Grad school application deadlines
March 21, 2011 7:41 PM   Subscribe

Are there any Grad schools that I can apply to within next two-three weeks and plan to start sooner than fall 2012?

Well, I've taken the first steps in career change, I've taken the GRE and started looking around, and the first thing I noticed is that apparently I did this 2-4 months later than I should have. I should be getting my official GRE scores this week, but I haven't been able to find anywhere that will accept people before next fall! I didn't realize the application deadline was so far in advance. Suggestions of things I might do other than the job I'm getting sick of in the meantime are welcome as well. My scores as far as I can see are "good". Is there any way to haggle this against past deadlines? Is the idea of this ridiculous? Anybody have success or experience with such haggling? I'm pretty bad at it. What do you say after they say something like: "The deadline is past"?

How do you email undergrad professors you haven't spoken to in 6 years and ask for recommendation letters?

If there were no deadlines I'd probably be trying hardest to get in to Emory.
posted by SomeOneElse to Education (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What field, and what degree? And why do you want to go to grad school?
posted by decathecting at 7:46 PM on March 21, 2011

I am doing the same thing as you and maybe can answer some of this.

I know of no appropriate way of "haggling" your way past a deadline. You may ask, do you have any special policies for post deadline applications? Why cant you wait til Fall? Just anxious to start? Most programs dont start in summer anyway, but I suppose there are soem you can join any time...I am only aware of programs that allow you to join anytime meaning Fall or Spring, not summer.

I have found it is of the utmost importance to keep up with all the various deadline stuff you will go through the next years in grad school. everything is deadlines: registering, add/drop/ schedules, payments, etc.

As far as recomendation letters, 6 years isnt too long really, I would email them, and just ask. They will either understand your need and help or ignore you. Alternatively you can ask collegeaues, bosses, etc for letters.

This summer you could whittle some time away taking classes to prep for the courseor maybe even one that is part of the curicculum and ask if they will give you credit for it. you can also just spend it prepping for the courses and reading ahead. As it is, I would get busy now because some schools even have March deadlines for Fall! Depends a lot too what kind of program and if it is distance learning or on campus. Best to you.
posted by cerebral at 7:50 PM on March 21, 2011

What kind of graduate program? A masters? PhD? What subject?

Whatever your answer, the best solution is absolutely going to be waiting until next year; even if you could somehow talk your way into a program (which I can't imagine would even be considered), wouldn't you wonder if you could have gotten into one was a better fit?

In any case, the whole application process takes tons of work and time, and it's not just your work and time - you really can't expect professors to write you good rec letters on extremely short notice for a program whose application deadline has passed.

I'll be honest - it sounds like you don't really know what applying to graduate school entails. Are you really sure you know what being in grad school entails? Do you really want to go? Being in grad school is difficult, and finding a good fit and having realistic goals are key. Do you know what you want to get out of the program in the end? Have you talked to current grad students, read about the career paths of previous students in the programs you're interested in, spoken to potential advisors, figured out financing?

I say this as a current (happy!) grad student: grad school is absolutely not something to do just because you're sick of your job. It's, at best, another job. One that probably pays worse, if at all.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:52 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

There are plenty of schools that will let you in, but all funding for assistantships and fellowships has already been allocated. (And typically departments that let people in for spring semesters or at the last minute aren't well funded and in turn, don't fund their students well--or that particular program/dept is tacitly an income-generator for the university. That doesn't necessarily mean they aren't excellent programs, but my stereotype is that for the most part, they aren't.)
posted by soviet sleepover at 7:53 PM on March 21, 2011

There are plenty of schools that will let you in
To clarify, I mean schools that have Spring admissions, or rolling admissions for graduate programs. How much in debt do you want to go for a degree from a school that may not be particularly good?
posted by soviet sleepover at 7:55 PM on March 21, 2011

You don't seem to mention what type of program you'd like to apply for.

Some programs might have a spring admission for Spring 2012 - most programs have web sites you can check for all relevant information.

I do the admin work for a department's graduate admissions. There's no way you could haggle with us. We get far more qualified applications than we can admit by our deadline - we certainly don't need any that come in a month or two late. We would just think you were a huge flake.

