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Josh1964

How are other international students applicant doing this round

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I know it's always hard for international students to apply for life science programs because of the funding issues. I was rejected by most of the programs that I have applied (In retrospect, I should not have applied for all top programs, especially in the medical schools)MSK, Weil-Cornell, Rockefeller, Columbia Medical Campus, NYU Sackler Mount Sinai and Cold spring harbor and UCSF all said no. Only one interview offered from Uconn Health Center. Still waiting on more decisions but currently, do not have much hope. I did my undergrad in a top20 liberal arts college GPA 3.6/4.0 (I know it's not great. I finished in 3 years and one semester really screwed me up lol).  Research experience wise I have around two years, no publications but a thesis on the way. Currently in a master program at my own undergrad institution. Recommendations are all from my advisors and they know me really well. 

I'm just wondering how are other international students doing in this round of applications? Maybe it's some flaws in my own applications (I finished 11 in 3 days. Didn't really decide to apply till the last minute. I'm not really confident in my Personal Statement but I did the best I could ). Would like to hear from other international students about how they are doing this year? I'm currently thinking about doing a lab tech/RA job somewhere 

 

 

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Hi there, I am also an international student and I got my bachelor degree in the US. My undergrad GPA is 3.76 and I am also currently in a masters program (in Europe), I have around 3 years of research experience and I am a co-author on two papers. I think part of the problem may be your choice of programs, lot of them are quite fancy :P They have so many applicants to choose from that you can hardly be sure you will get in, I think you also need a bit of luck... I have also selected many high profile programs, but my previous supervisor advised me to only select a couple and add some "safety" schools. I know nobody wants to end up in their safety school, but I do agree it is important especially for international students to have some back up options.  

Also 11 applications in 3 days sounds really fast to me. Perhaps it is just me being slow, but it took me several days to apply to my 5 programs and most of that time was actually spent on personal statement (which I really really hated to write), since that needs to be tailored for each program. I have already heard from 4 out of 5 programs and it looks promising, but no official admission yet. But the institutions to which I applied are lot less known I think.

I think in my case it was very helpful that I have reached out to faculty members. Although I am applying for biomedical sciences in general, I know I want to continue with vascular biology and so I contacted faculty working on such topics. The admissions people seemed to like it a lot. 

Did the programs that declined you also give some explanation? 

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I understand how soul-crushing the application process could get. I applied to a few neuroscience programs  and was rejected. I  think it depends a little bit on your major, that is international applicants with an engineering or computer/physics background have an even better chance of getting into some biology programs because of the huge amount of data that need to be handled even in biological sciences.(or I might be wrong)

Also from a few successful cases that I've seen around me it's very helpful to be involved with a big name researcher and be part of a top journal/conference publication (even if you don't get to work on your own interests). Working in a US lab would be a major bonus if you can find one, in my case it is not realistic because of visa/funding issues but I guess it would be easier if you are a European student. But honestly I think so many american applicants have RA jobs in their resume that if you're really thinking about applying to top schools (like programs you mentioned) you'd better get your name in some major publications. (again my personal opinion !)

In the meantime, Best of luck on your Uconn interview !

Edited by aurlito

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17 hours ago, Josh1964 said:

I know it's always hard for international students to apply for life science programs because of the funding issues. I was rejected by most of the programs that I have applied (In retrospect, I should not have applied for all top programs, especially in the medical schools)MSK, Weil-Cornell, Rockefeller, Columbia Medical Campus, NYU Sackler Mount Sinai and Cold spring harbor and UCSF all said no. Only one interview offered from Uconn Health Center. Still waiting on more decisions but currently, do not have much hope. I did my undergrad in a top20 liberal arts college GPA 3.6/4.0 (I know it's not great. I finished in 3 years and one semester really screwed me up lol).  Research experience wise I have around two years, no publications but a thesis on the way. Currently in a master program at my own undergrad institution. Recommendations are all from my advisors and they know me really well. 

