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6/12/04 4:58 PM
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FiatLux
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Edited: 12-Jun-04
Member Since: 03/12/2002
Posts: 2462
 
Well I graduate next may and ive only just now brought my gpa up to a 3.0. I dont really have strong support from anyone but I still know I can do grad level work. The problem that im having is that my major (communications) and my minor (history) are subjects which I enjoy in school but im not sure I want to spend the rest of my life doing. At that point, im not sure how it works or if its even possible to go to grad school for a subject I dont have a strong background in. This is a problem because even though I know I want to go, I dont have enough of an idea in mind to motivate me take the GRE at this point. Motivation is really an ass backwards thing with me sadly enough. My main problem is that I speak and write well. These are skills which dont really have a subject. Eventually I would like to make some money but im not willing to sell my soul to do it. At this point teaching seems to be the option that stands out.
6/13/04 12:06 AM
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Andrew Yao
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Edited: 13-Jun-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 1956
It is quite possible to go to grad school for subjects you don't have a strong background in. People do this all the time. You are supposed to figure out what you want to do in undergrad; grad school is much more focused. So unless you can come up with something very specific that you want to do, you will have a hard time applying. When you write your application essay, you MUST show that you know exactly what specific field you want to study and why. It's not good enough to say 'I want to study computer science because I was always good with computers. ' You have to say 'I want to study networking and security because [long story here].' That's at a minimum. You should ideally be even more specific, something like ' I am interested in designing networks that are secure against denial of service attacks.' The general GRE is not that bad at all. If you did well on the SAT, it's pretty much the same stuff. If you are in a field that requires the Subject GRE, those are brutal.
6/14/04 1:35 PM
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asdf
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Edited: 14-Jun-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 5975
Andrew is correct that it is possible to change fields. In the sciences, physicists change fields all the time. I disagree with Andrew that the essay is that important though. The profs I've known emphasize grades, institution, letters, and GRE (in that order). I know of a guy who got into MIT with an essay written as a Barbara Walters interview! I would also say that unless you really want to go to grad school, it is not worth it. If you do the calculation, you can see that you don't make the money back that you would've gotten had you gone to work until late.
6/15/04 8:38 AM
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hakujin
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Edited: 15-Jun-04
Member Since: 03/26/2002
Posts: 1741
who here has written their GREs?
6/15/04 1:32 PM
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FiatLux
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Edited: 15-Jun-04
Member Since: 03/12/2002
Posts: 2466
mostly I dont wanna work straight away more than anything. I almost have to many options and I can really pick between subjects or schools that seem equal. Especially because no matter what I do it doesnt seem like its going to make a fucking difference either way.
6/15/04 1:44 PM
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Ted Bennett
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Edited: 15-Jun-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 494
I don't know what kind of program asdf is talking about, but in mine (psychology), nearly the reverse is true. Granted, not all schools follow this process, but the vast majority of the good ones do. And while it may sound cold and harsh, it's literally the most successful approach anyone's designed so far (in terms of raising passing/completion rates, raising average grades, reducing time spent to degree, etc.). What they do is use a regression equation they've generated (one of the guys is a stats monster) and plug in various aspects of your application and your numbers. It breaks down as follows: GRE is worth 50%, GPA is 20%, prior research is 10%, letters of recommendation are 10%, and the remaining 10% are various things like interview performance, extracurriculars, etc. However, a really poor interview can queer the whole thing - someone who hits on a prof's wife while visiting doesn't even get his numbers put into the equation ;-) (and yes, I've seen it happen!) About whether or not to take the GRE - if you have the money, go for it - it can't hurt. If you do well, then great, you've got extra support on your side for going to grad school. If you bomb it, you know you're probably not cut out for grad school, and you're better off knowing that *before* you enter it. Some general advice about the GRE - if you want to improve your score, study the math section like crazy. It's really an odds game - there are ~450,000 words in the English language, while there are ~20 types of math problems in the GRE. Do you honestly think you can drill 50 -150,000 new words (assuming you know at least 300,000 others) in a few weeks or even months? Or can you spend your time learning the trig and algebra you forgot from your freshman year? Touching up the math section represents a much better investment of your time, IMHO. Also, looking at your GPA, I have no idea what the pattern is, but a common one seen in my program is this (and it happens to be mine, too!) - we'd get a person with a 3.2 or 3.3 (the average entering GPA for psych Ph.D. is ~3.6 - 3.8, depending on the program; ours is 3.6) and a good GRE (e.g., 1400 or better). This is pretty easy to interpret - this a pretty bright person who, for whatever reason, slacked off a bit in school. If you're like me, I finished with a 3.4 and had a very good GRE - however, when I applied to grad school, I had one of the lower GPA's in the group. My GRE was the highest, though. The faculty looked at it and said "Hmmmm...let's see the pattern of grades." They noticed I bombed my first three semesters (too many frat parties!), then got a 4.0 for 5 out of the 6 following semesters (did one summer session). That sealed the deal for me and got me in. They later told me that if I had had a steady 3.5 all the way through, I might not have gotten in. Point being, if you can document that you picked your grades up over time, and you have a great GRE backing you up, you should get in somewhere....