If you could find programs that have a low application rate, or a bad acceptance rate, they might take late applications. Not sure how you would gather that information, however.

If you are very serious about getting into a good graduate program, you should take the next eight monthd or so to 1) research the programs that are the best fit for you and what their deadlines are, and 2) work on getting your application materials into shape.

You'll be competing against people fresh out of undergrad, with letters from profs they have just been working with. You may need to retake the GRE, or do some course work that you didn't have in your undergrad degree.

Grad programs aren't usually like undergrad - an application sent in any old time with "good" scores usually won't cut it.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:55 PM on March 21, 2011

Some schools have rolling admissions. I know that you could enroll in a Master's program at SCAD for fall '11 if you moved quickly now, but if Emory is your first choice, you probably wouldn't find a program that's right for you at an art school.

What kind of program do you want to pursue?
posted by DeusExMegana at 8:04 PM on March 21, 2011

Response by poster: Probably Software Engineering / Discrete Mathematics. (Emory had a program almost named exactly that, which is why it would be my first choice, and probably at least a transfer if I go for a PhD).

Why do I want to go to grad school... Well, I want to have more control over what I study, and I want to understand how to pursue a research challenge in a more ... informed?.. way.

For example, I have been spending almost all my free time lately writing algorithms to solve 3D problems I've made up for myself. Given N random 3D points, lets see if I can make the "best" surface out of them. So I'd define best, I'd write a greedy algorithm, I google up pages on Graph Theory, and hash it out.

Then I did basically the same thing with a concept of volumes and tetrahedrons. And I realized that I liked doing this sort of thing so much more than my current job, where the problems I work on are determined by economic priorities. I really like programming as I define it for myself, but I've realized I truly despise working for somebody else, and it gets 10X worse when I have to work on programs that I didn't write myself and I can't get personally invested in.

I understand that I probably have a naive idea of what I am getting into, but I've gotten some professional advice, looked at my options, and decided that it is a change I want to make. I get the feeling that if I had a better idea of how to research, or if there were other people around me who I felt some sense of community with then I'd be in general, maybe, more productive? happier? Have a sense of direction, or purpose? That's about it.

I didn't include this stuff at first because I really just wanted to know if anybody knew the name of a school, because so far I have found one that might not have completely shut down applications (Ole Miss), and I'm visiting that one this weekend. Also if there is any directory or website that could just give me a flat list of my available options at this stage of the game, that would be great, then I'd look through their offerings myself. But so far I've had to look up schools one by one, dig through non-standard application information, dig through a lot of tedious things. It isn't like there is a nice, no nonsense table that says:

School Name- - - - - - Date
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:05 PM on March 21, 2011

How do you email undergrad professors you haven't spoken to in 6 years and ask for recommendation letters?

I very briefly summed up what I'd been doing since college and outlined why I wanted to go to grad school. I told them that I'd used the information I learned in their class to _____. I attached a photo to the email, in case they didn't remember me solely by name, but I didn't phrase it like that because I thought it'd be awkward. Instead I said "...and this is me on a hiking trip last summer."
posted by desjardins at 8:11 PM on March 21, 2011

I doubt there's a table like the one you describe. Those tables are easier to compile for undergraduate admissions because there's usually one date for the entire university; graduate programs are generally handled by individual departments who set their own deadlines.

Also, a word of caution for grad school: Unless software programs are radically different than the liberal arts program I'm in, you will still have to deal with significant restrictions imposed on your research. At least at the outset, you'll be limited by whatever classes are offered by whatever teachers, and you'll need to do whatever busywork they deem necessary. You will still have to sift through a giant amount of work that means nothing to you before you can get to something you enjoy.
posted by lilac girl at 8:16 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might be able to enroll as a non-degree student if you are close to a school that offers a program similar to the one you want. Those classes will be transferable up to a point (most programs require a certain number of credits be taken locally).
posted by procrastination at 8:20 PM on March 21, 2011

I mean this in the kindest possible way: choosing a graduate program, especially the Ph.D. track, because it accepts applications on a nonstandard schedule is like choosing a spouse because they were the first person to respond on OKCupid. Everything might turn out fine, but . . .

