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Plan B for the 2nd time


Dicer87

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Hello all,

 

As the interview invites for the various schools are being sent out, I cannot help but plan for the worst in case I do not receive any offers again during this cycle. This is my second time applying for Ph.D. programs in BME. Since I will have already completed my master's degree, I am wondering what course I should take for the year until I can reapply. I figure my choices range from going for a 2nd master's in a different yet related field (e.g. MSE), work as a technician under a PI who could sponsor me possibly in the future, or search for a job in industry. I have also had a few friends recommend that I contact specific admissions departments and request an offer upon the basis that I will not receive a stipend for living expenses but include tuition remission (while living off of loans) for the first two years. One person in my lab received an offer just like that (although it was viewed with disdain by my current PI). An industry position is my least desirable option despite the higher pay since I currently reside in NYC and may require significant relocation or commute times (e.g. to NJ, Long Island, etc.). I fear a 2nd master's degree won't help my application significantly unless I am admitted to a top tier program, which may be more difficult since I am not originally from that field. I have similar fears about a technician position, but I figure it's my most viable option...especially in an academic-rich city like NYC.

 

I am currently 0/2 (MIT, UCSD) with probable rejections from UCI, BU, and UPenn (since interview invites have already started). I do understand these are sent out in waves, but I submitted my apps quite early on. Thus, any school that would want me should have invited me among the first wave. With my low undergraduate GPA, I guess I am either going in the "reject" pile by default or as a "maybe" candidate depending on availability. I know lots of people regret their antics in undergrad...but man oh man I wish I had. I hate being punished so much for it and being the primary obstacle in holding me back. I had hoped my experience, publications, and rec letters would have been enough to compensate...but it is rather tough these days.

 

What do you guys think? Is there another option I am not thinking of? Of course, it is still the beginning of February, so there is still plenty of hope. I just like to plan for the worst.

 

My stats are listed below for further clarification:

Undergraduate: Bioengineering (2.99 GPA at UCB)
Masters: Biomedical Engineering (3.82 GPA at NYU-Poly)

Applying to Ph.D. programs in BME with a Biomaterials/Tissue Engineering/Drug Delivery focus

 

Applying to: Columbia, MIT, NYU GSAS, UCSD, UCI, UCLA, USC, Tufts, BU
Acceptances:
Rejections: UCSD, MIT

GRE: 800/166Q (94%), 640/162V (89%), 4.5AW (73%)
Research: 6 years of research experience
2 years in a microfluidics lab (2nd author on JACS)
2 years in a developmental bio lab (2nd author on Cell paper)
2 years in clinical/materials testing lab for master's thesis at NYUCOD (6 pending pubs; two 1st author)
Publications: 9 total, 6 pending (two 1st author)

5 strong LORs: all from previous principal investigators, my graduate BME program head, and an undergrad lecturer

 

I do apologize for displaying the info from my signature twice.

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You may have to set the bar lower. Just so you know, there are many great schools with lower rankings that have deadlines (with funding consideration) in February and March (and even a few in April). It might be worth adding at least 1 or 2 more schools of this variety.

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You may have to set the bar lower. Just so you know, there are many great schools with lower rankings that have deadlines (with funding consideration) in February and March (and even a few in April). It might be worth adding at least 1 or 2 more schools of this variety.

 

I am limited in the amount of funds I can devote to apps at the moment. I also would prefer to pursue methods that will allow me to apply to the caliber of schools I am currently aiming for. I applied to 20+ schools the first time around. I realized at the end of it all that I would not have been completely happy going to a significant portion of the schools I applied to due to a variety of factors. Hence, why I limited the number of schools to 9 this time around. I expect if I apply for a 3rd time...this number would be even smaller.

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If you're completely set on getting your PhD, I think your best shot may be to go work as research assistant (or whatever the title would be) with a POI in one of the schools you want to get into. They'd be more willing to take you on if they've seen your work first hand.

 

The problem usually is that programs may view graduate GPAs as inflated and would look at a low undergrad GPA from a good school as a red flag. That said, I'm not sure so someone correct me on this: I think if you take a few undergraduate post-bacc courses they will be averaged with your undergraduate GPA which can raise it. It may also be of help if you take these as some tough engineering courses at your prospective school and ace them to show you're good enough for the program.

However, two problems I can think of: I don't know if this works after you've completed your Master's degree, and the expense of it. Talk to your grad/undergrad advisor at your current school for some help on this.