I'm just wondering how are other international students doing in this round of applications? Maybe it's some flaws in my own applications (I finished 11 in 3 days. Didn't really decide to apply till the last minute. I'm not really confident in my Personal Statement but I did the best I could ). Would like to hear from other international students about how they are doing this year? I'm currently thinking about doing a lab tech/RA job somewhere 

 

 

I'm an international student wrapping up my MSc in Canada -- have had some success this season with an offer from GSK as well as interviews at Weill Cornell and NYU. I have ~5 years total of research experience in both wet and dry lab, a few manuscripts in preparation, one second-author submitted paper, and LoRs from research advisors who are quite well-known in their fields. My grad and undergrad GPAs are ~3.9/4.0. To be honest I think it's a combination of research fit (lots of PIs doing what I wanted to do in all schools I applied to), LoRs and some luck that got me this far. Don't be disheartened yet! I've heard it's been a very competitive season so far for all programs and sometimes whether you get invited for interviews or not boiled down to luck. You can still ace your UConn interview, and in the worst case, a few more years as a tech/RA to learn new techniques and get published will help you tremendously when you apply later. Even though many programs have limited funding for int'l students (the UCs for example), some others don't really care about our citizenship status (e.g. most NYC schools), so you do have options. Best of luck!

Edited by thinhtran

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9 hours ago, zuska said:

Hi there, I am also an international student and I got my bachelor degree in the US. My undergrad GPA is 3.76 and I am also currently in a masters program (in Europe), I have around 3 years of research experience and I am a co-author on two papers. I think part of the problem may be your choice of programs, lot of them are quite fancy :P They have so many applicants to choose from that you can hardly be sure you will get in, I think you also need a bit of luck... I have also selected many high profile programs, but my previous supervisor advised me to only select a couple and add some "safety" schools. I know nobody wants to end up in their safety school, but I do agree it is important especially for international students to have some back up options.  

Also 11 applications in 3 days sounds really fast to me. Perhaps it is just me being slow, but it took me several days to apply to my 5 programs and most of that time was actually spent on personal statement (which I really really hated to write), since that needs to be tailored for each program. I have already heard from 4 out of 5 programs and it looks promising, but no official admission yet. But the institutions to which I applied are lot less known I think.

I think in my case it was very helpful that I have reached out to faculty members. Although I am applying for biomedical sciences in general, I know I want to continue with vascular biology and so I contacted faculty working on such topics. The admissions people seemed to like it a lot. 

Did the programs that declined you also give some explanation? 

Not really. They are pretty generic rejection letters.

When I applied all my advisors were like look here and there and we will give you good recs. You are gonna be a great candidate and get into great programs. Well obviously that did not turn out well. I didn't really decide to apply until the last two weeks so I was kinda scrabbling to get everything together. I figured that is probably the weakest point in my application. Uconn is my backup school. I have done the interview it went fine. I'm now just waiting to apply for some RA jobs and see what's the next step. 

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2 hours ago, thinhtran said:

I'm an international student wrapping up my MSc in Canada -- have had some success this season with an offer from GSK as well as interviews at Weill Cornell and NYU. I have ~5 years total of research experience in both wet and dry lab, a few manuscripts in preparation, one second-author submitted paper, and LoRs from research advisors who are quite well-known in their fields. My grad and undergrad GPAs are ~3.9/4.0. To be honest I think it's a combination of research fit (lots of PIs doing what I wanted to do in all schools I applied to), LoRs and some luck that got me this far. Don't be disheartened yet! I've heard it's been a very competitive season so far for all programs and sometimes whether you get invited for interviews or not boiled down to luck. You can still ace your UConn interview, and in the worst case, a few more years as a tech/RA to learn new techniques and get published will help you tremendously when you apply later. Even though many programs have limited funding for int'l students (the UCs for example), some others don't really care about our citizenship status (e.g. most NYC schools), so you do have options. Best of luck!

