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Is grad school a realistic goal for me?

MissChemE20MissChemE20 2 replies1 threads New Member
About a month ago, I decided to apply to PhD programs in chemical engineering after reflecting on my co-ops. One was in a chemical plant, which I didn't care for, and one was in R&D, which I LOVED. I also took courses for credit at my undergrad institution in research and liked it. I decided I want to go into research, and not process engineering, and it seems like process engineering is what you are limited to do with a BS in Chem Eng. Unfortunately, I went into college thinking I would want to go into industry, so my GPA is a 3.2. Many students applying to grad programs have a 3.5-3.8 or even higher. I also only had about 3 weeks to study for the GRE on top of my classes, and I took it yesterday. I am upset because my quant score is lower than every practice I have done. I got a 160 quant and 157 verbal (unofficially). Most programs that I am planning to apply have somewhere between a 160-165 average quant score. I have narrowed down my list to 7 and this is what it looks like:

-Top 10 programs: 1 school
-rank 11-20: 1 school
-rank 21-30: 1 school
-rank 30-40: 1 school
-rank 50-60: 1 school
-rank 61-70: 2 schools

Is it likely I will get in SOMEWHERE? The schools I picked are because I like both their research activities and geographic location. I am pretty certain the top 20 schools are a definite long shot now especially with my GRE, but what about the rest? My recs are stellar, but I am not sure how much that matters in the process.
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Replies to: Is grad school a realistic goal for me?

  • juilletjuillet 12724 replies162 threads Super Moderator
    Someone in engineering can speak to this better than me. But generally, PhD admissions aren't just about performance in classes or the GRE (the GRE is actually the least important part of your application), but also about your research experience and your research interests. Doctoral students serve as apprentices to working professor-researchers, and usually programs like to see that you have at least around 2 years of research experience. They like to see that you know what you're getting yourself into AND that you will be useful in the lab as an assistant.

    Your co-op, depending on its length and the kind of work you were doing in it, might suffice as research experience. You say it's in R&D, but working in tech, I know that some kinds of R&D are pretty similar to academic research and some kinds are decidedly not.

    You're correct in surmising that your GPA puts you at a disadvantage, since most admitted students have higher GPAs. Your GRE also puts you at a small disadvantage, since your quant score is on the lower end of acceptable for most quantitative programs.


    The other thing is: you don't want to just get in SOMEWHERE. You want to get into a program that is a good fit for your research interests, where there are mentors who can help you grow into an independent researcher, and where you have a reasonable chance of getting a good job (academic or otherwise) after graduation. Geographic location factors in a little (especially if you are interested in industry), but it certainly should be a secondary concern.
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  • MissChemE20MissChemE20 2 replies1 threads New Member
    Thanks for your input!

    As for your last point, I wanted to add (and probably should have in my post), that I have already narrowed down the seven schools I listed above first by if there is research available in the fields I am interested in and their success rates for their grad students THEN down by places that I'd know I'd be content living in for the next 4+ years. So those seven I have listed fit both criteria, but I definitely looked into the research component first. By "somewhere" I meant out of my top 7 schools, which are each ranked somewhere between #5-#70 nationally. One of my professors said that it doesn't make sense to live somewhere you won't like for grad school when there are likely programs that fit your interests that you will like living in, and I agree with that.

    Thanks for your clarification on the GRE/GPA as well. Your opinion is what I have suspected as well. The professors I am close with and other mentors think I will likely get in to at least one of the seven schools I am planning on applying to, and I hope they are right. I guess only time will tell... I was looking for an outside opinion though, so that you for that!
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  • MissChemE20MissChemE20 2 replies1 threads New Member
  • coolguy40coolguy40 2649 replies6 threads Senior Member
    You don't have to go straight into a PhD program from undergrad. You could get a masters degree first, then go for a PhD program afterward. Either way, you'll carry the title of "Doctor."
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  • boneh3adboneh3ad 7486 replies132 threadsForum Champion Engineering Forum Champion
    I think you'll likely get into at least a few of your schools. Some may ask you to do an MS first as well.
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  • GoatGirl19GoatGirl19 332 replies5 threads Member
    I applied in BME to a similar distribution of schools (because of region and my GPA my list ended up skewing a little higher on the rank scale). I had similar GRE scores as well. I had two summers' plus one semester research experience in undergrad, plus a full year as a research intern in high school in a totally different area. I agree with others that you're likely to get into at least one or two of your schools, but I would put a lot of effort into making your personal statement/statement of purpose unique to each program. The personal statement and recommendations are the most important part of your application. Also, know that there are often (depending on the program) two ways that a PhD student can be admitted--program admission, where the whole department agrees that you are a good fit for the program and possibly for several of the labs in the program, and direct admission, where a PI asks for you specifically. You won't always know which method a program uses. If you are very familiar with or interested a particular research group's work, be sure to mention them in your statement, because they might have the power to directly admit you if they think you are a good fit for their lab, regardless of your stats.
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