So the title question is not real clear so let me try to elaborate. I am currently 30 and a senior in college. I will be graduating this spring with a BS in Computer Engineering. The way my school is set up the Comp-Sci and Computer Engineering departments are together and the Electrical Engineering department is separate. I expect to graduate with over a 3.5 gpa (not wonderful) but have no research or intern/on the job experiences. I am looking at continuing on at this same institution with their phd program. My gre scores verbal 165, Quantitative 158. Their cut off is 146 verbal and 156 quantitative. I still need to talk with them and see how they utilize the gre scores and see if I need to retake the gre and up my quantitative score.

So from that mediocre beginnings I come to the grand finale. When talking with professors and otherwise looking/learning in my field. How do you find those areas that are new and pushing into the frontier. When I write a letter of intent and they want me to tell them what I want to be doing. Where do I go read up on the new stuff for my major. What are some all around objectives and methods that people use and then specific to computer engineering what are people reading or procuring their resources from.

What other things could I do in this last year that may help my chances of being picked?

As an additional question, Letters of recommendation would be coming from professors from within the department that will be doing the selection. Some of these Professors would be the ones heading my thesis committee(i think that's right). Does anyone have any experience they can relate where they went to grad school at the same institution that they go their BS degree from. I will have one outside reference as a peer mentor for our freshman engineering program but otherwise most of the professors have seen me go over the top in my work for their classes.

4 Answers 4


Why do you think you should be admitted?

The admissions committee will ask themselves: if this applicant has mediocre qualifications, why should we admit them? Why should we believe they will be successful? So, you should be asking yourself that question, and thinking about what your answer would be.

If you have a good answer to that question, that might tell you how to make yourself stand out: emphasize the parts that make you think you are well-qualified to succeed. Your application is a chance to tell your story and answer that question for the admissions committee.


There are a number of other things that could be included in an application, assuming of course you have done these:

  • Any and all publications, conference proceedings and seminars.
  • Any tutoring you may have performed.
  • Any other activities that demonstrate your work ethic and capacity to learn.

This is not an exhaustive list, but may be a start. Having said all this, my undergraduate grades were ordinary and I had no problem getting into postgraduate courses.

One thing that you need to do is speak with the admissions, professors etc of the institution you are intending to study postgraduate studies with.

I hope this helps.


A 3.5 GPA is a good, but from your post, it sounds like you may need to focus on your letters of recommendation.

I would focus on my letters of recommendation. Three good letters of recommendation will likely remedy a good (but not steller) GPA, and average GRE scores. Especially if you are applying to the university you are currently attending, I'd focus on forging relationships with profs that you like, and getting as involved as possible in your department.

If you already are involved, kudos. Go to the profs that are your faculty contacts for the clubs/organizations you are involved in, and get 3 great letters of recommendation.

If you are in the US, you should also consider applying for a masters degree if you feel your application will not be strong enough. This will give you extra years to build your PhD application, and will set the bar a little lower for acceptance.


About your last question about moving from the undergraduate to the graduate programs at the same university. I have known well three people who did this. The first two, in a math program, had had mediocre grades/test scores but had very strong relationships with faculty members and were admitted to the graduate programs because the admissions committee knew the students beyond their grades/test scores. The third was in an engineering program and he was accepted at multiple graduate programs and chose for personal and some academic reasons to stay put.

Long story short, if the committee knows you personally and not just as an application folder that can make a huge difference in your chances. So take advantage of the fact that you know the faculty who are making this decision and talk to them.

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