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blc073

Ask questions about the PhD application process!

216 posts in this topic

2 minutes ago, ZY Cao said:

How much does a low GPA hurts my chances, im looking at around 3.0-3.2ish?

What is a desirable Verbal Score? around 150 or 160?

What is the average admission rate(not enrollment rate) for a high ranking school? mid one? I know it differ school to school so a range is appreciated.

Does a good Biology Subj score help allieviate the GPA situation? By how much?

Who reads the applications? Admission Officer or profs in the school of life sciences?

How helpful is contacting profs in advance?

I know this is a ton of questions but I've been asking around a long time and nobody knows the answers.

So I really really would like to have them.

本当にありがとうございます

A desirable verbal score is higher than 160, especially if you're an international student. 

Admission rates for grad school are completely meaningless, the process is much more complicated than for undergrad. I'll just say that it is not unheard of for top schools to have 15% acceptance rates. However, I don't know how this changes for international students, probably much much lower. 

The subject test does help to alleviate a lower GPA, especially if you go to an unknown school. A low GPA will hurt you, but it will not necessarily kill your chances. 

Professors read your applications. 

Contacting profs is very likely to NOT give you any kind of advantage when it comes to admissions, in my opinion. 

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58 minutes ago, Bioenchilada said:

A desirable verbal score is higher than 160, especially if you're an international student. 

Admission rates for grad school are completely meaningless, the process is much more complicated than for undergrad. I'll just say that it is not unheard of for top schools to have 15% acceptance rates. However, I don't know how this changes for international students, probably much much lower. 

The subject test does help to alleviate a lower GPA, especially if you go to an unknown school. A low GPA will hurt you, but it will not necessarily kill your chances. 

Professors read your applications. 

Contacting profs is very likely to NOT give you any kind of advantage when it comes to admissions, in my opinion. 

I don't agree with your last point. Though in the US most bio professors can't admit you directly, they can certainly give you an interview opportunity if they are really interested in you.

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1 hour ago, SysEvo said:

I don't agree with your last point. Though in the US most bio professors can't admit you directly, they can certainly give you an interview opportunity if they are really interested in you.

I didn't say that it was impossible for professors to help you out during the admissions process; however, I think that big professors are already extra busy and probably won't go out of their way to contact people in the adcom or vouche for someone they only know via email. 

Again, I'm not saying that the applicant should not email profs, I just believe it'll be more informative rather than advantageous in terms of admission. 

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3 hours ago, Bioenchilada said:

I didn't say that it was impossible for professors to help you out during the admissions process; however, I think that big professors are already extra busy and probably won't go out of their way to contact people in the adcom or vouche for someone they only know via email. 

Again, I'm not saying that the applicant should not email profs, I just believe it'll be more informative rather than advantageous in terms of admission. 

This has also been my experience/opinion.

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I'm hoping for some advice on handling my current situation! I have an offer at one program, and they want a decision by March 15. I'm not sure I'll hear back yet from the two other programs I interviewed at (one of which is my top choice), and obviously I'm not going to accept an offer with any chance of then declining later. Is it better to contact the two programs I haven't heard from yet? Or ask for an extension for my decision? 

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Posted (edited)

3 hours ago, TB12 said:

I'm hoping for some advice on handling my current situation! I have an offer at one program, and they want a decision by March 15. I'm not sure I'll hear back yet from the two other programs I interviewed at (one of which is my top choice), and obviously I'm not going to accept an offer with any chance of then declining later. Is it better to contact the two programs I haven't heard from yet? Or ask for an extension for my decision? 

I would suggest trying the latter first. Just let them know you're still waiting on other programs and if they can extend the deadline. If they say no, then you can ask the other programs if it is possible for a decision to be made by March 15. If none of the programs are willing to budge, then I would accept your current offer and if/when you get an offer from the other school decide if you would like to take the new offer. I personally know someone who has backed out after accepting an offer and it didn't seem like that big of a deal. Just be sure you're polite about it. 

Edited by Edotdl

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5 hours ago, TB12 said:
 

I'm hoping for some advice on handling my current situation! I have an offer at one program, and they want a decision by March 15. I'm not sure I'll hear back yet from the two other programs I interviewed at (one of which is my top choice), and obviously I'm not going to accept an offer with any chance of then declining later. Is it better to contact the two programs I haven't heard from yet? Or ask for an extension for my decision? 

Accredited programs give you until April 15th to decide. You might just be overestimating their statement. Unless your offer is tied to something like an additional fellowship offer which might be time sensitive to lure people, they can't rescind their admission if you don't get back to them until after March 15th.

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13 hours ago, TB12 said:

I'm hoping for some advice on handling my current situation! I have an offer at one program, and they want a decision by March 15. I'm not sure I'll hear back yet from the two other programs I interviewed at (one of which is my top choice), and obviously I'm not going to accept an offer with any chance of then declining later. Is it better to contact the two programs I haven't heard from yet? Or ask for an extension for my decision? 

I think, as said above, this March 15th deadline is likely a request because they're holding a waitlist. Columbia told us in the interview weekend that programs will ask for these earlier decisions because they're holding a waitlist and wana try and move it by eliminating people that are going to accept elsewhere. They told us they would do this (they did, they also asked us to decide in March and followed up with a few emails as well), but they also told us that no accredited program can force you to decide/rescind your offer before April 15th.

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11 hours ago, Edotdl said:

I would suggest trying the latter first. Just let them know you're still waiting on other programs and if they can extend the deadline. If they say no, then you can ask the other programs if it is possible for a decision to be made by March 15. If none of the programs are willing to budge, then I would accept your current offer and if/when you get an offer from the other school decide if you would like to take the new offer. I personally know someone who has backed out after accepting an offer and it didn't seem like that big of a deal. Just be sure you're polite about it. 