I have heard NYC schools are not that friendly towards international students but I could be wrong. I mostly apply for umbrella program with a concentration for developmental bio. I did my undergrad and master mostly in biophysics but I'm really interested in developmental. I'm now applying for jobs it's just so tiring like a never-ending process of applications. 

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On 1/28/2019 at 5:09 PM, Josh1964 said:

I know it's always hard for international students to apply for life science programs because of the funding issues. I was rejected by most of the programs that I have applied (In retrospect, I should not have applied for all top programs, especially in the medical schools)MSK, Weil-Cornell, Rockefeller, Columbia Medical Campus, NYU Sackler Mount Sinai and Cold spring harbor and UCSF all said no. Only one interview offered from Uconn Health Center. Still waiting on more decisions but currently, do not have much hope. I did my undergrad in a top20 liberal arts college GPA 3.6/4.0 (I know it's not great. I finished in 3 years and one semester really screwed me up lol).  Research experience wise I have around two years, no publications but a thesis on the way. Currently in a master program at my own undergrad institution. Recommendations are all from my advisors and they know me really well. 

I'm just wondering how are other international students doing in this round of applications? Maybe it's some flaws in my own applications (I finished 11 in 3 days. Didn't really decide to apply till the last minute. I'm not really confident in my Personal Statement but I did the best I could ). Would like to hear from other international students about how they are doing this year? I'm currently thinking about doing a lab tech/RA job somewhere 

 

 

Can you please give me advice on how international students apply for funding in PhD programs in USA? I did go through websites of some schools, and some of them do indicate that they offer TAships, assistantships, and others. But for programs that require contact with potential advisors who are looking for graduate students before applying, do you need to indicate that you will be needing funding and expenses?

I did apply to only one university this cycle (UMass Amherst), but I haven't heard back from any of those three programs I applied to, and am dreading rejections anyway. How do international students bring funds to work in labs?

Sorry about my poorly worded post, thanks!

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I too went in with wayyyy too bravado for an international student (Canadian), and applied to a very similar list of top-flight computational biology PhD programs. My academic profile, however, may have given me the edge I needed to eke out 2 interviews out of the 7. I was known to at least one of the faculty at the 2, so I'm not actually sure how much of them came down to prior networking versus the strength of my apps.I can summarize my stats in a following post if there's interest. It's very similar to thinhtran's, and we got interviews at the same NYC schools! 

I agree with @zuska in that 11 applications in 3 days sounds really rushed. My personal statement was written over the span of a month, and it was quite honestly crowd-sourced from a few people I trusted to provide me with unbiased opinions. I also ended up hating the process LOL, but it really forced me to evaluate why I was going after each program. One anecdotal point about the networking thing also happens to be what sold me on NYC schools. I went to a total of three Cold Spring Harbour conferences and hackathons, and my goodness did I like the people and research environment! I also loved that there were so many research institutions collaborating on projects I liked in a single city, and that enthusiasm really came across in my apps and the people I contacted. 

Good luck with the UConn interview! I've done both wet and dry work across many fields (and considered peacing it from academia altogether multiple times), so if you have any specific questions about where to direct your efforts next, feel free to PM me. 

On 1/30/2019 at 4:21 PM, antanon82 said:

Can you please give me advice on how international students apply for funding in PhD programs in USA? I did go through websites of some schools, and some of them do indicate that they offer TAships, assistantships, and others. But for programs that require contact with potential advisors who are looking for graduate students before applying, do you need to indicate that you will be needing funding and expenses?

 I did apply to only one university this cycle (UMass Amherst), but I haven't heard back from any of those three programs I applied to, and am dreading rejections anyway. How do international students bring funds to work in labs?

 Sorry about my poorly worded post, thanks!

I don't have too much advice, sorry! I specifically looked for programs that guaranteed tuition coverage and full stipends for internationals. To be quite honest, as a Canadian, I would recommend Canada for international students (no idea if that's where you're from). If you're not at top programs that guarantee 100% coverage in the US, it turns into a massive headache, one that I personally want no part of. Reputable Canadian programs mandate that professors will at least cover your stipend through their own funding or TAships, and up to a portion of your stipend as well. 

