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3 Ways to Improve your Data Science or Programming Grad School App

February 15, 2019 :: Jacob Allison

Data Scientists and Programmers are in demand, so much so, they’re probably the only group of people that actually get pertinent LinkedIn DMs.

Companies are fighting over people with these qualifications, with companies offering lucrative signing bonuses and in-office perks like nap rooms and flexible working schedules. Many of the clients we work with looking to apply to elite graduate programs have engineering backgrounds, but want to get in to data science or programming for their graduate degree. Luckily for these applicants, they already probably have many of the core courses they would need for a data science career like statistics and high-level computer skills. So, what are some of the best approaches for engineering undergraduates to differentiate themselves in the graduate admissions process?

Show Initiative

There are dozens of stories online about people who snagged a lucrative programming gig at Apple or Amazon with only a high school degree. How did they do it? Most of the time, its by learning programming and data science through online learning resources like Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.

Having courses from MOOCs like Udemy and Codecademy can also be a competitive boost to your graduate admissions profile. Demonstrating that you’ve already taken steps to strengthen your technical skills will communicate to adcoms that you’ll already be ahead of the curve when you enter their program.

Recommended Reading: Starting the Grad School Statement of Purpose


Whether you’re returning to get a graduate degree after a couple of years as a professional or are going straight to graduate school from your undergraduate degree, an internship can be a great addition to your graduate admissions profile.

Graduate applicants with an engineering background looking to get into programming and data science should look for internships in one of the dozens of industries that these kinds of graduates end up in, including banking, healthcare, finance, and many others.

Ideally, look for an internship that gives you an opportunity to contribute to projects that are in some way related to your desired field of study. That doesn’t mean you have to be doing in-the-weeds programming and data analysis. Simply being part of a competitive, high-stakes environment can be a valuable resource you can call on in your statement of purpose and in your admissions essays.

School Visit

A good idea for anyone applying to any program, the school visit is even more important for applicants seeking acceptance to graduate programs. Undergrads can sometimes get away with having somewhat vague or many different ideas about their career goals. Graduate students, however, are expected to have a crystal clear vision of how they plan on utilizing their target school’s resources to achieve success. Nothing can prepare you to do that in your statement of purpose or your admissions essays like a school visit.

When you go on your school visit, talk to as many people as you can. Current students, professors whose work you’re interested in, club presidents, and alumni can all give you valuable information about what makes your target school’s resources unique, and how you could utilize them towards achieving your goals. Make sure to connect either through social media or through email with the people you network with on your school visit, you never know when you’re going to have a question that only a current student or alumni could answer.

While most of the strategies for applying to grad school are similar for applicants with an engineering background as they are for applicants from any background, making the most of a school visit, doing a targeted internship, and taking online further education courses in programming can be particularly beneficial for students looking to transition from engineering to programming and data science.


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