Edited by TeaGirl
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research wise, there is a great edal going on with you, and you have published in CELL, a massive impact factor of 32?  i think you are good at the research level, i think you will get into a decent prog but you are looking for a Plan C. instead of working as RA in a prof's lab, I would suggest you to try hospitals(weil-cornell, MSK,) which might do the kind of research you want to do.

 

One of the major aspect will be your SOP. re-polish it and make it stronger. 

 

You have substantial research creds and you cannot do anything about your UG. best option would be to to meet potential advisor in conferences and try discussing the same. I am sure, if you make a very strong impression, ur UG score will be pushed aside.

 

Also, if you want another Master's prog, just check out BME at City College-CUNY which in my opinions is much better than poly. They do have substantial funds and its an upcoming name 

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I am limited in the amount of funds I can devote to apps at the moment. I also would prefer to pursue methods that will allow me to apply to the caliber of schools I am currently aiming for. I applied to 20+ schools the first time around. I realized at the end of it all that I would not have been completely happy going to a significant portion of the schools I applied to due to a variety of factors. Hence, why I limited the number of schools to 9 this time around. I expect if I apply for a 3rd time...this number would be even smaller.

But if you aren't admitted, even after the second attempt, to 30ish programs then the bar is too high. I understand that you have certain goals, but this process is indicating that you aren't quite at the caliber of schools that you're seeking. I do encourage you to continue your pursuits, however. AND like you say, this round isn't over yet. Good luck!

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If you're completely set on getting your PhD, I think your best shot may be to go work as research assistant (or whatever the title would be) with a POI in one of the schools you want to get into. They'd be more willing to take you on if they've seen your work first hand.

 

The problem usually is that programs may view graduate GPAs as inflated and would look at a low undergrad GPA from a good school as a red flag. That said, I'm not sure so someone correct me on this: I think if you take a few undergraduate post-bacc courses they will be averaged with your undergraduate GPA which can raise it. It may also be of help if you take these as some tough engineering courses at your prospective school and ace them to show you're good enough for the program.

However, two problems I can think of: I don't know if this works after you've completed your Master's degree, and the expense of it. Talk to your grad/undergrad advisor at your current school for some help on this.

Post-bacc programs/classes would certainly be a viable option. I suppose if I get an RA position under a reasonable PI...I can take a few classes part-time on top of working. I'm pretty sure you can still take post-bacc classes even if I have completed my master's program...it's merely the exorbitant costs of them that will hold me back.

 

 

research wise, there is a great edal going on with you, and you have published in CELL, a massive impact factor of 32?  i think you are good at the research level, i think you will get into a decent prog but you are looking for a Plan C. instead of working as RA in a prof's lab, I would suggest you to try hospitals(weil-cornell, MSK,) which might do the kind of research you want to do.

 

One of the major aspect will be your SOP. re-polish it and make it stronger. 

 

You have substantial research creds and you cannot do anything about your UG. best option would be to to meet potential advisor in conferences and try discussing the same. I am sure, if you make a very strong impression, ur UG score will be pushed aside.

 

Also, if you want another Master's prog, just check out BME at City College-CUNY which in my opinions is much better than poly. They do have substantial funds and its an upcoming name 

When I talked about RA positions, I of course meant to include MSK and Weill-Cornell. Both institutions hire a lot of RAs with a lot of prominent faculty. They aren't as "engineering" as I'd like them to be, so I would have to be a bit more selective with prospective PIs. As for a second master's program, I would only pursue one in a completely different one from BME (since I have already completed one) such as in MSE. I have 3 CCNY BME undergrads working in my lab atm and have a little bit of the inside scope on some of the professors there. The PIs with research interests that coincide with mine are either too new or not taking any students this upcoming year.

 

 

But if you aren't admitted, even after the second attempt, to 30ish programs then the bar is too high. I understand that you have certain goals, but this process is indicating that you aren't quite at the caliber of schools that you're seeking. I do encourage you to continue your pursuits, however. AND like you say, this round isn't over yet. Good luck!

Just to clarify, I applied to 20+ programs my first time around...but I was clearly not a strong of an applicant as I am now (with no master's, 1 pub, and only 3 LORs). Prior to applying this cycle, I reached out to a few POIs and managed to secure a few unofficial meetings before the app deadlines. From what they have told me, my undergrad GPA is indeed detrimental but not unbeatable. It may just require a few more attempts than I may have thought. All I know is...even if I'm not admitted this time around, it will only motivate me more. I'm pretty confident my app will be even stronger in a year.

