seem like the wisest thing to say... But thanks for the concern!
  6. Jul 14, 2012 #5
    Does anyone else have anything to say about this?
  7. Jul 15, 2012 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    You neglected (unless I missed it) to describe your career goals. Are you aiming to work in industries, etc., or do you wish to stick to Academia/basic research? The latter will require that you seek the prestigious schools to increase your chances of getting a tenure-track job. The former doesn't as much.

  8. Jul 15, 2012 #7
    That I did. I actually had to re-type my whole original post due to a power bump... I guess I forgot the career part.

    I am interested in working in industry, particularly in the defense industry. I am enthralled by military hardware, etc. My dream company would have to be Lockheed Martin, although I would be happy with any other, such as Raytheon. As far as research interests, although I enjoy essentially every topic in my chosen field, I am particularly interested in aerodynamics and propulsion, especially in regard to the fluid mechanics and heat transfer involved with both.

    I may eventually pursue a Ph.D, but the current plan is to get a Masters degree and go into industry.

    Thanks for the reply, BTW!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook