I'm in a predicament.

I majored in Computer Science as an undergraduate at a top university, and landed a job straight out of college at a web development firm. After a year of working at said company, I am itching to get back to school pursue a study of a topic in college that I found fascinating, which is East Asian Studies.

My problem is that the only experience I have with EAS is the minor in it that I acquired during my undergraduate career. The list ends there. I fear that I won't be able to get 3 recommendation letters from the professors that used to teach me (it's been a year, my study was only a minor, the school I went to didn't have the strongest faculty supporting the focus in East Asian Studies I wanted to pursue, etc), and that there isn't a strong enough background of experience, research, or published works to make up for it.

Is a graduate program still something I can think about pursuing? I am more than willing to spend a few months patching up my resume and my background to not only better my application but also actually get involved in this topic of research, but I am not sure where to start...

Any thoughts?

  • Are you proficient in one of the East Asian languages? Strong language skills can be the key getting into good graduate schools.
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 4:32
  • @scaahu: I took elementary Japanese in college, and am fluent in Korean although I am probably not fluent at the graduate level. Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 5:17
  • 4
    Your Asian language skills sounds very good. I don't think the admission commitee would expect you to have graduate level language skills because EAS was only your minor. Be sure to mention your strength(your comment above) and the your passion about EAS. I believe you'll have a good chance. The reason is that they'll understand you want study EAS since you have deep interest (you can easily make money with your CS degree). This is the kind of students they want.
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 5:27
  • Worst case they may ask you to take a few undergraduate courses, a sort of prep year.
    – P. O.
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 11:50

1 Answer 1


In terms of "logistics," I would try to get one recommendation from a Computer Science professor, one from a language professor, and maybe one from an East Asian Studies professor (if not, then find the closest equivalent).

You are in a stronger position than you may think. Most applicants in East Asian (or similar studies), are stronger than you on the topic, but weak on "tools" that they need to pursue the degree. Two of those "tools" happen to be computer science (they call it quantitative methods) and languages, in which you are strong.

As a person that may be weak on the topic but strong on "tools," you are actually a rare commodity. Most faculties in soft sciences and social studies fear that their graduate students will be unemployable outside the field. You are the exception to the rule, and therefore represent a "lower risk."

My father, a retired engineering professor, used to say that it was easier for a good math and computer science person to take a graduate degree in Economics than for someone with an undergraduate Economics degree (and not the others).

Your minor in East Asian studies is enough to demonstrate your interest in the topic. The strength of your "tools" probably gives you an advantage over others.

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