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Advice for Neuroscience PhD Applicant


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Hi! I would greatly appreciate any advice on my competitiveness as an applicant to Neuroscience PhD programs. Here's a bit about me:

Graduated from top 20 college with a 3.0 GPA, majored in Neuroscience & Behavioral Biology. I did horribly my freshman & sophomore years-- came from a bad public school system in FL and wasn't prepared for the rigors of pre-med. But after I began my neuroscience courses, my GPA rose exponentially, with a 3.5 GPA in my major. I mentioned this briefly in my statement of purpose, but have had varying advice as to how much explaining I should do in my apps. I had two research assistant positions in college and a year-long independent research study. After graduation, I worked as a lab manager for two years in a spinal cord injury lab at a top 20 public school, where I basically ran the entire lab, supervised the techs & students, and designed and executed of the experiments (the PI was in his 70s and didn't have graduate students or post-docs, but is well known in his field). We were close and I'll get a positive LOR from him. I have 1 publication, 1 first-author poster presentation, and 2 co-author abstracts. I am currently a lab technician at an Ivy League university in a neuroscience lab (been in current position for 1.5 yrs). My GRE scores are very very mediocre-- V=157, Q=147. AWA 4.5 but I'm retaking next week. I'm wondering--do I have a shot AT ALL with my low gpa and likely lowish GRE scores?

If not, would it be advisable to try to do a masters in neuroscience instead of taking a 5th year off as a technician? At this point, I've accumulated such a vast set of lab skills as a technician that I'm not sure how much of a difference another year will make.

Here is my application list (all Neuroscience PhD programs). Do I have too many "reach" schools given my stats? I'm feeling pretty hopeless right now about my chances to ANY of these schools and it's so hard to gauge their competitiveness, so any insight as well as suggestions of places in my range would be greatly appreciated!

1) NYU, 2) Albert Einstein, 3) CUNY, 4) Emory University, 5) Mount Sinai, 6) Weill Cornell, 7) Georgetown, 8) Georgia State. 9) SUNY Downstate Medical Center. 10) Rutgers (Newark), 11) University of Michigan- Ann Arbor, 12) Vanderbilt, 13) Wesleyan, 14) University of Miami (maybe), 15) American (maybe), 16) Dartmouth (maybe)

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Hi lemmabear,

I think you definitely have a shot! First, GPA and GRE scores are only a part of your application and programs really only care if they're really really bad (which yours aren't). Additionally, many programs are opting to not require GRE scores, so in your case you can consider not reporting them (unless your re-take goes well!). 

I think programs care most about research experience and LOR's, which you have aplenty. Since you have so much experience you have a lot of material you can talk about in your SOP, which can really benefit your application. Also, contact professors you're interested in working with. This is so important and can really help you!

To sum it all up: you can do a master's if you're concerned about your ability to get back into a program (versus an employment position) or if you don't feel really sure about applying to Ph.D. programs. 

Let me know if you have any questions! :)

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