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How to best fill in the gap year before applying next cycle?



I applied in my senior year without hope as my stats weren't good, but I tried to take a shot to gain some experience. I applied to about 4 schools for chemistry and biochemistry programs and got all rejects, which I wasn't too surprised since I wasn't finished taking major courses. I'm not too proud of my stats: 3.2 GPA, 3.1 major GPA, 143/154/4.0 GRE, 2.5 years of research experience (both experiences in synthesis and biochemistry research), and no pub. I graduated already, and I'm trying to apply again this upcoming cycle around October-December. I have about 6-8 months before submitting my applications, so what would be the most productive way to fill this gap?

Some things that I'm already working on are:

- I am currently working on GRE, and I'm also planning to take the Chemistry GRE in September. 

- I talked with my research advisor, and we can work on a paper to submit for one of the research I did. So, I might possibly be a second-author for the paper. 

 - I am also trying to replenish the LORs. The research advisor said he wrote a strong one before, and he would update it more for this one. I also have different professor writing LOR for this time who is very understanding and knows me well. I'm currently looking for 3rd recommender, but it's in process for now. 

- I am trying to find a research position of some sort to gain more research experience. I'm not sure if that would be helpful at this point, since I just have months left. 

- I am getting the feeling that doing Masters to recover my GPA won't be worth the chance, since it is another investment, and I have a set goal that I want to go for PhD for academia path. 

I've been seeing some good constructive advice here, and I would love to hear back thoughts and comments on my situation. Thank you :)

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Here is a list of things (gathered from personal observation throughout my own application process) that you can do to stand out:

1. If you can afford it, take graduate level courses  at a nearby university in chemistry or biochemistry (it's better to do them at a different school than the one you went to for undergrad) It's especially good to do this in the subfield of chemistry that you are looking to do. 

2. It will definitely help to get that research position. Even if you can get a job in industry, it would help. You may also find the added bonus of getting a third recommender by going this route.

3. Have some career goals that are well described in your SOP. and how grad school will help you achieve them. Admissions committee look for people who are going to grad for a reason, not because they don't know what else to do to kill time until they become a real adult. No one really knows what they ultimately want to do, but having a sense will go a long way in the admissions process. Try to avoid cookie cutter things like "I want to do synthesis because that's what I did in my undergrad research". 

4. Try to contact your POI ahead of when you submit your application. Never underestimate the power of human interaction and networking. If you are going to a conference, try to talk to the POI at that conference. 

5. Get involved. Join ACS if you're not already a member. Go to local meetings. Ideally if you get a job, they will pay for you to do this. 

Hope this helps!

Edit: Getting a Masters is an incredible investment that allowed admissions committees to overlook my low undergraduate GPA. Getting a masters also means that you will not need as much time (generally speaking) to complete your phD

Edited by crackademik
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