6/15/04 1:48 PM
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Ted Bennett
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Edited: 15-Jun-04
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Posts: 495
BTW, the opposite is not a good place to be - if you have a 3.9 or 4.0 and a mediocre GRE - you're likely to have a hard time getting admitted. That's seen as evidence that you studied your butt off in college, but you may not be bright enough to handle the much more difficult material handled at the graduate level. Note that this is for psych Ph.D. only; this is not going to affect you if you apply for a master's degree in psych, and I have no idea how it applies to other fields. Just thought I'd throw it out there for you....
6/15/04 7:22 PM
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confusion
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Edited: 15-Jun-04
Member Since: 03/15/2002
Posts: 727
My experiences are more consistant with Andrews. The first cutoff is GRE and GPA. Do decent on the GRE and above a 3.5 GPA and you pass. From then on they weed according to your recommendations and personal statement, and if you did well on both you're in.
6/15/04 8:01 PM
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FiatLux
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Edited: 15-Jun-04
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Posts: 2467
My GPA is 3.0 right now up from a 1.7 my first semester. As far as the GRE goes, I might be able to pull decent scores but I cant do math to save my life. Nothing ive done is really going to jump out at people. My problem is that ive had to many issues and things to overcome to really be outstanding. People tell me all the time I should either be in psychology or history. Its like ive done just well enough to keep this dream alive. Now that im less than a year away from gaduating it seems like im actually farther away than ever before.
6/15/04 8:30 PM
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Ted Bennett
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Edited: 15-Jun-04
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Posts: 500
Well, a MS/MA in psychology is pretty easy to get, and you should be making ~$45 K within two years, not bad for a job where you never have to strain yourself physically ;-) Many programs have what's called a "terminal" master's degree - that's where you get a MS/MA and that's it; other programs you get your MA on the way to Ph.D. and are much, much more competitive. If you look in your local bookstore, you should be able to find a book by APA (American Psychological Association) that lists all those programs and the average entering GPA and GRE for the last few years for each program. It might give you an idea of where you stand and what places you stand a reasonable chance of getting accepted. I'm not sure if such things exist for other disciplines (e.g., history), though common sense says that info has to be collected somewhere....
6/15/04 9:33 PM
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Andrew Yao
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Edited: 15-Jun-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 1967
Good advice from Ted. The same thing is true in Computer Science anyways, there are terminal Master's programs, and there are ones where the Master's is just a stepping stone to the Ph.D. The terminal Master's are more coursework based; the PhD ones are more research based. So the terminal Master's might emphasize grades more while the PhD track would emphasize undergrad research and maybe GRE more. You can usually tell which the program is by looking at their web site. You never really know what the applications committee will think is important. I had great grades, good general GRE, medium recommendation letters, a good application essay, and an abysmal 51th percentile Comp Sci subject GRE score. I still got into 6 out of 8 schools that I applied to, all high ranked. And I probably only didn't get into Princeton because there's already a professor named Andrew Yao there and they probably just didn't want to handle the wacky Three's Company-style shenanigans that would no doubt ensue.
6/16/04 8:34 AM
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asdf
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Edited: 16-Jun-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 5979
"You never really know what the applications committee will think is important. " True. The programs that I know well are science and engineering programs, not humanities. The GRE may count a lot more in the humanities. There is no interview in engineering or chemistry. Things may count differently in different schools and departments. Ted's Master's plan is a good suggestion. But I still think getting a Ph.D. because you "don't want to work" is a mistake. You have to *want* to do it. At least in science and engineering, after you get a Ph.D. you are expected to work harder and longer. You don't making money for 5-10 years (depending on how long you take), you will suffer for 1-2 years and possibly all of it, and your job market actually shrinks (though pay improves). The oral, written, and final exams are designed to beat you down. I know of two grad engineering programs that kick out 50% of their Ph.D. prospects, and you have to be prepared for that devastating possibility. If motivation is a problem for you, and you aren't ready to pay the price, then I think the Ph.D. is a mistake.
