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On the upward trend... but is it good enough?

the defenestration

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So I started my undergraduate career as an engineering major. This turned out to be a very bad choice - I didn't enjoy and wasn't very good at my engineering classes. Even so, I spent nearly all of my waking hours unhappily working on problem sets for these classes - and as a result the rest of my grades suffered.

I finally figured out at the end of my Sophomore year that engineering was not for me, but not after my GPA sank to about a 2.5. After switching to a natural sciences major, my grades shot up and I discovered that I loved biology, especially cell bio and genetics. After a semester (plus a summer) in my new major, my GPA is a 2.8. After this semester is should be rather close to a 3.0 - probably not all the way there. I imagine I will graduate with a 3.0 or a little higher, and my Junior/Senior GPA (consisting mainly of bio and chem classes) will remain a steady 3.5 - 3.6.

The question is, do I have any shot of getting into a decent bio program? The rest of my credentials are normal (several years in the research lab, can probably get good rec letters, my practice GREs look good, plus leadership/volunteer stuff). However, I know GPA is crucial to entering grad school and I can imagine an admissions committee taking one look at my overall GPA and dismissing the rest of my application immediately. How important is the "upward trend?" How do I find a grad program that is both decent and will not automatically reject my application? Should I think about delaying my applications for a year and just applying to postbac programs?

Thanks for reading :)

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IMHO, you should be fine for many programs. I too have a middling undergrad overall GPA due to my first 2.5 years. Ironically, I was rejected by the middle-of-the-road programs, but invited for interviews at many of the top programs that I applied to (with a couple in the top 15 in my field). One of those middle-tier programs was actually a very good fit for me, so I suspect that they must have weeded people out by undergrad GPA; all other aspects of my application was strong. Just make sure that you have lots of interesting research experience that you can talk about and good GRE scores to offset your lower overall GPA.

Oh, and when you go on interviews, you might get asked about your first few years, so have a good, honest answer ready. You might want to consider leaving out the part where you say you weren't very good at your engineering classes. Professors don't expect you to know everything, nor be good at everything, but you still don't want to say anything with a negative connotation. Just my 2 cents!

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I agree with the above comment. My overall GPA was 3.01 because my junior-year grades were horrible due to some personal problems. However, I averaged an A- in my senior year and only took very challenging courses. Compare this to the C+ average I had in junior-year and the difference is pretty stark.

I also had lab research experience with a paper, good letters of recommendation, an excellent SOP, and my upward trend. I got into a top 10 marine bio program. I applied to 5 schools, all but two accepted. The two that said no, well the profs I wanted to work with had no money and couldn't afford to have me in there labs.

If your application looks good, along with a good bio background and a positive narrative to go along with it, then you should be fine. You've already shown that your capable in the sciences and that you know bio is what you want to do. You dropping out of engineering and going into the natural sciences demonstrates to me at least that you think things through and can make intelligent decisions. I think committees will realize that in some respect.

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Same here. My undergrad overall GPA is around 3.09, but my last two years of undergrad I had 3.5-3.6 with 400-level courses. Do a good job on the GRE, strengthen your research experience, you will do just fine. Cheers!

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