Tough Grad School Application Situation

The school experience. School related queries, discussions, and stories that aren't specific to a subject.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Prelates, Moderators General

Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby Splanky222 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:19 am UTC

I am currently in the process of applying to grad schools for Electrical Engineering and have a severe problem that has nothing to do with my academics, and knowing that xkcd attracts many academics in the sciences, I would like to know what advice anybody has on the subject (particularly those who are involved in some way with applications or grad schools in general). I am actually a Music major at my school, but I have a strong math background and have taken plenty of math. physics, and CS courses in preparation for applying to EE school with very good results(a decision I made after wondering all the time JUST HOW DO those Eq's work?). My problem has to do with recommendation letters: I have two music school professors who are writing me glowing recommendations but I feel like I need at least one professor who has taught me in mathematical / technical courses to write me a recommendation. The issue is that I have had 10 such courses, and every one has been taught by a different professor. It is not that my professors think that I am an unfit student for grad school, but none of them know me well enough to be able to write me a recommendation letter. For example, one professor wrote "Recommendation letters should say something about a student that isn't evident from the transcript and resume, and I don't feel that I can contribute anything in that respect." Any thoughts?

*EDIT: Or am I off base that I need a recommendation from a science/math professor at all? I just get the feeling that my application won't truly be taken seriously without one.
Splanky222
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:44 pm UTC

Re: Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby Splanky222 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:09 am UTC

The worst is that this isn't some sort of pipe dream. I spent the last two summers taking classes at a top-notch university instead of just relaxing. After seeing my results, I am convinced that I would make a top-notch student at a top-notch university. I guess I know that I may well not get any satisfactory answer here, but it's so damn stressful that it's just good to get it out somehwere. Thanks for existing, xkcd fora.
* In a sidenote, I came to my senses and contacted the chair of the Physics department to meet with me about this exact question.
Splanky222
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:44 pm UTC

Re: Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby doogly » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:19 am UTC

That is probably the best course of action. It certainly sounds like some sort of letter would be in your best interest; the chair seems best positioned to navigate this sort of question.
LE4dGOLEM: What's a Doug?
Noc: A larval Doogly. They grow the tail and stinger upon reaching adulthood.

Keep waggling your butt brows Brothers.
Or; Is that your eye butthairs?
User avatar
doogly
Dr. The Juggernaut of Touching Himself
 
Posts: 4232
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 2:31 am UTC
Location: Somerville, MA

Re: Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby Splanky222 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:48 am UTC

Thanks man. Maybe it sounds stupid but it's nice to hear that I'm going about this the right way.
PS, after seeing your signature I am absolutely going to go figure out the cost of a lego chair vs a similar sized ikea one. this kid just got completely nerd sniped!
Splanky222
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:44 pm UTC

Re: Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby Chen » Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:00 pm UTC

Is there a reason you're applying for a Master's (I assume since you say Grad school) in EE but not a Bachelor's? It just seems strange especially when coming from a completely unrelated degree.
Chen
 
Posts: 3604
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:53 pm UTC
Location: Montreal

Re: Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby Splanky222 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:32 pm UTC

That was my initial thought, but professors at a few of the different universities I am applying to have said that the best move is to apply for a Master's degree program or MS/PhD program and make up whatever holes I have left while simultaneously advancing what knowledge I already have. Furthermore, since my core liberal arts classes at my current school are going towards this bachelor's degree, I would have to completely redo them at another school to get a second Bachelor's degree.
Splanky222
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:44 pm UTC

Re: Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby jmorgan3 » Tue Dec 06, 2011 1:00 am UTC

Did any of the technical classes you took have a project component? That's a good way to demonstrate aptitude and interest, and a professor might remember you.
If you are willing to put off grad school for another year, you could probably get some undergrad research experience or some EE design project classes to make you stand out for letters.
Also, you might want to look into programs like this for the master's, so that your music background makes you an asset.
This signature is Y2K compliant.
Last updated 6/29/108
User avatar
jmorgan3
 
Posts: 710
Joined: Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:22 am UTC
Location: Pasadena, CA

Re: Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby Splanky222 » Tue Dec 06, 2011 5:07 am UTC

jmorgan3 wrote:Did any of the technical classes you took have a project component? That's a good way to demonstrate aptitude and interest, and a professor might remember you.


Actually no. There is no formal engineering school at my college, so aside from a couple EE courses I took this past summer at JHU, my courses have been more theoretical: physics, math, and CS. I figured that there was a good argument to be had for solidifying my theoretical base first anyways before jumping into EE practice.

jmorgan3 wrote:If you are willing to put off grad school for another year, you could probably get some undergrad research experience or some EE design project classes to make you stand out for letters.