You owe it to yourself to take the time to research prospective programs thoroughly. Find out what kind of coursework they require and what kind of thesis projects students are writing. Find out who the faculty are and what are their areas of specialization. Talk to several graduate students in Software Engineering / Discrete Mathematics and find out whether their graduate school experience really sounds like what you have imagined it to be. Do a realistic assessment of whether your GRE scores, undergraduate grades, recommendations, and other qualifications give you a good enough chance at admission so that you won't be throwing the application fee into a black hole. Talk to the faculty at prospective programs about whether your research interests would fit in. Perhaps most importantly, figure out what you want to do after graduate school and be sure to choose a program geared towards that outcome. Take your time with all of this, and apply in the fall of this year for fall 2012 admission.
posted by Orinda at 8:25 PM on March 21, 2011

Response by poster: I appreciate that, and I agree that I would definitely consider transferring based on very ornate criteria, but what I really want right now is an actionable list of my options right now. Folks, I'm not saying that if I can get in anywhere regardless of the quality of the program that I would do that, but all I'm really asking is:

"Are there any mainstream, reputable large state universities whose application deadlines for grad school / assistanceship / fellowship / whatever have not by-and-large already passed?" "No" seems like the answer I'm getting here. I'm not asking for a critique of the amount of time I've spent considering my decision or my own seriousness.
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:39 PM on March 21, 2011

My scores as far as I can see are "good". Is there any way to haggle this against past deadlines?

Unlikely, in my experience. I'm coming from the humanities side of things, but I think it applies across the board: any graduate program worth its salt will have way more highly-qualified applicants than they can admit. They look for easy reasons to cut people from the pool—unless you are unmistakably the next Stephen Hawking of your field and sleeping with the chair of the department, there is not going to be much to "haggle" after you miss the application deadline by a few weeks. An estimated 500,000 people take the GRE each year, so scoring in, say, the 95th percentile puts you in company with roughly 25,000 people who have equal or better scores, most of whom spent last fall preparing and submitting their applications on time.

It isn't like there is a nice, no nonsense table that says:

School Name- - - - - - Date

I doubt it, because graduate school admissions (like everything else about grad school) are discipline-specific, so there would have to be tables within tables showing the deadlines for each department and school within a university.

You may have more luck searching for a comprehensive list if you make your search discipline-specific. I did a quick google of software engineering graduate programs deadlines and did not turn up a master table of admissions deadlines, though I did incidentally find this page from SFSU which lists an MS computer science program with a concentration in software engineering with spring admissions (deadline: October 1).

How do you email undergrad professors you haven't spoken to in 6 years and ask for recommendation letters?

Similar questions have come up on AskMetafilter before—here is a good place to start digging.

Writing letters of recommendation for past students is pretty routine, so your request will not be terribly unusual, and you don't need to apologize for being out of touch or anything like that. Send an email message that is succinct and businesslike, roughly on the outline of:
  • Dear Professor,
  • I graduated from $almamater in $year with a major in $subject. I was in your class on $topic, where I especially enjoyed working on $memorableproject [if applicable]. You gave me a lot of positive feedback on my work, and I earned a final course grade of $grade.
  • I have decided to apply to grad school in $discipline because I am interested in pursuing [half-sentence version of your personal statement goes here].
  • Would you be willing to write me a letter of recommendation? If so, please let me know what supporting materials you would like to see. I would be happy to send you the current draft of my personal statement, an up-to-date c.v., or my final paper from $class [if you saved it]. The recommendation would need to be completed by $date [$date should be at least three weeks in the future] and submitted [where/how: directly to programs, or through a credentials service? by postal mail or electronic? Note: if postal mail, add "I will supply stamped, addressed envelopes."]
  • Sincerely,
  • $yourname
Email your top choices first, but have a couple backups in mind in case one or two professors say they can't do it.
posted by Orinda at 9:35 PM on March 21, 2011

Generally, this is just not going to be possible; recruiting for many programs has come and gone and many of the admission decisions will have already been made, meaning that all the funds for stipends, etc. are already allocated.

But you could definitely seek work as a research assistant for a year; this would boost your admission chances and get you used to the type of work you'd be doing as a graduate student. One way to do this is to just e-mail your resume to some local faculty whose research interests you, and ask them if they would be interested in hiring someone with your qualifications.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:02 PM on March 21, 2011

As a grad student myself, I feel like I should point out that where you go to grad school has a really huge effect on... everything. You don't necessarily want to go to a place just because it's the only one still admitting students. Well, it could work out fine if you are aiming for a coursework-based Master's, but it's a different story for a research-based Master's or PhD. For research work, it's really important to find a place where faculty have research that's in line with your interests, and a potential advisor with whom you think you can work. Ending up stuck with research you hate, or an advisor you hate, or an advisor who hates you is IMHO worse than not getting in to grad school at all because it can totally derail what could otherwise be a good grad school career.

I would think, at this point, that your best bet might be to look for programs that accept applications for spring entry and see if you feel that they suit your interests. I don't think that this is terribly common, but maybe for larger programs? Unfortunately, I don't think that there is an easy way to do this other than looking them up one-by-one.

I don't think that you will have any luck trying to get an application considered outside of the official times. They want to have a pool of applications all at once so that they can choose the best ones; if they accepted you outside of that time, they'd be taking the risk of giving away a grad student spot to someone who might not have made the cut compared to their normal applicant pool, so they're not going to do that. (Not that I'm saying that you're not good enough to make the cut. Just saying, that's how admissions committees think and work. You would have to be a god among men for them to take that chance.)

Good luck. It really does suck sometimes that the admissions cycle is so long and you are looking at the prospect of such a long wait to start grad school.
posted by mandanza at 11:36 PM on March 21, 2011

Here's a wild card suggestion -- have you ever considered getting your Master's abroad? The school year over here in the UK doesn't start until late September, and they'll take people much later. You can use your Stafford loans to pay for it, and generally it's cheaper (mine was £8,000/yr) since you can do a master's in one year.
posted by ukdanae at 12:57 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

To add to what ukdanae said, having a good UK masters can be a good foot in the door for US PhD programs.

I found it MORE expensive though, because living in London ain't cheap - but probably 1 year versus 2 years made it about even versus getting a US masters.
posted by k8t at 5:37 AM on March 22, 2011

Most/all decent PhD programs run on a pretty well-defined annual cycle, centered around the council of graduate schools' April 15 resolution. Application deadlines are set so that the departments' interviews and decisions can happen to leave enough time before April 15th for candidates to make a decision. Most programs that have both a MA and a PhD program (at least that I'm aware of) then also do their MA admissions at the same time. Honestly, I wouldn't (at least by default) trust a school that doesn't adhere to this resolution. This is, I think, why you won't find what you are looking for.
posted by advil at 9:21 AM on March 22, 2011

I'd also encourage you not to dismiss the people who are questioning your preparation and expectations about graduate school. Your question raised some red flags that suggest you don't really understand how the grad school admission system works, which is fine - we all had to learn it at one point - but that coupled with your sense of urgency makes me wonder if you're jumping into this without realizing what you're in for. That doesn't mean we're dismissing your desire to go to graduate school, just that you might want to take a step back and slow down, or at least provide us with more details about what exactly you're looking for if you do know (for example, are you planning to pay for grad school yourself, as you often have to for a masters, or are you hoping to be funded?).

Best of luck!
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:54 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I searched for you... couldn't find an easy chart like undergrads schools have. Anyways you might want to post this question over at The GradCafe Forums. You're not the only late one! (although its a different major)

Also a list of some colleges that have rolling admission . Don't know if any of them start in the summer or even offer what you're looking for, but I hope having a list of at least some schools to check up on will help.

I am a total procrastinator (have NO interest in grad school though!) so I feel for you! I hope you can find a program for you in time but if you CAN wait, why not wait and apply to Emory-- which is what you really want-- for the next semester?
posted by lovelygirl at 2:16 PM on March 22, 2011

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