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Hi All,

I am waiting for my application results to trickle down and since I haven't heard back from any of the 11 schools I applied to (I know it's a bit early). I would like realistic input on my prospect of getting to any of the programs I applied to from helpful folks out there.

(Programs in brackets)

Indiana University- Bloomington (Social Psychology)

University of Oregon (Social Psychology)

University of Cincinnati (Clinical Psychology )

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Social Psychology)

Stony Brook University (Social Psychology)

University of Rutger's (Social Psychology)

University of Virginia (Social Psychology)

University of Alabama (Social Psychology)

Binghamton University (Cognitive and Brain Sciences)

University of Oklahoma (Social Psychology)

University of Memphis (Experimental Psychology Program)

I went to U of I, psych major, Russian minor, undergrad GPA is lowish: 3.36/4.00

GRE is also lowish at 315 (Q: 158, V: 157)

English is my second language, but since I'm a citizen and undergrad education was in US, TOEFL is waivered.

Took 4 graduate level courses during 3rd and 4th year. Got 2 As and 1 B+ and 1 D in that. Other psych courses are mixed bags of A+ to Bs.

I have co-authored a paper with significant findings in aging, social interactions, and exercise, published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. It's basically my undergraduate thesis (awarded with departmental distinction in research excellence upon graduation) with more extensive analyses.

I also have poster presentation in a world conference presented in Prague (not presented by me, but am a first-author on the poster due to contribution in conducting the study and data analyses).

Currently working as a full-time clinical research coordinator at a top 15 research university/medical school. Had both clinical/non-clinical research experiences at three other labs during my undergraduate years.

I try my best to be specific in the topics I want to work on in graduate school and how they are a good fit with the respective professors' interests in my statement. Some labs I applied to are more related to the fields I did research in (all cognitive neuroscience/ neuropsychiatric research), other less related. I want to shift gears to focus on topics in social-cognitive psychology in graduate school (I know it's bit of a far stretch from the fields I have research experience in).

I am very self-conscious about the following shortcomings in my application:

Low GPA: In particular, I had a D in graduate level "Neuroscience of Learning and Memory" in my last year in college. I had many things on my plate at the time:

1. Working on data analysis, meaningful results, and paper for distinction recognition on a topic I wasn't previously familiar with (white matter deterioration of older adults).

2. Job interviews + extensive background checks for a federal government position I passed interview for.

I did not seek enough help when I struggled with the course materials. I obtained notes from classmates on those days I must leave town for interviews and matters for my background checks. I know it's not an excuse, but I felt that the classes I missed due to job matters significantly impacted my performance in the course.

Since I know I'm not the smartest kid in class, I felt shouldn't have minored in Russian as that took away a lot of time and effort from my research and psych major coursework. I couldn't have managed both the minor and stellar academic record for grad school. I was very interested in Russian language and culture at the time so I persisted to complete the minor (a lot of work for a minor). I regret not having planned a focused path for psych PhD back in my undergrad years, but that's the backdrop for my dilemma. I want to move forward from those poor decisions. In my statement, I addressed my low GPA and poor grade in the psych grad level class in my senior year (very bad for grad admission, I know), and emphasized that I took two years off to polish my research skills and knowledge in the field I did poorly by working in cognitive neuroscience research full-time.

I am also very concerned about the fact that none of my recommenders are from my undergrad institution. I have never met any of the professors from the labs I worked in back in U of I. I tried to contact the graduate students/ post docs I used to work closely with but all have either graduated/ switched jobs that their old university emails don't work.

I have four strong recommenders and try to put four in my application (if the system let me), since most schools only ask for three. All of them are either distinguished professors or physician/professors from a psychopharmacology lab I used to work in over the summer of my junior year and the current lab I work in. However, I am very self-conscious about the fact that I couldn't find any professors to recommend me from the labs I worked in back in my undergrad years. I’ve never even seen the professors in these labs in-person, and only email-contacted a professor once to ask him to review the distinction paper on his study, so they probably don't remember me. I also avoid asking for LORs from professors I only had classes with (but no experience working on their research). Does having LORs from undergrad institution matters to the admission committee?

I also try to contact every professor I want to work with. There were only a couple I did not have the time to contact before app submission (mid Sept-end of Dec was also a hectic period at work unfortunately). I received positive responses and interest on my CV from most of the professors...maybe because I didn't include my low-ish GPA and GRE scores on my CV?

I know I sound like I am simply lamenting about things that can't be changed with my wall-o-text, but I'm actually here to ask for honest, constructive advice from those out there who understand the PhD admission process. Do I have much of a chance to get in any of the program I have applied for? Should I start applying for Master's program now? Should I improve my GRE to compensate for low GPA? Should I take the GRE psychology subject test? Or if you think I'm not cut for a research career, any other meaningful career advice is appreciated!

I try to be as specific as possible, but feel free to ask about any relevant details. ?



Edited by tche6750
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Here are my opinions(take with a grain of salt)

  • To me you seem like a strong applicant who is really interested in your field. You took time off of undergrad to improve yourself for 2 years before deciding to apply which can help compensate for your D grade.
  • Hopefully you didn't overexplain your D in your SOP - this would have been a great time for an undergrad professor to say I'm aware xyz got a D but during that time they were also doing a b and c and I do not think this is an indication of their work ethic. 
  • The lack of an undergrad professor could be taken either way but as a person who is only 2 years removed rather than 10 I think they may at least raise an eyebrow at the lack of an undergrad professor but I'm not sure how that would sway your decision.
  • I would wait until at least the 2nd week of February (2/16) to see if you've heard back from anybody as this will save you money from retaking the GRE. I'm not sure what the typical GRE is in your field but if you are not accepted this year only then would I consider retaking it.
  • I would also wait until you've received all results so that if they some how happen to all be rejections you could reach out to the admissions committees for feedback so that when you apply again you do not make the same mistakes (the type of mistakes that would also keep you out of a masters program if you applied).
  • I personally think your GPA is not low as it's above a 3.0 w/ a copious amount of experiences and different perspectives.
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