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Should your choice of electives be determined by your intended grad school specialty?

  1. May 21, 2008 #1

    Let me clarify my questions.

    Short version:

    When applying to graduate school, does the admission committee often look at which electives you have taken in your major? Do they dislike applicants who take electives that don't seem focus on one specific specialty in that major?

    Longer version with background information:

    I am a junior electrical engineering major at a smaller engineering college. I have strong interests in pursuing a Master's degree in electrical engineering immediately after completing my bachelor's degree. I am strongly interested in studying control systems in graduate school. Since my college is a smaller engineering school, EE electives are often chosen by students strictly because those are the only EE electives being offered that semester.

    Control Systems I is a required class in the EE major. My school offers Control Systems II and Digital Control Systems as EE electives. I really want to take these classes as I think they will help me in graduate school. However, they are both offered only once every three years! They will not be offered again until another 2 years. I will need to delay my graduation by 1 year just to take these classes.

    Should I wait for these classes? In the meantime, I could take some extra math classes that would really help me for graduate study in control systems. I could also take some technical writing classes and perhaps some extra physics classes as well. Wouldn't this show a graduate school admissions committee that I have a strong focus on this subject and thereby improve my chances for admission?

    Alternatively, I could take a range of EE electives that would give me an introductory background in many different specialties in EE. This would allow me to graduate sooner. However, I don't like this option since in graduate school, I would focus mainly on one area. I prefer using my undergraduate classes to strengthen my knowledge in a specific area.

    What should I do?
    Last edited: May 21, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. May 21, 2008 #2
    I'd just take them in grad school. You're basically delaying a year so you won't be behind in grad school.
  4. May 21, 2008 #3
    I'm pretty convinced that, unless your heart is set on MIT, they won't care too much. I agree with ekrim; apply to grad schools and take those classes when you get there.

    edit: I missed the part where you said you want to focus your undergrad studies. This is a noble goal, and you may love controls heart and soul, but breadth is important to an engineer too - studying other areas can get your creativity flowing and it can only embiggen your bag of tricks. Not to mention you still have two years left; I'm not suggesting that you cheat on controls, but you may want to sow your wild oats now.
    Last edited: May 21, 2008
  5. May 21, 2008 #4


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    A very cromulent point.
  6. May 22, 2008 #5


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    I don't know how your grading scheme works but if for example classes in the first year don't count heavily toward your degree class this would be a good time to do some courses on eg. circuit design or software eng. which will come in useful later.
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