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Getting into a Top Ph.D (Career Changer) - 2nd Bachelors vs Post-Bacc (California)


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I am trying to make a career change to pursue a long road back to science, eventually to pursue a top Ph.D to help with my scientific/entrepreneurial ambitions. There is a lot of information for non-traditional people trying to get into Med School, but not much for Ph.D/grad school, so I hope this becomes helpful for those in the same situation.


Quick Intro: 30 year old male, got a BS and MBA in business, studied biology for 2 years at a mid tier UC in undergrad hoping to become a doctor, but due to being too wild had really abysmal grades all around, although always understood the material and loved to learn. Graduated with 3.0 after switching to business. Worked in Finance and got a T35 MBA with perfect grades. My goal has always been to work my way back to science through business, but while working in industry I finally understood what I want to do. I would like to be part of the creation and application of new technologies that shape the future, especially in next generation life sciences (Longevity, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, epigenetics, diagnostics, etc). I have grown to see things from the spectrum of Research<->Engineering/innovation<-> Business/Application, but don’t necessarily want to be stuck just doing one. I believe the best way to do this is to start a company, something along the lines similar to Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, but with a focus on life sciences. But I don’t want to be just a business person, because not only do I love science more, but also I believe I have a better chance as a founder with a science background. So my goal is to go back to school, become an expert (Ph.D), and eventually start a business (either post Ph.D or after working/researching for a couple of years). The problem is figuring out how to get there most efficiently.


My Target: Since I want to work at the intersection of science and business, and because I am pursuing extremely ambitious goals, I need to get into top schools for Ph.D that also support the entrepreneurial spirit. I already live in California, but preferably I am targeting schools in the Bay Area (Stanford, UCB, UCSF) and possibly even UCSD as they got a great biotech hub in San Diego as well. Stanford has the most appeal for obvious reasons.


Options: There are several options, but besides getting good grades I know that getting the right research experience is the most important aspect of a Ph.D application. Ultimately I am trying to decide between 2nd Bachelors and a Pre-Med Post-bacc as my next step.


2nd Bachelors (at either UC/CSU) – UC Santa Cruz and CSU Long Beach


·         Likely to give me more research experience at university, industry, and labs that I am targeting (some places only want undergrads)

·         Cheaper option – 15K/year for UC’s, 7K for CSU’s

·         Actually get a degree


·         It’s hard to get into public schools for 2nd bachelors, I might need to do CC classes for lower divs (it’s also hard to get CC classes), and my options are limits to only a handful of schools (I don’t want to waste too much time getting back to school)

.        There is the private university option as well, but with over 130K of loans, I am a little hesitant to pay 55K+ per year

·         Some schools have a limit on how long you can stay (like 6 quarters/2 years), which might not give me enough time to do research/gain experience


Post-Bacc -> Looked only in California (CSU East Bay, LA, SF, maybe others)


·         Easier admission in comparison to 2nd bachelors

·         Possibly will get no class restrictions and will get a chance to take any course

·         Can be more lenient in terms of how long I can stay (2-3 years)

·         More options as far as school targets go



·         Not sure about how much research experience I will be able to get. These programs are geared towards pre-med students who don’t need that much experience. Not sure how independent labs/industry internships will see post-bacc vs undergrad

·         No degree(?)

·         Pricier than 2nd bachelors – 25k-30k/year


What Can I expect?

I know getting into a top school is going to be hard, but how much of a contribution can research and independent projects make. When I was still interested in medical school, I noticed that once you mess up as badly as I did (like a 3.0 GPA), then your chances of going to a top school were very low, but with actual science, will real knowledge/prowess make a difference. Besides school and research I plan on working on some prototype ideas on the side, get involved with competitions (like iGem for synthetic biology), get internships with some independent organizations relevant to my focus, and also work on business ventures. What would you say my chances would be if I get 4.0 GPA, research during the program, even post-bac research or masters if necessary, possibly some patents for original work, then apply to T10 schools in my areas of interest?


Ultimately, I would like to know which option makes more sense (2nd bachelors vs postbacc), what can I do to gain the most valuable experience, and whether there is anything that I am missing or not considering?


My post is somewhat long, but I wanted to make it comprehensive for both creating the whole picture about my situation and make it useful for anyone who reads this in the future. If some of you can only answer part of my question that is alright.


Thank you all.

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