I've been following this forum for a long time, and it's been quite helpful so far. You guys actually guided me very well, so I owe you all a big thanks! However, I can't find an answer to a specific question, which is unique to my case I guess. I will be very happy if you can give me some suggestions.
So I'm an international student (Kuwait) studying civil engineering in a well respected school in Canada. My first year was quite rough, and I did very bad. My freshman GPA was 2.5 (no excuses, I partied too much). Then in second year, I increased it to 3.4 (which is deans list in my school). Then in third year, my GPA jumped to 3.85.
I really want to get into to some top-10 engineering schools in States, for my masters. Quite a while ago, someone in this forum suggested that I get some research experience. So I applied to Nserc-USRA, which is a highly competitive and prestegious summer research award given to undergrad students in Canada. I will also be doing senior year thesis, which was optional.
I will be taking GRE in september, and I haven't started studying for it yet (research keeps me very busy in these days).
Despite the increasing trend in my GPA, I kind of feel like I'm not a strong candidate because my cumulative is 3.2. (Without freshman year, it's 3.57!)
So here are some very important questions that can help me choose a path!
a) I realized that I don't want to do research-based master, and want to do MEng instead. Will my research still count as a valuable experience? Is it easier to get into MEng although my current experiences are more research focused? Or will I have more chance if I applied for M.Sc (research based)?
b) If I apply for fall admissions, I will not be able to send my senior year grades. Only some schools will be able to view my 4th year first semester grades since their deadlines are a bit late. So admission officers will not have a chance to see more of my upward trend, and will only see my CGPA as 3.2...! So, should I take a gap year and apply for Fall 2014? Note that my research papers will be published about a year from now too... So there won't be any publications in my application if I apply this fall.
c) I know people in this forum don't like to rate chances but I really want to know if my list is too competitive for my profile. I want to apply to universities such as UC Berkeley, Stanford, Columbia, CMU, Cornell, Toronto, Cambridge, Oxford (yes, UK too), Northwestern, GA Tech, MIT. The reason why I have so many schools in my list is because I'm scared of too many rejections.
I know it's a long post, but if you took the time to read it, please throw an opinion and you will be rewarded with lots of appreciation! Thank you for being helpful guys...