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Grad School Recommendations/Advice

JDotOperatorJDotOperator Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
Hi everyone, I'm about graduate from USC at the end of the summer term, but the thing is, my GPA is quite average. I started in January 2016 (spring admit) and my GPA is currently ~3.2. I failed a class my second semester and have a few C's. I did attend several community colleges where my GPA's ranged from 3.8 to 4.0, but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to factor that into my GPA. Regardless, for my most recent 60 units, my GPA is around 3.2 as I mentioned.

I would love to apply for grad school at USC, but I fell like my GPA is too low for the PhD program in linguistics (they take about 6-7 students per year from what I've heard). So my plan was to apply to Cal State Long Beach and complete a masters degree in linguistics there and hopefully return to USC if I do pretty decent. What are my chances of being accepted? I'm going to graduate with a degree in computational linguistics, so I have the linguistics background - just fairly average grades in most of the classes. I did do some research (presented at the school's research symposium) and took a graduate level course in machine learning (which I thankfully aced), but I'm very concerned about my GPA since the admission requirements recommend a GPA of at least 3.0 in the most recent 60 units and I'm barely above that.

Any advice is very much appreciated. Any other school recommendations are also welcome. Or do you think I should try and work first?

Replies to: Grad School Recommendations/Advice

  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,579 Super Moderator
    How much research did you do? Since you are already at USC, you can talk to your advisors and/or the professors you did research with about your competitiveness as an applicant to the PhD program there. Use the connections you already have! They can help determine how likely it is you'd be admitted to the PhD program there and elsewhere.

    My other piece of advice is not to get laser-focused on one program. Most successful PhD students apply to several different programs. Of course, the number should be guided by your career interests. Many students know they want a PhD and can't imagine doing anything, so they might apply to 7-12 PhD programs or more. Some students only want to attend a handful of schools to study exactly what they want and/or attend an elite program, and so they may only apply to 4-6 programs with a strong Plan B in case they aren't admitted anywhere.

    Why do you want a PhD in linguistics?
  • JDotOperatorJDotOperator Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    @juillet My research experience is quite limited. I had taken a computational linguistics course my fall semester and had been performing really well - getting perfect scores on exams, so the professor asked me to take his graduate machine learning course in the spring semester. Outside of class that semester is when I was doing research, so it was really just like a semester research project. I did briefly mention to my advisor that I wanted to pursue graduate school one day, but not that I necessarily wanted to try applying to USC (I was really embarrassed about my GPA to ask). Anyway, he strongly advised that I take advanced syntax and/or advanced phonology if I was serious about trying for graduate school. I took the advanced syntax course and somehow achieved a better grade than I did in the intro syntax course.

    I get what you're saying. I was really focused/set on the CSULB masters program for now because it's only of the only programs that I know offers spring admission. I don't really have a plan b if they don't accept me. I wouldn't mind working for a bit if things don't work out, but my only job offer so far isn't really related to linguistics at all; it has more to do with my programming background.

    I have two reasons for wanting to pursue a PhD in linguistics, but one of them is a bit silly. The silly reason is that I see a lot of job postings on linguist list that ask for masters/phd graduates in computational linguistics/linguistics and I really fear that just a BS in comp ling isn't really going to cut it for the jobs I want. My second reason is that I really fell in love with some areas of linguistics and want to explore them further/do more research. Syntax was my absolute favorite sub-field of linguistics and in my child language acquisition course, I was the only student that bothered to do their term project using actual children; the rest used speech data from a database. I also really enjoyed the computational linguistics course I took with the professor I did some research with. His undergraduate class was my absolute favorite class at USC, so I really would like to continue.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,579 Super Moderator
    edited June 22
    That's not a silly reason to want to study linguistics; that's a GOOD reason. If all the job ads for what you want to do require a certain degree and skill set, it is a good practice to pursue that degree and skill set.
    I get what you're saying. I was really focused/set on the CSULB masters program for now because it's only of the only programs that I know offers spring admission. I don't really have a plan b if they don't accept me. I wouldn't mind working for a bit if things don't work out, but my only job offer so far isn't really related to linguistics at all; it has more to do with my programming background.

    Yeah, this isn't a good reason, because you might be more competitive and better suited for a different kind of MA program that admits in the fall as most do. It doesn't matter if you work in a non-linguistics-related field after college, especially since the job is programming related and you are interested in computational linguistics. It's totally fine to work for a year or more and go back and apply later.

    The tough part is going to be the lack of research experience - most social science programs expect you to have 1-2 years of research experience, and sometimes a summer experience as well. An MA program will also help here, as it usually has built-in opportunities to earn research experience.
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