Will My Recent Past Achievements & Turnaround Stand Me Out?

Hello! I want to hear my chances of getting into an Ivy League school, such as Harvard Graduate School. Was planning in a Masters in Data Science [ Master's in Data Science | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences ]

Small Background: Went to Rutgers-Newark in 2015 and graduated in 2020. Up until 2018, I was kind of careless and depressed about my current situation (parent divorce, depression, etc…) and switched from Chemistry to Computer Science [my true passion] but had a “wake-up” moment in Jan 2019. Up until Jan 2019, I had a 2.1 GPA but graduated with a 2.6 GPA in late 2020. I did a lot of activities [listed below] which I hope somewhat makes up.


  • U.S. Citizen by birth
  • Middle Eastern
  • Live in a Middle Class area

GPA: 2.6 [out of 4.0, yes i know its low]

[All activities below happened after Jan 2019]

  • Took part in Leader position in my Computer Science Club
  • Apprenticeship in the Google Developer Student Club
  • Won first place in a challenge in a competition hosted by a non-profit org and Panasonic North America
  • Capstone Intern as a Developer at a Marketing and Research company for a semester. Had to use Tensorflow to build an AI Model
  • Deans List in 2019

Jobs & Activities:

  • Helped collect and test patients for my county in the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic.
  • Part time job as a Ecommerce Manager at a jewelry store up until 2021. We sold on Amazon and eBay, including our own storefront
  • Apprenticeship in a YouTuber-ran organization [YouTuber in the Data Science field]
  • Contractor as a Data Engineer with a marketing and analytics firm. Worked with a large, well known, fast-food company [ has locations in NJ, California, DC, Texas, Massachusetts, from what I know] along with a large online clothing company with a niche audience.

Currently I have 2+ years working as a Software Engineer II at a tech startup serving the medical field with over 200+ clients, I also do a lot of the DevOps for the company [setting up pipelines, AWS, Google Cloud, etc]. I first joined before the company launched as someone who just did tech support since they had no one doing that at the time so wanted to show I was here to work. Jumped through the ranks quickly and work with the CTO and CPO quite regularly. Im the only SWE based in America [other than CTO].
Also launching a startup with 3 other friends next month but I know that has no merit yet until launch. Kind of excited though.

Also have some projects on my GitHub, nothing that has many stars or forks, just helpful projects from Python Bots to projects I did in school. Do want to make more and post them though.

3 certificates taken only from Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan. Currently taking Harvard’s EdX CS50 Intro Into AI just to get a educational head start.

As for my three letter of recommendations, I wanted to get from my professor that now works at Google [will be using his @google.com email to send the LOR request], my CTO, and either my CEO or someone else at my company that just graduated from Harvard. Im hoping to ask him because I wanted to ask him if I could send the LOR request to his Harvard email.

I was planning of taking a Data Science masters now or a MBA in the future. I applied to Georgia Tech, UPenn, NJIT, Seton Hall, Montclair for the Computer Science/Data Science [depending on which program I get in].

But let’s say I wanted to go to Harvard, such as the MBA in the future. I understand Harvard is very competitive but I truly have turned my life around and I want to know how I can prove it.

What advice or recommendations would you give? If im in a very weak position now, what would you say is the best way to pivot to stand out?

Your work experience is great. You’ll have to build on that.

A Harvard won’t happen. But all you can do is put your best self out there. Someone may take a chance.

On the flipside, your current path may have more earning potential than an mba.

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I guess I figured but why will a Harvard wont happen. I understand its a competitive school but i dont have to go this semester. If there is something I can do long-term, why not?

It is hard to predict admissions, including graduate admissions. One issue is that there are fewer people who have experience with graduate admissions.

What is the status of these applications? Did you just send them in?

If you get a master’s degree, and if you to really well in getting this degree, then this might help any future graduate school applications if the combination of degrees makes sense. A technical masters (such as in data science) and an MBA to me does look like a reasonable combination.

One thing that I did not get from your original post is what your GPA was by year, and what it was for your major. At least my experience in graduate school admissions, from quite a while ago but at some highly ranked universities, suggests that courses that were way outside of my major really did not matter. Specifically as a math major a couple of bad grades in art courses did not seem to matter at all. If your bad grades are mostly early (such as freshman and sophomore year) and not in your major that might not be as important compared to your work experience and your grades in your major.