Thanks! I'm going to go ahead and ask for an extension!

9 hours ago, Infinito said:

Accredited programs give you until April 15th to decide. You might just be overestimating their statement. Unless your offer is tied to something like an additional fellowship offer which might be time sensitive to lure people, they can't rescind their admission if you don't get back to them until after March 15th.

 

1 hour ago, Nomad1111 said:

I think, as said above, this March 15th deadline is likely a request because they're holding a waitlist. Columbia told us in the interview weekend that programs will ask for these earlier decisions because they're holding a waitlist and wana try and move it by eliminating people that are going to accept elsewhere. They told us they would do this (they did, they also asked us to decide in March and followed up with a few emails as well), but they also told us that no accredited program can force you to decide/rescind your offer before April 15th.

Ahh I didn't know about the April 15th deadline, but that makes sense. I'd like to give them a decision as soon as possible but of course want to wait until I've heard from the other programs I interviewed at. Thanks for the information!!

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I am thinking of applying for biomedical/neurology programs next year. I am graduating in May and planning on working for a year as a research assistant/lab tech. I actually applied for a few Ecology programs in this application cycle but without much luck, which is for the best because I am reconsidering my decision to go into Ecology. Last semester, I took Neurology which fascinated me and I am going to try finding a relevant RA position for this year.

During my undergrad, I have worked in two labs at my home institution (unknown public regional school) and did a summer internship, all in different areas of molecular biology. However, this experience was before senior year, and I am currently doing an honors thesis in one of the humanities. While I liked research, I feel like the projects I was involved in (only one of the three was an independent one) weren't interesting enough to me, which is one of the reasons why I was thinking of going into a completely different area of biology. However, I am now realizing how much more there is to molecular biology than what I was exposed to during my work in labs. I am wondering if my broad scope of experiences will make me look unfocused and detriment my chances. Is my thesis even worth mentioning in SOP if it is not in science? If I get a job in a relevant field, will it give me any significant boost in the admissions process? Is there anything else I could do during the gap year that will increase my chances? My GPA and my GRE are decent, so no need to retake the test or anything.

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8 hours ago, InternationalCatLover said:

I am thinking of applying for biomedical/neurology programs next year. I am graduating in May and planning on working for a year as a research assistant/lab tech. I actually applied for a few Ecology programs in this application cycle but without much luck, which is for the best because I am reconsidering my decision to go into Ecology. Last semester, I took Neurology which fascinated me and I am going to try finding a relevant RA position for this year.

During my undergrad, I have worked in two labs at my home institution (unknown public regional school) and did a summer internship, all in different areas of molecular biology. However, this experience was before senior year, and I am currently doing an honors thesis in one of the humanities. While I liked research, I feel like the projects I was involved in (only one of the three was an independent one) weren't interesting enough to me, which is one of the reasons why I was thinking of going into a completely different area of biology. However, I am now realizing how much more there is to molecular biology than what I was exposed to during my work in labs. I am wondering if my broad scope of experiences will make me look unfocused and detriment my chances. Is my thesis even worth mentioning in SOP if it is not in science? If I get a job in a relevant field, will it give me any significant boost in the admissions process? Is there anything else I could do during the gap year that will increase my chances? My GPA and my GRE are decent, so no need to retake the test or anything.

A broad scope of research shouldn't hurt you as long as you have some relevant experience. At application, I had 2.5 years of research on plankton biochemistry and 1 on cancer but applied to biomedical/mol bio programs. Interviewers didn't seem to mind and some were even interested in the work which I was concerned would be a detriment to my application. I would only mention the humanities thesis in my SOP if it had some relevance to my research or scientific goals, but you can include it in your CV as "Honors Thesis in Major So and So". Getting a job in a lab doing research would definitely help you in admissions.

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Anybody know of a website or calculator that lets you estimate the tax on your stipend? I assume it will vary depending on the state but just looking for a rough number. 

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58 minutes ago, abcd1 said:

Anybody know of a website or calculator that lets you estimate the tax on your stipend? I assume it will vary depending on the state but just looking for a rough number. 

The general rule is to set aside 20% for taxes. In Massachusetts, the actual tax is closer to 14% total. 

My girlfriend and I came out ahead on taxes this year and planned a trip to Spain! #savemorethanyouneed 

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21 minutes ago, blc073 said:

The general rule is to set aside 20% for taxes. In Massachusetts, the actual tax is closer to 14% total. 

My girlfriend and I came out ahead on taxes this year and planned a trip to Spain! #savemorethanyouneed 

Thanks. I am an international student so was wondering if the tax rate might be different for me. 

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15 hours ago, abcd1 said:

Thanks. I am an international student so was wondering if the tax rate might be different for me. 

I am not international, so I am not certain, but I believe taxes for international students depends on your country's tax treaty with the US. I've heard that if your country has a tax treaty, you do not owe any taxes for the first two years. 

Look at the information on your country's embassy website. For example, look here.

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For general interest, you can estimate the amount you will have to pay in federal income tax using this website (https://apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator/), though I don't think this applies to international students. You will have to search state by state to get an estimate of how much you will pay in state income taxes.

In addition to income taxes, you may also have to pay FICA taxes, which is a flat tax of 7.65% (for our purposes). If you are registered as a full-time student, you are exempt from FICA taxes. For this reason, some institutions make sure their grad students are always registered as full-time students, but others do not. For example, at UIUC, you register for up to 16 credits of "Thesis Research" after you have completed all of your coursework, and you never pay FICA taxes. Conversely, at UCSF, it is my understanding that some programs do not have you register for any courses after the first few years or over the summer, meaning you have to pay FICA taxes during those times.

While we're on the subject of money, I also found this website (http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/) particularly helpful for understanding how far different stipends would go after taxes.

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