Hello all. I'm sorry if this is a long post but I would love to hear from someone who got into a masters or Ph.D. program in robotics, machine learning, or data mining. I really would just like to know how my chances are of going to a good school and earning financial support for it. Background I'm about to enter my fifth year of computer engineering at University of Central Florida. I am a little behind because I studied mechanical engineering and computer science for a year as well. I'm one semester away from a CS major in fact, but I decided it's probably not worth it to finish since the two majors are very similar. Anyway, I'm going to finish in fall with a 3.8 GPA. My extra curriculars I did a semester long research project in the field of knowledge representation when I was a sophomore. I built a simulation but it wasn't completely finished and I gave it up before I could get a paper out of it. I spent the next year as a supplemental instruction leader (basically a tutoring gig) for engineering physics. I joined the robotics club and won the in-house competition. My 4th year, I worked at a large engineering company as a production programmer for summer, fall, and spring. I realized I Don't want to be a production software developer. Now that summer's here, I landed a research assistant job (as a C++ programmer) for a human-robot interaction lab. The position is indefinite so I'll be doing it through fall. I've taken introduction to robotics and I received a good grade for my project which involved evolutionary approaches to optimization. I created a portfolio of small programs and lab reports demonstrating AI techniques. I'm going to take AI and Machine Vision in fall. I'm taking the stanford open machine learning course and learning Octave. I am about to take senior design and I would like to focus on building a ML/robotic application Why I want to go to grad school Although I love learning how others have solved problems, I love coming up with new ways of solving problems. I think automation and data analysis are two of the most important things that will come out of the next century. I think robotics/data science/ML are very interesting interdisciplinary fields, which is why I was drawn to them. The big question(s) Have I done enough to prepare myself for graduate school in one of these fields? Offhand, what tier of program do I seem fit for? Should I apply for next spring or next fall? If I should wait until next fall, what should I do next spring? take grad level classes at UCF or get a full time job as a research assistant or in a robotics company? When should I take the GRE? Unfortunately I realize that my main weakness is a lack of published research. I'm wondering how bad that will hurt me in this. Thank you for reading.