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Applying to MS programs to get into PhD and general advice


coffeecup

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Little background story: I applied to a few PhD programs in the UC neurosciences for this year and was rejected gloriously from all.

I knew when I applied my few months of lab experience and poor GPA (3.0) were going to be problems but not that big of an issue. My LORs were good my GRE is probably average at 1250. I had my SOP looked over and was told it was fine.

Issue: I have no way of getting a field related job due to my location nor I can run back to undergrad for internships/credits (also went way over units). I think a MS program in biology or so may be a chance to improve both of my super weak spots (GPA, experience) adjust to grad life.

I asked my LOR writers about my issue and they're split. 1 think's its stupid to apply to an MS to get into a PhD and I should just apply again for next year (with likely little improvement), 1 thinks its a good idea and the last says it depends on funding.

Also, any general application differences etc between MS programs vs PhD would be liked.

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I agree with LoR writer 1, just apply again. Grad schools seem to impulsively flinch at bad undergrad gpas, so I doubt an MS will be much help.

Now for some more paranoid, bitter chat, I'm no expert but...

Since undergrad is over for you keep trying to get a job and internship and raise your GRE (sorry) by a tiny bit and redo your SOP instead of getting tons more debt and wasted years for next to nothing. Also, don't trust your LoR writers they might be writing less than flattering letters despite what they say with smiling faces. To get that far you have to know how to lie well. Maybe yours are honest, one of mine wasn't.

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I don't think your GPA is as much of a problem as it sounds compare to your research experience. Although I don't know if your "UC" is referring to the University of California school system, University of Colorado system (supposed to be CU), University of Cincinnati, etc. However, I'm pretty sure that few months of lab experience won't make you a competitive applicant for most of the doctoral programs. If you are applying to Cal / UCLA / UCSD, you are competing with applicants who have years of research experience when they apply. People that I know who got into these school with different concentrations had 1.5-2 years of research experience prior to their admissions. Your GRE scores can improve a lot better if you are a domestic applicant, either your verbal or quant sections (hopefully above 80% for quant).

You can either get a job that allows you to do more research as a post-bac, or go for a MS to accumulate more research experience. For you cannot boost your undergrad GPA much, I would go for a MS and hopefully get a 4.0 in my grad GPA (besides writing a good thesis and hopefully getting a publication or two during my 2 years of MS studies.)

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Thanks for the responses so far!

Yes, I did apply to the University of CA system (I applied to the lower tiered schools on the list, one interview was the farthest I got). Do you think with my current stats I'll be competitive for application to a MS program in CA/TX/MI?

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Thanks for the responses so far!

Yes, I did apply to the University of CA system (I applied to the lower tiered schools on the list, one interview was the farthest I got). Do you think with my current stats I'll be competitive for application to a MS program in CA/TX/MI?

Solely from the numbers that you provided I think you will have no problem to get into a MS program in UCs, probably schools in TX and MI, too. What I would do is to talk to POI that are willing to take MS students and see if they are willing to fund you. I'm not a neuroscience major so I don't know how neuro people run their labs, but in general, science labs @ SD are willing to accept MS students. You can always be a TA to lower your regular expenditure, primarily your tuition fees. You don't have to apply a MS in neuroscience though. Switching field(s) for 2 years and get a MS may make you a more comprehensive scientist (whether by taking different approaches or just different aspects/viewing to a problem) -- to prepare for your PhD in neuroscience next time you apply.

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