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I don't know anything about engineering, but your stats aee so good that I have a hard time believing schools wouldnt love to have you, regardless of your undergrad gpa. Are you sure your SOP or LORs arent sinking you?

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It's also possible that you'll get an interview at some of your other schools. MIT and UCSD are among the very highest tier for BME - I'd be shocked if you didn't get into at least one of the schools in your list (especially with names like UCI/UCLA/USC on there).

 

Chin up - Berkeley sucks for GPA (same here)

Edited by AquaBear
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I don't know anything about engineering, but your stats aee so good that I have a hard time believing schools wouldnt love to have you, regardless of your undergrad gpa. Are you sure your SOP or LORs arent sinking you?

Haha well my stats are decent I suppose but some things you should take with a grain of salt. Pending publications will always be seen as less effective than actual published ones (since they can and are constantly rejected). Plus, as mentioned previously, master's GPAs are often heavily inflated and the reputation of the school does also matter for the "higher ranked" programs. I'm pretty sure my LORs are pretty good...I've been told by PIs during interviews that 3 of them are excellent....and I've read the one written by my current PI. I suppose it is possible for my SOP to be holding me back...but I don't know...I think the SOP usually helps you more than hurting you as long as you don't screw up completely. I had two friends at Berkeley (who are now in PhD programs at Stanford and MIT) that submitted SOPs with the wrong school name for at least half of their intended applications (and still got in haha).

 

 

It's also possible that you'll get an interview at some of your other schools. MIT and UCSD are among the very highest tier for BME - I'd be shocked if you didn't get into at least one of the schools in your list (especially with names like UCI/UCLA/USC on there).

 

Chin up - Berkeley sucks for GPA (same here)

I never really expected to hear anything from MIT or UCSD (people can dream though, right?). I merely posted just in case. But I'm not expecting much love from CA schools at this point either with their abysmal funding situation and all. Fellow Cal Bear huh? Berk engineering is like a black hole for good grades.

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I never really expected to hear anything from MIT or UCSD (people can dream though, right?). I merely posted just in case. But I'm not expecting much love from CA schools at this point either with their abysmal funding situation and all. Fellow Cal Bear huh? Berk engineering is like a black hole for good grades.

 

Yeah...I totally hear you. Especially with awful study skills from years of not needing to study, I basically got slapped in the face repeatedly until very recently -__-

 

Best of luck, man!

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I'm not sure yet. I guess I can't really make a decision until at least the end of February. I'll either find a job as a research technician or find some way to stay with current PI for Ph.D.

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Yeah...I totally hear you. Especially with awful study skills from years of not needing to study, I basically got slapped in the face repeatedly until very recently -__-   Best of luck, man!
(1) that's the story of my life, I didn't get my shit together until my senior year. (2) I'm currently in the middle of my plan b, and I included a few international masters programs. Most programs have a quick turnaround and rolling admission, at least they do in the UK. It is much more cost effective and oddly provides a unique opportunity to travel. There are Both taught and research based masters.
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  • 4 weeks later...

Also, if you want another Master's prog, just check out BME at City College-CUNY which in my opinions is much better than poly. They do have substantial funds and its an upcoming name 

 

Do you mean I should get a second master's degree in BME from CCNY? I actually have heard some good things about the school, but it feels silly to pursue two degrees in the exact same field. I suppose that I would also treat this program differently and try to take as many additional undergrad courses as well (not to boost my undergrad gpa but to prove I am not an idiot and my original undergrad record was just me being young/stupid). The tuition at CCNY is so much lower than NYU or Columbia that I feel I can take advantage of it a bit more. I am currently debating whether to apply for another MS in BME or an MEng in ChemE (apparently they don't offer MS at CCNY). Poly's BME program isn't very good imo, but I don't think I regret the time I spent there (especially since I got to do some interesting research at the dental school). So I guess part of me isn't really viewing getting another MS in BME would be that weird (especially if I can retake some undergrad courses). But of course, I imagine it would be quite weird to get two MS degrees in the exact same field. Perhaps I can start the MS program and just take a bunch of classes, ace them, apply for PhD again in the next cycle, and just go if I get accepted?

 

Thoughts?

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