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.

  • 1. Why such a push for grad school--why is it even a target? Do you have a job? Can you put your efforts, interests into your career? Some people are mediocre students but great in the work world. 2. How were your GRE scores? If high, than at least you might be able to claim aptitude. – guest Feb 7 at 16:49
  • This scientist's blog has a worthwhile perspective on why "good students" aren't always the best people for a lab. – Elizabeth Henning Feb 7 at 22:16

Grad school with a 2.62

You may need to accept grad school is not in your future. At least not in your near future. Exactly why do you want to go to grad school? Have you considered starting a company working in a field you're passionate about?

If you really want to go to grad school, here is what I'd do.

1) Stay at your current company and get raises and promotions. Be sure to stay in touch with everyone who praised your work.

2) Make sure you have a very concrete reason why your GPA will be a lot higher. Having a few good semesters won't cancel out years of bad grades.

3) Get your company to pay for it

4) Make sure your GREs are AWESOME!

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