Are you in a position to start a graduate program, say, one year from now (or 13 months from now)? Startups can take a lot of energy and effort over multiple years.

What is the status of these applications? Did you just send them in?

Yes, just sent them. They closed only this week so Im playing the waiting game. I know most though, such as Harvard, start their application in September.

If you get a master’s degree, and if you to really well in getting this degree, then this might help any future graduate school applications if the combination of degrees makes sense.

Well, i am definitely getting the master’s program in Data Science or Computer Science, depending on what I get accepted too. Good to hear that an MBA combination is not a crazy thing. Of course, I am not applying for an MBA in the near future but I want to prepare myself from now so I can look like a great candidate for when the time comes.

One thing that I did not get from your original post is what your GPA was by year, and what it was for your major.

So lots of my bad grades first started when I was taking Chemistry. Not surprising as I realized I had 0% in the field. The issue was I was taking these in thinking of going down the med school route [as requested by my parents, thank god I avoided]. Later on, lots of classes I did take that were my major still did poor due to the issues I stated. It was only towards 2019 that I made a different.

Spring 2019 Term Avg: 2.7 - Cum Avg: 2.3
Summer 2019 Term Avg: 2.5 - Cum Avg: 2.4
Fall 2019 Term Avg: 3.75 - Cum Avg: 2.5
Spring 2020 Term Avg: 4.0 - Cum Avg: 2.6

Can you see the jump? Before, most was in 2.3ish. Still kicking myself for my stupidity because I feel it will haunt me forever.

Are you in a position to start a graduate program, say, one year from now.

Yes Im aware and can handle.

I’m not their AO but with a 3.7 average GPA and 5 years of work experience - it’s unlikely they would take that hit to their stats.

But again, if your work experience is amazing and you have a great story, who knows.

If you don’t apply - you won’t get in - but if you’re asking my opinion, they’ll see your academic shortcoming as a reason to reject you. Mind you, they’re rejecting many - so why penalize someone who did perform academically vs. you.

But truth is, there’s only one way for you to find out - apply. Since their average is 5 years work experience and because you had a 2.6, any meaningful work and promotions can only help your cause.

Do you have a GMAT? The median is 730, at the 96th percentile.

Good luck

No GMAT since im not going for an MBA now. Actually their Data Science program does not even want to see the GRE score at all. I think it will be impossible for me to get a chance this semester but in the future it will probably be. I only have 2 years work experience so we will see what happens in 5.

The thing is, let’s say I apply for MBA at 5 years. Exactly what would be good for me to work on until then? I dont think going back to undergrad is a possibility. I might just have to try doing my best at Grad School and using that to hopefully replace my undergrad college scores.

Why does it have to be Harvard?

If you want an education, you’ll be able to find an education.

I don’t see Harvard happening for you but prove me wrong. But don’t be Harvard or bust. Either you want the education or you don’t.

Good luck to you.


Why does it have to be Harvard

Why not?

I think its just aiming for the best. Before, I used to take anything and that’s probably what got me a bad start in college but now when you have the drive to work your way up and redeem yourself from your former past, you want to prove to yourself your not the same person you were once before and you have a reason why.

I won’t be “Harvard or bust”, ill explore my options.

If you want an education, you’ll be able to find an education.

Your right, I do. But then again, why wouldn’t anyone just be happy with any community college or state school? Some people want the best out there and they want to work their way to prove it. It what keeps us going in life, something to strive for, a goal to set, a moment you can show yourself how you have outdone yourself.

I know I have to be realistic to a certain extent but sometimes you really don’t want to be chained to your past and something inside of you needs to prove you have outdone that. I hope im making sense of this.

By the way, thank you for your opinion. Im not angry or anything. I need opinion, criticism included, to think outside the box.

I understand.

But, what do you hope to get out of a Master’s at Harvard, or GT or UPenn? Is it just the satisfaction of having gone to a prestigious school, or do you think it’ll benefit your career?

You already have a few years of work experience and seem to be doing well. If you plan to continue working in tech, your work experience will matter a lot more at this point than a Master’s degree. This is something you may want to consider, before spending the time and money (including the opportunity cost) to go back to school full time.


Totally agreed - why I said this?

With today’s high salaries, it may be difficult for someone to launch into a full time MBA from a financial perspective. There are still reasons to attend of course.