I hadn't thought of that. I guess I figured I had to be a full time engineering student to get into a research program. I'll check that out for sure if I can't figure this situation out!

jmorgan3 wrote:Also, you might want to look into programs like this for the master's, so that your music background makes you an asset.


Yeah, I looked at that one, as well as CCRMA at Stanford, the program at Peabody Conservatory, and the one here in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon. CCRMA seemed cool, and I got the fantastic opportunity to talk with Dr Julius Smith and to meet (the now late) Max Matthews, but in general it seemed like these programs would have mostly entailed me struggling to produce graduate-level research and thesis work while having to fill in the holes in my undergraduate education in a very short amount of time, since the timetables for those programs seemed much less flexible than those of the straight EE programs. Also I wasn't sure that doing that sort of program wouldn't pigeohole me into the music industry, working for Waves or Universal Audio or the like. It's not that I wouldn't love to do that, but especially in this economy, the last thing I want to do is limit my job opportunities; I'll still be qualified for those jobs coming from a more traditional Master's program. Also in general, taking a more traditional approach would make me more qualified for PhD. and eventual teaching work, which is where I would eventually like to end up. Anyways, I decided instead to just push my lateral and creative thinking skills as much as I could through music school while piling on the math and science courses, and then dive headfirst into EE afterwards.
Splanky222
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:44 pm UTC

Re: Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby Bakemaster » Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:11 pm UTC

Speaking as someone who has worked a bit in grad admissions (though not at an engineering school), it would be highly preferable for you to include at least one letter of recommendation that speaks to your abilities as they relate directly to science and engineering. At the same time, your professor is absolutely right that the point of a letter of recommendation is to say something about you that can't be said by your official academic record; if you can't hit both of these considerations at once, it's almost definitely better to stick with the letters that don't relate to science and engineering but do actually provide information about you as a student.

Having said that, allow me to change hats and speak from my experience as a student. I went through nearly three full years of a B.M. in Film Scoring before I chose to pursue engineering. I had to complete a whole slew of math and science preparation just to be able to transfer to a university where I could study engineering at the undergraduate level. I'm in the middle of my core engineering curriculum right now and I think the most significant degree of freedom, if you will, in the strength of your grad school application may not necessarily be your letters of recommendation, but your curricular preparation. Can you give us more details about that? At the very least, it would be helpful to know how many units/credits you have taken in which subjects, at what class level (i.e. lower-division, upper-division, graduate-level), and with what GPA.

You are at a critical point right now having (it seems) not quite finished your undergraduate degree yet. The lack of engineering curriculum at your college (what college?) is unfortunate but there may be other avenues available for you; for instance, a great many schools have summer research opportunities specifically for visiting students from other campuses. Is your college connected with JHU in some way that lets you enroll in coursework there? If you can take more EE coursework there before graduating, that would certainly help. What's your financial situation - do you need aid to continue or are you paying your own way?
Image
c0 = 2.13085531 × 1014 smoots per fortnight
"Apparently you can't summon an alternate timeline clone of your inner demon, guys! Remember that." —Noc
User avatar
Bakemaster
pretty nice future dick
 
Posts: 8743
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:33 pm UTC
Location: tinyurl.com/dybqlp

Re: Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby Splanky222 » Fri Dec 09, 2011 6:03 pm UTC

Math: Calc 2+3, Linear Algebra, Diff EQ, and then Discrete and Numerical Analysis next semester. Physics: General Physics 1+2, Acoustics, E+M, Optics, Electrodynamics next semester. CS: Java, data structures next semester. EE: Circuits, Systems + Signals. total GPA in these courses is 3.68. All of these classes are from my university (which I am only not naming due respect to the privacy of my professors), except for Linear Algebra, Circuits, and Systems and Signals, which were from Johns Hopkins University over the last two summers. Also, in good news, the situation was resolved to the best of my abilities. My teacher for Diff EQ (who specializes in solving ODE's and PDE's for use in 2d image analysis) is writing me a recommendation for all except my first three applications due, which she can't make due to being in Washington for the next few days reviewing grant proposals. For the first three, the chair of the Physics department here has already written me recommendations based off of her experience with me as an advisor as well as from testimony from the professors I have had in the department.
Thanks to everyone who has responded, you guys/gals are all fantastic for helping me out!
Splanky222
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:44 pm UTC

Re: Tough Grad School Application Situation

Postby Bakemaster » Fri Dec 09, 2011 11:56 pm UTC

Good luck, let us know how it turns out.
Image
c0 = 2.13085531 × 1014 smoots per fortnight
"Apparently you can't summon an alternate timeline clone of your inner demon, guys! Remember that." —Noc
User avatar
Bakemaster
pretty nice future dick
 
Posts: 8743
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:33 pm UTC
Location: tinyurl.com/dybqlp


Return to School

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest