Graduate School Evaluation Factors

As you look ahead toward graduate school, it is helpful to know how you will be evaluated for acceptance into a program.  Your admission will likely be decided by an admissions committee made up of faculty members.  This list below shows the primary factors the committee will evaluate you and other candidates on.

Eval Factors Checklist

The committee will use the following to make their decision:

Degree(s) Earned*
It probably goes without saying that your undergraduate degree and the reputation of the school and program are considered.

Grade Point Average (GPA)*
GPA is usually important since it is an indicator of future academic performance.  Some highly competitive programs require a GPA of 3.50 or above, but most programs have a minimum requirement of 3.0.  Similar to when seeking employment, a high GPA typically means more opportunities.

The classes you took as an undergraduate and your performance in these classes as reflected on your transcript will be evaluated.

Standardized Entrance Examination Test Scores (GRE, GMAT, MCATs or LSATs)
The GRE measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills that are not related to any specific field of study.  The GMAT is similar to the GRE, but the GMAT is used as an indicator of preparedness for a graduate management program, such as an MBA.  The MCAT is used by most medical schools, and the LSAT is used by most law schools.

International students will often need to provide an indication of their level of proficiency of the English Language by completing the Test of English as a Foreign Language or the International English Language Testing System.

Statement of Purpose
This a short essay that states your goals, expresses why you are interested in a particular school/program and highlights what you have done that prepares you for success in their program.  The selection committee will use this essay to determine if you are a good fit for their program.

Letters of Recommendation
Schools usually require three letters of recommendation from individuals (professors or employers) who can speak about your motivation and ability to complete high-quality work.

Publications and Presentations*
If you were fortunate enough to work with a faculty member to publish a paper or make a presentation at a technical conference, these accomplishments will be noted.

Research Experience (REU & SRO)*
Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Summer Research Opportunities (SRO) are programs that are designed to give undergraduates exposure to conducting research.  The knowledge that you gained and the skills that you developed during these experiences should be highlighted on your resume or curriculum vita.  For those planning to pursue a PhD, these experience might carry more value than a work experience because they indicate to the selection committee that you tried research and you liked it enough to pursue additional education that may lead to a career in research.  They are often a source of at least one of your letters of recommendation.

Work Experience*
All work experiences provide some skill development that can be useful when doing graduate work, but engineering co-ops and internships carry much more value than a typical summer job.  Co-ops and internships provide an opportunity to practice and develop engineering skills and they provide exposure to the professional workplace.  Whether a professional work experience or a research experience is more important really depends on the quality of the experience and what you made of it.  Work experiences can also be a source of a letter of recommendation or two.

Extracurricular Activities*
Your involvement in extracurricular activities provides an indication of your areas of interest, whether you have teamwork and leadership experience and hints at your levels of social skills and motivation.  Activities focused on technical areas, professional societies, and project management are the most valued.

* This information will be summarized in your curriculum vita or resume.