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15 hours ago, LaurenEm said:

I too went in with wayyyy too bravado for an international student (Canadian), and applied to a very similar list of top-flight computational biology PhD programs. My academic profile, however, may have given me the edge I needed to eke out 2 interviews out of the 7. I was known to at least one of the faculty at the 2, so I'm not actually sure how much of them came down to prior networking versus the strength of my apps.I can summarize my stats in a following post if there's interest. It's very similar to thinhtran's, and we got interviews at the same NYC schools! 

I agree with @zuska in that 11 applications in 3 days sounds really rushed. My personal statement was written over the span of a month, and it was quite honestly crowd-sourced from a few people I trusted to provide me with unbiased opinions. I also ended up hating the process LOL, but it really forced me to evaluate why I was going after each program. One anecdotal point about the networking thing also happens to be what sold me on NYC schools. I went to a total of three Cold Spring Harbour conferences and hackathons, and my goodness did I like the people and research environment! I also loved that there were so many research institutions collaborating on projects I liked in a single city, and that enthusiasm really came across in my apps and the people I contacted. 

Good luck with the UConn interview! I've done both wet and dry work across many fields (and considered peacing it from academia altogether multiple times), so if you have any specific questions about where to direct your efforts next, feel free to PM me. 

I don't have too much advice, sorry! I specifically looked for programs that guaranteed tuition coverage and full stipends for internationals. To be quite honest, as a Canadian, I would recommend Canada for international students (no idea if that's where you're from). If you're not at top programs that guarantee 100% coverage in the US, it turns into a massive headache, one that I personally want no part of. Reputable Canadian programs mandate that professors will at least cover your stipend through their own funding or TAships, and up to a portion of your stipend as well. 

Yes, I am Canadian (naturalized citizen) but I have been living in the US for the past five years... 

Thanks for the info - it is getting extremely competitive to get into top programs that guarantee funding.

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I applied to 14 programs in immunology/umbrella biology programs that include immunology. I am very happy to have gotten 6 interview invites, including 2 from my top 4 choices (yes from Harvard and GSK, no from Yale and Stanford). My top choices happened to be the earliest interviews and I already got offers from both, so I declined 2 interviews that had scheduling issues, and am just gonna chill through the remaining 2.

About myself: I'm an international student from China who finished undergrad in the US and am currently lab-teching in my undergrad lab. My numbers are fine (GPA 3.75, GRE >90% for all 3 subjects). LORs are likely very good but not the absolute strongest (my PI is extremely young, so although it must have been a fantastic letter, it might not carry the most weight). Research experience - 3.5 years in the same lab, 1 small 2nd author pub, honors thesis. I started seriously writing my essays and such maybe early-mid November? I did consult people in my lab on how they structured their essays when they applied, but did not actually have people look over my draft. I did get people to proof-read my resume and crowd source fancier ways to say certain things haha.

I think you're right that you need a few more matches/safeties in the next round, but also remember that things can be really unpredictable, even to people who are familiar with a particular program. When I was at GSK, 2 faculty members I interviewed with saw that I applied to Weill Cornell and were genuinely surprised that I didn't get an interview there (you probably know that Cornell and GSK share a lot of faculty and most people apply to both). It might have been because Cornell got more incoming immunology students last year than they expected - I think this is the kind of information that's good to keep track of, and deciding to apply last minute obviously didn't give you a chance to research such stuff.

Regarding funding, I vetted my list such that all guarantee funding for international students, and all except one (Stanford) had good international student numbers. I also had a faculty member help me polish my school list (he's the director for my undergrad biology honors program and has many years of experience advising people about grad school). But in the 40 or so schools I considered, only 1 said they wouldn't guarantee funding for international students; I'd say for most schools, if they're short on private funding, they'd just outright take fewer international students rather than admit you and then tell you "actually, you gotta look for money yourself".

