I'm highly interested in going to grad school in electromagnetics (eventually a Ph.D.) but for various reasons, most of which are my fault, and some aren't, I graduated with a horrible GPA. In short, my transcript sucks.
My initial attempt to get around this was that if that I do extra-curricular research that is impressive/relevant enough, it will at some point outweigh the GPA and let someone consider working with me.
I volunteered at a professor's lab for a year (not interested in his field, but it was the best opportunity I found). I studied on my own for an average of 4hrs/day on online grad course material for about 2 years and can say that I now have a somewhat solid understanding of the field, comfortable reading and understanding published papers, wrote my FDTD solver, as well as other self-study projects that are directly relevant to the field. Left my full time software job after 2 years to fully devote myself to this cause because I didn't want to waste more time.
After almost 3 years from graduation, I started contacting potential supervisors but never heard back positively (aside from a professor stating that her work is Chemistry and not EE based and stating that my background is "super interesting" which might be just a compliment.)
My question is, will this approach get me anywhere? I'm confident that my background in the field will consistently get better the more I keep doing this, but what if it is a dead-end as far as graduate admissions are concerned?
EDIT (with GRE information):
My GRE scores are slightly above average, 158 quant. and 156 verbal.
I did pretty awesome at my job, in fact I was called the "brightest person in the company" by my supervisor, and the "smartest person in the team" by a VP. That team including two fellow classmates that graduated with distinction.
However, I quit because I felt I was wasting my life doing something I didn't like. I tried getting a job exactly my field of interest (electromagnetics/optics) but I wasn't successful.
The push for grad school is because I believe my horrible grades are not a reflection of my ability, and are at least partly due to mistakes that I have learned from. The other part is rampant cheating and serious unprofessionalism on part of some of the professors, but I don't like stressing that part as I believe owning my mistakes is far better than blaming others.
I truly find myself in doing research work, contributing to the field I like, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get there.