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Biostats PhD Profile Evaluation + School Suggestions


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Student Type: Domestic Male

Undergrad: Top 100 Undergrad (USNWR)

Major: Biology

GPA: 3.1 (took an additional 60-70 post-bac credits at a 3.7 GPA); low gpa explained - didn't know what I wanted to do really in the beginning and struggled without direction for career; very steep upward trend in GPA + post-bac

Math: Calc I-III (A), Linear Algebra (A), Real Analysis (A), Discrete Math (B), Intro Stats (A)

GRE: Taking soon, but confident in my ability to perform well

Research: 3.5 years of molecular/cell biology research; 5 publications - 1 co-first author, 2 second author (one in a high impact journal), 2 fourth author; 5 co-authored posters at international conferences (1 first author, the rest 2nd)

Letters of Recommendation: 1 from calc II/III teacher (very strong), 1 from academic PI (very strong), 1 from industry supervisor (strong)

Schools:

Reach - Harvard, UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins

Target - BU, U Pitt

Safety - UCSD, NYU, MCW

 

Any recommendations for schools would be great! 

Edited by dandychiggins
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I'm in a similar boat, struggled with what I wanted for a career (hence had a low GPA), discovered math and stat as part of my degree and went on to a masters. Wanted to see if anyone else had insights on how to explain such a change in GPA and career path in the SOP, or maybe even from the recommender.  

I've lurked around on the forums and am also in the application cycle, so don't consider what I say as expert opinion. For a biostat program, it seems you have the requisite math courses and scored well, though you might want to have more stats. It's my understanding that UC Berkeley requires a masters in biostats before their PhD, but I may be mistaken (check on their website).  I've also been told that JHU and Harvard are quite theoretical biostat departments, so the lack of math further advanced math courses may not be helpful.  However, you do have significant research experience, which adcoms may view favorably. 

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Given your math grades, I think you could do a little better. I don' t think adcoms will care too much about your non-math classes provided you explain what happened in your personal statement. Given that, your school list is a little too broad IMO (high reaches, very low targets). I would adjust to something like:

Reach: UNC, Michigan, Berkeley

Target: Texas MD Anderson, UCLA, Emory

Safety: Vandy, Pitt, Florida

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I think Berkeley and Michigan prefer applicants to do a masters first. You might not be directly admitted to their PhD but Michigan has a fast track MS-PhD and Berkeley the MA-PhD program. 

Edited by bstat95
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Yeah you're right, I didn't see that. Per Berkeley's website: 

"Applicants to the PhD program who do not already hold an MA, if admitted, are admitted initially to the MA-PhD degree program, and then apply to continue in the PhD program. This practice does not prolong the time to conferral of the doctorate, since the first two years of both the MA and PhD programs for students coming from the baccalaureate are identical. Therefore, most students entering without a MA degree should be able to finish their PhD studies within a 5-year range. Students entering with a relevant master’s degree in biostatistics or statistics must have a faculty advisor (affiliated with the Division of Biostatistics) committing funding support."

Either way, it looks like it is worth applying since they can conditionally admit you!

Any midwest or new-england school recommendations that are worth applying to? I know that I shouldn't put all of the emphasis on location, but it is pretty important since I will spend like 5 years in this location.

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I would hesitate to call UCSD a safety school. Although it isn't a well known program, they only matriculate 4 students per year. Here are some recent admissions stats: 

Fall 2019: 92 applicants, 9 admits 

Fall 2018: 107 applicants, 5 admits 

Fall 2017: 104 applicants, 7 admits

Granted, we do not know the quality of their applicant pool, but the admit rate is very low. 

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On 8/12/2020 at 3:54 PM, bstat95 said:

I think Berkeley and Michigan prefer applicants to do a masters first. You might not be directly admitted to their PhD but Michigan has a fast track MS-PhD and Berkeley the MA-PhD program. 

I know one person who got into Berkeley stats straight from undergrad and another who got into Berkeley's biostats master's program with funding for a fast track onto the PhD program. While they may prefer MS to get into their PhD, I think their MS program funnels directly into their PhD. This is anecdotal, but I think it's worth a shot.

 

On 8/12/2020 at 6:23 PM, Euler17 said:

I would hesitate to call UCSD a safety school. Although it isn't a well known program, they only matriculate 4 students per year. Here are some recent admissions stats: 

Fall 2019: 92 applicants, 9 admits 

Fall 2018: 107 applicants, 5 admits 

Fall 2017: 104 applicants, 7 admits

Granted, we do not know the quality of their applicant pool, but the admit rate is very low. 

I agree with this. I think the OP should apply to some larger departments.

Edited by StatsG0d
clarified master's program was in biostats
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