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Starting Gradschool in an off-semester: problem?

  1. Nov 18, 2006 #1

    I am currently a senior majoring in Electrical Engineering who is intent on entering grad school. I currently have about 5 or 6 classes to take before I graduate, with a possible extra class if I choose to apply to graduate with high honors and am looking at entering grad school soon. At the earliest, I could enter grad school next fall but I fear burnout, and moreover my qualifications since I haven't even taken the GRE yet (I plan to soon - before fall 07 apps are due). Unfortunately though, my schedule will be such that I can either graduate in the summer and forgo graduating with honors (my counselor implied to me that it wasn't that important) or I can stick around for the next fall, take some additional classes and qualify for honors.

    Recently one of the graduate coordinators at my university spoke to the undergrads about what admissions are like and all that jazz, and he noted that entering grad school in the spring (my current target for next year) is a poor choice because most graduate programs are small enough that typically all courses only have like one section, and that intro courses are taught only in the fall and their second components are only taught in the spring. This would make it difficult for me to set an appropriate pace apparently.

    My question for those in that know is then will my decision be poor to join a graduate program in a spring, regardless of institution? My soon-to-be alma mater, the University of Florida, is an absolutely massive school with a huge engineering program so I don't know how much more flexible other engineering schools are with graduate schedules. Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 20, 2006 #2
    Umm...fall 2007 applications are due really soon. All of the programs that I'm applying to are due in mid-December. You need to take the GRE ASAP, so that you have time to get your scores sent.
  4. Nov 21, 2006 #3
    Yeah I decided to postpone entering until spring '08 (typo in the original post but can't edit). I do still have reservations about going in on not a fall semester, but I'll cope I guess :p
  5. Nov 21, 2006 #4
    Seriously, I would more aim for Fall '08. Spring admissions can be a real pain, and many schools don't even allow them. It's not too late for Fall '07 either, but you would have to REALLY hurry.
  6. Nov 27, 2006 #5
    I concur -- also important... RESEARCH in applying to grad programs, is pretty important... is there any way to continue you current research after you graduate, or start some new project -- perhaps as paid technical staff (if you are no longer a student)?
  7. Nov 28, 2006 #6


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    I also will concur that it would be better to aim for Fall '08. First, you really should take the time to choose programs carefully, not just rush to get out applications without really knowing what each program has to offer. Second, it will really depend on the individual program as to how easy or difficult it is to enter in the spring. Some are more flexible than others in the order you take your courses, but you're also likely to feel a bit lost not really being a part of the class that entered in the Fall. Third, it will be a LOT harder to find assistantships to help pay your tuition and stipend. The entering class in the Fall usually gets all of those, which is another reason a lot of schools won't even bother considering Spring applicants, because they have no funding to offer them until the next Fall.

    It doesn't really matter if you finish up over the summer or the Fall, just take whatever is left of that year or half year and work while applying to grad schools. I'd strongly suggest trying to find a lab related to your eventual interests in grad school and working as a technician so you can demonstrate that you know what you're getting into with research when you start going on your interviews.

    As you're looking into graduate programs that interest you, take the time to look up the individual faculty members who are doing work you're interested in and contact them personally. Let them know you're interested in applying to the program, and ask if they are likely to be accepting new students in the year you would need to find a lab to work in. There is no point in applying to a program if the only faculty with research that interests you aren't currently taking students. I've seen students do this over and again, and then they bounce around all over the place looking for another lab to work in, and often have to "settle" for something less interesting to them, all because they didn't bother to find out that the person doing work they were interested in already had a full lab, or was retiring soon, or had just accepted a position at another university, or didn't have funding for that project anymore.
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