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Advice for Applying PhD Programs in Immunology/Cancer Biology with a low GPA?



Hi everyone, this is my first-time post on GradCafe. I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations/comments on my application case.

My Background

  • international student
  • graduated from a state-university with a bachelor degree in biology in 3 years, GPA 3.17
  • did 1-year research (without an independent projects) in neuroscience, did not like it
  • graduated from an ivy-league with a master degree in biotechnology, GPA 3.24 (btw, didn’t worth to do a master in biotech)
  • did 1-year research with an individual project in developmental biology during the graduate study, loved it
  • working in an immunology based biotech company for almost two years, loved this field

My Prep

  • personal statement: done, very research-dense with a clear career goal, did not explain why my gpa is low
  • recommendation letter: I can guarantee one of them will be strong with a big name, one will be generic with a big name
  • GRE: the program doesn’t require GRE anymore, I did mine 5 years ago, and it’s 170/170, 154/170, happy to retake it if it’s really important.
  • school choices: 4 tops ranking from 5-15, 4 safe schools ranking from 30-80

I decided to pursue a PhD degree in immunology at the beginning of this year because I’d like to learn more in this fascinating field and eventually lead my own projects in either academia or industry. I think immunology is a field that combines basic research and a lot of clinical applications, which is very promising.

My questions are: Should I aim lower? Any chances for a fellowship offer? What can i do to build a stronger case before application?

Thanks in advance for your help!

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