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12 hours ago, DRMF said:

I applied to 14 programs in immunology/umbrella biology programs that include immunology. I am very happy to have gotten 6 interview invites, including 2 from my top 4 choices (yes from Harvard and GSK, no from Yale and Stanford). My top choices happened to be the earliest interviews and I already got offers from both, so I declined 2 interviews that had scheduling issues, and am just gonna chill through the remaining 2.

About myself: I'm an international student from China who finished undergrad in the US and am currently lab-teching in my undergrad lab. My numbers are fine (GPA 3.75, GRE >90% for all 3 subjects). LORs are likely very good but not the absolute strongest (my PI is extremely young, so although it must have been a fantastic letter, it might not carry the most weight). Research experience - 3.5 years in the same lab, 1 small 2nd author pub, honors thesis. I started seriously writing my essays and such maybe early-mid November? I did consult people in my lab on how they structured their essays when they applied, but did not actually have people look over my draft. I did get people to proof-read my resume and crowd source fancier ways to say certain things haha.

I think you're right that you need a few more matches/safeties in the next round, but also remember that things can be really unpredictable, even to people who are familiar with a particular program. When I was at GSK, 2 faculty members I interviewed with saw that I applied to Weill Cornell and were genuinely surprised that I didn't get an interview there (you probably know that Cornell and GSK share a lot of faculty and most people apply to both). It might have been because Cornell got more incoming immunology students last year than they expected - I think this is the kind of information that's good to keep track of, and deciding to apply last minute obviously didn't give you a chance to research such stuff.

Regarding funding, I vetted my list such that all guarantee funding for international students, and all except one (Stanford) had good international student numbers. I also had a faculty member help me polish my school list (he's the director for my undergrad biology honors program and has many years of experience advising people about grad school). But in the 40 or so schools I considered, only 1 said they wouldn't guarantee funding for international students; I'd say for most schools, if they're short on private funding, they'd just outright take fewer international students rather than admit you and then tell you "actually, you gotta look for money yourself".

A fantastic letter from a new PI outweighs a generic letter from a famous PI.

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First off I'm glad that this thread exists... I can finally find some solace in my fellow international comrades. 

1. I applied to 7 schools, got 2 interviews from Vanderbilt Chem Bio and Weill Cornell Pharmacology. Got accepted to Weill so far and still waiting for Vandy. It is indeed soul crushing to receive rejections from schools (and faculties) that you've spent much time reading and researching about. Keep your head up and hopefully by now you've crushed that UConn interview. One is all it takes. 

2. My recommendation would be putting more time reading into faculty publications, and tailoring your SOP/PS into why you are a perfect fit with the program you selected. Personal anecdotes of your research experience help immensely. Find someone to polish your essays and school lists.

3. On the topic of selectivity, especially among the Tri-I schools, they are receptive of international students. Both GSK and Weill have dedicated web pages for international students, whereas UCSF has a very blunt message on their admissions pages that says that you should essentially think twice if you're international. In general, NYC is a luminary for an international community considering its history, and I don't think your school choices were unwise at all. You should, however, still call in each school to confirm. 

4. My credentials: Taiwanese international. 3.5/4.0 from UCLA, 4/4 UCSF Master's. Two publications. 3 years of research. GRE 161V, 162Q, 5.5W. Make sure to crush the interviews, tell them the school's your first choice, be ready to answer the question "what your research interests are," to which you should list 3 faculties that you'd see yourself working with. In the mean time, get published and get good letters. IMO these two items tell more about an individual's research potential than anything else...  

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I know it's pretty late but it's always nice to hear from other international students' perspectives on grad school applications. It seems like lots of you guys are interested in health / medical science related biology fields. For me, I am into ecology fields (a quantitative ecology). I am currently finishing off my undergraduate degree at a small public liberal arts school in the US and will be going to a grad school for a Ph.D. in ecology, evolution, and behavior this coming fall.

