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grad school in cognitive neuroscience Ivy schools vs non Ivy schools


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Hi, it's my fourth year in college and I'm applying to grad schools this fall and I'm looking for an advice.

I really want to get into a good school, however I'm from a developing country and the university I'm studying at is very new and not famous in any way outside of my country.

My GPA is 3.91 out of 4 in Biology with minor in Chemistry, I have related research experience and my TOEFL score is 109/120 with 30/30 both in reading and listening. How should I choose where to apply (besides of course research topics and professors), what kind of acceptance rates and etc. Should I even try to apply to Ivy schools such as NYU or Columbia or it's not worth to try? 

Any advice will be much, much appreciated! 

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Hi @Nutsa,

I think there are a few things to break down in this post:

1. The Ivy League refers to a sports conference that undergraduates are eligible to play in. Columbia is part of that sports league; NYU is not part of that sports league.
2. Rankings at the undergraduate level differ (which ranks schools as a "whole") tend to be different from rankings at the graduate level
3. Some schools which might not be top ranked for a subject might have a better "subranking" for a specific subject
4. Besides grades and scores, your interests and who is in the application pool will determine whether or not you're accepted. In many ways, the process is unpredictable.
5. Certain schools might carry more weight in certain countries; just like certain schools might carry more weight in certain cities or regions within the USA.
6. I would recommend ignoring acceptance rates; there are way too many factors to try to figure out your odds based on applicants from previous years. It be more important to make sure you make the base requirements for a school. With the information you've provided here, I don't see you being filtered out as a result of not meeting base requirements. How much a school chooses to enforce a base requirement varies from school to school and program to program.
7. I'd encourage you to apply to as many schools in which there are professors with who you'd be interested in working with. In the past, programs with more faculty tend to get more applicants because more people tend to think their work fits better there. However, a smaller program might be able to offer more personalized attention.
8. Resources will differ by the university regardless of size.

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Thank you for your thorough reply! 

I've heard from many people that even though universities don't say it out loud, a lot depends on who writes your recommendation letters. To explain it more clearly: many professors recommend their undergraduate students to the other professors, who they know personally, for a PhD. I'm certain that this isn't the way it always goes, however since research resources in my country are relatively scarce and my professors aren't published in journals with high impact scores (in fact, most of the researchers here are lucky if they get published anywhere) that worries me. I'm anxious about not being dismissed just because that my grades or recommendation letters are not "trustworthy" enough. For example no one from my university has ever been accepted to a PhD program in the united states, maybe I shouldn't be as worried as I am right now I don't really know. 

I'm trying to reach out current students in different universities but this process is very challenging and I don't know any easier way. Thanks again for your help! 

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