6/16/04 12:29 PM
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Ted Bennett
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Edited: 16-Jun-04 04:01 PM
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Posts: 502
Asdf - I was actually speaking tongue in cheek about a master's degree in psychology - yes, it's work to get it, and yes, you'll work 40-50 hours a week with it, but the end result - sitting around talking to folks - isn't really physically draining ;-) I just had to laugh about that (and post about it) after working with a brain injury rehab patient the other day. The guy had gotten a BA in something basically meaningless to him, then proceeded to get a job as a cop for 15 years. He was badly hurt in a motor vehicle accident, and now he can't be a cop anymore (severe back and hand injury, no real brain dysfunction I could find). As a result, he was looking at what he could be re-trained or educated to do. During the course of the history and physical interview he asked about my job, and I told him what I do (Ph.D. in psychology, but I also told him about MS/MA degrees). He looked shocked and said, "All you do is sit around and talk to people? You don't have to wrassle crazy patients who attack you or try to find serial killers or stuff like that?" I assured him that that only happened in movies, and my job usually involved sitting in a chair for 7-8 hours a day. He was quiet for a bit, then remarked, "Man, I gotta get me a job like that!" ;-) But on the whole, asdf is dead on - if you don't *really* want to do whatever you're studying in grad school, it will chew you up and spit you out. Grad school is extremely difficult, and if you hate what you're doing, there's practically no way you can summon the requisite energy and motivation to finish your work. Be advised - college is easy, even if you're an engineering major, pre-med major, math major, etc. Almost no one *really* works full time as a college student - e.g., going to class for 18 hours a week and spending at least 22 hours studying each week. In contrast, in grad school you WILL be working full time, and that's at a minimum. My worst year of grad school had me working 70 hour weeks, and that _didn't_ include homework that I had to turn in for classes..... However, I gotta admit - I know at least one program where you'll work 30 hours or even less a week - they don't really put pressure on folks to graduate, they just emphasize "completing your own personal journey" or some new-age bullshit like that. I know two students there, and one of them has been in grad school for (drum roll, please) 10 years. Ten f*****g years, and she's not even finished yet. She's got a student loan the size of Gibraltar, and she can't even say she's had major personal or medical reasons for the delay. Keep in mind she could have finished med school, internship, residency, and now be a practicing physician (though maybe not a surgeon, their residencies can be up to 7 years), and here she is making no money, getting more loans, and slaving for a faculty that are using her worse than a two dollar crack whore.....
6/18/04 12:32 PM
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FiatLux
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Edited: 18-Jun-04
Member Since: 03/12/2002
Posts: 2471
I seem to be changing my mind just about every day about whether this is even something I want to do. Nothing im good at is consistent with what im interested in. Im not really motivated to do anything. I just dont want to be poor. I have more problems than I can deal with already. Doing something I hate would just about be the end of me. The thing that pisses me off and keeps me up at night is how im still so far from reaching my potential. Im bored with school and with my life. I need to hurry up and do something meaningful.
6/26/04 12:00 AM
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FiatLux
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Edited: 25-Jun-04
Member Since: 03/12/2002
Posts: 2482
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6/27/04 9:27 PM
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Ted Bennett
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Edited: 27-Jun-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 519
Hey FiatLux - if you're on or near a university, give the psych dept. a call and see if they do vocational assessments. Those are comprehensive evaluations designed to examine two things in depth: your most favored/liked/enjoyed activities and your skills/knowledge related to various activities. Obviously, what they try to do is find things that you (A) like and (B) have a high chance of performing competently. In theory and practice, if you like something _and_ you're good at it (or else have lots of potential), that's where you should try to find a job. The end results are then explored in depth to inform you of the job opportunities that exist that dovetail with what is suggested by your test results. If this kind of assessment is done in the private sector, it could cost you a pretty penny; if you do it through a university psych. department (esp. if you're a student), it could be very cheap.
6/28/04 9:54 PM
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FiatLux
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Edited: 28-Jun-04
Member Since: 03/12/2002
Posts: 2489
in general, I find that what im good at is pretty incompatible with what I want to do. Today I decided that I want to get a double major in history and communications. Well tomarrow I will likely change me mind.
8/27/04 5:21 PM
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cycklops
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Edited: 27-Aug-04
Member Since: 04/26/2003
Posts: 829
How would you suggest truly brushing up on the math skills. I'm going to take the GRE soon and my math is in the gutter, literally. I continually avoided it etc. I took statistics courses and did well because I sat and drilled it into my head. I can do well in that type of circumstance. How do I go about the same thing when considering preparing for the GRE? I know if I can drill the different areas of the math I'll do fine but right now the GRE prep book I bought with a CD-ROM essentially gives an overview of the basics with some drill questions and some actual questions from previous GRE's. I'm finding it's not enough. I looked into a GRE prep class and that shit was super expensive (but I'm sure worth it). Any suggestions?

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