I only applied 4 programs that showed me an interest (especially the POIs whom I contacted showed me an interest and had a Skype interview before applications). All of the programs that I applied said that most of the admitted students have average 3.7 GPA and some of them don't look at GREs anymore but they require high GRE scores (I didn't do well on GRE).  But they said, "don't let those requirements scare you!, talk to your POIs and apply if they told you to!" They said I still have a chance to get admitted and I did so and got accepted.

For GRE, we as international students have a disadvantage since most of us are not native English speakers and thankfully, lots of schools nowadays decided not to look at GREs because it shows a bias between native English speakers and non-native English speakers. 

I got 2 offers and 2 rejections (One said she was really impressed with my application and recommended to other programs at her institute that she would like to advise me but it was too competitive that all of her potential students didn't make it).

My overall GPA is 3.1 (I know it's super low compared to all of you guys, my major GPA is 3.8 tho). I didn't do great academically (Got 2.0 GPA in my freshmen year) and took 2 years off of college and decided to work instead in my home country after my sophomore year. After working + doing research, I realized that what sub-field of ecology I wanted to do for my life and decided to become a quantitative ecologist. 

I came back to the school and changed my major to Statistics and tried so hard and finally achieved all As in my first semester after coming back from the break. And I continued to work hard to get As until my last semester while working and doing research every semester. For me, I continuously contacted so many faculties at different schools 2 years before I even applied to grad school. Some people didn't even reply to my emails, Some people were nice enough to tell me that they were not looking for grad students that year. Some of them encouraged me to keep in touch with them and that's what I did (Every 4 or 5 months, I just updated them what happened to my life). And that finally opened my opportunities to work with some of them. 

People told me that For Ph.D., it doesn't matter how talented and great you are in academics but if you don't contact any POIs at your top choice programs before actual applications, they will reject you no matter what because they do not know you. 

I did 4 research and 3 jobs related to my field throughout my undergraduate years. The faculty that I did research with last summer is now my advisor for Ph.D. (She wrote a recommendation letter for me) :) And now we are writing a paper on our summer research to publish. I also had a great relationship with lots of faculties at my home institute and that helped me a lot with recommendation letters and they proofread my personal statement as well.

For Ph.D. in pure biology programs, I strongly believe that they care more about your experiences and who you are rather than looking at your grades (Often times, we as international students care too much about GRE and GPAs) But honestly, from my perspectives, what grad school wants from us is our independence + creativity and motivation to work with others and learn. They want to see our passion and we need to show that somehow through our personal statements or improvements in academics or research experiences or meeting them in person during the welcome week. I believe if you keep knocking the door, it will eventually open. That happened to me! 

On 1/30/2019 at 5:21 PM, antanon82 said:

Can you please give me advice on how international students apply for funding in PhD programs in USA? I did go through websites of some schools, and some of them do indicate that they offer TAships, assistantships, and others. But for programs that require contact with potential advisors who are looking for graduate students before applying, do you need to indicate that you will be needing funding and expenses?

I did apply to only one university this cycle (UMass Amherst), but I haven't heard back from any of those three programs I applied to, and am dreading rejections anyway. How do international students bring funds to work in labs?

Sorry about my poorly worded post, thanks!

For the funding, Don't ever apply to the programs that don't offer you fundings. (That's what I heard from some of the grad students at least for pure biology programs). That is not worth it. We have to pay more than US students and even US citizens struggle with paying tuitions for their graduate programs (especially Master's).

That's why they emphasize you to contact your potential advisors at the programs a few months before you actually apply. They will let you know if they have funding for potential students or their programs offering you funding once you get accepted to the program. So the best way is contacting your POIs and they will let you know with all the info. 

For me, the Ph.D. program that I got accepted offers a 5 yrs guaranteed funding. They said once a student gets accepted, they will give the student guaranteed funding for 5 years.  Some of the international students get funding through Fullbright scholarships from their home countries, getting funding through their advisors or TA or RA ships. 

Edited by denni1067

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