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What does it take to get in an elite EE program?

  1. Jul 29, 2006 #1
    Hey everyone. I've been doing some thinking about grad school, and I have a question.

    I'm an undergrad in Electrical Engineering, and I plan on going to grad school after I graduate. There are three school that have alway been kind of my "dream" schools to go to do (MIT, Caltech, or Stanford), and I was just wondering, what does it take to get accepted into a school like this? Right now I'm sitting at a pretty good GPA, just shy of 4.0 (although I've heard my upcoming classes are very hard, so it might take a slide).
    I saw somewhere that Stanford receives 1500 applications and there are only 75 accepted. I was wondering, what kind of GPA do I need to even have a shot? Also, what else is admission based on, and what could I do in the next couple years to improve my chances? Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2006 #2
    what year are you entering in sept??

    i know for mathematics/physics grad school, an elite GPA is usually required for elite programs; i'm guessing like a 3.7+ is elite? you need good GRE scores, i dunno if engineering programs require that you take the GRE Mathematics Subject exam, but you should get a 90% or above percentile score in the general GRE quantitative exam. Great reccomendations. In math/physics, i heard reccomendations are very very important, almost as important as grades to some degree, depending on the quality of the reccomendation. Also, try to do some research, just get involved with your EE faculty in some regard and stay involved.

    the "ideal" candidate would have
    1) excellent GPA
    2) great reccomendations
    3) research experience
    4) top 90+ percentile scores in relevant GRE exams (GRE general and or GRE Math subjet)
    5) and not as important, but coming from an elite undergrad also helps a lot; ie Harvard, MIT

    hope this helps
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2006
  4. Jul 29, 2006 #3
    I'm going to be a sophmore this fall, attending the University of Minnesota, which is by no means an elite school, but I like to think that it's respectable.
  5. Jul 29, 2006 #4
    my friend is an EE (and also physics and math), and wants to get into MIT, stanford, or carnegie mellon.

    not to discourage you but...

    he's a goldwater scholar
    he's a third author on a published paper
    he's been taking seven classes a semester recently, most of which this upcoming semester are graduate courses
    he wants to graduate with an MS in physics instead of a BS (this might not happen due to administrative policies, not because he won't have the necessary courses completed by graduation)
    he's a triple major.
    (not sure of his gpa, but i imagine it's quite high.)

    ...even he's worried about getting into those schools.

    sorry to be a downer, but it's just extremely competitive, especially with MIT.
  6. Jul 30, 2006 #5
    Can you get a letter of reccomendation from a professor or manager that did go to one of those schools? They might have some pull.
  7. Jul 30, 2006 #6
    My advisor is a grad of Caltech, could I someday use him as a reference? I don't work real close with him in anything, but I think he likes me from the little bit we've talked. And yeah, I know that since I'm only a sophmore it might be a little early to be thinking about recommendations for grad school. But I suppose it's better to be thinking too early than too late, right?

    Is there anything in particular I should be doing in these next couple years? Getting involved in research, internships, etc...? Thank you!
  8. Jul 30, 2006 #7

    talk to your advisor a lot, then! just don't be irritating. :tongue:

    not sure if EE programs demand a lot of research for undergrads, but i imagine that it is important.
  9. Jul 30, 2006 #8
    Any particular minors or even a double major that would make me stand out? Like math, physics, or csci?
  10. Jul 30, 2006 #9
    It certainly wouldn't hurt to get involved with research. In fact, if I were you, I would try and get in touch with the most prominent professor in your department (assuming that you're interested in their research), because a recommendation from him or her could help you out a lot.
  11. Jul 30, 2006 #10
    That earlier the better! Your "resume" pretty much as to be completed before your senior year. There is so much to do and so much needed to be done. Good luck.
  12. Jul 31, 2006 #11
    so Stanford had a 5% acceptance rate? Sorry, completely wrong. According to US News World and Report Top Grad Schools, Stanford had a 35.8% acceptance rating for it's engineering program, in fact, no school in the top 50 had less than a 10% acceptance rating.
  13. Jul 31, 2006 #12
    My bad on saying Stanford, now that I look back, it was UC Berkeley that I was remembering.

    "For Fall 2006 we had approximately 2500 applicants for about 75 slots."

    http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/Gradadm/Competition.htm [Broken]

    I guess I really hadn't even looked at Stanford stats. Good to know at least they're somewhat high :)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  14. Aug 1, 2006 #13
    It's nice to have goals and a plan for the future, and you should keep those - however, you still have ALL of your engineering classes to go. If you're not a sophomore yet, you've just barely started your engineering classes.

    What you need to be concerned with right now is just keeping your GPA up. Don't bother with research right now. Just work hard, truly learn the material, and get to know your professors.
  15. Aug 1, 2006 #14
    Thanks Maxwell, I know that I may be...jumping the gun a bit. But I just want to make sure theres nothing I should be doing now (other than working on my current classes), I don't want to get into my senior year and think back and say "I wish I'd done this or this when I had a chance".
  16. Aug 1, 2006 #15
    Ok, here's a musing I had:

    What looks better to admissions - having a great GPA (such as 3.9-40) and a single major in EE, or a less GPA (3.6-3.9) and a double major in like physics or csci? Because I'm afraid my GPA will drop if I take on the extra classes for the double major and still want to do a bit of research and have the occassional party/night of drinking on the weekends (you know...to make myself a well rounded person [I really don't do that much drinking, but would still like time to spend with friends])
  17. Aug 1, 2006 #16
    I am curious about this too. I will only have around a 3.5 GPA when I graduate (I am hoping around here) and am wondering if my double major in EE and physics will help me in being competitive. I too would like to go to a strong grad school like Berkeley, but after reading this thread it seems I will not be competitive, unless I land a phenomenal research job next summer or something.

    I would like to add that I may finish with a minor in chemstry, for what it's worth.
  18. Aug 2, 2006 #17
    I think the most important thing is to do research. You don't have to publish anything, and it doesn't even have to be related to what you want to study in grad school. But of the 3 main factors, recommendation letters, grades, and GRE scores, I think recommendation letters are by far the most important, and if you do reserach and get to know a professor and show him you are motivated, you will get a very good non-generic letter from that person. I think GPA is only important in the sense that you have to be above a certain threshhold, say, 3.5, but beyond that, I don't think they care about 3.7 vs 3.9. I would say take more classes if you want because it's always good to learn stuff and it shows you want to learn, and don't worry about a small GPA drop. I don't think double majors mean a whole lot.
  19. Aug 2, 2006 #18
    One time I got a recommendation that that was only 3 sentences long. My professor basically said he had my in his class in class X and I got a good grade. :rolleyes:
  20. Aug 2, 2006 #19
    Also, while we're sort of on the subject, would a Stanford-esque grad school get me a better job/starting pay than, say, where I'm at now at the University of Minnesota?
  21. Aug 2, 2006 #20
    What matters most is what you do at grad school and not the name of the school. However, the more prestigious schools probably have more money to give you better research projects.
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