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To take UCLA's graduate program in mechanical engineering as an example, they address this question specifically in Q5 if you scroll down at this link: https://www.mae.ucla.edu/graduate-admissions/
In summary, if your background is another STEM area, the steps you can take to make yourself competitive include:
1) Mechanical engineering coursework (lower divisional and upper divisional, if possible)
2) Projects and experience relevant to mechanical engineering
For #1, you already mention you're doing this, which is great! Try to do well in these courses (especially the upper divisional ones down the road), as grad school admissions committees will pay particular attention there.
For #2, I feel that one of the better routes would be to try to pick up research experience in the mechanical engineering department at your university. In general, research experience is very good to have to make you competitive for grad school. In addition however, it'll show that you have practical experience in a *mechanical engineering* research environment.
Your CS background in particular can be extremely useful to professors in more computational areas of mechanical engineering. For example, computational fluid dynamics would be one of these sorts of areas. There will be other positions and niches that are heavy in simulations (ex. some energy groups), so these may be good targets. Once you get your foot in the door, you'll have practical mechanical engineering experience + a potential recommendation letter down the road.
One more thing that you could do is join one of your school's mechanical engineering design teams! Again, this will give you a sense for what practical mechanical engineering is about while also adding to your profile for grad school admissions. A common team that many schools will have is Formula One, for example.
To your question on grad school admissions in general, the overall requirements will vary depending on the school. UCLA for example has a competitive admissions process and students have an average of ~3.7 GPA. In general, if you can be >3.5, you should be in good shape at most places. You can look up average entry GPA's for your target schools. It's important to note however that GPA is just one factor. The other main factors include your research experience, your letters of recommendation, and your GRE score. The best things you can do to keep your odds high are to (1) keep your grades up, (2) get some research experience and do a great job, (3) down the line, do well on the GRE.
Best of luck, Ashley!
Herman recommends the following next steps:
- Continue to take mechanical engineering courses, as available
- Try to find research opportunities within your mechanical engineering department (you can target computationally heavy fields / roles initially)
- Keep your grades up as best as you can
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