I'm an undergraduate student studying computer science in my last year. I graduate in Spring 2017. I have a 2.97 GPA. I will likely have a 3.0-3.1 when I graduate. I want to end up at a top university for grad school and dream of being a researching professor.

I recently was able to speak in person with a new assistant professor from a top school at a conference recently about working with him through an RA or post-bac position. We got along well and he enjoyed my ideas as I did his. It seems like we fit well as people (which is important, I'd say). We're still corresponding via email.

The RA position is up in the air until he files the grant for it so until then my only viable option to work with this professor is through this post-bac program.

Here's my dilemma:

I'm concerned my GPA and lack of a strong 'rising trend' will outright prevent my acceptance to this post-bac program. And if the RA position isn't an option, there goes my chance at getting networked into this top school for now. I know this isn't the whole truth and that it's a more nuanced situation but I can't help feeling this way sometimes.

Here are my questions:

  1. How helpful is it to get into top post-bac programs for low-GPA students if they: a. Already have correspondence with a faculty b. Have already spoken about possible projects with that professor that both parties agree are good c. The professor mentioned he'd "make sure [my] application gets considered in full" d. Contact the Director of the program mentioning the correspondence with the professor and the student's concerns about their GPA/application

  2. How hard is it to get into top post-bac problems? a. Are they competitive? b. How many people apply knowing faculty ahead of time? c. How many people apply usually?

Some Info That (may) Hurt My Application:

  • GPA = 2.97, will likely be 3.0-3.1 at graduation
  • No significant 'rising trend' in grades after sophomore/junior year - I've genuinely been a B student because I didn't care for classes until I cam across A.I. Two years later I now know in my heart this is my calling and I want to be a professor as well. In a way, I believe this passion cured my depression (see below)
  • Changed majors from biomed (2yrs) -> chemistry (2yrs) -> computer science (1yr)
  • Multiple failed courses in my transcripts in my first year (Failed college algebra three times because I had depression my first year; couldn't care about anything)

Some Info That (may) Help My Application:

  • Major GPA > 3.2, will likely be > 3.3 at graduation
  • Invested in research in the field (A.I.) I'm going into with this prof at the uni where the post-bac
  • The research I'm doing is possibly groundbreaking. PI mentioned in last meeting "This has the potential to be material for multiple PhD dissertations"
  • I'm the primary and only author aside from the PI on that project
  • My outreach is beyond excellent by all standards (founded multiple advanced STEM organizations, am an avid public speaker on STEM [more than 6 talks/lectures in the city], and recently started a lecture series for students at my uni on AI that was funded by MIT for the Fall 2016 semester) (and there's more outreach I'm not listing)
  • I'm hispanic and will be the second person in my family to get an advanced degree

My Current Plan

  • Contact the Director of the post-bac program, mention my concerns, see how I can make my last few months as useful as possible for acceptance
  • Mention to the Director my correspondence with the assistant professor
  • Keep corresponding with the professor about topics and reinforce the idea I'm worth his time

Please let me know if this is clear to understand. This is my first post and I'll edit it if it's unclear.

Thank you!

To make things more clear - as my question has been tagged as a duplicate of another - I'm asking for advice on how to navigate post bachelor "post-bac" programs.

For those who may not know, this is not an umbrella term that refers to all things a recently graduated undergrad can pursue. It's a specific academic program offered by some universities. I have not seen any questions address this topic and I defend that post-bac programs are different enough to justify my request for help.

Example of such a program here, and here.

  • 1
    It is unclear what a post-bac is. Can you define it? – padawan Nov 18 '16 at 1:27
  • @cagirici a post-bac program is a year long program for recently graduated undergraduate students that allows them to better prepare for graduate school by being offered mentorship, research experience, and grad school prep education during the year. It's short for post-bachelor – Skittles Nov 18 '16 at 1:41
  • @CapeCode, the thread you linked, though helpful in general for those considering PhD, is not helpful for my questions. I'm specifically asking the community about 'post bachelor' programs and hoping to get insight into what makes a good post-bac applicant - it is not the same as a masters or PhD program. – Skittles Nov 18 '16 at 14:14
  • @FelixSosa can you give a link to what you call "post bachelor" programs, if that is different from Masters and PhDs? Maybe in which country this is a thing? – Cape Code Nov 18 '16 at 14:39
  • I have retracted my close vote, since it appear not to be a duplicate. – Cape Code Nov 18 '16 at 14:41

Why don't you tell your contact at the top-university your ambitions to go into academia and your concerns about your low GPA? When mentioning your GPA, be sure to give a brief explanation that you've had difficulties (finding your passion, depression in first year) and that you have redeeming qualities that aren't reflected in your GPA (the lecture series, the project).
Such an extra year might be precisely what you need to prove to that top-university that you indeed have what it takes. I'd mention first to the professor that you are considering getting in touch with the director of the program. The professor might help with the contact giving you a positive introduction or give tips in dealing with the director.

Side notes: 1. I'd be careful about mentioning that you want to be a professor. That is like saying you want to be Olympian, it is very easy to want that. Instead, I'd emphasize that you want to work hard and get into academia to do research.
2. Small point about unfairness in the world: sometimes admission people for university programs/jobs have explicit or implicit minimum GPA requirements. When you get a lot of applications, it is easy to first drop all applicants that don't satisfy a specific GPA threshold. I'd work hard to turn that 2.97 GPA into a 3.01. That gets you over the hurdle of >3.00 GPA and might be the difference at times between whether your cover letter gets read or not.

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  • Thank you for the response! I have spoken to my contact about my concerns and he gave me the green light to speak with the director and mention that he's eager to read my application. I'm going to continue guiding our conversation through research ideas and concepts so that we may continue to know each other a little more. I figure at some point if it is successful he'll be more willing to give a recommendation in person to the admissions board rather than a simple "please give him full consideration". I plan on mentioning the low GPA issue and am reading a lot on how to craft a good SOP/PS. – Skittles Nov 18 '16 at 13:56
  • Also, yeah. This post-bac program is what I think I need to show the top universities I'm worth the investment. Which is why I'm taking it so seriously and trying to ask as much as I can online (here) and in person. – Skittles Nov 18 '16 at 14:01
  • Be honest about that in your application to the post-bac program. That you know your GPA is lower than you want, you have redeeming qualifications and want to use this program to work hard and prove you can do better. – dimpol Nov 18 '16 at 14:33
  • Important note: you already got the professors recommendation in the bag. "make sure [my] application gets considered in full" is the best you are ever going to get out of his mouth. If they accept you, they have to probably reject someone else. If it ever got out that the professor chose you outside the admission process or gave you an unfair advantage, that could be the basis for lawsuits. His comment is code for: "I want you and I am going to lobby for you, but I can't openly say that because the admission process needs to be followed". – dimpol Nov 18 '16 at 14:35
  • Thank you for that point. It's certainly going to be worked into my SOP/PS when applying. I wasn't aware that could be detrimental for his career and/or the uni. That gives me a better sense of hope for this situation! – Skittles Nov 18 '16 at 14:43

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