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Getting Into Graduate School - Part III

Maximizing Your Bachelor Degree

This last, and long overdue, part on getting into a good graduate level program covers the seldom mentioned criteria that many (most? all?) schools use when selecting candidates for entry: the value of your bachelor degree. The obvious side of this would be knowing that some schools are considered better than others, but that knowledge doesn't do you much good unless you plan on transferring to one of those "better" schools. Instead, we will focus on the courses that make up your degree.

Take a minute and dig out the requirements to earn your degree at your current school. It should consist of a bunch of required courses, a few courses you can pick and choose from, and "other" courses. These other courses could be anything from courses to meet the minimum credit requirements, to liberal art courses (such as needing 3 communications credits that could come from a variety of places), to specialized focus courses for your given degree. Hold onto that list. Open a new web browser and go to the undergraduate program for your major at one of the colleges on your graduate school list. For instance, if you are currently attending Brown with a major in Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon is probably on your list of graduate schools, so head over to the CMU Computer Science undergraduate website.

Once you have found your way to the undergraduate program website, see if you can find the degree requirements for your chosen major. Every college website I have been on has those requirements posted someplace, usually as a PDF file. Found it? Now compare the degree requirements from your current school to those of that prospective school. More than likely, unless they are both state universities within the same state, you will see several differences between the degree requirements. Your school might require one semester of Chemistry, while the other school requires two; or maybe your school allows you to choose between three advanced programming topics such as Compiler Design, Database Management Systems, and Operating Systems, while the other school requires Operating Systems. These differences are actually pretty damn important in the aspect of graduate school acceptance.

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Quack Science


xkcd had this great comic strip up today (shown above). Of course it got me thinking about how I have been neglecting my own pet physics notions and that I really fall into the same realm as the comic (what scientists respectfully call "quack science") with those notions. Let's face it, I do not have a degree in Chemistry or Physics (let alone a PhD), but I do have a few things going for me.

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