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What are my chances of getting into a funded bio phd program?


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Greetings everyone, I'm thinking of trying my luck at applying to phd programs. I'm looking at getting a phd in immunology, physiology, microbiology or just straight biology. Here are my stats so far:

Got my BS from UC Davis, transferred from City College. GPA from both combined about 3.2 and my major gpa maybe closer to 3.0. 

Have about 10 months of research experience at a UC Davis lab. Presented research at one undergrad research conference.

Haven't taken the GRE yet. 

I intend to continue doing research in the next few months, leading up to the application deadline.

Which Universities would you recommend? What about GRE subject tests?

I'm looking into UCs thus far but am open to other states. I'm really only interested in funded programs, that will pay me a stipend at this point.

Thanks in advance for any advice and recommendations. 

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Most biology PhDs are funded, but what you can do is start looking at the websites of different programs and most of them will have the stats of the incoming grad students from various years. That should give you some guide for how you compare. The same websites will include information on if they guarantee funding or if it's competitive. Personally, I only applied to programs which stated both that they provided funding and how much they gave, but I also applied to pharmacology departments.

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If you can get good letters of recommendation, you will have a better chance at better schools.  Your GPA is kind of low but still above the 3.0 cutoff that most schools have.  I wouldn't recommend the subject GRE since the vast majority of schools don't require it, unless you think you can score well enough to offset your GPA.  As Vene said, most biology programs are funded, so I'd expect with decent letters/general GRE you should be able to get in to one.

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For the schools you are thinking about applying to, you can try the same schools I did.  I applied to mostly immunology programs at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UCSD, UCSF, Scripps, University of Washington, University of Minnesota, University of Texas Medical Branch, UT Southwestern, MD Anderson Cancer Center at Houston, Johns Hopkins, and Harvard.  The last two schools were definitely my reach schools, but if the finances allow you to, I would apply to those schools.  


I wouldn't worry too much about your GPA.  I actually have a GPA that's very close to what you have too, and I'll be attending the Immunology program at UC Davis in Fall 2014.  What I think matters a lot more is your laboratory and research experience.  I say you should definitely stay in your lab and get as much research experience and learn as many things as you can before you apply for the upcoming cycle.  If you do stay in the lab, your letters of recommendation from your PI should get a nice boost since you will be working there for a longer time, and your PI will have a better idea of how you work and succeed in graduate school.  The bottom line is, don't worry too much about your academic stats - as long as you get decent GRE scores in the future and continue working in the lab, you should be able to get into a Ph.D program!  Just maintain your diligence, persevere, and hopefully the admissions committee will see that in you.


Good luck!

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Hey. I applied to computational/systems biology programs and was interested in a fair amount of experimental work, so maybe I could weigh in. Besides, most of my applications were reviewed by the biology departments.


My GPA was about the same as yours when I applied (just at 3.0). Some schools don't really care about your GPA while some others compare applicant grades before they make the interview shortlist. Based on personal experience, the schools that didn't seem to care much about my low GPA were WashU, Harvard, Duke, Carnegie Mellon, and University of Pittsburgh. UC Irvine (which was one of my favorite schools and top choice) specifically mentioned low GPA when they rejected me. I suspect Columbia, Baylor College of Medicine, and University of Maryland also rejected me for similar reasons.


We can't say if these schools would be a good fit for you as you will need to figure that out by looking at faculty webpages. It's also perfectly fine if you have a broad set of interests and would like to use lab rotations in your first year as an opportunity to explore different areas (that's what I am doing!) so long as you can relate to the research in those labs in your Statement of Purpose or cover letter.


I didn't give the subject test, but many schools do recommend it. If you think you could do well, take the test.


Penn State has a really nice pre-application form that can give you a good idea of where you stand. You can check it out here: http://bio.psu.edu/graduate-portal/PreApp. Please don't abuse it--I recommend not filling it more than once or spamming them with different profiles. It's a very useful resource for those applying to Penn State's biology department, or other programs. I couldn't find a good fit there, so I didn't apply, but the pre-application feedback was still very helpful.


Ultimately, the universities that are good for you will depend greatly on how you perceive the labs. You'll need to spend 30 to 60 hours (or more!) reading about the research at different labs and narrowing down your choices. There are tons of great places out there--don't let our opinion or ranks cloud yours. Well, not to a great extent anyway.


Good luck!

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